Monsters Of Rock: A personal history
Photographer: Robin Hosgood10 May 2006
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The eighties were the heyday of Monsters Of Rock, and many defining moments occurred during that decade. In 1984, David Lee Roth played what would turn out to be his last performance with Van Halen. 1985 saw ZZ Top suspend their “Eliminator” custom car from a helicopter and fly it over the waiting crowd. Def Leppard proved that a one armed drummer was more than capable of delivering the goods in 1986. Kiss used to boast that they would “never open for a band that ever opened for us”, but precisely that happened in 1988 when they played second from the top, leaving Iron Maiden (a one time Kiss support act) to headline. Iron Maiden also were to give a glimpse of the future in 1992 when Adrian Smith joined his once and future band mates performing in a line-up that became permanent seven years later.
Monsters Of Rock also came with its fair share of controversy. Bad News, the spoof metal band made up of “Comic Strip Presents…” members were sandwiched on the bill in between openers Warlock and Motorhead. Many felt that they had taken a slot that rightly belonged to a proper band. 1987 caused a stir when for the first time the line-up was made up entirely of American bands. But by far the biggest upset was caused in 1988, when two fans were killed in a rush forward as Guns ‘n’ Roses came on stage mid-afternoon. The capacity had grown to 108,000 and though initially thought to be the cause of the tragedy, the blame was officially laid on the conditions of the day – the stage sat at the bottom of a hill, and that day was one which got off to a very soggy start. The festival was cancelled in 1989 and returned in 1990 with the stage moved further back and the capacity cut to around 75,000.
Many big rock and metal acts had their names linked almost inextricably with Monsters Of Rock. Iron Maiden headlined twice, Ozzy Osbourne played three times and AC/DC took the top slot three times. But surely the band who worked hardest to earn their position at the top of the bill were Metallica, who first appeared fourth from the top of the bill in 1985 and worked their way up, finally attaining the coveted headline status in 1995. Late rock DJ Tommy Vance compered the event for six years from 1981. His appearance would be greeted with a chant of “Tommy is a wanker” and hails of projectiles from the seldom-sober crowd, but his appearances were always met with a great deal of good cheer.
All good things come to an end and, after the 1996 Kiss/Ozzy Osbourne co-headliner, Monsters Of Rock departed the UK festival scene, in part a result of the changing face of rock music. The fall-out from grunge in the early '90s, along with the emergence of Britpop, was beginning to make metal a dirty word for those in the music industry and anal band managers no longer wanted to be seen associated with what was being seen as a dated brand in Monsters Of Rock. Ozzy returned with Ozzfest in 2002, and the three day, three stage Download Festival is now the current incumbent.
Now though, Monsters OF Rock has a new home. Those of us who remember those glory days fondly will be looking around the Milton Keynes Bowl with a critical eye to ensure that Monsters for the 21st Century isn’t a washed up dinosaur but a leviathan roused from its slumber to entertain a new generation. Click here for more on Monsters Of Rock 2006, including lineup and tickets.
Click through to the next page for the lowdown on what bands
played those historic, original Monsters Of Rock festivals...