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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

July 12, 1979

Welcome to another summer edition of the Tuesday Timeline entry.  Today is the 12th of July, and today's subject is very musical, to say the least. 

I'll get to what I mean in a moment.  But first, we have a little bit of other things to take care of first.  Let's have a look at what happened throughout history on this date.

1493 - Hartmann Schedel's "Nuremberg Chronicle" is published

1561 - St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow is consecrated

1690 - The Battle of the Boyne takes place

1776 - Captain James Cook embarks on his third voyage

1789 - Journalist Camille Desmoulins gives a speech in response to the dismissal of French finance minister Jacques Necker - that speech would be the catalyst for the storming of the Bastille just two days later

1804 - Alexander Hamilton succumbs to a gunshot wound one day after being shot in a duel

1862 - The Medal of Honor is authorized by U.S. Congress

1908 - Actor/comedian Milton Berle (d. 2002) is born in New York City

1918 - Over six hundred are killed when an Imperial Japanese naval battleship, "Kawachi", explodes near western Honshu

1920 - The Soviet-Lithuanian peace treaty is signed

1950 - Kiss drummer Eric Carr (d. 1991) is born in Brooklyn, New York

1962 - The Rolling Stones perform their very first concert at London's Marquee Club

1963 - 16-year-old Pauline Reade disappears on her way to a dance in Gorton, England; she becomes the first of many victims of serial killers Ian Brady and Myra Hindley

1967 - Riots begin place in Newark, New Jersey over civil rights and liberties - the riots would last a period of six days and would leave 26 dead

1970 - The home of composer Geirr Tveitt is destroyed by fire - along with 90% of his output and works

1973 - At least one-third of all American military personnel files are wiped out when a fire guts the entire sixth floor of the National Personnel Records Center

1979 - Singer Minnie Riperton dies of cancer, aged just 31

1986 - Simply Red scores their first #1 hit single with the song "Holding Back The Years"

1996 - Smashing Pumpkins keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin dies of a drug overdose at the age of 34

2003 - Beyonce scores her first #1 solo hit with "Crazy in Love"

2007 - Airstrikes are performed in Baghdad, Iraq by American army Apache helicopters

2011 - Sherwood Schwartz - the creator of "The Brady Bunch" and "Gilligan's Island", dies at the age of 94

And for celebrity birthdays, the following faces are blowing out candles on their cakes today; Frank Windsor, Irene Sutcliffe, Roy Barraclough, Bill Cosby, Christine McVie, Delia Ephron, Walter Egan, Richard Simmons, Gilles Meloche, Brian Grazer, Cheryl Ladd, Jamey Sheridan, Mel Harris, Dave Semenko, Tonya Lee Williams, Dan Murphy, Robin Wilson, Annabel Croft, Richard Herring, Lady Saw, Lisa Nicole Carson, Loni Love, Kristi Yamaguchi, Dan Boyle, Anna Friel, Tracie Spencer, Steve Howey, Claire Chitham, Topher Grace, Michelle Rodriguez, Tara Kirk, Natalie Martinez, Phoebe Tonkin, Dexter Roberts, and Eoghan Quigg.

Okay, so what's the date that we will be looking at this week?

Well, I think we'll go back in time thirty-seven years ago today - which makes our Tuesday Timeline date July 12, 1979.

Now, as mentioned earlier, singer Minnie Riperton passed away on this date, and while she isn't the main subject of today's blog, I do want to acknowledge the contributions she made to the music industry - in particular with this single from 1975.

ARTIST:  Minnie Riperton
SONG:  Lovin' You
ALBUM:  Perfect Angel
DATE RELEASED:  January 13, 1975

The two things that I can definitively say about this single is that first, it is a beautifully written love song.  And secondly, Minnie Riperton sure knew how to hit a high note!  Interestingly enough, the song provided a smidgen of controversy when some disc jockeys would purposely fade the song out because they felt she was singing a Mayan chant at the end.  But she was actually repeating the name "Maya" - the name of her then two and a half year old daughter.

The Maya in question by the way?  Actress and comedienne Maya Rudolph.

Sadly, in 1976, Riperton was diagnosed with breast cancer, and while she fought the disease for three and a half years, it ended up taking her life thirty-seven years ago today.

May she forever rest in peace.

But, July 12, 1979 also marked a day in which a demonstration changed the face of the music industry forever. 

But before we talk about that incident, here's a little background information to get us into the mood.

Now, as I mentioned before, in 1975, Minnie Riperton had a #1 hit with "Lovin' You" - and 1975 was a year in which singer-songwriters dominated the charts.  By the following year however, a new style of music was slowly making its way onto the scene.


Likely catapulted by the movie "Saturday Night Fever", disco became dominant during the late 1970s.  Disco clubs with flashing lights and mirror balls sprung up in every major city from Los Angeles to New York, Studio 54 was the hot spot for everything disco, and artists such as The Bee Gees, Donna Summer, and KC and the Sunshine Band soared in popularity.  The disco scene was definitely the place to slip on your platform shoes, feather your hair like Farrah Fawcett-Majors, and do the Hustle without anybody judging you.

In the early part of 1979, it seemed as though disco was set to become the style of music that everyone would have to become accustomed to.  Have a look at the #1 hits on the Billboard Chart of the year 1979 prior to July 12, 1979...

