ABOVE – John Bongiovi and Bruce Springsteen at the Fastlane in Asbury Park Jan. 9, 1980. It was the first time they appeared on stage together.
Photo courtesy of Billy and Ruth Smith
By DON STINE
ASBURY PARK – The Fastlane, one of Asbury Park’s most famous musical revenues, will be razed soon as part of the city’s waterfront redevelopment plan- but a lot of good memories will hopefully be preserved.
Jon Bon Jovi cut his musical teeth there. U-2 performed there as part of their first American tour, and Bruce Springsteen reunited with former E-Street band drummer Vini Lopez at The Fastlane after he had been let go from the band a few years earlier.
“It’s a shame The Fastlane is getting torn down but it’s a ghost that will always be with me,” Lopez said upon hearing the news of the club’s destruction earlier this week.
“It was a great place to play. But club owners come and go and clubs fall by the wayside- but The Fastlane is an important historical landmark as far as I am concerned. It’s a shame to see it go but you have to make way for the new- whatever that is,” he said.
Lopez said his band, Mad Dog and the Shakes, used to play The Fastlane and Jon Bon Jovi used to beg them to let him be the opening act.
“And we let him. It was a good, fun place in a nice location. It definitely was a big place in local musical history,” he said.
The Fastlane, at 207 Fourth Avenue, was converted from an old apartment house garage.
The nightclub first opened in 1974 as Rocky’s Warehouse Saloon (usually called The Warehouse) and that lasted until 1976. It was then Hotel California in 1977 and became The Fastlane from 1978 until 1981, according to Asbury Park musical historians Billy and Ruth Smith.
In 1981 it briefly operated as Hitsville South and then went back to The Fastlane and was open until December, 1982. It then closed but reopened again a few times over the years.
According to the Smiths, famous acts to play The Fast Lane includeJohn Bongiovi (aka Bon Jovi, with Atlantic City Expressway, The Rest, and John Bongiovi and The Wild Ones), U2, Patti Smith, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Stray Cats, Sam and Dave, Rockpile, Joan Jett, Cyndi Lauper, Sly Stone, Hall and Oates, Joe Jackson, George Thorogood, The Ramones, Squeeze, Flo and Eddie, Iggy Pop, David Johansen, Mink DeVille, Mitch Ryder, Garland Jeffreys, Edgar Winter, Mountain, Gary U.S. Bonds, Steve Forbert, Ronnie Spector, and James Cotton.
Jon Bon Jovi played the Fastlane while still in high school. Bruce Springsteen is known to have played with other bands at The Fastlane at least nine times over the years. On Oct. 5, 1979, while playing with the Beaver Brown band, Springsteen and Lopez appeared together on stage, the first time they has played together since Lopez was fired from the E Street Band in 1974.
Edward Kole, who lives in Manalapan and owns a condominium at the North Beach on Ocean Avenue in Asbury Park, said he was a regular at The Fastlane, especially during the early 1980s when Beaver Brown was the house band
“When it closed, it was just a blow to everybody. It was horrible. We went there all of the time,” he said.
Kole was one of the people contacting the Asbury Park Historical Society last week requesting more information about its demolition.
In turn, the historical society sent several members and volunteers into the vacant building last week to retrieve whatever interesting or important item were left inside.
And Kole said he believes it’s important to save these memories in Asbury Park.
“I think losing The Fastlane is a loss to the fabric of the musical history in Asbury Park. In its heyday, the Fastlane was one of the best musical scenes around,” he said.
Kole said he is thankful the historical society went in for one last time and that he would one day like to see The Fastlane memorabilia displayed in an exhibit.
“The historical society is a valuable arm in Asbury Park because it is the body entrusted with maintaining and preserving the history and culture of the city- which is what the real fabric of Asbury Park is. And I would like to see these Fastlane items go on display at some point,” he said.
On Monday, the Historical Society received permission from iStar Financial, the current property owner, to go into the long-vacant club and remove any items the society felt were worthy of saving.
The club has no electricity but the society arranged to bring is several flood lights and flashlights. The roof had leaked over the years and the floors were covered with wet ceiling tiles that had fallen to the floor. Electrical fixtures dangled from the ceiling although the stage and bar were still intact.
And the club held a few remaining surprises- some bizarre including almost 100 bottles of unopened Guinness still in a floor-level cabinet; a cat skeleton on the stairs to the basement; the original turnstile, covered with band stickers; and old seats and an old chandelier from the former Baronet Theatre, with a recent bird’s nest built on top of it.
Old advertisings, signage and other items were also recovered and an inventory of these items is now being conducted.