MOTHER OF DEMOLITION

Dear,

You probably know that song by The Smiths… The one where Morrissey sings:

Burn down the disco
Hang the blessed D.J.
Because the Music they constantly play
It says nothing to me about my life
Burn down the disco
Hang the Blessed DJ

Hang the DJ, Hang the DJ, Hang the DJ,
Hang the DJ, Hang The DJ, Hang the DJ
HANG THE DJ, HANG THE DJ, HANG THE DJ
HANG THE DJ, HANG THE DJ, HANG THE DJ
HANG THE DJ, HANG THE DJ
HANG THE DJ, HANG THE DJ…[1]

And so on and so forth ad nauseam

But did you know that it actually happened? No, it didn’t happen like that, of course… Nobody died. It wasn’t exactly a lynch mob, but it was a mob. An angry mob:[2]

On July 12th 1979 Bill Veeck and his son Mike (of the Chicago White sox), were hosting a showdown between the two worst teams in The American League and needed a stunt that could fill Cominsky Park stadium for their double header against the Detroit Tigers.

To help them out, they hired local rock DJ Steve Dahl whose personal vendetta against Disco was fueled when WDAI, changed to an all- disco format and fired him on Christmas Eve. Luckily for him, he was picked up by rival album-rock station Loop 98, where he found a platform for his anti-disco crusade. Dahl recalls:

Every day I would play a disco record, drag the needle across it, you know, and scratch it and then blow it up! But I tapped into something! There was an undercurrent of hatred for Disco[3]

His routine included touring local bars in a surplus army uniform and helmet, breaking disco records over his head.

Following their own advice, that “you can draw more people with a losing team plus bread and circuses, than with a losing team and a long, still silence” Mike and Bill Veeck approached Dahl with the idea to redub the planned teen night into a Disco Demolition Night, hoping that his fan base of Insane Coho-lips(aka The Anti-Disco Army) would amp up the expected turnout of 6000 die-hard white Sox fans to a crowd of 10 or maybe 20000.[4]

Dahl was game, and promoted the event on air, promising admission for a mere 98 cents in exchange for a disco record. The idea being that all the records would be collected in a big box, which Dahl would blow up between games.

On the night of the event, the box filled up quickly, but people kept pouring in, now carrying their uncollected records into the bleachers.

Mike Veeck had hired enough security for 35,000, but when the stadium was filled to capacity of 52,000 visitors, another 20,000 or so were left outside the ballpark. Some were not content to remain there, leaping turnstiles, climbing fences and trying to gain entry through open windows.

When the game began the security guards were sent to the gates to bar the gatecrashers, leaving the field unattended. At this invitation the crowd started tossing the vinyl albums onto the pitch, like Frisbees.

One player recalls: “It wasn’t just one, it was many. Oh, God almighty, I’ve never seen anything so dangerous in my life.[5]

In the intermission, Dahl took to the field proclaiming that: “This is now officially the worlds largest anti-disco rally![6]

He circled the stadium in a Jeep together with Lorelei, the “face” of Loop 98, then grabbed the mike and lead the audience in a chant of his mantra Disco Sucks!, followed by his Rod Steward inspired anthem Do you think I’m Disco?

After this performance he proceeded to ignite the explosive crate, sending shards of disco records flying everywhere and tearing a large hole in the outfield grass.

Now the audience started pouring out of the stands into the field. Some were climbing the foul poles, others set records on fire or ripped up the grass. The batting cage was destroyed; the bases were pulled up and stolen while the players hid in the barricaded field house.

After several attempts to call the crowd to order, Dahl offered his help, but was declined, and at 9;08 the Chicago police, in full riot gear, arrived to the applause of the baseball fans in the stadium.[7]

On the morning of the Mayhem, Steve Dahl appeared on air in his usual slot… not exactly apologizing, but admitting that maybe things went a bit out of hand… but would he do it again? “Sure, with a few more security guards!”

And even later, when the event was commemorated, and he was asked in a interview if this “night that disco died” signaled the end of disco as the predominant music genre in the U.S., he would recall it with a wistful gloating:

The Bee Gees actually later flamed me for killing disco, which I took as a victory for me, I took that as a win![8]

And that is frankly the tenor of most of the YouTube clips that I have been able to dig up on this event… that it was a crime against baseball, but over-all it was a win…

(Off course, in the meantime, over in our little corner of the world, we had no idea that disco had died -we were just getting into it!)

Now, I don’t know about baseball, but I know what I like!

