flashback: CRYSTAL SHIP

In the early 80s, there was a band that dominated the club scene like no other. In the heyday of the Jersey circuit, their record of prominence over all the other bands on the scene was unchallenged. The band was called Crystal Ship, and their show, called “Renaissance Of The Doors”, packed clubs and theatres up and down the East Coast.

The band had their beginnings in the late ‘70s with singer Joe Tag. He was in a local North Jersey cover band, and whenever they did Doors songs, the crowd would yell for more. His vocal style, as well as the sound of his voice, was uncannily like that of Jim Morrison. He decided to put together a band to perform all Doors material. At the time, tribute bands didn’t exist. Every major booking agent and club turned him down, most with snide remarks about how a band playing only the music of one group, especially a group that hadn’t been around for years, could never succeed.

Joe managed to find a manager/backer, and set out to put the group together anyway. Through ads in The Aquarian, he found keyboardist Mark Zab, guitarist Gerry Gerber, drummer Dennis Palmer and bassist Ken Glover. Later, yours truly joined on bass, and a horn section was added that included Pete Mauer, Dave Bertone, and Vinny Luongo.

While the original Doors didn’t have a bass player, their albums all had a studio bass player on them, and many of the songs have prominent bass parts. And while Joe had a strong resemblance to the bearded Jim Morrison of the L.A Woman era, and Mark closely resembled Ray Manzarek, the idea of the band wasn’t so much to look like the Doors, it was really about capturing the spirit of the music.

They succeeded at capturing that spirit beyond all expectations. When they sold out their first self-promoted shows, agents and clubs soon came running. Six months to the day of that first show, Crystal Ship sold out the Capitol Theater in Passaic, the first of three times the band would accomplish that feat.

Soon the band was breaking attendance records at all the biggest clubs on the East Coast, as well as performing regularly at concert venues such as the Capital Theater, the Tower Theater in Philadelphia, and the Paradise Theater in Boston. The also hit the East Coast amusement park circuit, with regular sold out appearances at the Great Adventure arena, usually on July 3rd, the anniversary of Jim Morrison’s death. There were many live broadcasts of shows over stations such as WPLJ in New York and WYSP in Philadelphia.

Adding to the aura that Crystal Ship created was a concert size light show and sound system. The group utilized the services of road crews that worked on major tours, with bands such as Aerosmith and Meat Loaf. They even sometimes performed with the famed Joshua Light Show, which toured with the original Doors. The many reviews of the shows marveled at not only the overall scene the band created, but at the tightness and high level of musicianship exhibited by the members, often comparing them favorably to major touring acts, and even the Doors themselves.

Unfortunately, in 1985 Mark died in a tragic drowning accident in the Hudson River. The band continued sporadically for another few months, but was never the same. Throughout the following years, Joe had newer versions of the band, but was never able to capture the magic the band originally had.

Today, Joe resides in Massachusetts, and occasionally ventures out to do shows. Dennis gave up playing for a period of time, but has resurfaced as a member of the band Strange Brew, Gerry went on to work in various original projects. Dave and Vinny can be seen with the Motones, while Pete went on to play with many different bands and even appeared with Bon Jovi at Madison Square Garden. I was a founding member of Adrian Dodz, a band that signed a recording deal with Epic Records, while Ken went on to become a vocal coach and producer.

The club scene will probably never again see the glory days of the early ’80s. And probably never again see a phenomenon such as Crystal Ship, the biggest Jersey club band that ever was!

Copyright © Hal B. Selzer/The Aquarian/East Coast Rocker and transcribed with permission.

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3 Comments

  1. All so true.
    The book “Rock and Roll Meltdown”, The Circus Nightclub Story is a true and accurate depiction of the rise and fall of the ROCK scene in the late 70s and 80s. “Crystal Ship” and many others, are duly noted throughout.
    Available on Amazon, B&N, and all e-book stores. Relive the greatest era of Rock and Roll in the Tri-State area.

  2. Tracie Shishilla

    Hi Maggie,

    Im Marks cousin. We never really knew each other all that well as kids but it was nice to read about Mark.

  3. Allyssa Cinquina

    This article actually made me cry a little. Joseph Cinquina (AKA Joe Tag) was my father. I grew up listening to old Doors recordings as well and watching my dad preform from time to time. I’m sorry to say my dad passed away on March 29 2009 of a brain aneurysm. I’m touched this article exists and that He’s remembered fondly.

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