Memories From The Melody, Part 2: The 1990’s

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—On the 20th anniversary of the Melody Bar’s infamous March 20, 2001 closing, New Brunswick Today looked at the written history of the Melody and the 1980’s music scene through the lens of original “Home News Tribune” articles.

Now, New Brunswick Today takes on the 1990’s history of the venue in the second of our three-part series. 

Where this series last left off in 1989, Hub City’s music scene was reckoning with a slide from its early-to-mid-80’s peak.

DJ Matt Pinfield became MTV’s manager of music programming.

But the dormant rock’n’roll scene would experience a revival, and the Melody Bar would gain international renown alongside its most popular DJ, Matt Pinfield.

Pinfield would go on to be hired by Music Television (MTV), upgrading him to “VJ” status and expanding the reach of the New Brunswick scene to national television.

More than a decade after he bought the Melody and revamped it in 1981, co-owner Steve Flaks was still telling his story to reporters who continued to be fascinated by the establishment and its culture.

“There was a void in New Brunswick at the time” Flaks told Chris Jordan of the Home News Tribune. “Every bar had a pool table and dart board.”

But that all changed with the new incarnation of the bar, which became a popular haunt for musicians, artists, and people from far and wide who were looking to dance, drink, and enjoy the performances.

Jordan noted that “the club is known and has been written about nationally and internationally” in a 1995 article.

“When I first went there it was so unique,” Gary Kaplan, “a longtime scene-ster and area musician” from Highland Park told Jordan. “People from New York would actually come to New Brunswick to go to the Melody.”

“I’ve run into people in London and they’ll say, ‘Hey, I’ve been to that place,’” Flaks added.

April 28, 1991

“The small dance floor is a plus,” long-time Melody patron Johnny Vang of Edison told Jordan. “Nobody wants to dance in a big open space.”

“While not quite the cutting-edge place it used to be, the Melody still offers an alternative to the meat-market dance-music scenes one finds in most clubs,” concluded Jordan.

However, it wasn’t all peaches and cream in 1990’s clubland: the city government passed ordinances aimed at limiting the ability of its clubs to make a buck, forcing them to close earlier and barring those under 21 from attending events there, and the ever-present Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital started buying up every piece of land in sight. 

In 1990, the Home News published a profile of the “Slaves of New Brunswick,” which featured familiar faces like Jigs Giglio and Glen Burtnik in its rollicking sets.

The Wednesday night “Slaves of New Brunswick” series at the Melody Bar on French Street has been generating some particularly good music. Two weeks ago, an air of improvisation prevailed, and it made for a relaxed, creative atmosphere for both musicians and fans.

Local musicians, including vocalist Jigs Giglio, guitarist Glen Burtnik, bassist Bill Cherensky, keyboardist Bill Link, bassist Alex Millerand and drummer Arthur Scammacca gathered for a raucous set of early rock ‘n’ roll and blues standards that left the crowd screaming for more.

The group delivered its own interpretations of Elvis Presley’s “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Heartbreak Hotel,” as well as Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire.” Later in their set, the performers treated the crowd to versions of the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil,” “The Last Time” and “It’s All Over Now.”

…Unlike the ill-fated Melody jazz series a few years back, the new weekly shows at the Melody appear to have a solid following of both fans and musicians. There’s no cover charge, and given the current shortage of venues in New Brunswick for working musicians, it’s a welcome addition to the city’s music scene.

February 2, 1990 – “‘Slaves’ enlivens city scene” by Richard Skelly

The Melody’s history of cutting edge mural art intersected in 1990 with the highest art there is – Michaelangelo’s painted Sistine Chapel ceiling:

It took Michaelangelo nearly four years to complete his painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome, but local artist John Michael Jones soon will have completed his own version of the mural in less than four months…

Jones’ version of the Sistine Vault is on the second of the club’s two floors. The painting begins in the ladies room and, not omitting the men’s room, spills onto the ceiling of the upstairs bar… 

Jones altered the look of some figures and placed beer bottles in the hands of others. One figure appears to be holding up the ladies room towel rack…

“I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ll tell you, I admire his nerve,” said noted sculptor George Segal. A South Brunswick resident, Segal said he would attend the unveiling next month if the date fits his own calendar. “He is taking on one of the great icons of the West; you have to admire him for his ambition…”

“[Cal Levine] is demanding when it comes to the presentation of his club, but he is always fair. Cal is a very intelligent man, and the success of his club is a perfect example of his foresight,” said Jones.