… and I know what I love, and I love disco, in all the ways and for all the reasons that all those hatin’ haters hate it:

I love its fluid, liminal, limitless sexuality, it’s throbbing utopian promise that out there, somewhere, in there, there is this place, this pool, this poly-amorous pile, where we can all just lie there and

Ooooooooooooh, love to love you baby
Oooooooooh, love to love you baby
Love to love you, baby, baby,
Love to love you baby, baby,
Love to love you baby, love to love…
[9]

Or, as Gloria Gaynor, whose disco anthem I will Survive testifies to the resilience of the genre, observed:

One reason that people still take to Disco is that it delivered on the egalitarian ideal that early Rock’n’Roll only promised….[10]

Obviously at the time, Dahl chose to ignore the critical voices that his attack on disco could be read in a less flattering light, given the racial and sexual profiling of the disco fan base compared to the crowd assembled in the stadium, although in an interview on the tomorrow show, he does admit that: “It’s actually not so much the music that I hate, it’s the Culture![11]

So, it’s hard not to agree with music critic Dave Marsh from Rolling Stone, who was one of the first to deem the event an expression of bigotry, calling it: “your most paranoid fantasy about where the ethnic cleansing of the rock radio could ultimately lead.[12]

(And really, isn’t it just too much of a coincidence that a musical genre that is associated with homosexuals, with blacks, with Latinos, with femininity, with queerness, with everything that is not white and male, is being ridiculed with the chant “Disco sucks!”?)

Now, I don’t know if you remember what I said in the other letter about protest chic? I want talk a little bit more about this, and what I call the emasculation of protest, because I think it has a lot to do with what is so great about disco, and with queerness.

You see: a new line of protest seems to be emerging, since the 60s and 70s, an emasculated protest, which is not aimed at gaining power, but at questioning and undermining power. Not to overthrow or become the powers that be but just asserting its own right to be there, as a powerless position.

It is less related to productivity and more to an unproductive, passive resistance, in other words from a forced consent toward fostering dialogue in dissent.

(Or: what’s so funny about “I’m OK, you’re OK?[13])

Examples of this new emasculated protest include Nuclear marches, Anti-war marches, Feminists, Punks, Pride, Occupy and so on, which do not so much signify the “together we are strong” of the unified socialist/communist/fascist workers revolt, but a softer internal revolt of co-dependency and vulnerability, demanding not more power, but less power and the right to recognition and exposure of this powerlessness.[14]

And this new emasculated protest marches to a disco beat.

(And now you may argue that chic is superficial, and protest is heartfelt, -but I will argue that there is a deeply felt chic in Disco, and that this chic expresses a state of longing, a position of hope, -the position of protest.)

So far, so good but then there is the “rainbow colored alphabet soup”.

The problem with the rainbow colored alphabet soup is, that it’s not even a soup, it’s not fluid, it is actually just an enumeration of stagnant positions, so although we have expanded the range of genders from a straight M/F, unto a whole LGBTQ and A, we are being offered these choices more or less as menu options at Starbucks, or like different flavored ice-cream scoops at a parlor -as consumer options. Not to mention the rainbow colored pride beads at Walgreens and all the sad wet pink feather boas on the Amsterdam trams after a rained out pride parade, all the people coming in from the suburbs, so similar in their demonstration of individuality.

I can’t tell you how sad it made me feel, because the emphasis on all these expressions of sexuality is still on gender as performance –as exterior.[15]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But, if we accept the premise of the female as “the second sex[16], and lesbianism as a third[17], I will suggest that then maybe motherhood is a fourth… and hell, who knows? Maybe menopause is a fifth and so forth… Because if we could accept the premise that this is about movement instead of positioning, then maybe we could also accept that the interior experience of gender (as opposed to its exterior expression), is evolving, is an endless series of becomings.[18]

You see, since I came to the United States, and particularly since I entered academia in the United States, I keep finding myself stereotypically typecast as the gender-normative, heterosexual, mother/housewife, and here I have to say with Morrissey: it says nothing to me about my life…[19]

And even, if and when it does, it doesn’t offer itself as an instrument to my self-empowerment, as all it really wants to do with me, is typecast me into this fixed set of definitions, in a sense playing reverse version of that same game with me as the Rockers with the Disco’s, namely hating the culture.[20]

(Which is why it pisses me off when I feel stereotyped into ‘being’ something, because being is not becoming).

And then off course there is the hypocrite argument.

