Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Night Disco Died

We are living in a time right now where Electronic Dance Music (EDM) is gathering so much traction that it is supplanting Hip Hop as the music of choice. But the change is taking place peacefully as EDM DJ's first embraced Hip Hop's top artists and incorporated them into their music while at the same time Hip Hop's top artists embraced the EDM movement and have profitably made it their own. Such was not the case 30-years ago when Rock'n'Roll did battle with Disco!

It's hard to say exactly when Rock'n'Roll music began as a genre in the 50's but it faced little competition into the 70's. And then in early to mid-70's Disco, itself an early form of Electronic Dance Music, took off. Rooted in Black, Gay and to some extent the drug culture, Disco exploded onto the scene unlike any music before it in modern times. A music with a rapid beat and surprisingly sophisticated rhythms, Disco was taking market share away from Rock. The film Saturday Night Fever in 1977 starring a young John Travolta caused Disco sales to soar around the world. Much to the consternation of Rock fans, even famous Rock artists such as Rod Stewart (Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?) and Mick Jagger (Some Girls) put out Disco music.

By late 1978 a huge backlash by Rock fans was building against Disco in the United States and that culminated on July 12, 1979, the night Disco died. In Chicago, a local Rock DJ had been fired from his radio station when the station switched to a Disco format. Working at a new Rock station, he urged Disco-haters to come out to Comiskey Park on July 12th, bring a Disco record, and he would blow them all up between games of a double header between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers. The Sox were hoping around 12,000 fans would show up; instead 90,000 came to a stadium holding just 52,000!  Between games, as the crowd chanted "Disco Sucks!", the DJ blew up the large crate of collected Disco records, creating a small crater in center field and starting a fire. Thousands of fans stormed the field and a small riot ensued. The Sox had to forfeit the second game!

Thereafter it became somewhat unfashionable to be associated with Disco, more so in the U.S. than Europe, but the music evolved into new forms of Dance music. The music known as Disco went away but it fathered a number of other forms of dance music including Hip Hop and House. The many children and grandchildren of Disco exist today as music continues to evolve. The Pleasure Island club 8TRAX brought 70's Disco back to life again and was one club that stayed consistently busy to all age groups. But we need 8TRAX back so that  Disco can live again!

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