But even titanic waves crash after they crest, and this one was no different.
|The number one album in the U.S. for 24 weeks in 1978|
Just a year after Gerry Rafferty's City to City dislodged the award-winning multi-hit, multi-platinum double LP from the top slot, disco was not only no longer tres chic, it was literally under assault, morphing from Disco Duck to Disco Sucks seemingly overnight.
Conceived by Chicago disc jockey Steve Dahl with the blessing of Sox promoter Mike Veeck, the idea of blasting to bits a crate full of vinyl disco records in centerfield between games of a Comiskey Park double-header drew a raucous crowd. Admission was 98 cents and a sacrificial record. After the pyrotechnics, attendees stormed the playing field and wouldn't leave until police descended.
At least 37 people were arrested. The field, wrecked. The second game, canceled.
Between the soundtrack's ascent to the top of the charts, and the era's catastrophic end, the hedonistic disco lifestyle became the stuff of legend, epitomized by a pair of Manhattan night spots, the drug-laden danceteria Studio 54 and the steamy sex playpen, Plato's Retreat.
The Bee Gees -- brothers Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb -- had hit the charts a decade earlier crooning melancholy songs with titles like To Love Somebody, I Started a Joke and I've Gotta Get A Message To You before fading from view. They re-emerged in 1975 with the edgy rhythmic Jive Talkin' and the riff-heavy, falsetto laden Nights on Broadway.
When impresario Robert Stigwood summoned them to lay down tracks for his new film inspired by a 1976 New York Magazine article titled Tribal Rights of the New Saturday Night, they were primed and ready. And so was the world.
|The Brothers Gibb|
Suddenly -- and with no apologies to the Beatles -- the Bee Gees were here, there and everywhere, their sound simultaneously inimitable and ubiquitous.
Saturday Night Fever, the film, made a bankable star out of John Travolta, an actor whose high water mark had previously been a TV sitcom where he played one of four high school degenerates known as the Sweat Hogs. Within a year, he'd portray Danny Zuko, male lead and top greaser in Stigwood's Hollywood adaptation of the hit Broadway show Grease. Fever had made $237.1 million at the box office. Grease was bigger still, raking in $395 million.
Still, for a segment of the public, Travolta's Tony Manero was un-relatable. Disconcerting even. He was a proto-metrosexual, a nice pretty boy obsessed with his hair, his clothes, his shoes and with dancing. Manero may have worked in a paint store, scraping together money to buy a blue shirt he spied while window shopping, but he wasn't blue collar.
|Manero's ups and downs forecast Travolta's long career|
Disco Demolition Night, which drew an estimated crowd of at least 50,000, put that same kind of latent hostility on public display.
Late 1970s, popular music -- particularly American pop -- had become big, corporate and toothlessly inoffensive. Punk stripped away all that, returning it to its rebellious roots. Trailing close behind it was another reconstructionist format, new wave. Suddenly disco was worse than dead, it was passe´, relegated to a nostalgic purgatory from which it never quite returned.
Four decades down the road, the soundtrack and the movie have been archived at the Library of Congress as cultural museum pieces, time capsules, artifacts from a short-lived empire long since vanished.
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