…”The Melody is an ongoing experiment in club art,” Levine said. “We turned the place into a fish tank complete with a shark coming out of the wall, we had a jungle scene, we are always changing…

“We have got a lot of new ideas in the works, but we keep them secret until we are ready to go ahead with them.”

August 3, 1990 – “Heavens Above: Painter brings touch of Michaelangelo to Melody nightclub” by Peter J. Ward

The author of this story, Peter J. Ward, invited a member of the Sistine Chapel restoration committee, sculptor George Segal, to view the Melody’s new ceiling.

Kelly-Jane Cotter’s Melody Bar bit from her September 9, 1994 “handy guide to club crawling”

Ward later toured the bar with Segal, who was impressed with the work.

“A lot of people were pissed the Melody owners did it, but only the newspaper felt the wrath of the piece,” Ward said.

He also noted that he worked at the Melody since the early first months of its 1981 opening until 1988 before starting his writing career.

But he wasn’t the only reporter covering the seen at the Melody. In 1991, Kelly-Jane Cotter wrote up the club’s 10th anniversary celebration for the Home News:

Any little hipster who’s been to the Melody Café in New Brunswick even once can go on and on about the dance bar’s most prominent feature: its walls.

For the past 10 years, the walls of the Melody have served as both canvas and gallery, showcasing creative murals by local artists.

Puffy polystyrene nude sculptures reclining on couches painted on the wall. Black music notes typing out a sonata. A deep green jungle inhabited by the brightly colored birds. A tribute to Andy Warhol. A tribute to soap opera comic strips. An underwater world, with eels, fish and seaweed wrapping themselves around the contours of the building. The Sistine Chapel. Year after year of New Year’s Eve themes…

“I liked the idea of using a public space to display temporary art,” said Steve Flaks, co-owner of the club. “No matter how good the work is, you know it’s just going to be painted over with something else. It’s one big experiment.”

The Melody celebrates 10 years of existence on French Street tonight with its annual anniversary party – invitation only until 10 p.m., when doors will open to the public and “The Slaves of New Brunswick” will perform…

As a predecessor to the Court Tavern, the Roxy and the defunct Patrix, the Melody took a chance on the local music scene and began offering live music.

“I remember back then,” said musician Glen Burtnik, “all these roving bands looking for a place to hang out. We used to invade these old Hungarian bars, like the Budapest Lounge.”

Tony Shanahan also remembers those days. In the summer of 1981, his band The Boogles made the Melody their home away from home…

Shanahan has since revived the Melody’s live music tradition with his “Slaves of New Brunswick” – a series of Wednesday night jam sessions that began in 1989 and attracted a revolving contingent of about 65 musicians.

“Once the Slaves gigs started happening, Steve put a PA system in,” Shanahan said. “That made it possible to have live music four or five times a week.”

“There is a certain type who will go to the Melody and a certain type who never will,” Flaks said. “But before there was a Melody, there was nowhere to go to see bands or to hear DJs play our kind of dance music.”

April 28, 1991 – “Melody Bar celebrating 10th anniversary” by Kelly-Jane Cotter

The 1990’s coverage is often observed through Matt Pinfield’s ascent to national prominence, as reporters focused on the up-and-coming personality who was quickly expanding his reach far beyond the Hub City.

In February 1992, Pinfield was named “Best Commercial Alternative Music Director” during the Gavin Radio Awards ceremonies, held in San Francisco, according to reporter Richard Skelly. There were 72 other contestants for the award, and just five nominees.

Skelly also reported that the early 90’s film “Welcome to the Cheap Seats” includes scenes of Pinfield singing before 25,000 people at Bascott Stadium in Brimingham, England, as well as scenes filmed when the band appeared on his radio show, and the energetic vocalist singing with the band at the Melody.

Cotter also covered Pinfield’s rise and the making of the film in 1991:

The Melody Bar will be preserved in all its glory on celluloid Sunday, when a film crew from England drops by in the midst of filming a motion picture about the British band The Wonderstuff.

The movie, “Welcome to the Cheap Seats,” follows the band’s exploits during the summer’s tour through England, Ireland and Scotland…

That’s a long way from The Melody Bar, but that’s where Matt Pinfield comes in.

Pinfield, a DJ at The Melody and music director at WHTG-106.3 FM in Eatontown, has been a fan and a friend of The Wonderstuff for the past few years, promoting them on his show and inviting them to hang out at The Melody when they have a nearby gig.

