("Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees fading in) ("Stayin' Alive" playing) ♪ ♪ FELIPE ROSE: "Saturday Night Fever," the soundtrack, "Stayin' Alive," you know, that walk of John Travolta.
He's wearing his, you know, bell-bottoms with his platform shoes.
♪ ♪ That walk with the song is really what catapulted disco right over the top, made it so mainstream around the world.
♪ Night fever, night fever ♪ Disco was everywhere at this time.
You were getting constant messages that you had to look a certain way.
♪ Night fever, night fever ♪ DAVE LOGAN: A lot of people just felt like they were being excluded because they weren't cool enough to get into the disco.
♪ Dancin', yeah ♪ STEVE DAHL: I don't think we need to feel stupid because we can't be part of this new trendy thing that's happening, when it's ridiculous.
(song slowing down) (song slows to stop) There was a before and there was an after.
(rock guitar playing) REPORTER: 50,000 people showed up at Chicago's Comiskey Park.
Many had come for Disco Demolition Night.
DAHL: You don't like the Village People?
(crowd boos) JIM HANKES: They had the idea of blowing up these disco records... (chanting): Disco sucks.
HANKES: ...and I thought, "That is going to be so cool."
(explosion pounds) ANNOUNCER: I hope they don't let you people see what's going on here at Comiskey Park-- one of the saddest sights I've ever seen in a ballpark in my life.
AYANA CONTRERAS: There were some people who really were anti-disco, and in the aftermath of Disco Demolition, a lot of folks sort of washed their hands of the whole scene.
DAHL (on radio): We have to destroy all disco... ROSE: Radio stations stopped playing disco music, overnight.
LINDA CLIFFORD: This whole disco hate and Disco Demolition was a nightmare for many of us in the industry and for the people who enjoyed the music.
(people yelling) JEFFERSON COWIE: To the degree we're looking for the origins of our time, I think we're looking for those moments, those divides, that help to explain how we got where we are.
(rock guitar playing) ADAM GREEN: This is an early episode in what we call the culture wars.
People were fighting over what is the kind of music that should be valued.
COWIE: Disco had so much meaning.
Music matters to people quite deeply.
And to threaten that is to threaten who they are, on either side of this divide.
DAHL: Disco sucks.
They're not gonna shove it down our throats!
We rock and rollers will resist.
And we will triumph.
(crowd cheers and applauds) ("Reality" by James Brown playing) ♪ Starvation ♪ ♪ Inflation ♪ WALTER CRONKITE: Seven-and-a-half million workers unable to find jobs.
That's the highest unemployment rate since 1941.
♪ Whether it's in your home or ♪ RICH KING: Everything changed.
NEWSCASTER: Gasoline prices are going to climb even higher.
KING: We're running out of gas, all kinds of economic problems, and the Vietnam War has ended poorly.
"Malaise" was perfect description of the '70s.
♪ Reality ♪ DAPHNE BROOKS: In the early '70s, on the one hand, you have legislated Civil Rights, and, yet, you have racial conflict.
(glass breaks) You know, I could see kids my age in Boston just trying to go to school, even as we were being told that we are now "equal" as African Americans.
RICHARD NIXON: I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.
COWIE: I think in many ways, the '70s are the roots of our own time.
All the questions that emerged in the 1960s-- about race, about gender, about sexuality-- those answers are being fought over in the 1970s.
But in the 1970s, it's a completely different economic and political climate than it is in the 1960s.
GREEN: The '70s is really important to look at in terms of the ways in which people were processing their worry, their anxiety, their insecurity.
JIMMY CARTER: The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.
COWIE: This is particularly profound for people in what's now called the Rust Belt.
REPORTER: Already, 300,000 car workers are out of a job.
COWIE: In Pittsburgh, Milwaukee.
Chicago is seeing hollowed-out spaces.
Detroit is falling apart.
You know, these major industrial centers are no longer what they once were.
REPORTER: Is this the first time you've been unemployed recently?
No, this is a first time.
GREEN: So, there's a sense that there's just this extreme situation of insecurity.
MAN: Uh, I'm at the pinnacle of absolute desperation, or I would not be here.
♪ People moving out ♪ COWIE: The psychology of the 1970s is both a sense of loss and a sense of unknowing.
("Ball of Confusion" by the Temptations playing) What terrible thing is going to happen next?
♪ Oh, yeah ♪ GREEN: A young, white male, seeing the closing of these plants, and he's saying, "Well, what's gonna be my future?
Am I gonna actually have a job?"
♪ Nobody knows ♪ ♪ ♪ People are panicking about their place in the world.
It's really kind of a decade of fear in a lot of ways.
