It’s July 12, 1979 and the Chicago White Sox are set to play the Detroit Tigers in
the second game of a double header.
The baseball park had a capacity of 44,000 people.
But that night, 55,000 spectators showed up.
This event is remembered not because of the game, but because of what happened right before it.
It was Disco demolition night.
The main attraction, the Disco Demolition, spearheaded by morning radio man
Steve Dahl and his anti-disco army called the Insane Coho Lips.
Ooh. That felt good.
Steve Dahl, a disco-hating radio DJ thought it would be hilarious to blow up hundreds of
disco records in center field.
Much to the dismay of those that approved this stunt, about 7,000 people
bum rushed the field, inciting a riot.
Many of the fans are scattering on the field now, where they fight the police.
The baseball game never happened.
This moment went down in history as the night disco died.
But it didn’t.
Within just a few years Chicago’s youngest music producers and DJs would completely reinvent
dance music by playing those disco records over hard hitting electronic drum machines.
In the city that disco died, it was reborn as House music, and within a decade it would
travel the globe.
Frankie Knuckles, one of the Godfathers of House, called it “Disco’s revenge.”
In 1989 James Wiltshire was working in a record store in Manchester, England.
One Saturday someone came in and just want I want the record that goes
The song they wanted to hear was “Ride on TIme” by Black Box.
Obviously in this clubber’s mind, it was the most important record that they'd ever
This happened at the tail end of an underground drug-induced movement in the UK, dubbed the
“Second Summer of Love.”
Some very clever people suddenly realized that they could haul a massive sound system
out into a field and get 20,000 paying punters to come and see it.
In 1989 “Ride on Time” went from being an underground house hit to spending six weeks
at number one on the pop charts.
By the end of the year it was the best selling single in the UK.
“Ride On Time” represents some of the genre’s biggest influences.
From the vocals and piano, to the drums, each element of the song helps tell the story of
how House music came to be.
"Ride on Time," Black Box. Top of the Pop's 2, BBC 2. Starting first song, now.
This is Black Box performing “Ride on Time” on Top of the Pops, England’s iconic music
Despite what this performance might have you believe, this person isn’t actually singing.
She’s lip syncing to one of the most widely sampled disco
records in house,
Loleatta Holloway’s “Love Sensation”
Loleatta Holloway was a gospel singer turned disco diva from Chicago.
Her song “Love Sensation” was released just a few months after Disco demolition.
While the track itself fared pretty well, it’s the acapella, released on the 12-inch
single, that Chicago DJs remixed over and over.
They didn’t just do it in clubs - they did it on the radio.
WBMX is a Chicago radio station that was home to a legendary group of DJs called the Hot Mix 5.
"The Hot Mix 5 on WBMX. Chicago's number one dance party. Here's another hot mix on 102.7 FM.
These DJs played a pivotal role in popularizing house music.
From Ralphi Rosario
To Farley “Jackmaster” Funk.
Through the 1980s the Hot Mix 5 went from remixing disco records live on the air to playing original
house music tracks that Chicago DJs produced.
It’s estimated that a million people in Chicago tuned into their show every Saturday night.
Fans would record these programs on cassettes and share them around the world.
That process is literally how I’m able to share this recording of Farley Keith remixing
Love Sensation live in 1984.
There's always been this association with big diva vocals and house music.
So it's of no surprise to me that people went for some of the most powerful
vocal samples that had come from the disco era and started chopping
them out and piecing them back together.
By some estimates “Love sensation” was sampled nearly 300 times - while DJs in Chicago
likely started that trend, it was “Ride on Time” that made Loleatta’s voice
a house music staple.
Even the most diehard instrumental techno loving vocal hating snobs that I know within
that scene still love that vocal.
What you’re listening to is the kick drum of the Roland TR-909, if there’s a defining
instrument in house music it’s this drum machine.
It's a big chunky beige box with proper 80s livery all over it.
You've got 16 buttons at the bottom, a series of controls for all of the actual different
The 909 was invented in 1983 by Ikutaro Kakehashi, the founder of Roland corporation.
This man gave us, probably by accident, machines that caused nothing but a revolution.
The 909, or the 9 as lovers of it would like to call it, is the successor to the 808.
You probably know the 808 as the drum machine that powers hip-hop.
Kakehashi invented that too.
Both used analog synthesis to generate sound, but the 909 was unique in that its cymbals
and hi-hats were samples of real drums.
There's something and especially the open hi hat that just whips a dance floor into
a frenzy straight away.
I mean the kick is one thing, but it's really that certain “woooosh” and you're like
“Yep that's that's a track.”
As much as the 909 is really iconic today, back in 1984 it was deemed a commercial failure.
Only 10,000 units were actually made.
When the producers were wanting to create this new type of electronic music in Chicago,
most of them were broke so they just went to the pawn shops to see what was available,
and the one thing that was nearly always available was the poor 909 because it just hadn’t
sold very well.
But it just so happened to have that particular perfect storm of the massive kick drum.
The belting clap, the snare drum that you can do fantastic little rolls on.
And those sloshy four or five cymbals and hi hats.
That punchy sound of the 909 quickly permeated through Chicago and even Detroit, where bedroom
producers were taking inspiration from house music and developing a genre called techno.
You can think of Larry Heard, "Can you feel it."
You can think of Derrick May’s "Strings of Life."
You can hear it in “Jack Your Body” - the first Chicago
house music song to reach number one in the UK.
All the way to early house hits made in the UK like Adamski’s “Killer”.
If you take away to 909 from that, a lot of that thumping drive is gone.
It’s no surprise then, that in the opening few bars of Ride on Time - you can hear that
909 kick drum and those crunchy hi hats.
And then the pianos started, and then it got interesting.
In the late 1980s different house subgenres began to form.
There was acid house, developed from the song Acid Trax by Chicago producer Phuture.
Its iconic sound came from the squelching bassline of a TB-303 synthesizer.
There was deep-house which leaned heavily on soulful vocal samples and spacious synthesizers.
And then there was Italo-house, which more than any other offshoot, relied on the upbeat
rhythm of a digital piano.
“Ride on Time” is a classic Italo-house track.
So much so, there’s a solo piano version of the song on the 12 -inch single.
The Italians really knew how to do this mixture
of great big pianos — and you add that kind of oversung diva element into that and
it became a staple.
In 1986, three years before “Ride on Time” - Chicago’s Marshall Jefferson released
“Move Your Body” dubbed the house music Anthem.
It’s this song that helped establish how future house tracks would incorporate piano
The way pianos are used in house music is very much almost as a powerful rhythmic guitar.
Listen to the piano in “Ride on Time” next to “Move Your Body” and you’ll
immediately hear the similarities in rhythm.
The musical exchange between Italy and Chicago might seem like a one way street.
Italo-house and “Ride on Time” in particular would not have existed without the innovations
of Chicago artists.
And that was met with a lot of controversy - Loleatta Holloway’s vocal in “Ride on
Time” wasn’t properly cleared when the song was released - nor was she initially
credited for it.
But if we rewind back to Chicago in the early 1980s right after Disco Demolition, an unlikely
genre of music was taking off: Italo-disco.
Italian disco had a massive effect on the early house producers.
Because they effectively had this going before house music
had really come to the fore and was the new sound in clubs.
Just like House, the sound of italo-disco is driven by drum machines and synthesizers.
And it’s this genre that forms the link between Loleatta Holoway’s disco and house.
Take a listen to this WBMX radio show again:
That was that Loleatta Holloway acapella you heard earlier, transitioning seamlessly into
“Shame (you were the big sensation)” an italo-disco record.
Go through any Chicago House DJ set in the 1980s and you’ll see them littered with
italo-disco records, and that influenced what those DJs would go on to produce.
Take the italo-disco song “Dirty Talk” - released in 1982.
That opening bassline and arpeggiated synth is mirrored in a lot of early house tracks
including the 1986 classic “Your Love” by Frankie Knuckles and Jamie Principle.
By 1990 House music was a global music genre, artists from the UK to Australia were filling
dance floors with a 909 kick drum.
That was almost inevitable.
From its inception in Chicago, House music was always a cross cultural phenomenon.
What happened when “Ride On Time” came forward is that you had the kind of perfect
storm of a great big monster club sound with a vocal that, A, a load of people already
knew, and B, sounded powerful.
You could almost put it as an actual pivotal point in house music and say from that point
it all just blew wide open.