Monsters Of Rock: A personal history
10 May 2006
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The Monsters Of Rock juggernaught thunders back onto the British festival circuit on the 3 June 2006 at Milton Keynes Bowl after an absence of 10 years. For more than 15 years it held the crown of the UK's loudest festival, played host to the greatest names in metal, courted controversy, forever turned Donington Park into the 'spiritual home of rock', and ultimately spawned Download festival, which takes place the weekend afterwards. So what’s it all about?
Between 1980 and 1996 it was the colossus of the rock festival scene and became legendary worldwide. It gave heavy rock and metal fans of the time a festival that was all their own without compromise. Sure, there was the Reading Rock Festival and Glastonbury, but these festivals also appealed to a mainstream audience. Monsters Of Rock and Donington Park were synonymous as a Mecca for those who liked it hard and heavy.
For those who used to make the annual pilgrimage, an early start was usually in order. Some would ignore the “No Camping” message printed on the tickets and pitch up in tents anyway. Others would set off the night before and get a head start at an all-nighter in Nottingham’s Rock City. Most tended to get picked up early in the morning by a minivan full of hairy arsed metalheads who had already made a hefty dent in the obligitory bottle of Jack.
Queuing at the gates there was always a bunch of people downing the drink they’d brought with them that they weren’t allowed to take into the arena, athough some years security would hand out water bags which you could pour your beer into. This made you look like you were drinking out of bags of piss all day, but it was bought and paid for, so it wasn’t getting left behind! Such precautions never seemed to stem the legendary bottle fights though.
There was only one stage for most of the festival's life, so once in the arena you made for a good spot and stuck with it. The hardcore would pile down to the front for a good mosh but otherwise it was a case of getting settled for the day and having a drink. A storming headline set was usually capped of with a giant fireworks display that must have caused alarm to any late flying jet pilots who had to fly directly over the arena and stage from the nearby East Midlands airport.
Originally conceived as a way for Rainbow to round off their 1980 world tour with a big flourish, race circuit Donington Park was chosen as the venue and a line-up of seven bands put together. The event got off to an explosive start before it even began whilst testing the pyrotechnics on the night before and a miscalculation resulted in £18,000 worth of damage to the backline and PA. Nevertheless, for the 35,000 attendees of that first year it was a day to remember, and so began a cycle that would last for 16 years, missing only the odd year here & there.