♪ Great Googa-Looga, can't you hear me ♪ ♪ Talkin' to you, see, it's a ball of confusion ♪ RAY SMITH: You know, with the trauma and the darkness of those early '70s years, there was a clamoring for something light, something to happen.
It was disco.
(disco music playing) ♪ ♪ GREEN: What was disco?
Disco predominantly appeals to people who want to dance to music, as opposed to music that you listen to.
♪ ♪ JOE SHANAHAN: Dance music is music that makes you want to move, whether you're just tapping your foot or where you'll get up off your chair and begin to move.
♪ ♪ Body music.
♪ Everybody dance ♪ ♪ Do-do-do, clap your hands ♪ ♪ Clap your hands ♪ ("Everybody Dance" by CHIC playing) LOGAN: Dance music has never really gone out of style.
Things come and go.
Dance music stays consistent because people like to feel the beat.
♪ ♪ CLIFFORD: Whether it's disco, ballet, modern jazz, any type of dance, there is that feeling of being completely free and able to do whatever you wanted to do on that dance floor.
GREEN: Dancing and dance-centered nightclubs were so important to African Americans, to Latinx communities, but also particularly to gay communities, LGBTQ communities.
♪ ♪ One of the reasons why is, there are relatively few social and cultural spaces where these people who are discriminated against and marginalized can go out, socialize, and feel safe.
♪ ♪ BROOKS: For Black and brown, LGBTQ communities, where can you find, um, the space to engage in kind of everyday dreaming?
And to be able to collaborate in that dreaming with dance floor partners?
("Going to a Go-Go" by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles playing) SMITH: It was treacherous to be gay in the '60s.
♪ ♪ COWIE: To be gay in the 1960s is to be underground, completely hidden from mainstream America.
♪ ♪ You have a subculture.
You have your own bars, your own enclaves.
♪ Well, there's a brand-new place I've found ♪ ♪ Where people go ♪ I moved to New York City in 1966.
And one of the first things you did when you moved to New York was, you went to clubs.
And it was about dancing.
The whole club scene was about dancing.
♪ I'm going to ♪ BROOKS: Disco was finding joy in your body.
So it made so much sense that in the '70s, you would see this kind of turn towards pleasure.
And disco became the kind of sonic accompaniment to those joyous revolts against patriarchy and homophobia.
("River Deep, Mountain High" playing) GREEN: People wanted experiences where they were transported out of what they felt was a constrained condition of existence and identity.
♪ Do I love you ♪ SMITH: A few years after I moved to New York, the Gay Activists Alliance purchased an old retired firehouse in Soho.
It was the first club owned outright by gays.
And it was, like, ours.
We owned it.
♪ ♪ We felt free.
♪ Baby, baby ♪ ♪ ♪ I remember the first time I saw a DJ playing records.
♪ ♪ You could say, could you play so-and-so, and they would play the record.
A lot of the initial clubs where disco started were Black clubs and gay clubs.
And really crucial DJs in early disco were gay people.
So, I mean, I don't think that you could say anything other than they are inextricably linked.
♪ ♪ LOGAN: Much of disco did come in from underground, and the DJs in the clubs were relentless at trying to find new sounds and new music.
♪ ♪ CONTRERAS: They would find songs with that very specific beat that was made for the dance floor.
♪ ♪ SHANAHAN: There was a club in New York called The Loft, an underground, gay, basically Black club.
From The Loft, we learn about a very important record called "Soul Makossa."
("Soul Makossa" playing) And "Soul Makossa" was this African sort of beat.
♪ Mama ko mama sa mako makossa ♪ ♪ Mama ko mama sa mako makossa ♪ CONTRERAS: "Soul Makossa" literally bubbled up from the underground.
A Brooklyn record store called African Record Center imported that record, and it became a hit in the club.
And then the radio picked it up.
And so, all over the United States of America, people are listening to this amazing combination of jazz and funk and African rhythms.
("Apache" by Incredible Bongo Band playing) SHANAHAN: DJs were using multiple turntables to create an extended mix, because the records back then, they were only three minutes and 50 seconds.
They would turn it into a ten-minute version.
♪ ♪ So this becomes an art in itself.
A turntable becomes as important as a guitar.
♪ ♪ BROOKS: Those extended-play records, they're extended for a reason, right?
Let's extend the euphoria as far as we can, which is why we should also think of disco as a kind of secularized form of gospel.
♪ ♪ GREEN: This is something that many, many people talked about, in terms of going to clubs at this time, that it almost felt like you were going to church.
It almost felt like you were participating in something equivalent to religion.
The music is affirming your right to be part of that community.
That's what was so powerful about it.
SMITH: The whole thing about going to The Firehouse was your community.
I mean, I don't use that word often, but that's really what it was, your community.
♪ Feel good ♪ ♪ Everybody feel good ♪ ♪ Bringing joy to everyone ♪ RADIO ANNOUNCER: We're expecting a high of around 82 today.