-Oh yes, you know that one: That if you say A, you have to say B, and all that; that you cannot go, unless you go all the way, that you cannot be a feminist housewife or an animal activist fry cook.

Because then you are a hypocrite!

On my paranoid days, when I’m going all conspiracy theory about it, I convince myself that this argument was set in motion by the illuminati to discourage us all from any action, because we all need something, and we all need some money, and some comfort, and some love, just like everybody else does, and the hypocrite argument is there to remind us, that if we give in to these needs, we might as well give in all the way.

But most of the time, I just think it is stupid, because guess what: Its not about you, its about us, and its not about your personal redemption, but about collectively moving, like murmuration, in the right direction.

So, to Morrissey, I will say this: I know that you are human and you need to be loved, just like everybody else does…and I still love you, only slightly, only slightly less than I used to… especially after that pun you made on the case of Anders Breivik and his right-wing-extremist-delusion-of-grandeur inspired massacre on Norwegian youths at a socialist summer camp. Don’t you remember? That you said to your Polish concert audience that “… that’s nothing compared to what’s going on at McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Shit every day!”[21]

I hope you were only joking when you said that!

Because, I can’t deal with that! I can’t deal with that kind of wounded working class hero, that white male pride, that makes it OK to blow up other people’s music, or their books, or their children because the world won’t listen.

And to you, my dear, I will say: don’t let your position of privilege get the better of you. Because positioning yourself means that you can’t go with the flow.

So, when the music that they constantly play, in the provincial town where you jog round, says nothing to you about your life, please don’t hang the DJ.

Dance to your own tune.

Love,

Mom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] The Smiths: PANIC, single released July 26th 1986, Rough Trade Records.

[2] I first heard of this amazing piece of Chicago History, when I went down to Hull House for a meeting with Lisa Junkin and Heather Rathke. I was telling them about my thesis and how I was trying to merge my ideas about Mothernism with observations about feminism, science fiction and disco, and going out on a long tangent about Brian Eno, when Heather asked: “Well, surely you know about that time when they burned all those disco records?

So, I walked out of there thinking: “Wow! I think they just handed me the inspiration for my next letter”! And I walked down to the university village to visit my favorite bookstore and I asked: Do you have anything on burning disco records, here in Chicago? And the guy behind the counter said “Yes! I’ve heard of that… that was just over here in a baseball stadium!” And he googled burning disco records for me, and up it popped: Disco Demolition Night, Chicago 1979 and I was like “WOOOOOOW! Mother of Demolition, here I come!

[3] Disco Demolition Night at Cominsky Park in Chicago 1979, ESPN: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1CP1751wJA

[4] Young, Christopher J. (Summer 2009). “When Fans Wanted to Rock, the Baseball Stopped”: Sports, Promotions, and the Demolition of Disco on Chicago’s South Side. The Baseball Research Journal (Scottsdale, Az.: Society for American Baseball Research)

[5] Dickson, Paul: Bill Veeck: Baseball’s Greatest Maverick. New York: Walker Publishing Co., Inc., 2012. P 315.

[6] This clip was in most of the video’s you can find online covering the event, but one of the best recaps I found on YouTube is this: ESPN: Disco Night (’79)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYVYxKwEdIw

[7] The second game was at first postponed, due to the condition of the field, but was later given to the Detroit Tigers on the grounds that the home team is responsible for a playable field.

[8] Disco Demolition Night at Cominsky Park in Chicago 1979, ESPN: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1CP1751wJA

[9] Donna Summer Love to Love You Baby, from the album Love to Love You Baby, Oasis 1975.

[10] The quote continues:

Disco never got credit for being the first music ever to transcend all nationalities, race, creed, color and age groups… It was common ground for everyone.

Sclafani, Tony: When ‘Disco Sucks!’ echoed around the world, NBCNews.Com, Today Music:
http://www.today.com/id/31832616/ns/today-entertainment/t/when-disco-sucks-echoed-around-world/ – .UXbVg3NQQ-U

[11] In this amazing bit of TV history, a double interview together with Meatloaf, you can also see Dahl inhaling helium in order to do a pitch perfect imitation of the Bee Gees’ Staying Alive:  with his own lyrics: Well you can tell by the way I use my wok/ I’m a Chinese cook…

I myself found this little clip particularly offensive, not just because of the racist slur, but also because one of the records that he brings into the studio to demolish is Donna Summers double LP Bad Girls the first record I ever bought with my own money!

