Spend New Year's Eve with Knowlton Nash and Barbara Frum

Whether viewers wanted to groove to the sounds of an all-star jazz disco band or remember the top news stories of the past decade, CBC had it all covered when ringing in the 1980s.

CBC's farewell to the '70s was equal parts hard news and hard partying

"Oh What a Feeling," the title of the special produced by CBC News, was a nod to the monster 1971 hit song of the same name by the Canadian rock band Crowbar. (CBC News Special/CBC Archives)

When CBC viewers tuned in on New Year's Eve 1979, they weren't just saying goodbye to the year. They were saying goodbye to the 1970s.

And two of the best known personalities from CBC's news division were there right with them: Knowlton Nash of the flagship news broadcast The National and Barbara Frum of CBC Radio's current affairs must-listen show As It Happens.

Performers and reporters 

Pianist Oscar Peterson Was a guest performer on the New Year's Eve special. Among those also performing live in studio that night were jazz musicians Guido Basso and Moe Koffman, satirical songwriter Nancy White, and opera singer Maureen Forrester. (CBC News Special/CBC Archives)

Like any good New Year's Eve party, Oh What a Feeling: The 70's featured a live band and dancing.

Satirical songwriter Nancy White started things off with a breathless recap of notable '70s trends.

But this was a CBC News production, and reporters including Peter Kent, Joe Schlesinger, David Halton and Peter Mansbridge were also on hand to talk about the biggest stories of the 1970s.

"Well, the '70s might have been fun, but they were also a time of trauma," said Nash, setting up Schlesinger's package on what was then a relatively new phenomenon: international terrorism.

In a segment on inflation in the '70s, the escalating price of beer over the decade was, along with the price of a loaf of bread, a new car, and a home. (CBC News Special/CBC Archives)

What followed was a recap of stories starting with the October Crisis in Quebec and events over the decade in Jordan, Israel, Germany, Uganda, Somalia, the Netherlands and Northern Ireland.  

Then it was onto a performance by opera singer Maureen Forrester and the first of several comic bits by radio host Allan McFee. 

There was a package on the oil crises of 1973 and 1979. Then pianist Oscar Peterson, "Canada's greatest jazz export," as Nash described him, played a selection to great applause before Frum teed up a recap of the political drama in the United States culminating in the resignation of Richard Nixon.

"My watch is set for Newfoundland," said actor Gordon Pinsent, telling Barbara Frum she had already missed midnight. (CBC News Special/CBC Archives)

Rich Little, a Canadian whose impressions of political figures earned him many appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, was on hand with pre-taped interpretations of Nixon and Pierre Trudeau, among others.

In Canada, one of the biggest ongoing stories of the '70s was inflation.

A loaf of bread cost 31 cents In 1971; by 1979, it had ballooned to 71 cents. More examples followed in a news package.

The show continued in this way — hard news interrupting light performances and guest appearances — and then actor Gordon Pinsent, in a tuxedo, confronted Frum to tell her she was late ringing in the new year.

It was already midnight in Newfoundland, Pinsent's home province, after all.

"I guess you want me to hang around now until you celebrate yours around 1:30," he told her.

Another segment on the show featured notable deaths over the decade. The graphic for Chinese leader Mao Zedong uses the former English transliteration of his name. (CBC News Special/CBC Archives)

Lest you forget this was a production of CBC News, the staff at the network had prepared an obituary reel highlighting all the deaths of global political figures in the '70s.

If that wasn't sobering enough, Peter Kent was ready with a discussion of the Vietnam War and pictures of bombing raids, refugee camps, and the American pullout.

"It was a moving piece of film, but left [lounge singer Tommy] Ambrose with the unenviable task of lifting the viewer out of the downer," said a next-day Globe and Mail review of the show.

The countdown to 1980

Knowlton Nash, Barbara Frum and some special guests ring out 1979. 1:42

Eventually the show reached the countdown to midnight after an abbreviated version of The National.

Frum and Nash were joined by Joined by former cabinet minister Bryce Mackasey and Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster of the eponymous comedy duo.

"Very overjoyed to be here," said Shuster. "This is quite a party."

Peter C. Newman, then-editor of Maclean's magazine, was called up and was almost unrecognizable without his trademark Greek fisherman's cap. 

"I've got a minute after 12," said Shuster after more chatter, showing Nash his watch.

The motley group began a countdown as the numbers flashed on the screen.

"Happy new year and happy decade, everybody!" said Nash, before the band started the opening notes of Auld Lang Syne.

Toronto punk band The Viletones is seen in a retrospective segment about the music of the '70s. (CBC News Special/CBC Archives)