Right now, we have 73 degrees in the city.
GREEN: Disco had originated in New York, but there was always a kind of transfer between New York and Chicago.
And there's, like, a scene in Chicago that's different from the scene that existed within New York.
♪ ♪ CONTRERAS: In Chicago, there was the sock hop, which was a non-traditional space where people would play records, often in church rectories or schools.
♪ ♪ WAYNE WILLIAMS: I started deejaying in 1973, in the basement at my sister's boyfriend's house.
And I just loved that feeling, when people liked and reacted to the music that you chose.
("You Can Be" by Music Makers Band playing) Then, the first time I heard soulful disco, oh, it moved me, it changed my life.
♪ Said you can be ♪ ♪ You can be ♪ WILLIAMS: At the time, you would only hear that music in Black gay clubs.
And, um, I said, "I'm gonna bring that back, that disco music, to my peers."
You know, people were very homophobic back then.
I mean, very homophobic.
But I kept on.
And it was the girls who took the first step.
You know, they were, like, "Okay, you know, I'm feeling this," right?
The guys kind of resisted at first, but, you know, where there're pretty girls on the floor, you know, guys are gonna follow.
("Love's Theme" by Love Unlimited Orchestra playing) DARLENE JACKSON: It started in Black and gay clubs.
And then the clubs get bigger and bigger.
And then people are bringing along their sisters and their cousins and their aunts.
♪ ♪ And people start to see that this is something that everybody kind of likes and can get into.
♪ ♪ WILLIAMS: And then disco caught on, period, even commercially, by the middle of the '70s, in the popular, straight crowd.
(radio tuning) RADIO DJ: ...disco countdown.
JEFF LANE: As far as disco music is concerned, I think you could probably say 99.9 percent of the times, uh, it was either Black-owned music, Black-produced music, Black acts doing it.
♪ Love train ♪ ♪ Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ♪ ♪ That's the way, uh-huh, uh-huh ♪ ♪ I like it, uh-huh ♪ ♪ Oh, love to love you, baby ♪ ♪ First I was afraid, I was petrified ♪ ♪ Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side ♪ ♪ But then I spent so many nights ♪ CONTRERAS: I would argue that a lot of disco did have a feminist angle, that universal connection of power and strength.
♪ Think I'd lay down and die ♪ CONTRERAS: One great example would be "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor.
♪ Oh, as long as I know how to love ♪ ♪ I know I'll stay alive ♪ ♪ I've got all my life to live ♪ CLIFFORD: Disco made women feel stronger.
The freedom to not wear a bra, I mean, come on.
To go out and go dancing and not necessarily go with a date, but maybe meet someone after you get there.
I mean, those things were happening because of disco.
("Shake Your Groove Thing" by Peaches & Herb playing) ROSE: They could be as aggressive as a man and just act with wild abandon and enjoy themselves.
You know you're hot.
Why not be dancing and sweating and have three or four guys grabbing you, flipping you upside down?
♪ Shake your groove thing, yeah, yeah ♪ ♪ Show 'em how we do it now ♪ ("Young Hearts Run Free" by Candi Staton playing) BROOKS: My sister loved all kinds of popular music.
I think for her, as a teenage Black girl, disco was about spectacle, and glamour, and choreography.
♪ Young hearts run free ♪ BROOKS: A new kind of unbridled freedom with Black folks at the center of it.
♪ ♪ JACKSON: I loved disco, loved it.
I wanted to be a disco dancing queen.
(laughs): My brothers and sisters all liked disco and would go out at night, and I couldn't go with them.
And I would cry.
♪ ♪ My sister Maria, who I want to call the disco queen, she dressed disco, her hair was disco, her entertainment was disco, her friends were disco... She was disco.
JACKSON: My sisters Yvonne and Carolyn, the ritual of them getting dressed and getting ready to go to the club was something that was exciting for me.
They would turn on the radio, and they would be deciding what shirt they were gonna wear, and long jeans or bell bottoms.
And then heels, crazy heels, right?
Like, platform shoes.
'70s fashion, you know?
WHITE: Your hair must be perfect.
And at that time, it was the Farrah Fawcett style of hair, the tubes and the wings.
So you had to have it just done perfectly.
And it was really about how you looked, and you checked yourself in every mirror.
♪ ♪ JACKSON: You could assert yourself as a woman.
Women were unabashed about their sexuality and wanting to go and dance and be themselves.
And so disco was a representation of that.
BROOKS: I don't think it's a coincidence that disco exploded at the moment that it did, right?
If we think about the long Civil Rights Movement, Black Power, feminist liberation, LGBTQ liberation, all of those movements are swirling around and informing disco.