In turn, Miles Hunt of The Wonderstuff invited Pinfield along on their 1989 tour. Last month, the band decided to feature an American DJ in their movie, with Pinfield in mind…

Pinfield, not exactly an introverted person, soon created a second role for himself in the film – “Saul,” an American reporter who attempts, in vain, to catch up with The Wonderstuff as they tour around England.

July 12, 1991 – “N.B. bar is film site” by Kelly-Jane Cotter

When Pinfield landed a hosting gig on MTV’s “120 Minutes” in 1993, she wrote: “This is good news for the New Brunswick music scene, which gets to see one of its favorite sons transformed into an instant celeb – Pinfield’s episode will not only be broadcast around the country, but on MTV’s Latin American affiliate as well.”

Pinfield interviewed 1980’s New Wave favorites Depeche Mode in his debut episode.

In January 1993, two new dance clubs positioned themselves as alternatives to the Melody scene: Big Daddy’s on French Street, and the Bowl-O-Drome on Jersey Avenue.

Rich Caposino, former Melody manager and new Bowl-O-Drome manager, told the Home News’ Kelly-Jane Cotter, ”The Melody and the Roxy are great, but we want to provide a real alternative, a place that’s more spontaneous in its music selections.”

“Generally, that’s a tough sell,” Cotter commented.

More positivity was found in a June 1993 article that connected how the scene had thrived in the past and was thriving once more.

Reporter Chris Jordan highlighted how the 1980’s scene maintained a grip on the Melody’s 1990’s music selection:

It’s hard to pinpoint what exactly turns a small city into a hotbed of musical creativity but suffice it to say the following ingredients are required:

A preponderance of young people. At least one venue for live music. Some way to get the word out.

New Brunswick, one of the state’s chief music centers for more than a decade, has all those ingredients.

In the 1970s, the band Looking Glass put this city on the map with the pop song “Brandy.”…

It wasn’t until the early 1980s, however, that a music scene began to flourish, when clubs such as Patrix, The Melody Bar and The Court Tavern opened their doors to local bands.

Patrix has long since closed and almost all the bands from the early 1980s have broken up – except for the Smithereens, who were signed to a major label and became national pop stars.

Even most of the bands from the mid-1980s are gone: Spiral Jetty, The Blases, Destroy All Bands, The Skulls, Wooden Soldiers. But many of the musicians in those bands have joined new bands – The Urchins, The Vestrymen, Headstrong, The VooDUDES, Fishermen’s Stew.

New Brunswick continues to enjoy a thriving music scene.

June 17, 1993 – “Hub City fills bill as scene for real musical creativity” by Kelly-Jane Cotter

But it was much more than just music and dancing at the Melody.

A 1994 article describes I-TV, another film shot there, “a futuristic story about government’s misuse of the information superhighway to control and subdue the populace.”

“It’s 2 o’clock, and Chris Antonacci is patiently waiting to die inside the Melody Café,” wrote Susan K. Livio, a reporter who still covers New Jersey.

“He should have been dead over an hour ago, but more pressing technical matters – lighting, sound, lunch – are taking precedence. It would be about 4:30 when the condom filled with something resembling blood would be attached under his shirt and he would be slain – all in the name of silver screen greatness and celluloid aspirations,” wrote Livio, who noted the owners of the Melody allowed the filmmakers to use the place for free.

Producer Brian Coposky told Livio he selected the Melody for its “incredible new artwork.”

“Downstairs, orange and purple tropical fish the size of beach balls buoy from the walls and finesse their way around coral, courtesy or artist Bill Chamberlin,” reads the article. “Upstairs, rats the size of garbage trucks chase mouse-sized men in suits in a city gone awry.”

It’s among many slices of life that were highlighted in reporting on the Melody from the 1990’s. In 1995, Jordan described the staying power of ’80’s music at the nightclub.

It’s a couple minutes before midnight and Melody bar disc jockey Jim Dunlap is setting up shop in the club’s upstairs room on a Saturday night. A young 20-something woman gets in her request early and asks Toni Basil’s “Mickey.”

Wait a minute, isn’t that the lame cheerleading song? No matter, if it’s a 1980’s tune, it’s all the same to Dunlap, who spins during the ‘80s-themed nights Tuesdays and Saturdays at the French Street, New Brunswick club…

Indeed, it can be said that we’re in the middle of an ‘80s revival.

March 17, 1995 – “‘80s go for a spin; Get retroactive” by Chris Jordan

But in a defining distinction between the ambience of the ’80s scene versus the ’90s, the city would no longer turn a blind eye to more liberal considerations of its nightlife policies.