12/31/78 to 01/19/79 - Too Much Heaven/THE BEE GEES
01/20/79 to 02/09/79 - Le Freak/CHIC
02/10/79 to 03/09/79 - Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?/ROD STEWART
03/10/79 to 03/23/79 - I Will Survive/GLORIA GAYNOR
03/24/79 to 04/06/79 - Tragedy/THE BEE GEES
04/07/79 to 04/13/79 - I Will Survive/GLORIA GAYNOR
04/14/79 to 04/20/79 - What a Fool Believes/THE DOOBIE BROTHERS
04/21/79 to 04/27/79 - Knock on Wood/AMII STEWART
04/28/79 to 05/04/79 - Heart of Glass/BLONDIE
05/05/79 to 06/01/79 - Reunited/PEACHES & HERB
06/02/79 to 06/08/79 - Hot Stuff/DONNA SUMMER
06/09/79 to 06/15/79 - Love You Inside Out/THE BEE GEES
06/16/79 to 06/29/79 - Hot Stuff/DONNA SUMMER
06/30/79 to 07/13/79 - Ring My Bell/ANITA WARD

Notice a pattern here?  Aside from the slow jam "Reunited", every single one of these songs was recorded by a disco artist, or was a single that had some disco flavour (such as the case with the Rod Stewart and Blondie singles).  That's a lot of disco.

Some might have said that it was too much disco. 

And this brings us to July 12, 1979.  The location was Chicago's Comiskey Park.  And the event was something that came to be known as "DISCO DEMOLITION NIGHT".

The event was put together by disc jockey and anti-disco activist Steve Dahl, who I have to admit had a good reason for disliking the genre.  You would too if you were fired from the rock station you were working at on Christmas Eve, 1978 because the station decided that they would switch formats from rock to disco.

Fortunately, Dahl was quickly hired by a competing radio station, but he never forgot just how terrible he was treated at his former station, and how disco caused him to be unemployed, so throughout the first part of 1979, he and his broadcast partner launched an all out war against disco music, and it is rumoured that it was they who coined the "Disco Sucks" phrase that was heard throughout the last part of the year and early 1980s.

It all came to a head at Comiskey Park.  Dahl planned for the Disco Demolition Night to take place there as part of a radio promotion.  That night a doubleheader was scheduled between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers, and Comiskey Park was already having a promotion that night where any teenager who purchased a ticket to see the game would get in for half price.  Well, Dahl sweetened the deal (with assistance from White Sox owner Bill Veeck and Veeck's son Mike) offering tickets to the game for 98 cents - provided that they enter the game with a disco record of their choice.  Because Dahl promised that after the conclusion of the first game but before the second game was set to begin, he would blow up a whole crate of disco records outside of the baseball diamond!  Bill Veeck went along with the cross-promotion as he felt as though it would be a great excuse to bring fans back to the stands. 

At 8:40pm, Dahl, dressed in army fatigues, engaged the crowd in a rousing chorus of "DISCO SUCKS" before pressing the button that would cause the explosives inside the crate to explode.  The explosion was so huge that not only did it destroy every record inside of the crate, but it left a huge hole right in the middle of the outfield.

And that's when things really started to disintegrate into an uncontrollable mess.

While security outside of the stadium was tight...the security INSIDE the stadium was nonexistent.  Players of both teams hid as a crowd of approximately 5,000-7,000 people stormed the infield to cause some more demolition that wasn't limited to disco records.  The infield was completely destroyed as people were setting records on fire and ripping out grass.  The batting cage was transformed into a twisted piece of metal.  Even the bases on the field were stolen.  And I don't mean by players...I mean they were physically stolen!

By 9:08pm, the police - dressed in full riot gear - descended onto the field, and the crowd dispersed.  In the end, thirty-nine people were arrested, and Comiskey Park was so destroyed that the second game could not be played at all.  It was a forfeit in favour of the Detroit Tigers, as the White Sox failed to maintain safety conditions, and as of now, the July 12, 1979 game remains the last one to end in a forfeit.

But here's the interesting footnote at the end of this failed promotion.  Ultimately, the Disco Demolition Night ended in complete failure, it damaged the credibility of the Chicago White Sox, it made Bill and Mike Veeck laughing stocks, and it even caused some people to believe that the demonstration was one that seemed to promote discrimination against people of colour, or people that were a part of the LGBTQ community.  However, despite all the negativity associated with that promotion...the crazy part was that it actually WORKED!  Have a look at the #1 songs of 1979 AFTER July 12, 1979 to notice the huge shift in music styles...

07/14/79 to 08/17/79 - Bad Girls/DONNA SUMMER
08/18/79 to 08/24/79 - Good Times/CHIC
08/25/79 to 10/05/79 - My Sharona/THE KNACK
10/06/79 to 10/12/79 - Sad Eyes/ROBERT JOHN
10/13/79 to 10/19/79 - Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough/MICHAEL JACKSON
10/20/79 to 11/02/79 - Rise/HERB ALPERT
11/03/79 to 11/09/79 - Pop Musik/M
11/10/79 to 11/16/79 - Heartache Tonight/THE EAGLES
11/17/79 to 11/23/79 - Still/THE COMMODORES
11/24/79 to 12/07/79 - No More Tears/BARBRA STREISAND & DONNA SUMMER
12/08/79 to 12/21/79 - Babe/STYX
12/22/79 to 01/04/80 - Escape (The Pina Colada Song)/RUPERT HOLMES

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