COWIE: The conundrum of disco is that it is a sense of liberation for so many people, for gay people, for people of color.
But what is liberation for one group becomes oppression, or the perception of oppression, for another group.
GREEN: To the working-class, straight, white male, disco on the far South Side or in the Bronx is one thing.
But when disco goes to a place like Studio 54 with a velvet rope outside, that's gonna breed a lot of resentment.
It's the sense that, "These people we were told were inferior to us now enjoy social privileges that we can't enjoy."
♪ ♪ ROSE: There was a new club opening up, and they were looking for dancers.
So of course I show up, all in my tribal Native gear, because my dad is Native American and my mother's Puerto Rican and Italian, so I'm biracial.
So they called me, throughout New York, Felipe Rose, the Native-- well, not Native, they would say "Indian" back then-- the Indian dancer-percussionist, because I would wear sleigh bells on my ankles.
So I was hired to perform at Studio 54.
When that club hit, everyone just lost their minds.
♪ ♪ REPORTER: It's 3:00 in the morning in Manhattan, and still, at Studio 54, people crowd the doors, hoping to get in.
ROSE: So there's a frenzy outside now.
REPORTER: But first they have to win the approval of the owner, 28-year-old Steve Rubell.
ROSE: So Steve Rubell, he had a thing where he would say, "Yes, no, you can stay, you can go."
Imagine turning away people 'cause they didn't look the part.
No, you're not shaved.
There's no way in hell you're gonna get in.
ROSE (laughing): And the thing is, the rejection just made them come back more.
REPORTER: Most people don't make it, but that doesn't stop them turning up night after night.
GREEN: The idea that a doorman looks at you at the door and says, "You can go in-- you can't go in."
To the working-class guy who goes to Comiskey Park, the guy who's wondering how he's gonna make a living, to that guy, that doorman outside in the club is a sign of exclusivity and elitism.
♪ ♪ COWIE: There's a sense of decadence.
People are partying and doing drugs, and people are trying to get into Studio 54, when the rest of the country is feeling this narrowing sense of despair.
You're sort of partying through the apocalypse.
And blue-collar people, middle-class people, are feeling that as an attack on their sensibilities.
That's got to make you angry.
And, you know, that would breed more and more of a sense that those people think way too much of themselves, and they need to be taken down a notch.
PACO NAVARRO: Paco's my name and disco's my game.
We'll be on until 10:00 tonight with the best disco sounds in the nation.
CLIFFORD: While disco was really hot and happening, there were producers, record companies who wanted to get in on this disco thing because they saw it as a vehicle to make a ton of money.
(cash register chimes) REPORTER: In 1978, disco record sales were over $50 million.
ROSE: The late producer Jacques Morali, he, um, wanted to put a group together using male stereotypes.
You know, the biker with the big mustache, and then the construction worker, and the cowboy.
And he said, "You're going to be in this group."
And I thought, "Okay."
He said, "It is going to be the new Village People."
I rolled my eyes up at them, and I said, "This is such a stupid idea."
(laughing) I said the same thing about "Y.M.C.A.," too.
♪ ♪ It's fun to stay ♪ Another stupid idea.
Are you serious?
♪ ♪ You can get yourself clean ♪ ♪ You can have a good meal ♪ RADIO DJ: Two great records this morning, um, two very, very well-known artists, and we'll have the special music for you before... ("Stayin' Alive" playing) COWIE: "Saturday Night Fever," I think, surprises everybody by its scope, its scale, and its power.
♪ Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk ♪ SMITH: I remember him with the paint can, and that song, walking down the street.
It was so well done.
♪ And now it's all right ♪ ♪ That's okay ♪ COWIE: Everyone responds-- it's enormous.
The soundtrack is enormous, the movie's enormous.
♪ The New York Times ♪ LOGAN: The Bee Gees are doing their greatest work.
John Travolta has emerged as a megastar.
Disco is very much in the mainstream.
♪ ♪ WOMAN: I've noticed a lot more would-be John Travoltas, and, uh, the Hustle has appeared from nowhere, everybody's attempting to do it.
♪ Dancin', yeah ♪ SMITH: Watching him dance, I mean, it was pure pleasure.
I mean, how can you resist John Travolta dancing?
("Night Fever" playing) CONTRERAS: "Saturday Night Fever" follows that great American make-yourself-out-of-nothing chronology, right?
Put on a white suit, and you're somebody, suddenly.
WOMAN: Now back, two, three, that's it, and a-forward... LOGAN: Disco was everywhere.
MAN: Down and lift... LOGAN: It was all-pervasive.
REPORTER: Disco 92.
According to the ratings, it's the most listened-to radio station in the country.
LEE ABRAMS: There were a lot of radio stations that all of a sudden wanted to get on the disco bandwagon.
