In 1976, there were an estimated 10,000 discos open in the US, as opposed to only 1,500 in 1974. Before Saturday Night Fever (1977), disco was very underground and particularly big in both the black and the gay scenes.
The Hustle, a combination of Mambo and Jitterbug steps, was the favoured dance of the day, although The Bump was almost as popular.
Cheaper than going to a rock concert, and less hassle than a singles bar, the disco was a combination of both – one which also allowed gays, straights, blacks and whites to party together as one under the mirror ball.
Lots of after-hours drug-drenched discos were filled with drag queens, fags, chic hairdressers, straight men, superfly black men, drug dealers, pimps and hookers.
The late 70s disco scene ushered in a whole new aesthetic that was all about trying very hard to be chic (not the band). Dress codes at discos insisted you dress to impress – shimmer and shine from head to toe.
The sheen of unbuttoned satin shirts, gold shirts and sweaty chest hair; the glimmer of little sequined disco bags and spandex dresses or tight pants; the sparkle of glitter eye shadow, metallic Lurex-threaded scarves, and gold glittered high-heeled sandals transformed you into the shining star you were born to be.
For a while it seemed every dodgy disco was called Xanadu with a coke-sniffing owner who thought he was Warren Beatty (but actually bore more resemblance to Warren Mitchell).
By summer 1979, disco culture had reached a crescendo of sales and exposure. “I Hate Disco” car stickers became increasingly widespread, and Chicago radio DJ Steve Dahl was one of many who attacked disco for blaspheming against “real music”.
Dahl organised a ‘Disco Demolition Derby’ at Comiskey Park (home of the White Sox baseball team) in Chicago on 12 July 1979.
Fans showing up with disco records were let into the game for a reduced $0.98 and the event was a sell-out. At the interval, Dahl took to the field to light a funeral pyre of thousands of disco records.
This turned into a riot as fans invaded the field and started more bonfires. Anarchic as this moment was, it crystalised and publicised anti-disco sentiment and, in August, The Knack‘s My Sharona replaced Chic at #1 in the US charts (every previous #1 that year had been a disco hit).
Though it eventually reassimilated into dance culture, disco died a sudden death in America that night.