“The shows were intense and always, always super-hot. We always made them turn the air conditioning off. That’s just our way. You’ve got to sweat. Those shows were high-compression gigs… if you were in there, you were working with us.”
Descendents/Fright Wig – August 4, 1985
Milo Aukerman (Descendents vocalist): City Gardens was a very distinctive club, and we always looked forward to playing there. If nothing else, any tour we were on, we could always count on having a show there. Places like Philly, every time we would roll through there would be some new club. It would be something pulled together for a short time, and then a month later the club would be gone. There was never like a stable venue in that area except for City Gardens. Even in New York we would play a whole bunch of different places, but City Gardens was always there. I guess that’s why people remember it so fondly. ’85 was the first tour we had ever done in the U.S., and it was pretty dicey, in terms of booking shows and keeping cancellations from happening. [Drummer] Bill Stevenson was doing the booking, and he had learned the ropes from Black Flag. Black Flag set the standard for where you would play, what cities were cool, who the booking agents were, what clubs you would be able to play, and so on. We would go out, probably for two months, and try to hit the whole U.S. We were always guaranteed a good booking at City Gardens from Randy.
We would tour, go back home and try to regain our sanity, and then we’d go back out. We were in a tiny little van, doing all the driving ourselves, and usually sleeping on top of all of the amps that were stacked up in the back of the van. We had this platform that we built above the amps that we called “the stack,” and that was where we all slept. It was about a foot below the ceiling of the van. You kind of wriggled back into that and tried to get some sleep. I’m kind of a light sleeper, and I would be back in the van, thinking, “I really need to sleep, but I can’t sleep because I’m waiting for this van to flip over.” You figure if that van flipped over, you’re on the bottom, and what’s on top of you is several hundred pounds of equipment, which is kind of scary. I would try not to think about it. Between that and the fact that there was no air conditioning. We had one of these old vans with AC in the front, but that AC was not filtering to the back. I would open up the side window to get some air, but that just happened to be right next to the exhaust. So, it was this trade-off, like, “I’m dying back here, I need some air,” and then you open the window and go, “Okay, now I’m going to die for a different reason. I’m going to die from carbon monoxide poisoning.” It was always fun to make that decision: I need some air, but I may die of carbon monoxide poisoning. I’m just going to take that chance. We had another van with a vent on top, and that was better because it wasn’t near the exhaust, so you could get some air through that. However, we sheared off that vent when we drove through the Chicago airport one year. We had to duct-tape the hole, and it became a non-functional vent. Those first vans were crazy, little death traps that, luckily, we never died in.
Beastie Boys – July 26, 1985
Mike Diamond (Beastie Boys): We recorded “She’s On It” before opening for Madonna on her Virgin tour. It was one of two songs we would perform to the boos and shocked expressions of her audience every night. Thanks are due to her for keeping us on the tour. Because it was our first single on Def Jam as part of their new Columbia Records deal, we got to make a video. Shot on Long Beach, Long Island, it was directed by Rick Rubin’s NYU roommate at the time, who was going through the film school. Basically, it was a low-budget, amateurish attempt at a David Lee Roth video, the only difference being that instead of getting hooked up, we got dissed. Aside from getting to spend the night at Rick’s parent’s house, and meeting his parents, the only high point came when this channel in the New York area called U68 started showing the video. U68 was somewhere between public access and MTV. They would show all kinds of crazy stuff from that time. That gave us a little bit of juice, enabling us to get booked at one of NJ’s most infamous clubs, City Gardens. We drove through pouring rain in a rented milk truck, only to arrive at our gig to an audience of, like, five people, not including the members of Washington D.C.’s Junk Yard Band, who opened the show.
Henry Hose (City Gardens regular): We went to the show, and it was getting later and later and later, and the Beastie Boys didn’t show up. Most of the people had left and Frank [a.k.a. Tut] was pissed that he had to give people their money back. He had to refund money and was furious. The band finally showed up well after midnight. It was just the three Beastie Boys and Rick Rubin, and I saw Randy having words with them. They grabbed a table from the back of the club and put it up on stage, set up two turntables, and they started doing the show.
Deirdre Humenik (City Gardens employee): They didn’t show up until a half hour before closing time, then they jumped on stage and started busting and smashing record albums and throwing them into the crowd.
Gal Gaiser (City Gardens DJ): I was hanging out with [Regressive Aid guitar player] Billy Tucker that night and stood next to him for the whole thing. Rick Rubin was breaking records in half and throwing them into the audience like Frisbees, and he hit Billy Tucker square in the head. And Billy loved it! He thought that it was the best thing that ever happened to him.
Henry Hose: I saw someone—I won’t say who—go over to the bar, grab something from behind the bar, and then bolt out the door.
Deirdre Humenik: The crowd chased them off the stage and they jumped into their Mustang convertible and took off. People were booing them and were pissed, and there was a fair amount of people there. People came out and slashed their tires, and they drove away on flat tires.
Henry Hose: They did their show, which I thought was great, and everybody started leaving. This was probably around two in the morning. As I was pulling out the driveway and saw that the Beastie Boys had flat tires on their box truck. “Someone” took an ice pick and picked their tires because they were pissed off about having to give everyone their money back. So, they had flat tires, it’s two in the morning, and they were stuck in Trenton.
Gal Gaiser: On my radio show the next Monday, Billy Tucker came down and talked about the show. The Beastie Boys only played for about 15 minutes, but I clearly remember Billy saying, “That was the best 15 minutes of music ever.”
Randy Now: This was before With Sympathy came out… before they signed with Arista even. I got their first 12” single called “I’m Falling” from [DJ subscription service] Rockpool. I found my copy of it recently and saw that I had written “Patty” on it, and a phone number. That must have been Patty Jourgensen, his wife, who was also his manager.