CASEY KASEM: It's moving toward 40% of the radio stations in the country are playing disco.
♪ ♪ DAHL: Good morning, Mouseketeers.
7:51, WDAI, 94.7, with Steve Dahl and company.
Here in Chicago, we had a rock station called WDAI.
PAUL NATKIN: They played AC/DC, Aerosmith, Rolling Stones, you know.
♪ I've got two tickets to paradise ♪ DAHL: It's a minute before 8:00, WDAI, 94.7.
So I listened to Steve Dahl when he would come on.
And he was one of the earliest shock jocks, where you tuned in just because he was so spontaneous.
DAHL: My wife's out of town, you know.
WOMAN (on phone): Oh, yeah?
Before she left, she said, "Have a meaningful affair with someone."
(woman laughs) And, uh... And you'd be, like, "Can you believe what he just said?"
(rock song playing) NATKIN: Steve would do these events, like, he did a food drive on Christmas Eve.
Steve was dressed in a Santa Claus suit, and he gets done, and finds out that the radio station was changing their format the following Monday... (song slows, stops) ...and going disco.
(record scratches) No more rock and roll.
And he drove home to his new house that he had just purchased, to see his wife, with no job, on Christmas Eve.
♪ ♪ WHITE: He had lost his job to disco, and that infuriated him.
RADIO ANNOUNCER: Chicago keeps turning to The Loop.
LOGAN: We grabbed him immediately and said, "Come on over here.
"We're building a rock station called The Loop, WLUP.
You'll be the perfect morning man for us."
♪ ♪ ABRAMS: The Loop was just a hard, in-your-face rock and roll station.
Rock on, Chicago-- pow.
Chicago was the hog butcher of the world, player of railroads, and we wanted the Chicago station to have that vibe.
ALL: Rock on, Chicago!
It wasn't the Loop, it was The Loop.
And Steve was a smash.
WOMAN (laughing): He's outrageous.
He's the greatest, he will be, and he... You can't get any hotter than Steve Dahl.
♪ ♪ Steve was working at another radio station, they changed formats from rock to disco, and I think he felt betrayed, that they were just glomming onto some fad.
And he was pretty bitter about it.
DAHL: We have to destroy all disco, it's our job.
NATKIN: I don't think he hated disco, but he hated what disco stood for.
♪ ♪ ABRAMS: Disco was about electronic music.
Disco fans liked the clubs, where, if you didn't look good enough, you couldn't get in.
And the disco crowd was more about this sort of elite lifestyle.
Disco was about dressing up.
(rock band playing, audience cheering) Rockers loved big concerts, real drummers, real guitar players.
Rock was about jeans and a T-shirt.
Rock was about listening.
Listening high, perhaps.
(rock band playing, crowd screaming) You know, rockers were just angry at disco, 'cause they felt sort of threatened by it.
♪ Do you think I'm disco 'cause I spend so much time ♪ Blow-drying out my hair?
This suit, do you love it, what?
COWIE: I think a lot of this is the question of masculinity.
You know, there's a lot of talk about polyester, and blow-drying hair, and gold chains, and this sort of feminization of men.
Hey, don't you like my white three-piece suit?
My gold disco jewelry?
COWIE: And this was a source of tremendous fear and anxiety to a lot of straight white males.
I have a 280Z.
GREEN: Disco brought you into contact with the non-straight world.
And the question of what it means to be a man is going to be a really, really intense point of conflict.
Long live rock and roll!
(audience cheers and applauds) ABRAMS: Rockers.
If you don't like their music, you suck.
(chuckling): You know?
And if you didn't like disco, well, disco sucks.
♪ ♪ Pretty soon, that phrase came up a lot.
♪ ♪ I hate disco.
I think it sucks, man.
It's a plastic place.
All the same.
Made up of plastic ladies, plastic men.
I think any time something gets commodified, it becomes less popular, ultimately, because of over-exposure.
You'll catch the fever at Potamkin, with 1979 Cadillacs... ANNOUNCER: The Disco Body Shaper, the brand-new way... REPORTER: Disco has grown to a $5 billion a year business.
CONTRERAS: With the commodification of disco, it's sort of this very corporate, machine-sounding music.
SHANAHAN: It becomes mass-produced.
Everything becomes a disco beat.
♪ Alexander's Ragtime Band ♪ JACKSON: Everything is becoming a little bit kitschy, like Ethel Merman making a disco album.
You've got a ridiculous record like "Disco Duck."
♪ Disco, Disco Duck ♪ (exclaiming) Oh, Mama, shake your tail feathers.
(snickering) It was a natural thing that eventually disco would have a backlash.
RADIO ANNOUNCER: In baseball, the White Sox blew a 5-1 lead and ended up losing to the Baltimore Orioles 8-7 last night.
