Why, do ask, should that date be significant?
Well, allow me to elaborate…
Thursday, July 12, 1979 was Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park, in Chicago, Illinois. The promotion had been organized by Steve Dahl, an on-air personality (a contradiction in terms).
Dahl had been fired by radio station WDAI, which changed its programming format from rock to disco. Hired by market rival radio station WLUP, Dahl concocted Disco Demolition Night as a way to retaliate against his former employers.
Held during a doubleheader baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers, Disco Demolition Night would consist of fans bringing their unwanted disco records to the game in exchange for reduced admission. The offending records would then be brought to middle of a field, where they would be placed in a crate which was then to be blown up with explosives by Steve Dahl.
I won’t go into details here, suffice to say the American appetite for destruction hasn’t changed much over the years. Disco was just collateral damage along the way, cultural road kill for a country seeking its identity.
Okay, opinionated social commentary notwithstanding…
This event is significant, in the fact that, in the words of writer Malcolm Gladwell, this would be considered a “Tipping Point.”
If there had been no Disco Demolition Night, there might never have been House Music.
Okay, maybe eventually House Music would have come to pass, but when?
This single event, which is lost to its participants in a beer-soaked, disco-hating, testosterone-laden, cathartic haze, was a blip on the cultural radar, but this was the Boston Tea Party of House.
Perhaps the funniest thing about that night, and by funny, I mean in an ironic, ha-ha, futility of your actions, kinda way, Steve Dahl accomplished NOTHING that night. In his mind, to this day, he thinks he is single-handedly responsible for the death of Disco.
In order to properly put this all in context, I’m going to veer off on a slight tangent here. I am not demonizing, nor am I demagoguing. I’m a big picture type of personality, and I want you to see the big picture with me.
America, like many countries before it, was founded on ideas. They were noble ones, as all ideas are when they start out. Naïve and idealistic, the people and ideas, hand in hand, side by side.
The problem with ideas, is they have a nasty habit of running smack dab into Reality. It’s almost always messy, and it almost never ends well.
America believes itself to be a country of rugged, independent people. In particular, the men. They have guns, they drink beer, they occasionally use said guns to kill animals or people. The idea of the rugged American Male was, and still is a strong selling point. Davy Crockett, John Wayne, the Marlboro Man, Sylvester Stallone as Rocky/Rambo…take your pick.
The problem with that image is, most American men aren’t that, and that image is almost always, Caucasian, single-minded, extremely masculine, conservative in ideology, and unambiguous in sexuality.
See where I’m going with this?
Anything that doesn’t fit with that image of the American Male is violent rejected, suppressed ridiculed, or destroyed. It is a threat that the cultural white cells must purge from the body politic.
Which brings us to here.
The image of the American male is an illusion, one cultivated and created to provide a safe, acceptable image, an ideal to aspire to.
Disco, at the time was not only an affront to the American Male image, it was tantamount to blasphemy. It was, by its very existence, the total antithesis of that image.
A music form born out of homegrown music styles from Black American culture, Disco takes the danceability of Funk, the seductive elements of Rhythm and Blues, the hard backbeat of Rock and Roll, the free-form musical anarchy of Jazz.
Disco, like its root music sources, was celebratory in nature. Its sole intention was to make you forget your daily drudgery. For three minutes, you weren’t your job, your gender, your race, your bank account, your upward mobility. You were part of a utopian experience, euphoric, hedonistic, social and sexual anarchy with a four on the floor beat.
No surprise that the Black and Gay communities shaped the culture. Songs about surviving and being yourself found common ground in social groups used to being oppressed and pushed to the margins of society.
It was empowerment in music form. Disco celebrated WHO you were, not WHAT you were. Not without irony that women were at the epicentre of Disco.
The First Law of Thermodynamics says that energy under normal conditions cannot be created or destroyed, simply transformed from one type of energy to another.
Steve Dahl saw that Thursday as the end of an era.
He had no idea what was about to begin…
TO BE CONTINUED.