The Night Disco Died

The story behind the infamous disco demolition night.

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Ultimate Guitar
The Night Disco Died
13

In 1979, disco took over the world by storm. Artists like Bee Gees, Donna Summer, and Gloria Gaynor topped all the possible charts. Saturday Night Fever soundtrack won a Grammy for Album of the Year. Numerous disco-only radio stations emerged across the US.

But there was a man who wasn't happy with that. And his name was Steve Dahl. A 24-year-old disc jockey was sacked from a radio station that went all-disco format so he went to a rival all-rock station where he let his frustration out by breaking disco records on the air.

"Back in the day when we had turntables, I would drag the needle across the record and blow it up with a sound effect. And people liked that." - he says

Soon, station reps and Chicago White Sox promoters came up with the idea of actually blowing up disco records on the stadium. The team had 16k fans average and would have done anything to fill Comiskey Park. The rules were simple: fans who brought their unwanted disco records to the game only had to pay 98 cents to get in and after the first game of the doubleheader, Dahl promised to blow up the records on the field.

White Sox officials hoped for an additional 5,000 fans but to their surprise, nearly 60,000 showed up and most of them had no interest in baseball at all.

During the first game, drunk fans started flinging their disco records like Frisbees at each other and at the players on the field. After the game ended, Dahl put on Army helmet and drove a Jeep around the field while the fans chanted "Disco sucks! Disco sucks!" Then crates filled with more than 1,000 disco records were detonated in the outfield, ripping a hole in the grass.

 

What happened after that, can be described with a single word - chaos. While players ran for cover, fans jumped the fences, literally stole all the bases, toppled the batting cages, and tore up the infield.

In an hour, Chicago police in full riot gear arrived to the applause of the baseball fans remaining in the stands. Those on the field hastily dispersed upon seeing the police. Thirty-nine people were arrested for disorderly conduct; estimates of injuries to those at the event range from none to over thirty. Chicago White Sox owner Bill Veeck wanted the teams to play the second game once order was restored. However, the field was so badly torn up that umpiring crew chief Dave Phillips felt that it was still not playable even after White Sox groundskeepers spent an hour clearing away debris and so the game was canceled.

Over the years, Disco Demolition came to be seen as a not-so-subtle attack against disco's early adopters: blacks, Latinos, and gay people. However, Dahl himself calls this revisionist history.

