My first Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donington (that’s Download for the youngsters) was headlined by Ozzy Osbourne in 1986.
Although a Winged Chariot would have been a more appropriate vehicle to take us to this most holy of heavy metal shrines, we settled on taking a National Express coach from outside John Menzies in Chelmsford, setting off early for the three hour trip to the hallowed muddy field in Nottingham.
The drawback to not travelling by W.C. was that the M1 traffic magically transformed that three hour journey into a five hour one, and we missed Warlock and Bad News.
I was sorry about the latter, although we did hear a dreadful noise filtering across the wind as we entered the field which was either Bad News finishing their set or someone strangling kittens whilst another person clattered some dustbin lids together. Bad News were The Comic Strip Presents… and Young Ones legends Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson, Nigel Planer plus Peter Richardson. The first of their two TV “rockumentaries”; 1983’s Bad News Tour actually pre-dates Spinal Tap. The second special (which I think I can still quote word for word) featured this performance at Donington in a truly hilarious art-meets-life mockumentary. In the show, the crowd invade the stage in anger when Vim Feugo (Ade Edmondson) says “Behold! I am the reincarnation of Jimi Hendrix: all kneel and praise me”. In reality they just got bottled quite vehemently by sixty thousand unsympathetic and slightly bored headbangers. They took it well.
Here are some quotes from the shows:
Vim: “I could play Stairway to Heaven when I was twelve. Jimmy page didn’t actually write it until he was twenty two. I think that says a lot.”
Vim: ” I could have been a Michelangelo, Wordsworth, Joe Bugner, anything…”
Vim: “The only trouble with making rock and roll history is that it always takes six hours to set the drums up. Why is that Spider?” Spider: “Well this time it’s because I’ve left my drums at home…”
Den (coming out of studio toilet): “I could have just dumped in the same bog as Eric Clapton…Mick Jagger..Lemmy…Ozzy Osborne.” “Who has been here?” (hears a reply off camera. Looks disappointed). “Bananarama…”
Vim: “The Warriors of Ghengis Khan is actually a political song. ” Jennifer Saunders: “In what way is it a political song?” “Well, it’s in the lyrics innit?” “Here we are then. Burning looting raping shooting. Repeat: And that’s political in intent is it?” “Er, well, maybe it’s more poetical political?”
Lemmy from Motorhead also had bottles thrown at him. He faced down the assailant from the stage and the verbal taunts hurled by Lemmy would have stung more than mere plastic bottle-shaped sticks and stones. He’s not one for small talk is Lemmy. You can see why he cut short his career in the Diplomatic Service.
Def Leppard were next. This was The Big Comeback show. After Pyromania went multi platinum in America (and sold seventeen copies in the UK), the band’s drummer Rick Allen had lost his arm in a car crash. The follow up album Hysteria had been four years in the making and had yet to be released. No-one knew if Rick Allen could play again. The talk was that the band would have a back up drummer on stage to help him out. The last time Def Leppard played a UK festival, a red-trousered Joe Elliott received a mixed reception from the Reading crowd amidst mutterings of selling out to America. There was much curiosity as to the reception the band would receive.
Joe Elliott strode out in Red Trousers as if to banish the demons of Reading. He introduced the band a few numbers in, and when Rick Allen’s name came up the roar from the crowd was deafening. The drummer burst into tears sitting at his kit. There was barely a dry eye amongst the assembled Hells Angels, headbangers and assorted misfits in the field. And it hadn’t been raining.
The Scorpions were excellent, possibly stealing the show, replicating the World Wide Live double live album that they were touring. Great live band. At the climax of their set they formed a sort of human pyramid and all leapt off together clutching their Flying Vs. I don’t think you have ever lived until you have experienced the sheer adrenaline rush of seeing a German heavy rock band behave like a troupe of eccentric moustachioed gypsy tumblers.
Which left Ozzy.
Looking terrifying, unholy and demonic, Osbourne chilled the blood of the crowd as she stood at the side of the stage watching her husband prance about. Descending from a throne, wearing eyeliner and a bee-like dressing gown, Ozzy looked more like his wife than The Prince of Darkness (assuming the two are not the same). His stage show appeared to consist of taking a few steps from side to side, shouting “Go crazy” at the crowd and clapping. The p.a. miraculously found an extra few thousand watts, and the fading light meant the lights illuminated his gothic looking set to great effect. It worked. He rocked. Fireworks. We went home happy. By coach. But it felt like a Winged Chariot…
Record 53: Ozzy Osbourne – Crazy Train