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Thursday, July 12, 1979

Disco Demolition Night: July 12, 1979

Originally posted July 12, 2011.


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




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Sunday, July 1, 1979

The Sony Walkman was introduced: July 1, 1979

Originally posted July 1, 2012.

the Walkman TPS-L2, image from Wikipedia.org

The blue-and-silver Walkman pictured above was the first model introduced, going on sale in Japan on July 1, 1979. It hit the U.S. in June 1980. Today the idea of a device at least twice the size of an iPod which held 60-90 minutes of music may seem positively quaint, but at the time the Walkman marked a new era for music on the move. The Walkman represented individual portability; listeners no longer had to rely on big bulky ghetto blasters which shared one’s music with the world, whether they wanted to hear it or not. Suddenly a person could pop in a favorite cassette, plug in a pair of lightweight headphones, and the music could travel with them wherever they went and as long as a pair of AA batteries could take them.

Walkman was a brand tradename used by Sony to mark their portable audio cassette players. The company is still around today, marketing portable audio and video players as well as mobile phones. The prototype for the first one was built by Sony engineer Nobutoshi Kihara in 1978. Sony co-chairman Akio Morita reportedly wanted to listen to operas during long plane trips.

the Stereobelt, image from thenutgraph.com

However, the Walkman owes a debt to a predecessor known as Stereobelt which was invented in 1972 by Andreas Pavel, a German-Brazilian. He had the device patented in Italy in 1977. When Sony began selling its Walkman, it agreed to pay Pavel royalties, but only for sales in Germany. Lawsuits followed over the years, finally endingin a multi-million dollar settlement in 2003.

Eventually the Walkman would see the cassette market disintegrate and portable CD players (including Sony’s Discman, introduced in 1984) would take over. Once the digital age hit, there was no need for music to be stored on a device such as a cassette or disc, opening up the possibilities even more. However, every owner of an iPod or other digital music device owes thanks to the original portable music player.


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