Though they acknowledged the language wasn’t perfect, City Council members last night unanimously passed a law banning alcohol sales in bars on nights they admit underage adults.

The ordinance was proposed by the Police Department, whose members complain that underage drinking goes unchecked at “teen nights,” which are held to draw 18 to 20-year-old patrons…

Melody Bar co-owner Cal Levine, among others, took shots at the ordinance’s language, which requires tavern owners to advertise teen nights, then not to sell alcohol during those times.

“It seems all they have to do is not advertise” to get around the law, he said. “It seems like an unenforceable situation.”

April 20, 1995 – “Bars dry on ‘teen nights’” by Susan K. Livio

The law was quickly enforced. On May 23, 1995, an article noted that the Melody pleaded guilty to one count of serving an underage, undercover sheriff’s officer.

Five other taverns in the city were stung in the operation, including the Roxy, the Golden Rail, Douglas Liquors, Patti’s and the Pizza Mill, also known as Commercial Tavern. The Melody negotiated their 10-day suspension down to a monetary fine and stayed open.

Perhaps Pinfield graduated at just the right time, as the tone of Melody coverage would occasionally turn skittish in the latter half of the decade.

In the heyday of Gothic dance, synth-pop and post-punk, [Matt Pinfield] developed a following at the Melody never seen before or since. Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays were Matt’s nights at the French Street club – the parking lot and the dance floor were full; the music was loud. He greeted every man with a slap on the back, every woman with a hug, and he could carry on a conversation with three people in the DJ booth and still catch the eye of someone requesting Echo & the Bunnymen from the dance floor. He befriended local scene makers and musicians and sang in the band Opium Vala, packing the nearby Court Tavern with fans and handing the microphone over so they could sing along.

“We’ve had some popular DJs since he left,” said Steve Flaks, owner of the Melody, “but nobody has a following the size of Matt’s. I doubt we ever will have that again. Matt made everyone feel special and you can’t teach that.”

September 3, 1995 – “He’s got his MTV” by Kelly-Jane Cotter

Still, Flaks told the Home News he was committed to keeping the music coming for years to come:

The Melody. After nearly 15 years it’s still the New Brunswick dance club.

And according to co-owner Steve Flaks, it’s going to stay that way for a while.

“We’re staying where we are,” said Flaks of the French Street club. “We’re not planning on moving.”

These have been uncertain times for the New Brunswick club scene. Last spring a crackdown on underage drinking resulted in the Melody as well as several other city bars charged with serving alcohol to minors. Recently, the New Brunswick City Council rolled back weekend closing time from 3 to 2 a.m. City bars and clubs are gathering signatures to place a referendum on the Nov. 7 election ballot.

“We want to let the people decide,” Flaks said. “Not just those with the loudest voices.”

Flaks said Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital has had an offer on the table to buy the property for some time, but he foresees owning the club with his partner, Cal Levine of Bedminster, for “at least the next the five years.”  

October 6, 1995 – “The Melody Haunts Our Reverie” by Chris Jordan

The Home News title “The Melody Haunts Our Reverie” comes from this famous 1965 screen print by American artist Roy Lichtenstein, while the “Melody Bar” name comes from a real person: Melody Kokola.

Club kids may be surprised to know that a hip New Brunswick bar is named after a local librarian.

“Yes Virginia, there is a Melody,” said Melody Kokola, the refined director of the Metuchen Public Library.

Kokola’s grandparents, Elizabeth and Moses Bacsko, bought the Little Hungary bar during World War II while son Albert was serving overseas in the Army. He returned to New Brunswick, eventually marrying Helen Geczy. The two couples ran the bar together.

In the late 1940s, the family decided to modernize the establishment. They renamed it after young Melody and put in booths, a new bar and a new storefront, according to Helen Bacsko.

Melody herself was named in honor of her father’s hobby. Albert Bacsko played the violin, the saxophone and the clarinet in local bands. The beat goes on.

Back when it was a blue-collar hangout for shift workers, Kokola, her parents and grandparents lived in an upstairs apartment, now a dance floor. In 1981, Bacsko – a widow – sold the bar, name and all, ushering in a new era for the Melody and the New Brunswick club scene.

Kokola said she’s visited the new Melody “once or twice” but feels like someone’s mother in there…

Kokola said she frequently runs into people familiar with the New Brunswick area. “They all know the Melody,” she said.

“I sort of get treated like a celebrity, but I don’t understand why.”

