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Running Away With The CIRCUS:

An Oral History Of CIRCUS Magazine #1

Stevie Wart

CIRCUS magazine appeared at the newsstands in 1969. [HULLABALOO 1st issue - October 1966; CIRCUS 1st issue - March 1969] And like Jann Wenner at Rolling Stone, CIRCUS Publisher and Editor-in-Chief the boss is still at the helm. The boss actually started CIRCUS in 1966, under the title Hullabaloo.

 

In the 50 years since the publication began, CIRCUS has been many different kinds of music journalism. It started out as a general interest rock magazine, running stories on classic rockers such as the Doors, Genesis, and Grand Funk Railroad. Later, Rothberg realized that his target audience--teen boys--loved to read about their favorite rock stars over and over, month after month. So when a band like Kiss hit, they were one of CIRCUS' biggest cover stars.

 

CIRCUS covered all kinds of rock and pop music but always featured a large number of heavy metal and hard rock bands in its pages. Following an unpopular move to a pop culture weekly in the mold of People in the late '70s, Rothberg went back to a monthly format and started to get back to the hard rock and heavy metal stars that made his magazine sales soar.

 

The boss's lean toward those kind of acts paid off big time in the '80s when the hair metal explosion hit. Month in and month out, it was Def Leppard, Van Halen, and Bon Jovi on the covers. The hair metal years in the '80s were Rothberg's most profitable for CIRCUS.

 

When grunge hit in the '90s, CIRCUS got confused and lost its focus (even putting rappers Arrested Development on the cover one month--and getting tons of hate mail in the process). After the boss changed the longtime design and logo of the magazine in 1994, he pared his staff down to a bare minimum and fielded out stories to freelancers.

 

Today, CIRCUS covers the history of rock music. With the exception of the boss, a handful of people work in the office to update the magazine's page every day. Still, there was a time--the mid '70s to the mid '80s--when CIRCUS had a full-time editorial staff that included some of the biggest names in rock journalism, including Paul Nelson, Fred Schruers, Daisann McLane, Jim Farber, David Fricke, and Kurt Loder.

 

Unlike Rolling Stone, there are no books or articles that exist on the history of CIRCUS magazine. Thus http://rockcritics.com/ presents this oral history of the magazine. Here, former CIRCUS writers and

editors talk about CIRCUS, their time there, and the man behind the magazine: the boss.