But the Cubs beat the Giants 3-2 in San Francisco... (whistle blowing) MEIER: Mike Veeck, who was running promotions at White Sox park, he thought it'd be a good idea to put us in the ballpark between a double header.
NATKIN: It's FM 98.
So, the tickets were 98 cents.
And you have to bring a disco record.
And we'll put 'em all in this big metal bin, roll it out into center field in between the games, and the pyrotechnics guys would set off explosions underneath the records.
Crowd would go crazy, they'd roll the thing off the field, they'd play the second game.
No big deal.
(people talking in background) WHITE: Records were gonna be blown up with dynamite?
A lot of young people just, like, "I have to be there."
HANKES: The evening before Disco Demolition, we were having dinner.
And my dad said, "What are you doing tomorrow?"
And I said, "Oh, you know, just the usual, hanging out."
(chuckling): And he said, "Well, let me tell you what you're not doing-- you are not going to the Sox game."
And I was, like, "What do you mean?"
"There's a DJ, he's gonna be blowing up records, "people are gonna be drinking.
It's not good.
"Alcohol, records, fireworks-- you're not going.
You're not going."
I said, "Okay, I'm not going."
I couldn't wait to go.
(laughs) RADIO ANNOUNCER: ...inbound Kennedy.
Slow leaving O'Hare, slow...
Entering the Loop... GREEN: I think, in a sense, the fact that Disco Demolition Night happened in Chicago seems like it was made to order.
One of the reasons why you would expect it to happen in a place like this was that Chicago was a social and political battleground.
CONTRERAS: Each neighborhood really has its own identity.
In one place, all the signs would be in Polish.
Cross the street, and all of the signs would be in Spanish, or would talk about a soul food restaurant.
The demarcation point lines are very, very clear.
MEIER: North of the Chicago River is a whole different section of the city than south.
When you cross the river, things change.
So, growing up on the South Side, it was saying, "I'm blue-collar, a regular person."
North Side, "Oh, we're a little more elite."
(bat hits, crowd cheering) And then you have two baseball teams: North Side, South Side.
KING: You cannot be for both teams.
You're considered weak, wishy-washy.
You're either a White Sox fan or you're a Cub fan.
(cheering) KING: I grew up near Comiskey Park, so I grew up as a White Sox fan.
♪ ♪ WHITE: South Side, Comiskey Park.
We have to talk a little bit about Bridgeport, too, because that neighborhood was very white.
It was very Irish.
A lot of the kids that went to Disco Demolition were from the neighborhood.
CONTRERAS: Bridgeport was sort of like a sundown town neighborhood, where it was evident that you were not supposed to be there after dark if you were a Black person.
That was just not a place that you wanted to be.
JACKSON: You would hear stories that Blacks weren't welcome.
And so, aside from the fact that Comiskey Park was there, you really weren't going to spend time in Bridgeport.
♪ ♪ DAVE HOEKSTRA: There's some institutional racism, probably, around Comiskey.
I always wonder about what kids are taught living there.
How that, I suppose that type of thinking might, might be handed down, but it's-- each case is different.
Each family handles that differently.
♪ ♪ HANKES: My dad was not, back then and to this day, he's not very accepting of other races.
(disco music playing) (radio stops) He didn't like some of the disco music because there was Black people playing it.
♪ Unforgettable ♪ HANKES: But my mother loves Nat King Cole.
"Unforgettable," her favorite... COLE: ♪ That's what you are ♪ Her favorite song of all time.
Sammy Davis, Jr.?
Couldn't listen to it, 'cause he was Jewish.
My dad, anti-Jewish.
That's just the way it was.
You grow up where you grow up, and, and you go, "This is, this is normal."
GREEN: It's worth remembering now that in 1979, when the Disco Demolition Night takes place in Comiskey Park, the economy and economic opportunities for people who don't have college education is actually shrinking.
The city is changing because of things that have to do with the economy and politics.
It's not changing because of disco music.
But if Steve Dahl says that he's been screwed by disco, it gives permission to other people to say, "You know what?
I've been screwed, too."
♪ ♪ COWIE: For gay people, people of color, the discotheque is a place of liberation, it's a place of freedom, it's a place to be amongst your own.
(people talking in background) As that music becomes more corporate, it's taking over other formats, I think a lot of these kids are feeling that as an attack on their sense of privilege, their sense of ownership of the culture.
And so the line of the culture war cleaves on rock versus disco.
(people talking in background) ♪ By the dawn's early light ♪ ♪ What so proudly ♪ NATKIN: The Detroit Tigers were the worst team in baseball that year.
The White Sox were the second-worst team in baseball that year.
So they figured, "Maybe we'll draw an extra 5,000 people."