October 6, 1995 – Laurel Van Leer
The Slaves of New Brunswick lineup in 1999

The Slaves of New Brunswick played their annual Thanksgiving show again in 1995, this time at the Bowl-O-Drome:

What has become an annual holiday reunion of local musicians and their mutual friends and fans can be traced to Wednesday nights in 1989 and 1990, when the Slaves of New Brunswick – a large and ever-changing group of musicians with ties to Hub City – would meet for a jam session upstairs at the Melody Bar on French Street that was liable to lead anywhere, and often did.

The group would reinterpret old rock ‘n’ roll, blues, reggae or whatever else struck their fancy. While most of the group’s members had more serious musical endeavors to attend to, on Wednesday nights they could experiment a bit, because they felt they were among friends – both in the band and in the audience…

Although the Slaves of New Brunswick stopped their mid-week jam sessions more than four years ago due to band members’ other commitments, that spirit of friendship and musical experimentation carries on every year around Thanksgiving and Christmas. For a few select shows, anyway.

“To me, the whole Slaves thing and the holidays are about getting together with friends,” said bassist Tony Shanahan.

November 17, 1995 – “Friends & family; The Slaves of New Brunswick give thanks” by Richard Skelly

At the end of 1995, the Home News’ Chris Jordan chided the city’s leaders for failing to consider its music spaces as vital to community health. The Roxy, which had been open for 70 years opposite the Melody at 95 French Street, closed for good in December, and club business was down across the board.

This was a pretty eventful year for the New Brunswick music scene. 

Bruce Springsteen opted to start his nationwide solo acoustic tour at the city’s State Theatre. Local bands the Urchins, Rotator Cuff and Shades Apart made some pretty impressive inroads to national success. New Brunswick’s world-famous Melody Bar on French Street is celebrating its 15th year. Former Melody Bar disc jockey Matt Pinfield became the permanent host of MTV’s “120 minutes” alternative music program.

In 1995, however, times have been tough for New Brunswick bar and club owners. Restrictions were placed on the 18-and-over “teen nights” and in September the weekend closing hours were rolled back from 3 to 2 a.m.…

An important component of [the city’s] vitality is the club scene. The city’s elders must take into account the whole picture when deciding ordinances that affect the community. As laws continue to hurt the profitability of club owning, eventually clubs will close down and an important element of the city’s revitalization will be lost. The Roxy on French Street closed a few weeks ago and club owners have said that business with the early closings is off 15 to 20 percent.

December 29, 1995 – “N.B. rock: Alive in ’95. Despite big gains, future looks uncertain for Hub City club scene” by Chris Jordan

The Melody had another star turn in 1997 on MTV when Pinfield returned to host a show, drawing a lot of attention to the storied venue.

The taping was scheduled to start at 9:30 p.m., but didn’t get going until after 11, reported Chris Jordan, who said Pinfield was immediately surrounded by fans, club goers and security.

“It wasn’t out of control but there were a swarm of people around him where they were filming,” Jeff Hack of Highland Park told Jordan.

“Dancers stopped dancing and arched their necks to get a view of the commotion,” wrote Jordan. “The bars and standing areas were full, and getting from one point to another was difficult.”

Matt Pinfield stood outside New Brunswick’s Melody Bar, feeling triumphant in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

The former Melody disc jockey had just finished taping an episode of MTV’s “120 Minutes,” which he hosts. While he wrapped up final details with his producer, area musicians inundated the local-boy-makes-good with CDs and tapes with the hopes that Pinfield would play them on MTV.

“It’s giving something back,” Pinfield, 35, said of the taping at the club…

These days, Pinfield is hob-nobbing with the likes of Bono from U2 and David Bowie, but he said it was his formative years DJing at the Melody that gave him the foundation for his success.

“This is the club that I’ve deejayed in for over 10 years,” Pinfield said. He spun records there from 1982 to 1995. “I spent many nights in here, and I met a lot of great friends.”

July 17, 1997 – “New Brunswick gets its MTV. Veejay Matt Pinfield returns home to host show at the Melody” by Chris Jordan

In October 1998, Jordan described a music scene that while being held back by the city was ready to burst open, with bands taking over the Budapest Cocktail Lounge and Plum St. Pub, a few blocks from the French Street hubs.

These were heady times, with venues beginning to feature live music as the ones from the old days tried to adapt:

There was a time when few wanted to be in New Brunswick after dark.

Unlike the bustling nightlife of New Brunswick today, in the late 1970s the city was a ghost town once the sun went down.

