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Rock and Roll Meltdown: The Circus Nightclub Story 1979-1983

Rick Bandazian

Pages: 220
ISBN: 978-145753-208-5
List Price: 17.95
Category: Nonfiction
Available: September 2014
Edition: Perfectbound

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In 1979, rock and roll was in revolution. While FM radio covered the nation with a nonstop format of Fleetwood Mac, Foreigner, Kansas, Styx, Led Zeppellin, and more Fleetwood Mac, it was a different story in rock clubs all over America. In dingy, sweaty venues from LA to New York, punk rock and new wave bands were retelling the rock and roll story. In New Jersey, from Ramsey to Carteret, from Hoboken and Fort Lee, to the little town of Bergenfield, it was a time of great clubs and even greater music. This book chronicles those times and gives a first-hand account of a club owner’s remembrances of that famed era. Included are exclusive interviews with band members, rock fans, and former employees that witnessed this special time in rock history in a way that can only be told through their words. Meanwhile, the author’s commentary places the reader into a rock club at the center stage of the revolution. In LA, it was X, The Blasters, the Germs, the Go-Go’s, and The Knack. In Boston, it was The Cars and Human Sexual response. In England, it was the Sex Pistols, Elvis Costello, The Jam, and The Clash. In New York, it was Blondie, Talking Heads, and The Ramones. At the author’s club, The Circus in Bergenfield, New Jersey, it was John Kay and Steppenwolf, Twisted Sister, New Riders of The Purple Sage, David Johansen, Johnny Thunders, Joe Perry, Cyndi Lauper, The Plasmatics, Steve Forbert, Rick Danko, Jorma Kaukonen and yes, The Ramones too. It was the roaring 70s and 80s. Sex was safe, drugs were plentiful, and great rock and roll played seven nights a week. Piles of cash rolled in for the bands, their handlers, and the club owners. The popular drug “blow” was just about everywhere you looked and floated in and around the club scene just as fast and plentiful as water from a faucet. The extraordinary cover and tribute bands mentioned in this book only scratch the surface of the talent that performed during this amazing era. In many cases cover bands were drawing larger crowds than national recording artists; they were crowds large enough to require security guards just to get them to the stage safely. But all that would change in 1983 when the drinking age went up to 21 in New Jersey and for the rest of the country in 1984 when the U.S. Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984. Clubs folded like dominos falling; bands sold their fancy box trucks and equipment, and it was over as quickly as it started. It was “The Great Rock and Roll Meltdown.”

Rick Bandazian grew up in the quiet community of Glen Rock, New Jersey. He currently resides in Wyckoff with his wife of 39 years and has two grown children. His friends and family referred to him as a hustler and a workaholic when he was just 12 years old. When he was 19, he tried unsuccessfully to buy his first piece of real estate. It was not an ordinary first investment property such as a house or condo, but instead, it was a small shopping center with seven stores and a two family home attached. Three banks laughed at him when he tried to get a mortgage. After working numerous jobs, including one at a local luncheonette, Rick convinced his father to open a similar business. Although that particular venture failed, they went on to own and operate four other successful businesses, including the iconic rock club, which was the inspiration for this book. Whether it was cutting lawns, shoveling snow, delivering newspapers, babysitting, painting house numbers on curbs for 50¢ each, or working at Mike’s vegetable stand, Bandazian had to be working somewhere or at something; otherwise, he wasn’t happy. He learned at an early age the value of earning and saving money. After high school graduation, he went to work full-time in the family business but not before giving college a try. He later joked to his friends that it was the worst eight weeks of his life. And on the day he decided to quit, he went into the school’s book store and tried to negotiate the best deal he could at reselling the books back to the school. After all, they were brand new and never opened. That was the sales pitch that got him $9 for the algebra book, rather than the $7 he was offered. It wasn’t the two bucks, but the art of the deal. While some of his friends were joining fraternities, going to toga parties, and smoking weed, Rick was doing what he loved-working and saving money because he wanted to own his own business. At 20 years old that dream came true when he became a partner in a diner in Westwood, New Jersey. By the time he turned 25, Rick was part owner of two other successful businesses. After selling The Circus rock club in 1983, Rick went on to a successful career in real estate, including sales, management, investment, and construction. His wife is also in real estate management and employed by the nation’s largest real estate provider.