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When Circus, Not the Big Top, Closed Down


Uriah Heep Were Among The Bands I Found Through Circus Magazine


Its leaves left exactly fifteen years ago this month, surviving neither the rest of that spring nor the following summer nor the fall. Nevertheless, it had left many colors on its paper leaves, mostly of the rock stars I found worthy of worship in my early adolescence.

Circus magazine, which published its last issue in May of 2006, brought into my bedroom the likes of T. Rex, Pink Floyd, Uriah Heep and a painted face quartet known as Kiss. I cannot help thinking of this last group, or Circus magazine itself, without memories of my childhood cohort Edward.

He was the boy eighteen months my senior who introduced me to Circus, which served to intensify our shared love of rock music. I still remember the first issue he showed me, featuring several colored photos of some musician named Marc Bolan.

Until Edward arrived with that magic collection of pages, my exposure to music magazines had been pretty tame. Mom usually bought me the latest edition of Song Hits, where I could read the lyrics of a half dozen of the most popular songs on the radio.

When I happened to come across a more vibrant magazine while accompanying Mom on a shopping visit, I never imagined that life could get any better for this pre-teen music fan. Hit Parader not only had some song lyrics, but it also had several pages of photos of the artists who sang them.

Then came Edward with Circus under his arm, offering a word of warning before handing it to me. There were no song lyrics, he admitted, and I was initially disappointed. Once I had flipped through a few pages, its lack of lyrics mattered little.

Weeks later both of the windowless walls in my room were completely covered with pictures from Circus, only to be taken down a few months later and replaced by newer ones. It was Edward's decision the following summer to cover one entire wall with pictures of Kiss from several different Circus issues, and Gene, Paul, Peter, and Ace remained there until well after Halloween. (For that occasion, Edward painted his face like Peter Criss while I went as Gene Simmons).

We would peruse other publications like Creem and Rolling Stone, but none of them excited us as much as Circus. As we were coming of age we even began to look forward to reading the “Into Your Head” advice column, as well as picking up the occasional Circus Raves issues.

Once high school arrived Edward and I went different directions, and the thrill of Circus gave way to girls and sports and cars. Still, it was disheartening to read of its demise, some twenty years after I had bought my last issue.

By then most of the other music mags had gone as well, including Song Hits, Creem and Hit Parader. In their place are more instrument focused periodicals like Guitar World and Modern Drummer, or genre-specific publications like Sing Out and No Depression.

That last title certainly does not apply to my feelings when, exactly fifteen years ago, Circus magazine ceased publication.

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