51 comments sorted by best / new / date

    bullsonparade89
    That bottom picture is When Scotland beat England at Wembley and destroyed the pitch, has absolutely nothing to do with the story.
    CoconutBackward
    What a joke. "Niass" was checking off his list of things UG required for a news story and just googled "Sports riot".
    FlightofIcarus
    Disco never really died anyway - it simply evolved into various (typically) electronic derivatives. As much as I love all things rock and metal (And yes, can appreciate some disco + EDM too), incidents such as this one are not something I can fully condone. Too many people view rock fans as elitist/close-minded about other music, and this doesn't exactly help the stereotype.
    jesse1994
    I don't like a lot of disco, but there are songs I like and show quite a good level of musicianship. Bee Gees as stereotypical disco as they are still sound like a damn good band. and I know Blondie made maybe 2 disco songs, but they were damn fine songs. It's like Rap and Metal, it's all about how you do it. 
    seven.johnson
    "...Disco Demolition came to be seen as a not-so-subtle attack against  disco's early adopters: blacks, Latinos, and gay people. However, Dahl  himself calls this revisionist history. " That may not have been his intention, but I bet a portion of the people involved had that sentiment. I come from a metal-teen background, but as I've got older I like a much wider range and good disco rocks. Good article on "I feel love" http://pitchfork.com/features/article/song-fro...
    kjt1981
    without disco there would have been no chicago house, acid house, rave culture. A decent night out would have been watching greasy po-faced longhairs trudge through a bunch of badfinger covers, cheap speed and ten pints of warm lager. Thank fuck for disco.
    BiggusDickus
    Leave it to the leftist snowflake cowards to bring identity politics into it, even with something as fun and innocent as annihilating disco records
    Cazman
    "leftist snowflake cowards" No eye roll big enough...
    BiggusDickus
    DING! We got one! You people are so much fun to mess with.
    Cazman
    I have no political affiliation and I am not even American, I'm just groaning at your tired use of buzzwords. But keep putting people into one of two boxes, seems like it works for you. 
    BiggusDickus
    Obviously you do have an affiliation, looking at your reaction. And being American has nothing to do with it. And I will put you in to whatever "box" I choose. When the shoe fits...
    jesse1994
    Well at least you people don't actually believe in your batshit insane ideals. 
    dewitt
    They're separate issues, but it's not like there wasn't overlap. But correlation doesn't equal causation. There were bigots who loved disco, too. It's just that rock fans - especially hard rock and metal fans - tend to be white guys, and pop music tends to have a more widespread demographic. It's not just disco, though. It's only coincidence that disco gets swept up into it. If you go to rural areas even today, you'll still hear people say that rap is nigger music, EDM is girly/fag music, etc. Hell, I see it here, it's just not (usually) said as bluntly. But that doesn't mean that people who hate those kinds of music are bigoted. It just means there can be an overlap. But still, the fact that these people hated disco so much just makes it all that much funnier that KISS (one of the most popular rock bands with the anti-disco crowd) turned on them and made some disco of their own.
    BiggusDickus
    [deleted]
    BiggusDickus · Jul 11, 2017 09:34 PM
    nathandavis87
    My issue with rap is the lack of anything of value. All it is is how great I am, mAh beetches, mAh caws, other N*****s, and assorted drug or gang elements. Basically it is criminal thug music for the most part that caters to people's desires to live outside the law or any degree of morality.
    dannyalcatraz
    Thank you for illustrating your ignorance. Rap is like any other musical genre: there is a spectrum of quality ranging from absolute crap to pure genius.
    nathandavis87
    Well I have never heard any "good" rap. I am sure there is some but most of it is about what I stated above. Sorry if you disagree but from my experience there is nothing to it. Like I said I don't listen to it so I would not know any of the "good" stuff. The only rap I have heard is the radio rap about being a gangster POS who needs to have a bullet put in his skull since he thinks it is so awesome to "bust a cap in dat bitch." Sorry but the rap I have heard is for people who need to be locked up or put down.
    BiggusDickus
    Believe me, there is no "genius spectrum" of rap music. The real genius comes in the form of those who market the music to increasingly dumb consumers. The snake oil salesmen. I have no respect for rap and I put it in the same category as "reality television".
    immoralthang
    But I'm SURE you consider shit bands like Five Finger Death Punch pure genius. You and your bad taste should leave.
    BiggusDickus
     But I'm SURE you consider shit bands like Five Finger Death Punch pure genius 
    Yes, pure genius how they can actually get people to listen to that garbage.
    dannyalcatraz
    Again, you both display nothing but your cultural blindness and paucity of intellectual curiosity. if I thought either of you could be educated in this area, i'd point out specific exemplars of rap featuring jazz, country, metal and symphonic influences; compositions featuring contextually correct references to great philosophers and world religion; lyrical content covering social activism, positive self-reinforcement, enjoyment of simple summer pleasures and non-dysfunctionsal love stories. And I could also ilustrate the darker side of any musical genre you'd care to name, with lyrics just as directed at "people who need to be locked up or put down." But you've already demonstrated what one theologian called "invincible ignorance", so I'll leave you two to wallow in it.
    BiggusDickus
