Chicago DJ Steve Dahl, the leader of Disco Demolition Night
When Chicago radio station WDAI shifted from an album rock format to disco, disc jockey Steve Dahl was one of the casualties. WLUP (known as The Loop) still focused on album rock and snatched him up. They knew they could build on the publicity surrounding his firing and the backlash against disco.
In conjunction with the Chicago White Sox, the radio station coordinated a “Disco Demolition Night”. The promotional event was scheduled to take place on July 12, 1979, at a doubleheader with the Detroit Tigers. Fans who brought a disco record to the game were admitted for 98¢. Between the games, Dahl would blow up the discarded records.
White Sox management hoped for a crowd of 12,000. Instead, an estimated 90,000 people turned out. With the numbers exceeding the stadium’s capacity by nearly 40,000, many people were denied admission and took to scaling the walls to get in.
With the crate already full, staff stopped collecting records from fans. Spectators took to throwing LPs around like Frisbees. They also threw beer and firecrackers. When it was time for the event, Dahl emerged wearing a combat helmet and circling the field in a jeep. Chants of “disco sucks” preceded the explosion of the crate.
A small fire started in the outfield and 7000 people stormed the field, vandalized property, lit more fires, and incited a riot. Chicago police had to clear the field in riot gear. 39 people were arrested. The field was so trashed the White Sox had to postpone the second game and later agree to forfeit it. The event has been called “the emblematic moment of the anti-disco crusade”. WK
Resources and Related Links:
- ESPN.com, Disco demolition: Bell-bottoms be gone! (7/12/09). By Andy Behrens.
- WK Wikipedia entry: Disco Demolition Night