This Friday marks the 40th anniversary of “Disco Demolition Night” when an irreverent Chicago disc-jockey by the name of Steve Dahl tried to kill off an entire genre of music. The scene of the crime was Comiskey Park, where the White Sox were hosting a twi-night doubleheader on July 12, 1979. Dahl asked his listeners to come out to the ballpark with disco records so he could blow them up in center field between games. What was supposed to be a silly and small radio promotion turned into national news when thousands of drunk and disorderly teenagers stormed the field chanting “disco sucks” and vandalized the grounds so much that the Sox had to cancel and forfeit the second game.
Photos and news footage of the melee went viral — as viral as 1979 could be — and it resonated with enough like-minded teenagers that a tidal wave of backlash against disco soon led to a decline in its popularity. Disco stations and discotheques disappeared over night, while groups like the Bee Gees and Chic suddenly found it hard to receive airplay or sell records.
But did Dahl really kill an entire genre of music? Nah. Record companies and radio stations banished the word “disco” from their vocabulary and instead rebranded it as “dance music,” which is all it really was in the first place.
Disco lives on well into the 21st century under many different names. Along with dance music, there’s also club, house, electropop, dance-punk, big beat, and naturally, Nu-Disco. All of these genres have their roots in the classic “four-on-the-floor” sounds of disco and all remain thriving to this day.
Join Rick McNulty for a special salute to the glory and cheese of new and classic disco on this Friday’s edition of Left Of The Dial. And remember, you can’t kill a good music genre.
For further background on the infamous Disco Demolition Night, watch the short ESPN recap:
Rick McNulty hosts Left of the Dial on Fridays 7-11pm and Uptown Saturday Night on Saturdays, 7-10 pm. Follow him on Twitter @Rick_Daddy