Al Jourgensen (Ministry): This was before the With Sympathy nightmare started. We had a nickname for Randy: Goofy Grape, after the Kool-Aid character from the ‘60s. We called him that because he always had a big old smile on his face, even as the owner of the club was yelling at him. He had to deal with so many egos in so many bands. Randy was in over his head, man. But he would just grin and bear it. City Gardens was like CBGB West. In the middle of Bumfuck, Nowhere, this club springs out of the woods. City Gardens was like a mirage. You come out of the woods in Jersey, and all of the sudden there’s these lights and this big parking lot, and everyone played there. If you were anyone, you played there. You’d drive through woods and forest, and then Goofy Grape would be there to greet us. In New York, we played the Peppermint Lounge and some other club, so we had to be there a week. We lived at the Iroquois Hotel, seven of us in one room, because it was cheap and the only thing we could afford. For food, we would go over to Times Square where this movie theater would throw out their stale popcorn. We would take 50-pound bags of popcorn back to the hotel to eat for the whole week. This was not glamorous, trust me. You must tell people this! It’s not glamorous, sharing a hotel room with seven people… seven stinky people in a van, playing shithole clubs. City Gardens was a haven for us. We always sold it out. Other places, 50 scraggly looking people would show up, and we’d be in the van eating stale popcorn. City Gardens was a complete fire hazard. I got electrocuted there. I never got shocked so bad. I went up, plugged in my guitar, went to the mic to sing, touched it with my lips, and got thrown back six feet. I passed out and they were deciding whether to call the paramedics, and then I woke up and yelled at Randy. In 1977, I had a band called Slayer in Colorado, where I went to college. It was originally Reign Slayer, but I made them drop the Reign. We would play three sets a night, mostly covers, Aerosmith and the like. You would barely be able to get away with a couple of original songs without people throwing stuff at you. Like, beer and fruit or whatever. And bands had to be brave, because we didn’t know if clubs were going to pay us! We’d show up, and it would be touch and go, and we’d hope that they would pay us so we could get the hell out of there. But Randy always hooked us up.
New Order – July 9, 1983
Randy Now: Sometimes in the soccer field next to the club they would have carnivals, and those turned into black vs. white. City Gardens kids would have to run from the parking lot to the door of the club because neighborhood kids would throw rocks at them. One time, kids were throwing rocks at punkers and, as the punks got to the door of the club, Tut slammed it on them. He left club patrons out in the parking lot full of rock-throwing teenagers. He was like, “Save the club, and if a few people get hurt, so be it.” I couldn’t believe he did it.
Amy Yates Wuelfing (author): I was still too young to go to City Gardens, but I knew it existed and that it was like Mecca. I saw a photo of New Order in [British music tabloid] NME, and I was so excited because it was taken across the street from City Gardens. It was like a brush with greatness.
Peter Hook (New Order): Yeah, I remember that photo. [Photographer/ Filmmaker] Anton Corbijn was waiting for the car to go back to the airport, and he’d been with us for two days, pissed as a fart the whole time. He just sat there. He was really hung over, and he kept saying to us, “There’s something I’ve forgotten. I’ve forgotten something, but I can’t think of what it is.” We said, “We don’t know. What could it be?” And then he went, “Oh my God, I’m not taking any pictures!” He had flown over to America for the NME article, forgotten to do the pictures, and was about to get on the plane to go home. He ran across the road and bought two disposable cameras from the garage, came back, and shot us in the fun fair. That was the cover. That guy is either very lucky or very talented. I haven’t decided which.
Henry Hose (City Gardens regular): [New Order singer] Bernard Sumner had little white shorts on, and my friend Vanessa kept saying to me, throughout the whole set, “What’s with the fucking white shorts?” When the show was over, there was hardly anyone left in the club but Vanessa and me. They were packing up to load out, and Bernard comes up to the edge of the stage. He’s leaning over, talking to the stage crew, and Vanessa says, “Oh, those fucking shorts!” She walks up behind him and pulls the shorts down to his ankles. It was hysterical, the look on his face. But he just pulled up his pants and walked away.
Vanessa Solack (City Gardens regular): We always made our way to the front of the stage, and whenever we had urges or whims to do something, we did it. We paid the consequences sometimes, and sometimes we didn’t. Back then boxer shorts were the thing, everyone wearing boxer shorts as clothing. It was a no-brainer to yank his shorts down. I remember him being on stage when I did it, but Henry has different recollections than I do with some things. I don’t know whether his memory is a little better than mine or my memory is a little better than his, but I remember [Bernard Sumner] being up on stage playing the guitar when I pulled his shorts down.
Amy Yates Wuelfing: Peter Hook always had the reputation of being the spikey member of New Order, the one who was difficult, would speak his mind, and always show up late.
Peter Hook: That is what makes bands great, that type of chemistry. I never looked like the rest of the band, did I? People would tell me I looked like I should have been in Judas Priest, which I took as a compliment, actually. I must say my life has been pretty surreal. I’ve had two different actors portray me in movies, and that fits in quite well with everything else that I’ve been through. [Ed. – The movies are 24 Hour Party People and Control.] 24 Hour Party People… we weren’t very hands-on with that, so that was the weirdest moment. The guy didn’t play me very well I don’t think, which was kind of odd because he worked with my ex-wife. I thought she would’ve given him a few pointers, but she mustn’t have. But in Control, Anton [Corbijn] was adamant that the actors had to act like us, and they were schooled very, very much in being like us. They came to meet us, they came to watch us play, and they watched a lot of videos. That was a bit freaky, because the guy was too much like me. But it’s very flattering to be in two films, or three films if you count the Joy Division documentary, and still be alive. Thank God! And there was a play in Manchester called New Dawn Fades where we were portrayed again!