As August draws to a close it’s a time for me to reflect on the ‘Monsters of Rock’ festivals that I attended at the Donington Park race track back in the 1980s. The Monsters of Rock festival ran from 1980 to 1996 before morphing into what is now known as the ‘Download’ Festival.
I went to Donington 4 times in 5 years during my late teens and early 20s. Download runs for several days nowadays but back in the ’80s Monsters of Rock was a one day / one stage festival and looking back, we get real value for money from the lineups that played there! Throughout August I’ve been reading other peoples Monsters memories on various forums including THIS excellent Donington Veterans group on Facebook. I’ve also been sharing my own memories on the Music In the Attic Instagram page.
Here’s a brief(ish) summary from the four years I attended:
As a fresh faced 17 year old I chose a very good year to attend my first Donington as this one is still widely regarded as the biggest and best one day music festival ever held in the UK. Just look at that lineup!
AC/DC, Van Halen or Ozzy – any of them could easily have headlined this festival and nobody would have complained. As it turned out AC/DC got the top job and, like all the other great artists who performed before them, were truly on fire that day. Van Halen brought the ‘razzmatazz’ while Ozzy brought the blood and guts. Gary Moore, Y&T and Accept were exceptional but as an added bonus we got bad boy Glam ‘newbies’ Motley Crue opening the show and making their UK debut in the blistering sunshine. I have previously shared my memories of this incredible day here. It includes a few grainy photographs I took on the day. Please take a look!
Coincidentally, some very rare footage of Van Halen’s Donington set recently surfaced on YouTube. The hour long video perfectly captures the mood and atmosphere of the festival and there’s some amazing crowd shots too (I STILL couldn’t bloody see myself!) This footage was a long time coming (39 years to be precise) and eagerly awaited by those of us who were there on that balmy summer’s day in 1984. Unfortunately the video has since been taken down but hopefully it will reappear again in the future. Keep checking back!
Having missed Monsters of Rock in 1985 (presumably because I went to see Deep Purple at Knebworth and couldn’t afford to go to both) I returned to Donington in 1986 – this time with a brand new girlfriend in tow and a few drunken mates! The weather wasn’t quite as good this time but the lineup was decent. Ozzy retuned to headline the day – this time fully embracing the ‘glam/hair metal’ look of this period – while the supporting cast was again very strong.
Scorpions put on the same epic show that I had witnessed at Knebworth a year earlier while Def Leppard made an emotional return to the stage following drummer Rick Allen’s terrible car crash in which he lost an arm. There were some goosebumps and tears during this set…
Motorhead totally rocked out as usual – even if Lemmy did have a full-on rant at some goon in the crowd who had decided it would be a good idea to throw a lit flare onto the stage! What a knob…
The lineup was completed by Warlock who opened the show (the first band to play Donington with a female singer, the lovely Doro Pesch!) and Bad News – a spoof rock band created by British alternative comedians Rik Mayall and Ade Edmondson. Their set was filmed for a spoof ‘rockumentary’ called More Bad News. Hopefully you can watch it HERE if this link doesn’t get taken down again!
This was my 3rd trip to Donington and on this occasion it pissed down all day and we all got very wet. Bon Jovi were the controversial choice of headliners. The band was still enjoying the success of their 1986 breakthrough album Slippery When Wet and ‘glam metal’ was huge at the time. No real surprises when they got the headline slot but many in the crowd, including yours truly, would have preferred classic rock legend Dio to headline this one.
Dio, fronted by former Rainbow and Black Sabbath singer Ronnie James Dio, were a class act. They were really on form that day. His presence is sadly missed in the rock and metal community to this day…
WASP lived up to their usual ‘shock rock’ hype, at one point bringing a semi-naked girl on to the stage to be ‘tortured’ on a rack! 😳 It was all very tasteless but musically they were one of the better bands on the day.
Completing the all American lineup was Cinderella (seriously, who calls a heavy metal band Cinderella?!) 🤣 Another popular band from the time when glam metal was at its peak. I think we missed half of their set while “waiting for the queues to die down” (aka. partying hard) outside! 😂🍺🍻 These are my original T-shirts from 1987 which have been stored in a suitcase in various attics over the past 36 years! More of my vintage merchandise can be found here.
I attended my fourth and final Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donington in 1988. The lineup was very strong and the crowd was vast. Iron Maiden headlined for the first time ably supported by Kiss, David Lee Roth, Megadeth and Hellowe’en. However this year will forever be remembered for the Guns N’ Roses set… and not necessarily for their incredible super-charged performance.
We had an amazing day at Donington ’88, blissfully unaware of the tragic events that were unfolding literally a few feet away from us that afternoon. In those pre-mobile phone days we wouldn’t actually find out what had happened until the following morning. 😢
I have previously documented my memories of the day in my blog “Triumph and Tragedy at Donington 1988” (see link). RIP Alan and Landon x
I’ve also appeared in a US television documentary called “Guns N’ Roses – America’s Most Dangerous band” talking about my personal recollections of that fateful day (story here). Hopefully this programme will be screened in the UK some time in the future so that it can be shared with a wider audience.
Whilst writing this post I have also pulled together a Spotify / Apple Music playlist of songs by bands who appeared at Castle Donington during the period I attended the festival, 1984 to 1988. Please take a listen and maybe Follow Music in the Attic on your music streaming service of choice. I’ll be curating more playlists over the coming months. Links to my profiles below. Cheers!
Need more Donington memories?
There’s loads of great stuff out there on the web including THIS awesome site, UK Rock Festivals. Contains lots of great fan photos too.
There’s also the excellent Donington Veterans Facebook group I have referenced above.