On this date in 1979, the 24-year old anti-disco campaigner, 97.9 WLUP’s disc jockey, Steve Dahl, asked his listeners to bring disco records to a game at Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois, between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers. The disco albums would be blown up in centre field in what became one of baseball’s most notorious promotions: Disco Demolition Night.
That summer of 1979, disco was taking over the world. Donna Summer, Chic and Gloria Gaynor were at the top of the charts. Saturday Night Fever soundtrack was named Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards. Radio stations were switching to all-disco formats.
Dahl went berserk. He had been fired from a Chicago radio station when it, too, went all-disco. In his new job at a rival rock station, he took out his frustration by destroying disco records on the air.
He then came up with a rather unorthodox idea for an attendance-boosting promotion: Declare 12 July as the night disco died, Disco Demolition Night. Dahl approached White Sox executive Mike Veeck who religiously embraced the marketing gimmick. Admission was discounted to 98 cents for attendees who turned in a disco record; between games, Dahl was to destroy the collected vinyl in an explosion.
White Sox officials had hoped for a crowd of 20,000, about 5,000 more than usual. Instead, at least 50,000 packed the stadium. Many of the records were not collected by staff and were thrown like flying discs from the stands. After Dahl blew up the disco vinyls, thousands of fans stormed the field and remained there until dispersed by riot police. At least 9 were injured and 39 got arrested.
Disco Demolition Night preceded, and may have helped precipitate, the decline of disco in late 1979.
Photos: Chicago Tribune, Detroit Free Press, Vice. Last slide: Dahl and his devotees.
Text: History, NPR, Ultimate Classic Rock, Wikipedia.
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