(crowd roaring) ♪ Take me out to the ball game ♪ (crowd singing along): ♪ Take me out to the crowd ♪ (playing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game") (organ continues) NANCY FAUST: I'm Nancy Faust.
I'm probably best-known for providing music for baseball games, specifically the Chicago White Sox, for 41 consecutive seasons.
(crowd cheering) ANNOUNCER: Hello, sports fans.
FAUST: I knew the point of the promotion was to blow up disco records, but I just did my thing.
(playing "Stayin' Alive") I'm sure I included many disco songs.
(organ continues) ANNOUNCER: Hello again, everybody.
Harry Caray and Jimmy Piersall from Comiskey Park, twi-night doubleheader.
And the theme song seems to be "Disco Sucks."
(crowd clamoring) LOGAN: By about the third inning, there's a lot of people outside trying to get in.
WHITE: This crush of people started coming in any way they could enter, including climbing over the chain link fence gate.
ANNOUNCER: This place is jammed.
Look at them.
(crowd roaring) LOGAN: By the seventh inning, there wasn't an empty seat in the stadium.
ANNOUNCER: We may have the year's biggest crowd.
(crowd roaring) It was, like, "Whoa, this is big."
ANNOUNCER: Tonight, they filled this ballpark.
NATKIN: Rather than 5,000 people, 50,000 people showed up.
And there were still 20,000 people waiting out on the sidewalk, trying to get in.
ANNOUNCER: ...game being delayed again because of these records.
Big rock and roll crowd.
(people talking in background) LOGAN: So, about the beginning of the eighth inning, we go down to the tunnel, getting ready to go out to the field to do our thing.
(crowd clamoring) (crowd reacting) ANNOUNCER: He struck him out and the ball game is over.
MEIER: We're gonna get on this Army jeep, and go out onto the field between games.
(crowd cheering loudly) MEIER: Our fans just erupted, because this was what they came for.
(crowd cheering) They didn't give a damn about the baseball game.
(exclaiming) NATKIN: They got in for 98 cents, so they had a lot of extra money in their wallets.
So rather than a beer or two, they had four or five.
And they decided it would be really cool to start throwing beers at us.
(crowd cheering) MEIER: We're getting doused with beer.
It was, like, "We've got to do that, "we have to let off this steam.
"This is why we came here, and we're gonna blow up these records, and..." CROWD (chanting): Disco sucks!
DAHL: Please welcome the Village People!
(crowd booing and whistling) DAHL: What?
You don't like the Village People?
How about the Bee Gees?
(crowd booing) DAHL: Okay, listen, I'm gonna go blow up the records real good.
(crowd cheering) DAHL: One, two, three.
And then... boom!
(explosion roars) (crowd cheering) DAHL: That blowed up real good!
HANKES: This big huge explosion just... ...like, reverberated, it, it was so loud, and it blew a big hole in the field.
(crowd cheering, yelling) NATKIN: We were supposed to then get in the jeep, and Steve would wave, crowd would go crazy, we'd go back through the tunnel, and that would be it.
(cheers thundering) LOGAN: We drive down into the tunnel to get off the field.
A lot of the security guys ran down with us.
(people yelling) HANKES: And then, all of a sudden, people started running on the field.
REPORTER: The fans are now streaming on the field in great numbers.
Nobody could stop 'em.
ANNOUNCER: I hope they don't let you people see what's going on here at Comiskey Park.
One of the saddest sights I've ever seen at a ballpark in my life.
LOGAN: People just kept pouring over the walls, like a bathtub overflowing.
ANNOUNCER: Will they call the game, the second game, or will they forfeit it?
HANKES: So, we joined in.
We ran on the field, too.
And I slid into third base.
(laughs) I was acting, acting like I'm in the pros, and I run, and... ANNOUNCER: Some of these records are being thrown high in the air and they're going to strike people on top of their head.
HANKES: I got hit in the back of the leg, in the calf, with a flying album, and it cut the back of my leg open.
Let's clear the field.
MEIER: And on the scoreboard they put, "Please return to your seats," as if these people are looking at the scoreboard, read that, and go back to their seat.
MAN AND CROWD (chanting): Back to your seats!
Back to your seats!
Back to your seats!
(crowd cheering and yelling) FAUST: They were rock fans who really didn't care about baseball.
And I'm sure there was a large segment of fans that were in their seats that were disgusted that we had missed the second game.
(crowd yelling) DAHL: That blowed up real good.
JACKSON: My parents were Sox fans, and sitting there in front of the TV with my dad, experiencing this, yeah, he was super-disappointed by it.
But also not surprised, because Comiskey is smack dab in the center of Bridgeport.
MAN (on P.A.
): ...get off the field, we'll have a chance to hold that tiger.
WHITE: It was very difficult to find your way out.
I was afraid, I was truly scared.
