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Let’s Read Circus, October 1984!

Circus began in 1969 as a pop music magazine, trending to whatever was hot on the scene at the time. After struggling for a few years, the magazine found its core audience in teenage metalhead boys in the late 70s and rode the heavy metal wave well into the 90s. Facing an unpopular move into covering Nu-Metal in the late 90s, Circus held out until 2006 before finally closing in the wake of the founding editor’s bankruptcy. The legacy that the magazine left behind was impressive, as it kept a whole generation of young rock fans in touch with the glittery dream that they saw on MTV.

A really fun article from Deadspin about growing up with Circus.

An in-depth oral history with former Circus writers from Rock Critics Archives


The condition of this magazine was less than stellar. In fact, it was mostly in shreds. It originally belonged to the son of the antique store owner that I bought it from, and it has been well loved – lots of articles and pictures cut out, including from the cover, which made it unsuitable for photographing. Hence, this low res scan that I nabbed from elsewhere. My apologies. But it makes it all a little more special for me to have, being something that was treasured to literal pieces.

Whoever wrote the copy for the table of contents gets all the devil’s horns from me.

This is without a doubt one of my favorite reader mail sections ever.

Not a lot of color ads in this one. This makes me think of some kind of guitar-sentai show. Has there been a guitar-themed Power Rangers yet?

Carlos Cavazo likes the DiMarzio Super 2 because it fended off the wolves who tried to tear apart his clothes!

Admittedly he does make that single earring look pretty good.

Circus had a reputation for hiring freelancers who went on to become respected music journalists, like Kurt Loder, in the late 70s. This is a little past that era, but there’s definitley some good music journalism and reviews in this magazine.

Members of The Bangles look on stoically under the threat of impalement by their own LPs.

Men at Work broke up in 1984, making that painfully overquoted text even more painful.

I love that they have concert listings for groups like Gladys Knight and the Pointer Sisters next to Krokus and Quiet Riot. Granted the Pointer Sisters were the hottest girl group of the year, riding high on “I’m So Excited”, which had been released just a few months before. Still, I can’t envision much crossover between the two.

That Hank Williams Jr. video is a sight to see.


Yes, this is the same Breakin’ in the USA that featured a very young pre-fame Vin Diesel.

Has anyone ever said “Man, I just really want to look at pictures of Genesis right now?” We’ll if they have, we’ve got you covered! And in case you think I’m being mean, this is what Genesis looked like ca. 1984 – not exactly pinup material.

John Mellencamp didn’t get an actual credited screen role until 1992, in a movie where he basically just played John Mellencamp.

I feel like Nikki Sixx is having more fun in that ad for a different magazine than everyone else in this magazine combined.

Dio: loyal friend and sports fan, don’t we love him. And Billy Squier really was the Jesus of Rock in 1984 wasn’t he?

Now this is pretty cool – back in the dark ages before the Internet, you either got your song lyrics from the back of the LP sleeve/cassette tape linear notes, or you fought with your friends until the end of time over whether it was “Billie Jean is not my lover” or “Billie Jean is not my mother”. So the folks at Circus generously provided the lyrics to the hottest songs for you, sometimes accompanied as appropriate with hilarious pictures of Annie Lennox.

Adrian Belew, for “clothes your Asian grandma wears to weddings of people she doesn’t like”.

If you bought your studded fingerless leather glove out of a magazine, did that make you super cool or a total poser? Were people really looking for authenticity with their hair metal merch? Was there a craft industry for handmade stuff like this?

Wow, I bet this stuff is super valuable now!

…oh, it’s $14.99 on ebay.

Over $100 for a Billy Squier concert on VHS. Wow.

From one of the few articles that hadn’t been cut out of this issue before I got to it. I have a feeling the magazine’s previous owner wasn’t a big fan of Billy Squier either, since he seems to have not cut out anything with his name on it and hence this issue feels extraordinarily Squier-heavy.

We’ve been over a lot of these ads through the 70s and 80s, but I think this may be one of the purely slimiest in its dripping insincerity.

An extraordinarily uncomfortable interview with Ozzy Osbourne! Childhood trauma! Suicide attempts! Domestic abuse! Whee!

What’s your favorite? I’d kill for that Eurythmics one on the bottom row.

“Gee, a band in which we sing g-rated songs about anarchy that could be easily mimed by a cheerleading squad and in which we dress like demented Raggedy Ann dolls – we appeal to Duran Duran fangirls? Really”

It seems crazy that Purple Rain gets a tiny space for review here, but I don’t think even the serious critics had any idea of what to do with the movie.


“This is indeed the start of something big”

Not so fast, John Waite…

Don’t flip the tape on the guy in the shades oh no

A Lou Reed review and how to look like the lamest person at the concert for lots of money! Nothing says anarchy like buying it from a teenager’s metal magazine!


Oof. Matching your beige velour turtleneck to the tan backdrop is SO 1981, David Becker.

Getting an actual rock star to discuss guitar technique is pretty dang cool.

Some good tips for making your own music video in your garage so that someday you too can impress Eddie Van Halen, Wyld Stallyns style. I feel that these instructions are far too serious for dumb teenagers who were like “but-but when do we get to the babes rolling around on the car?”

Such an ominous headline in such harmless font.


Worship the devil! Get a pen pal! Get a prison pen pal! Confess your love for Tracy! Give props to your boy Hernandez! Buy some unicorn stickers!

Be a male hooker for fun and profit! Join a fan club! Get a fake ID! Buy clothes that threaten to murder a public figure!

Congrats to Phil and Jill, who together made Lil’, but sadly their love didn’t make it. Neither did Brian and Deanna. Or Chrissie and Jim.

How freaking great is it that Circus has an informant in the Def Leppard circle named “The Beard”. It’s like the Deep Throat of heavy metal!

Thanks for reading another week with me. Next week we’ll be looking at another Sports Illustrated and seeing where we’ve come in the decade from The Mad Mad World of Bridge to covering, you know, actual sports. I promise lots of whiskey ads and all that good vintage sexism you can’t get enough of.