Or DONINGTON 1985 if you like
It starred....ZZ Top Marillion Bon Jovi Metallica Ratt Magnum Tommy Vance (DJ) Castle Donington Raceway. Derbyshire .UK. August 17th 1985.
Today I'd like to fast forward to 1985 when I was full of hormones and cider, and covered in long hair (well, my head was at least) It was also my first 'Donington' (Not, you notice 'Monsters of Rock It had been re-branded at 'Rockin` the Castle' and was advertised as a ZZ Top gig with support) I'd been to with a real live girlfriend with her own long hair and breasts and spray on jeans, rather than a selection of skinny boys with chests like xylophones, wearing inappropriate studded wristbands and huge white High top baseball boots that made them look like pound shop astronauts, but i digress.
Change of tack this year. The 'Monsters of Rock' tag was dropped for some reason. Maybe because the two top names this year couldn't or wouldn't be associated with the heavy metal genre. Instead we got 'ZZ Top Rockin' The Castle', the irony of all this was the fact that one of, if not THE biggest heavy metal band of the future was on the bill, namely, Metallica. ZZ Top started a short run of Donington`s that was headlined by the 'two years previous third on the bill', if that makes sense. The Top appeared in 1983 and since then their album 'Eliminator' had gone through the roof and done a complete 'Bat Out Of Hell'..... ZZ Top were, this year, the biggest rock band on the planet.
The 1985 show received the most pleasant weather of the decade, whereas other outdoor events held around the same time were deluged by rain, Donington, was, for once, blessed with constant sunshine. This did not of course ,mean that people would stop throwing bottles of urine at other punters for no good reason other than it was funny.....
till you got whacked with one, or worse covered with the contents of one.....happy days ha,ha. , but at least there wasn't much mud ( unless of course it resulted from earth soaked by beer or piss ... or a combination of both ).
OK, so... To the music. Magnum were first on a band I was looking forward to seeing. The album "Chase The Dragon" was one of my favourites at the time. Even though they were first band on they didn’t disappoint.
One image I remember is Bob Catley being hit in the crotch with a clump of (accurately thrown) mud. He was wearing very pale jeans which made it stand out even more. although the openers always had a reputation for just being there to soak up the first barage of plastic bottles, more than for their musical value. Then there was a bit of a break, where I finished all the alcohol I'd brought with me, & went to buy some more.....more plastic bottle ammunition
After a break of approximately 25 minutes an almighty roar greeted Ratt. The next 40 minutes however from my recollections were a bit hit and miss. Not due to the bands performance (although a guitar solo by the late Robbin Crosby could have been ditched ) which was a full on LA attitude glam fest but for reasons best known to the PA company the sound system kept cutting out or emitting horrible electronic rumbles, squeals, crackles and bangs. Stephen Pearcy’s vocal was practically non existent during the opening song. I don’t recall the setlist for that day I do however remember You think your tough, You’re in Love and Round and round.
Next up after another few libations on my part was this bunch of hairy, denim clad, long haired, Californian dudes who nobody had heard of, they were OK, a bit thrashy for me at the time I quite liked one of their tracks though, it was called 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'
They were, of course, Metallica, with a twenty two year old Clifford Lee Burton on bass (Who was to die in a terrible tour bus crash the following year). They're another band that I wish I'd payed more attention to at the time, oh well you live and learn.
Bon Jovi were next up and after arguing with the girlriend........I PASSED OUT!!! ( sorry but its true so i`ve had to check an online review for this........ A fairly new name at the time, their meteoric rise to mega stardom was still a year away. Their performance was brilliant (apparently??), even including a version of Dobie Gray’s ‘Drift Away’.
The sun was, whilst not exactly setting, but certainly heading for the trees when Marillion took to the stage, While i`m not the world`s biggest prog fan i did enjoy them & they helped my hangover to clear, highlights included Fish (The lead singer) asking the entire crowd of 80,000 people to 'Squash in a bit at the sides' so that he could take a photo for his Mum, as she still didn`t believe that he was in a popular (prog) rock band.
Fish sitting down and shouting 'Well you bloody sing it then' when the crowd started to sing Script for a Jesters Tear louder than he was, and the roar that went up, followed of course by a barrage of plastic bottles, when ZZTop's Eliminator car was flown over the crowd, slung under a Marlborough Cigarettes branded helicopter.....Can`t see Health & Safety allowing that these days, but hey we were made of sterner stuff, anyhoo on to the headliners ZZ TOP
The headliners, of course, as has been mentioned on various occasions, were the Awesome Texan Blues Rockers, ZZ Top. Billy, Dusty and Frank were still riding high on the wave of their 1983 Quadruple (at the time) platinum album 'Eliminator', hence the flying car stunt.
Their set was as you`d expect chock full of ZZ goodness including a Funkadelic cover "HIT IT & QUIT IT" and "JAILHOUSE ROCK" in their encore,but as you expect with that li`l ole band from Texas,they just stood there and played...
No pyro, no stunts, no nothing. Not what a seasoned Donington crowd were used to, or had come to expect. But they finished with 'Tush' my favourite song of theirs, so they redeemed themselves a little. We all ooooed and Aaaaahed at the fireworks for a while and then found our way back to our respective carparks.....
So all in all Donington 1985 for me was a great success.................The girlfriend dumped me as soon as we got back to Newcastle & i`ve never seen her since