On this day, the Disco Demolition at Comiskey Park took place

Originally published at: On this day, the Disco Demolition at Comiskey Park took place | Boing Boing


Listened to a lot of disco as a kid. Grew to dislike it as I hit my teen years. Now have a renewed appreciation for it in my middle ages. Nostalgic perhaps, but there were some really banging tunes from that period.


White cis-het male knuckleheads reacting against any popular music genre where Black and/or LGBTQ people find success is a phenomenon that long pre-dates this event and continues to this day.

Encourage these types to get drunk on beer at a mass event to express this reaction together and of course you’re going to see a riot. Fortunately, the damage caused by Disco Demolition Night fell mainly on the idiots who promoted and participated in it. That’s not always the case.



There was certainly a xeno/homo-phobic element to the end of disco, but we shouldn’t discount the overexposure factor. Lots of aging pop stars released disco albums (many really bad) in an attempt to stay relevant/cash in, which saturated the radio air waves (at a time when there were a lot fewer ways to get music). People were just tired of it.

Also, I wonder if disco’s loss was hip hop’s gain. Early rap artists sampled disco heavily and the hole in the urban market left by disco’s demise was at least partially filled by hip hop.


I was 14 in 1972 and my goal in life was to be a rock n’ roller, like my hero Rory Gallagher. My experience trying to join a band and find an audience was pretty dire because most live music venues disappeared and by the middle of the decade I basically gave up. I fucking hated disco.

Looking back on it, I still fucking hate disco and it isn’t a racist or homophobic thing at all, although I will admit there are a few good tracks that came out of that era.


I was 15, I had no idea of the sexual orientation or race of disco artists, it wasn’t rock and roll so as a 15 year old I was supposed to hate it. Had to fit in so disco sucked.

The riot got noticed in Detroit because the Tigers were playing that day and the game was broadcast on Detroit TV and radio.

Plus Steve Dahl had just left WABX 99 and a half in Detroit. He was our shock jock before Howard. There is debate that early on Howard was ripping off Dahl.

I love disco now and would never admit to high school friends at the time but I listened to disco in the closet back then.

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I would argue that disco didn’t die, it went back underground and reinvented itself as Chicago house and Detroit techno. While it was largely ignored by the American mainstream at the time, it was accepted in Europe and became acid house, Italian house, ambient techno, German techno, gabber and drum & bass, just naming a few.

Hip Hop was also an influence, most obviously in the Bristol trip hop scene, but also the MCs in the UK and Dutch happy hardcore and gabber scene.


To me, the two signs that disco had jumped the shark were “Disco Duck” and the disco version of the Star Wars theme. That, and disco was simply too restrictive a genre that didn’t so much die as splintered into other more interesting forms like hiphop, euro disco, new wave, and so on.


Rock stars, too. Though some had more success with it.

Just a personal “disco” fave of mine:


I was 14 in 1972. There’s been innumerable new bands since then. I never had a problem finding a place to listen to music.

As far as notable venues - CBGB didn’t even open till 1973.


My mother loved that song! Me too.


It never ever struck me as a racist event, but that comes from a comfortable white, Canadian perspective. I only lived through the event from a nostalgic perspective, about 10 years later, when Steve Dahl was looking back at the event with a sense of comedic self-important achievement, as a kind of counter culture / cult celebrity who cheer-led a media event gone wrong but was ‘just trying to have fun’. I ordered his ‘Disco Demolition 10 year anniversary DVD a few years later and watched it with some amusement, as I personally did not appreciate much from the 70s - that mostly included polyester bell-bottoms, Chevy Monte Carlos, disco music in general, and my own unkept hair from photos taken in the 70s.

I mostly saw the event as ‘rebellious free speech uncensored out of control format breaking comedy’, led by a guy who aspired to be like both Weird Al and Howard Stern simultaneously, even though he had very competitive feelings towards Stern at the time. Dahl harboured this resentment toward Stern for a long time as he felt Stern had ‘stolen all his jokes/gags’ and was riding his coattails as a ‘pioneer shock jock’.

But looking back at this event from a racial perspective is interesting, and one I hadn’t considered before. This mostly just exposes my own naivety to black/white politics and cultural divides in general, which I had only ever seen from a distance. I really only saw these divides riding in the car through various neighbourhoods in Detroit while on holidays, or by watching it on TV. I don’t quite know how to end my comments here, so I’ll just say it again, it’s an interesting POV. I don’t hate disco, bell-bottoms, and Chevy Monte Carlos as much as I once did, and I never wanted to see black/white racism in any form, not then and not now.


It absolutely was. Historians that study disco and music culture of the 70s are pretty much in agreement with that perspective.

POC do not have the luxury. We don’t stop things being a racist hellscape where Black men get shot for no reason on a regular basis by us white people burying our head in the sand. Same with homophobia. If we want the world to be a better place for all of us, then we have to stop with the knee jerk reactions whenever racist or homophobic (or misogynistic) shit is brought to our attention. Racism is a problem BY white people that can’t be solved by POC. It’s solved by white people accepting that there is a problem, looking fairly at the events of the past and present, and working to do better.


“Alright, this the disco version… Lola L O L A Lola…”

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Well, I was actually there. I know a lot of people claim they were, but I actually was. I went with my friend Jack. The main reason we went is that we thought it was going to be weird and we wanted to see it. Didn’t expect how weird and absolutely crazy it ended up.

I was definitely a rock guy, but didn’t really hate disco. However, I knew a lot of people who did hate disco and have little doubt that they hated it because it was black or gay music. Watching this video I see a lot of people who could have come straight from my white, suburban high school outside of Chicago. A lot of them were jerks.

What I didn’t like was the Studio 54 overblown hair and what I considered to be vacuous preening (might not have been the phrasing I used as a 17 year old). And for the record, I thought the same of Kiss and similar rock stars – I found the costumes ridiculous and the music kind of boring. I loved David Bowie’s music, but really disliked his Starman era costumes. Quite frankly, much of 70s fashion was ridiculous to me. I look at photos of me from that era when I had to get dressed up. The leisure suit stuff I had to wear was pretty tame for the day, but today I just cringe looking at it. Just cringe. Basically, I was (an am) a boring jeans and t-shirt guy.


There were three very distinctive moments for me. The first was watching a girl do a series of handsprings with a bonfire behind her out in the field. Second was watching the Chicago police in their baby blue helmets lining up and walking across the field. The final one was the family that sat in front of us. They had actually come for the baseball. There was Mom, Dad, a girl who was probably about 12 and a boy who was about 10. The parents were freaking out, the daughter was asking constant questions and the boy kept saying ‘cool’.

One last thing. I listened to WDAI which was a rock station where Steve Dahl had a morning show before he ended up at WLUP. I believe this is true, but my memory may be wrong. I think the last song WDAI played before they switched to disco was Pink Floyd’s ‘Welcome to the Machine’. If anyone can confirm that, I would appreciate it.


Some groups remain firmly entrenched with the public like Abba, Cher, Beegees, Blondie, while others like Donna Summers who should have a much larger current public image are less well known. It’s almost like there was an intentional erasure and rewriting of the history afterwards.


Not surprising though.


Fortunately, actually historians have done the work to get to the actual history… I highly recommend this one:


I learned early on that dress codes are limiting, and even folks who dressed or acted the most punk or rock or whatever didn’t always live up to their ideals.


Oh yeah, there are tons of great music historians out there these days. Unfortunately their work often gets reduced to an NPR story that focuses on the discovery of Muddy Water’s first guitar.