If you regularly read Flashback, you might have noticed how many of the bands chronicled talk about the heyday of the Jersey club scene. In the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, it seemed like there were big clubs all over the state, with top bands plying almost every night of the week.
One of the most famous of the clubs was The Stone Pony in Asbury Park. With a lineup that included every Wednesday with the Nines, every Thursday with Bobby Bandiera and the Asbury All-Stars, Fridays and Saturdays with a mix of the top groups from around the state and national touring bands, and Sundays with Cats On A Smooth Surface, it was a place you could catch great shows, and great crowds, all the time. And there was always the special guests that stopped by… but that story would be a whole column by itself. But the lineup was typical of many clubs of the day.
Right up the street from the Pony was Park Place, featuring all the biggest Jersey bands of the days, such as the original Yasgur’s Farm. Crystal Ship, Southern Cross, T.T. Quick, and Prophet, to name but a few.
Walk a few more blocks, and you came to Club Xanadu. Featuring many of the same bands, it was a more glitzy atmosphere, with more dancing, rather than the concert atmosphere prevalent at the Pony and Park Place.
And just a short walk brought you to the Fastlane, which had both local and touring bands, mostly of the original variety. Groups such as U2 and the Police came through, mixing easily with hot local bands such as Jon Bon Jovi and the Wild Ones, The Rest, and a regular night of Lord Gunner and Hot Romance.
Venturing up Route 35 took you to the Playpen inn Sayreville, where you could see bands every night of the week, and then cross the highway to Close Encounters, where you’d see a mix of the cover and original bands of the day.
Not far away, in Aberdeen, was one of the biggest clubs the state ever had. The Fountain Casino had two large rooms, featuring concert size stages and sound systems, and the place was often filled to capacity for acts such as White Tiger and Twisted Sister.
Heading over to New Brunswick, the Royal Manor ruled the day. This club was a paradise for the nightlife crowd. One room had country flavored rock bands, with regular appearances by Kinderhook Creek. Another room was a disco, complete with mirror ball and strobes. Yet another room had pool tables, go-go dancers, and even a deli off to the side. But the main “rock room” was home to the biggest drawing band the state had to offer.
Not far away were Zaffy’s, where many tribute bands were often seen, and the Main Event. Just down the road toward Princeton brought you to the Tin Lizzy. When you headed north, there was such a variety of places to go to see groups that it was easy to hit a different place every night for months! Circus Circus and The Soap Factory provided late night crowds with music in Bergenfield, Mother’s, still going strong, was in Wayne, Governor’s and The Lighthouse were in the Lake Hopatcong area, and the Showplace in Dover all brought in big crowds.
Today, the only band that really pulls in crowds that resemble those of the club heyday is the Nerds. And Mother’s is about the only club that still has the atmosphere of those bygone days.
Bob Rizzi, Jersey music scene veteran and aficionado, as well as owner of Halycon Records, which put out albums by early ‘80s stalwarts Prophet and T.T. Quick, and who booked bands such as Crystal ship and the Asbury All-Stars, has great memories of the times. “The whole key element was the 18-year-old drinking age,” he says. “Once the age went up it curtailed the whole club scene, and the end became inevitable.”
Copyright © Hal B. Selzer/The Aquarian/East Coast Rocker and transcribed with permission.