MAN (on P.A.
): Come on!
WHITE: It went from being this kind of fun night to now, "How do I get out of here?"
KING: And it was like a mini war scene.
There was, like, smoke everywhere, fires.
When you saw the fires, that, that was enough to scare you.
♪ ♪ Good evening-- Chicago is still talking about last night's disturbance at Comiskey Park, a wild... (phones ringing) LOGAN: The next day, I started getting calls from people all over the country.
"Hey, what happened there?"
You know, "What was that all about?
What did you guys do?"
And I said, "You saw it."
"Crowd got out of control."
♪ ♪ KING: I think anytime you talk about hate for anything-- disco music, people, whatever-- it generates the evil side of people, so to speak.
They get worked up about it.
DAHL (echoing): We're never gonna let 'em forget it.
They're not gonna shove it down our throats.
WHITE: When you listen to Steve Dahl, he never said anything about hating gay people or hating Black people.
His backlash was against "Saturday Night Fever" and the velvet rope that would never allow him into a private club.
PHIL PONCE: Do you know there's, there have been allegations that there was something vaguely homophobic or racist in the promotion...
Uh, it was not.
I don't know what, where that comes from.
I'd like to have somebody show me some proof of that.
DAHL AND CROWD (chanting): Disco sucks!
DAHL (in interview): It was really just a rock and roll versus disco thing.
(chanting continues) LOGAN: Years after the event, things look a lot different than they may have looked at the time of the event.
People become more enlightened, more interpretation is given to an event.
I will say this: we didn't make fun of Black artists.
You know, we made fun of the Bee Gees.
("You Should Be Dancing" playing) HANKES: When I thought of disco music, I thought of it as the Bee Gees.
It was faster-paced, it was something you could dance to instead of playing, you know, your air guitar.
(laughing): And jamming.
We didn't think anything racial of any of it.
(crowd cheering) Baseball was sacred in my family because of iconic figures like Jackie Robinson and Willie Mays.
And that kind of passion for the game was tied to the Civil Rights imagination.
(crowd yelling) BILL VEECK: Please get off the field so we can start the second game.
BROOKS: So, to see people swarming the baseball diamond... (crowd chanting indistinctly) BROOKS: ...as far as I could see, they were white men.
They looked incredibly angry.
It was terrifying.
DAHL AND CROWD (chanting): Disco sucks!
JACKSON: It felt racist.
I don't think you could have a stadium full of, you know, Black and brown kids... (crowd cheering and yelling) JACKSON: ...that would be allowed to just run, uncontained, damaging property.
♪ ♪ CONTRERAS: Yes, you had a perfect storm of disenfranchised youth and alcohol.
But I don't think that Steve Dahl intended for a riot to happen.
I think the ultimate point was, it was the other.
That's what they were rallying against, the people who were not like themselves.
♪ Macho, macho man ♪ ROSE: The evening at Comiskey Park was the moment that set the fuse.
Then some of the radio stations stopped playing disco music.
(music stops) ♪ ♪ CLIFFORD: The bookings stopped, the phone calls stopped.
There was no work.
(sniffs) ♪ ♪ I don't think that they really thought about how badly they could hurt people, women especially, because this was a time when women were really moving into the music industry and having successes.
My heart dropped.
I don't know what the effect might have been for the average person out there to see it.
(voice breaking): I know what it did to me.
Um... ♪ ♪ CONTRERAS: Disco definitely didn't die after Disco Demolition, and from my vantage point, I think it was reborn as house music right here in Chicago.
♪ ♪ House music is refined disco.
♪ ♪ HOEKSTRA: Disco was ready to change.
You know, without Disco Demolition, without, there would've been no house music.
♪ ♪ I think outside of the blues, house music is the second-biggest musical export out of Chicago, especially when you go to Europe.
MAN: Yet another form of Black music which has broken from the street into people's homes.
♪ ♪ ROSE: It's a very interesting time to see now, looking back, where we are, at disco, because disco literally did change the world.
It made people happy, 'cause it's a happy music.
♪ ♪ GREEN: If we seek a true memory, you know, "This is the meaning of the backlash against disco," then we're probably going to find ourselves in a situation where we never settle the argument.
And I think that that's the way of all major cultural transformations.
People don't feel comfortable, people ask questions about where they fit in.
And, you know, I think that that's the United States of the late '70s and early 1980s.
COWIE: All of American history is defined by culture wars.
Who has voting rights, who has property rights, who has power?
Catholics versus Protestants.
But in the 1970s, an entire new front opened up in the battle over the culture.
The Civil Rights Movement, the women's movement, the gay rights movement come along and say, "Hey, we want in, too."
♪ ♪ And that's why the 1970s are the foundation of our own time, because we're still battling over these same questions.
♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