Excerpt from “Only the Strong Survive”

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

Excerpt from “Only the Strong Survive”:

So, there we were. It was another Friday night, about 11 p.m.,
and the dance floor was packed. The music was hot and loud,
and of course, the liquor was flowing. The band’s rocking the
place. The cash registers seem to ring in time to the music. It’s a
beautiful fall night in October 1979. What could go wrong?

Glancing up from my post at the bar, I suddenly saw—to my
horror—Bergenfield police officers rushing the front and back
doors, shotguns drawn.

Rewind to October 19, 1978. Jerry Randolph, age 28, a local
ne’er-do-well and motorcycle club dude from nearby Englewood,
got into it with another customer and was tossed out by bouncer
Christos Eftychiou, age 24. This was in the club’s earlier incarnation—
a place called Peanuts Tavern—about a year before we
bought the bar, but the memories were still fresh. Trouble doesn’t
care whose name is on the deed.

Excerpt from “‘DIVO’ LIVE! But not at Circus-Circus”

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

Excerpt from “‘DIVO’ LIVE! But not at Circus-Circus”:

It was 1980, a short time before Devo released their third album
Freedom of Choice, which included their smash hit “Whip It,”
when my brother shared some exciting news. “I just booked
Devo. You know—the group that wears the flower pots on their

By this time, we already had an impressive resume of
national talent under our belts, and with Devo added, it would
only enhance our reputation as a cozy, small- to mid-sized venue
with big acts. This rising punk/ new-wave band had already performed
to a national audience on Saturday Night Live, so scoring
them at Circus-Circus was good news.

As customary, the management of Devo sent their tour manager
to check out the venue, inspect the facility, and go through a
checklist of items such as ample power, stage access, and basic
logistics for a show. My brother met with the band’s manager on
a Wednesday afternoon. Within five minutes, he received some
bad news.

Excerpt from “Daredevils and Snake Charmers”

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

Excerpt from “Daredevils and Snake Charmers”:

We kind of thought of ourselves as trailblazers. Everyone
says this, and every bar would like to think this, but we
had all the crazy stuff going on before most clubs. Clearly, our
experience showed how crazy we were. But in a money contest,
my cash is often on the guy with googly eyes in a suit made of
buffalo wings, and springs on his shoes. That’s the guy who will
do anything.

We always wanted to be the first at everything. Sometimes it
paid off, and sometimes it sank out of sight. But as my father
always said, “If you want to launch big ships, you have to go
where the water’s deep!” We spent years searching for deeper

Usually bands tried to pass me a demo tape, because they
wanted to play at the club or maybe just open for one of the big
acts. Even though we usually booked through agencies, I felt
everyone deserved a few minutes of my time, even though my
brother had the final say regarding who would play at our club.
He had a great track record of delivering huge talent, and I wasn’t
going to second-guess him.

Excerpt from “On With the Show, This is It”

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

Excerpt from “On With the Show, This is It”:

There was a local bar on Washington Avenue in Bergenfield
called “Peanuts”—it had a jukebox, a bar, two pinball
machines, and two cigarette machines. We were opening up a
rock and roll club. Would we really need much else? But we
didn’t. It was 1979. I was 25, my brother 20, and my father, 54.
We saw opportunity.

It wasn’t really like we were kids. I had worked at something,
anything, since I was in grade school. Our family had experience
with the little diner here, the little luncheonette there. We
worked hard. I could flip a pretty mean hamburger, and I was
good with money. My brother knew every band. To our young
minds, it all made sense.

Excerpt from “Blow Is Everywhere”

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

Excerpt from “Blow Is Everywhere”:

It’s 1979. Cocaine, that insidious and powerfully addicting nasal
decongestant, is flowing in and around the club scene just as fast
and plentiful as water from a faucet. It was difficult to find anyone
who worked in or near the club scene who wasn’t using the drug regularly.
The 2001 film, Blow starring Johnny Depp, lays the facts out
pretty well. It’s based on the true story of Carlos Lehder and his
Medellin cartel, which specialized in smuggling cocaine from
Columbia to the US on a huge scale. It was primarily responsible for
most of the white powder coming into the US.

But they had help…everywhere. Even in my club. See, every
joke, every cliché about the era is unfortunately true. If you were
there, you know what I’m talking about. In the 1970s cocaine
emerged on the scene as the new and fashionable drug that provided
energy, prestige, and an invincible feeling. It was the drug of choice
for entertainers, their fans, business people, Wall Street honchos,
and their wealthy neighbors. College campuses all over America saw
an explosion of usage between 1970 and 1980 and the drug traffickers
knew it. They set up elaborate networks to get the coke into the
U.S. by the ton to satisfy the soaring demand.

Excerpt from “Forward Let’s Rock”

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

Excerpt from “Forward Let’s Rock”:

Ah, the brave foolishness of youth. Take an ambitious 25-
year-old kid from a little suburban town in New Jersey, his
music-obsessed kid brother, and a dad who believed in the whole
idea. Add loud rock and roll, wet T-shirt nights, nickel beer, and
here we are.

This book is a chronicle of those times, and a tribute to all
the rock bands and club goers on the tri-state club circuit and
around the country during the late 70s and 80s. 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.

While the scene in New York City was thriving, from Irving
Plaza to Max’s Kansas City and the Bottom Line, another scene
was developing out in the suburbs, where young rock fans actually
lived. Any night of the week, winter or summer, they were
filling clubs to see their favorite bands—loud, hot, sweaty, and

Excerpt from “CIRCUS-CIRCUS”

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

Excerpt from “CIRCUS-CIRCUS”:

Sometime in December 1978, my brother got word of a
restaurant/bar named “Peanuts” in Bergenfield, New Jersey
that was for sale. With 5,000 square feet of space, a banquet-sized
kitchen, and a ton of parking, we quickly became interested. I
remember our first visit to the place. We sat at a booth and were
immediately welcomed with popcorn and peanuts, and a menu
that seemed to cater to children. Cartoons were projected onto a
wall as a kid’s party was in full swing. (Does it sound like another
place you know?) Let me give you a hint. Go ahead, throw your
peanut shells on the floor. Yes, it was Ground Round Grill and
Bar. Same idea, same concept, same peanuts!

The rest is all ROCK and ROLL!