Disco Demolition

On July 12, 1979 an amazing event occurred. I was the “Official” photographer for a radio station in Chicago called WLUP, aka “The Loop.” It was the hottest rock and roll station in the city, anchored by my friend Steve Dahl, the morning personality, who had recently quit his job at WLS-FM when the station went to a disco format.

On the air, when he got his new job, he started ridiculing the disco lifestyle on the air, comparing the clothing and cars and dance styles with the rock and roll lifestyle that his new station was championing. He started “blowing up” disco records on the air, using sound effects. He also started making personal appearances, dressed in an army uniform, complete with helmet (based on the fact that his listeners was called the Insane Coho Lips, the Anti-Disco Army. Totally nonsensical, but funny none the less. During these appearances, he would break disco records over his head, to loud cheers.

Enter Mike Veeck, son of the legendary owner of the White Sox Bill Veeck. He was the promotions manager for his father’s team, which was not doing too well that year. So a plan was hatched to have a Disco Demolition Night between games at a nighttime double header between the White Sox and the Detroit Tigers. The White Sox were averaging about 15 to 20 thousand fans per game, and hoped to attract another 5 or 10 thousand fans that night. The idea was that if you arrived at the game with a disco record you gained admittance for 98 cents (The station was FM98). Steve would blow up the records between games in center field.

Disco Demolition_09 Disco Demolition_03 Disco Demolition_06 Disco Demolition_10Steve and I arrived at the ballpark at about 6PM. There was nobody there!! Within the next hour about 70,000 people showed up at the stadium that held about 50,000!! The audience got to their seats and immediately order many beers!! As they drank them, they figured out that 45RPM records made great Frisbees. During the first game, outfielders were seen wearing batting helmets while they fielded their positions, fearing for their lives. When the first game ended we were led out into center field, where a big metal box filled with records was being dragged out. Steve grabbed the microphone and gave his talk about rock and roll, made fun of disco for a few minutes, and a special effects guy set off a huge explosion in the box. A Jeep then pulled out on the field and Steve was going to take a victory lap around the field. I, being the moron that I am, decided to ride on the hood of the Jeep. As the driver started his leisurely drive around the field, I balanced myself on my knees in the middle of the hood and started to take a picture. At that moment we were showered with FULL 64oz beers from the stands. This caused the driver to hit the gas to get out of there. We

went bumping across the field with me hanging on to my camera with one hand and a windshield wiper with the other.

We got out of there alive, and Steve’s reputation became worldwide. This week was an anniversary, and it was nice to see coverage of an event that was really exciting at the time.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.