“The city always had a reputation that if you came into it, you’d be mugged and you couldn’t park your car because it would get broken into,” said Bobby Albert Jr., owner of the city’s Court Tavern.

Before the theaters and fine dining began attracting nonresidents to the city after sundown, two music clubs were kindling the first sparks of New Brunswick’s revitalization.

City residents Steve Flaks and Cal Levine purchased the Melody on French Street in 1981, and turned the former “old man’s” bar into an internationally known nightclub. Bobby Albert Jr. and Sr. began presenting live music at the Court Tavern on Church Street; the Court soon would win a national reputation as a leaping-off point for up-and-coming bands.

“The fact of the matter is that we did help make New Brunswick a restaurant-club-and-entertainment area that attracts people into town,” Flaks said.

Joe Schrum, a member of New Brunswick’s City Council, agrees.

“People involved in music clubs are usually creative and intelligent people,” Schrum said. “You needed that support for the other businesses.”

But if New Brunswick’s nightclubs were among the first linchpins of the city’s comeback in the 1980s, some club owners believe the clubs are victims of a “missed opportunity” by the city to promote its club scene more vigorously…

Some club owners still bemoan the rollback of the weekend closing times from 3 to 2 a.m.

Until 1995, New Brunswick clubs and bars stayed open until 3 a.m. – an hour later than most surrounding areas. But city residents complained that club patrons were too noisy late at night, so the Council rolled back the closing time.

“The city’s pretty happy that they close us at 2 instead of 3 (in the morning),” Flaks said. “Has it hurt us? Sure.”

Schrum said that the closing time is pretty much a closed issue.

“I think the clubs have continued to be successful,” Schrum said…

Despite the earlier closing, the Budapest Cocktail Lounge on Somerset Street, the Plum St. Pub on Hamilton Street, the Golden Rail on Easton Avenue and Makeda Ethiopian Restaurant have started to feature live music within the last two years.

October 4, 1998 – “Hub City’s clubs put New Brunswick on the map” by Chris Jordan

Near the end of the millennium, the first invocations of the Melody’s new neighbor, the Health Sciences Technology High School, demonstrated the changing landscape of the Fifth Ward neighborhood and the city.

The superintendent of schools told the media he wished the new school was not so near the famous night club, and buildings were dropping all around. Frances Carroll wrote in the Home News that two buildings that RWJUH had acquired were set to come down in May 1999.

“Two RWJUH-owned buildings on the triangular site at the intersection of French and Bayard streets – the three-story brick building that formerly housed French Street Antiques next to the Melody Bar and a house on Bayard Street directly behind Melody bar – are expected to be razed within the next four weeks to make room for the school,” reads that report.

But, like many construction projects here, the new school faced a delayed opening:

The 84 students enrolled at the new Health Sciences Technology High School will likely spend the first two months of the school year at an as-yet-undetermined temporary location… The completion of the new facility has been pushed back two months to Nov. 1.

When the students finally do get to move into the new building on the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital-owned site, at the corner of French and Bayard streets, they may not be staying there long.

The district plans to jump at any chance of picking up the prefabricated, modular school, and moving it to a larger hospital-owned property that is a more palatable distance from the Melody Bar, a night club on French Street, said Superintendent of Schools Ronald Larkin.

The district has made it clear to RWJUH that it is not entirely comfortable with building a high school right next to a bar, said Larkin. 

Even though the bar does business only in the evening and early morning, “I just think it sends a poor message,” said Larkin…

Steve Flaks, co-owner of the Melody, said last night that RWJUH has been trying to buy the club since it opened in 1981 but hasn’t made an offer recently. “I haven’t talked to them in years, actually,” Flaks said.

June 30, 1999 – “New school’s home still remains a mystery” by Frances Carroll

New Year’s Eve 1999 fell on a Friday. It wasn’t quite judgment day for the Mel, as Prince sang in “1999.”

While much of the planet fretted over falling into a Y2K time-space void courtesy of a computer glitch, revelers at the Melody were treated to a set by DJ Iron Mike, plus open bar and free food. The price of admission was $50.

No doubt, it was money well spent. The Melody had survived another eventful decade in New Brunswick, but it faced an uncertain future.

Editor’s Note: This is the second article in a three-part series on the Melody Bar. Check back later for the third and final installment on the bar’s last years, 2000 to 2004.

Music Reporter at New Brunswick Today | bkelly@nb.today

Ben Kelly is reporting on the music scene for New Brunswick.