Paying Homage to Steve Dahl – or – Why is Radio So Lame?

Posted on July 12, 2011


Apparently its been 30 years since anything exciting happened in Chicago radio and I can prove it.

Just read the first line of a recent Chicago Tribune article about the impending changes in the market stemming from Emmis Communication’s sale of WKQX and WLUP to Randy Michael’s new company Merlin Media:

More than three decades removed from Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park, when then-WLUP-FM morning man Steve Dahl incited a riot during a White Sox doubleheader, things are much quieter on the Chicago rock radio front.”

Every single article you ever read about radio in Chicago starts the same way; by referencing how much time has passed since the Disco Demolition. I believe that proves my original premise: it’s been 30 years since anything exciting happened in Chicago radio.

I’m not bringing this up to in any way pick fault with Robert Channick who wrote the story for the Tribune.

I’m pointing it out to pick a fight with all the airtalent in Chicago, and for that matter pretty much every radio host in America, who haven’t even attempted to do anything attention-getting like the Disco Demolition.

I know stunts of that magnitude don’t come around often and they are, in some ways, harder to pull off today because radio stations are owned by large corporations worried about their stock prices not their audience’s attention.

And we know those companies would absolutely lose their minds if a stunt went so wrong that people were injured and a baseball game was cancelled.

But I would argue that those challenges are offset by the advent of social media.

Dahl didn’t have a station Web site, blog, Facebook page or Twitter account to rally the anti-disco troops with.

He didn’t have a video camera in his phone to film the event because he didn’t have a mobile phone.

So let’s put away the excuses and be honest with each other.

Can you truly say you’ve even tried to do something half as attention-getting as Disco Demolition?

Well you should, if for no other reason than to give Channick and his colleagues a new way to start off their stories about radio.

PS:  In case you aren’t familiar with the Disco Demolition check out this video of news coverage from that night: