The seeming decline of rock radio can be attributed to a combination of factors. High-paid DJs have largely disappeared; in fact, The Drive rarely has its DJs talk on air. Technology has played a major role in the radio landscape, as more people listen to their MP3 players as well as internet, digital, and satellite radio. All of these formats allow users to create their own playlists, either from their individual libraries or through streaming media like Last FM or Pandora. In addition, tastes have changed, as R&B, hip hop, rap, and pop dominate today's charts. A glance at Billboard's Hot 100 provides an instant snapshot of current popular music: artists Pitbull, Adele, LMFAO, Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, Maroon 5, Bruno Mars, and Lil Wayne inhabit the top ten spots, none of which could be classified as pure rock. At first glimpse, it seems as though rock has become an endangered species. However, we have heard this song before.
Flash back to July 12, 1979. Back then, disco was king; numerous stations around the country had switched to an all-dance format, and disco groups such as the Bee Gees, Chic, the Village People, and Sister Sledge ruled the charts. Even rock and pop artists such as Rod Stewart, Blondie, Barbara Streisand, Paul McCartney and Wings, and Cliff Richard flirted with the genre, earning them major hits. Admittedly, disco was quickly becoming overexposed, with grandmas and grandpas taking disco dancing lessons, and Studio 54 promoting their own brand of jeans. Some rock fans began feeling disenfranchised, although in retrospect other, more sensitive issues (namely racism and homophobia) may have intensified the backlash. Capitalizing on this growing feeling, then-WLUP DJ Steve Dahl staged the infamous "Disco Demolition" event at the former Comiskey Park, urging fans to bring disco records for destruction. With great drama, Dahl blew up the albums in a crate, inciting attendees to rush the field, resulting in a riot. Supposedly this even was pivotal in "killing" disco, returning rock to its rightful place on the charts. However, dance artists such as Donna Summer, Shalamar, Linda Clifford, and Stephanie Mills continued releasing successful singles in 1980. The claim that Disco Demolition "killed" disco and restored rock and roll remains dubious.
Did disco ultimately destroy rock? Hardly. Among the massively popular artists that emerged from the 1980s include U2, REM, Guns 'n Roses, Bon Jovi, Living Colour, Metallica, Judas Priest, and Def Leppard, among many others. Alternative rock and grunge ruled half of the nineties, with Nirvana and Pearl Jam leading the way. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jane's Addiction, Weezer, and Green day also emerged, and still influence today's bands. Bruce Springsteen and John Cougar Mellencamp continued racking up hits, and women became major forces in rock (Sinead O'Connor, the Breeders, 10,000 Maniacs, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Bonnie Raitt, Pat Benatar, and Chrissie Hynde, just to name a few).