Steve Dahl, Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aU3WIUxLj4

[12] Marsh also noted that:

White males, eighteen to thirty-four are the most likely to see disco as the product of homosexuals, blacks, and Latinos, and therefore they’re the most likely to respond to appeals to wipe out such threats to their security. It goes almost without saying that such appeals are racist and sexist, but broadcasting has never been an especially civil-libertarian medium.

Sclafani, Tony: When ‘Disco Sucks!’ echoed around the world, NBCNews.Com.

[13] I’m OK, You’re OK, by Thomas A Harris MD, is one of the best selling self-help books ever published.

It is a practical guide to Transactional Analysis as a method for solving problems in life.

[14] And in this it is actually pretty much aligned with the issue of gay marriage, whose greatest incentive is actually not (contrary to popular religious right wing belief) an envious impulse to ruin marriage as an institution, or “our” heterosexual union, but just to be, in its own right.

As on of my (gay) friends recently remarked:

What I can’t stand about the conservative right is that they don’t understand that ‘freedom’ actually goes both ways… If they could just say ‘O.K. You want to fuck that way and I want to own a semiautomatic rifle, and then we would both be cool!’ I would actually be O.K. with that!

Now, as somebody who feels that my family life is actually a lot more threatened by the idea of privately owned assault weapons, than by a wedding ceremony including two dudes (or dames), I am not sure if I can agree, but I see where he is coming from.

[15] And then there was the time that one of my class mates suggested, that we should have an anarchy in the U.S. Day, just one day a year with no government, wouldn’t that be great? And I just got really sarcastic and sneered at him: “Well if you did that over here, they would be selling ‘Anarchy Beads’ at Walgreens before you know it –they would probably be black!”

[16] Beauvoir, Simone de: The Second Sex Editions Galimard, Paris 1949, Random House, New York, 2010.

[17] As Monique Wittig suggests.

[18] For more on becoming, in the Deleuzian sense, see: Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guatari: A Thousand Plateaus, capitalism and Schizophrenia, University of Minnesota Press, 1987

Funnily enough, as I was browsing the web, reading over some sex-positivist sites for likeminded definitions of this liminal or temporal approach to sexual identity, I stumbled upon something from AVEN, (The Asexual Visibility & Education Network) which actually comes pretty close. It read:

There is no litmus test to determine if someone is asexual. Asexuality is like any other identity- at its core it’s just a word that people use to help figure themselves out. If at any point someone finds the word asexual useful to describe themselves, we encourage them to use it for as long as it makes sense to do so.

I find this very open-minded and self-assertive, in a non-aggressive way, in a free-to-be-you-and-me way.

And what I really like about it is the temporal clause: for as long as it makes sense to do so.

Source: http://www.asexuality.org/home/overview.html

[19] You know that poor oppressed woman, who services her husband and her children, with no chance of ever emancipating herself.

[20] And although some of my peers have tried to reach out to me by saying that “you are not really gender-normative” I have to say that yes, in fact I am currently enjoying a pretty straight-up, monogamous, vanilla kind of relationship, (and your reassurance is not really any more comforting to me than saying that “you don’t really look that old!” Meaning, that you and I both know that I am really embarrassingly old, but I can swing it for another little while, and we can pretend.)

And if it confuses you that this doesn’t make me a social conservative, I beg your pardon,

I just don’t know how to feel about these entrenched positions over here, the way you get so typecast by your demographics. Maybe it’s got something to do with the two-party-system –the idea that “if you are not with us, you are against us”.

In the beginning I found it refreshing with the sharp contrasts (but then again, In the beginning I tough that if you had a bumper sticker on you car, it meant that you wanted to discuss politics –not!).

It felt as if the light was brighter here compared to the diffuse half-light of an overcast Europe… but now I’m not so sure… I am starting to long for polder-models, for pragmatism infused idealism, for some sort of workable socialism, and for the idea that you are not wasting your vote by voting for the outsider, -you are in fact just exercising your right to vote.

[21] Rolling Stone Music News: Morrissey’s 15 Most Outrageous Quotes. March 16th 2013:
http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/morrisseys-15-most-outrageous-quotes-20130306

On the topic of disco, in a quote that didn’t make it onto this list, Morrisey answered the question do you like disco music? With:

It doesn’t even exist as far as I’m concerned. Not even a miniscule degree. I can’t fathom Michael Jackson at all.

Source: Morrissey In Quotes, Facebook page
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Morrissey-In-Quotes/354253683427

Mother of Demolition- Footnote - Lise Haller Baggesen
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Mother of Demolition - Lise Haller Baggesen
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