    You're a well-typed salesperson, I'll give you that. If I were an invincible ignorant 15 year old kid that had no exposure to (c)rap, I would be sold! But unfortunately I've been exposed to the stuff since I was a wee lad back in the late 80's.  My distaste for it hasn't changed- it still sounds like shit. As opposed to say, classical, jazz, classic rock among other genres where it grew on me as I slowly recognized and learn to respect it. Hell, I even respect polka music, but good luck finding any on my computer or in my CD case. Rap is absolute garbage music made by immoral halfwits and that will never change, but I do not fault people for defending it, even when ironically they intolerantly insult me, for my lack of tolerance no less. 
    dannyalcatraz
    I'm no salesperson.  I don't give a damn if you don't like rap.  I personally don't like opera, very little C&W, and many of the more extreme metal genres.  Heck, I may have more symphonic music in my collection than rap. What earns you my displeasure is your blanket denigration of the fans and the creators. if I thought as you do, I'd be calling out C&W & its fans as white trash bigots, or metal as the exclusive genre of satanists based on the works of a small but visible subset of the genres as a whole. And, for the record, yes- you are invincibly ingnorant.  It would not matter if I posted a rap song about praising God, or the innocence of first true loves: to your closed ears, they're indistinguishable from the stuff you were exposed to that made you hate the genre in the first place. it would not matter to you that the rap market has expanded into American/European Caucasian, Arabic, Indian, Far Eastern and other cultures as risible and respected music- to you, it is still "nigger music".
    KosherRider
    It is look like burning the books
    nathandavis87
    Really? So books which have knowledge versus music that these people hated. I agree the Germans burning books under Nazi rule was dumb but his is just a few records that people did not want. Big difference in government mandated destruction of priceless literature and people having some fun. Seriously I could go on to make "kosher" jokes but that would be stooping to your level of stupid. Grow up.
    dewitt
    Why bring the Nazis into it? Burning informational books isn't the same thing, but it's not like those are the only book burnings in history. Most modern book burnings have been over fiction that contained content that people didn't like. That's pretty much the same thing.
    KosherRider
    So much fun to destroy without any reason. You think like a pleb if destroying is a kind of amusement for you. In both cases people destroyed something they do not like and understand without any thoughts. Not much difference between crowd and brainwashed crowd with intention for demolition. So much fun when people get injured and somebody damaging property. Well, if this is called having fun, nazis had so much fun too. And you saying that i'm stupid and i should grow up? Good Lord. Also they have more in common: one guy leading the crowd and making it hate something that he hates. Looks familiar, isn't it? One folk, one genre, one DJ. 
    SFosterS
    Big assumption on the didnt think or understand without any thoughts. Really? Someone cant simultaneously understand and dislike disco? Destroy without any reason? Here's 1... They dislike disco. So everyone using these destruction rooms that have become so popular are plebs? If you think damaging property is fun than you are a pleb, agreed, but if destroying things is amusing for you and you go in to pyrotechnics or demoltion you are a pleb too? Dont make so many assumptions...
    KosherRider
    Dislike for disco is not the reason to start the riot. There are many people today who dislike modern music but they don't start the riots because of it. Destroying records won't make anything better. Destruction rooms, etc - yes, i've gone too far. I have no trouble with it. It's fair when two sides have an agreement and someone pays for smashing things or doing it for free, or destroying his own property. Haven't thought about pyrotechnics as a destruction that we discuss. But i got your point
    nathandavis87
    I think you are reading wayyyyy too much into the overall situation. I completely agree that when they freaked out and damaged a bunch of property that was low and should not have happened. I think it is going too far to say that burning music you think is crap is the same as burning books like the Nazis did. That was way different in the end. I mean I kinda get what you are saying and kinda agree I just think you are reading way too much into it. Agree to disagree. Sorry I was a little rude. I get fired up sometimes.
    addisonlewis49
    Can I play the guitar without knowing all the notes on the fretboard? Sorry for the random question. Serious question.
    Wiencon
    Of course, however keep trying to learn that, it's not that hard really. Honestly learning anything will be a whole lot easier when knowing the notes, you could just build chords by yourself instead of learning all shapes on every fret
    Spinnerweb
    Yes, but you should try to learn the notes on the top two strings at some point so you can easily make barre chords and power chords. It's not too hard, once you learn it it's easy as talking. But yes, you don't need to know every single note precisely.
    jesse1994
    Yes, I can't name you a single note if I hear it but I can match the notes fairly by memorizing positions. I'm not going to bloat myself or anything, but yes it is very possible. Almost everyone has their own unique way of approaching guitar, if you have that great passion for guitar you will be just fine.
    zack2k
    Oh man, I love reading this and 10 cent beer night. IDK, downvote if you like but I find sports riot kinda interesting.
    stixhogan
    Yesterday on the score 670 in chicago one of the guys filling in for the evening show gave his recollection of being a vendor that night.  Being from Chicago I can honestly say that night is one that everyone who was alive and living in the city has very strong memories of