Monsters of Rock
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Monsters of Rock was an annual hard rock and heavy metal music festival held in Castle Donington, England, from 1980 to 1996, taking place every year except 1989 and 1993. It later branched into other locations such as the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, Sweden, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, the United States, and the Soviet Union.
In 1980, promoter Paul Loasby, along with Maurice Jones, planned a one-day festival dedicated specifically for bands within the hard rock and heavy metal genre. Loasby was an established and successful promoter working that year on the Rainbow UK tour and penned the festival as the final show of the tour for the band to headline. Jones knew the owner of the Donington Park race track, Tom Wheatcroft, located next to the village of Castle Donington in Leicestershire, England, and the site was chosen to host the event.
(A year earlier, promoter Bill Graham’s July 1979 Day on the Green Festival at Oakland Coliseum in California was also dubbed "The Monsters of Rock" show. This concert featured Aerosmith, Ted Nugent and AC/DC.)
Donington Park was unknown as a major location but its location in the East Midlands next to the M1, A42 and A50 allowed for better transportation to the site from around the country. Additionally the site ground level sloped which allowed for a better viewing for the audience throughout the site.
The first Monsters of Rock line-up consisted of a mix of British and international bands and was a success with 35,000 heavy metal fans attending. Although only conceived as a one off event, it was mentioned on the day the idea that the festival will return the following year and the first edition birthed what would become a regular festival for the next 15 years, becoming synonymous as a Mecca for fans of the genre and further establishing the Midlands as the home of heavy metal.
Over the years, the attendance continued to grow, reaching 107,000 in 1988, when two fans died during the Guns N' Roses set. Initially the blame was thought to be the size of the crowd and a rush forward during the band's set but officially the cause is laid on the weather, causing muddy and wet conditions on the sloping ground. As a result, the festival did not take place in 1989, and it was replaced that year by a two-day festival similar to Monsters of Rock, the Moscow Music Peace Festival in Russia, which included performances by several Monsters of Rock veterans Bon Jovi, Ozzy Osbourne, Mötley Crüe and Scorpions. Monsters of Rock returned the year after with a limitation to the crowd of 75,000.
The festival had been held in parallel in West Germany from 1983 to 1991. In 1984 and 1986 the festival branched into Sweden. In 1988, the festival occurred for the first time in France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. It was held as a one-time event in 1991 in Soviet Union (one of the largest concerts of all time, with an estimated audience of over 1.6 million), Poland, Belgium, Hungary. In 1994, the festival was exported overseas to Chile, Argentina and Brazil.
In 1993 the MONSTERS OF ROCK® radio show debuted in the United States with host Harlan Hendrickson. Guests on the show include everyone from AC/DC, KISS, Van Halen, Judas Priest, Motörhead, Cinderella, Ozzy Osbourne, Bon Jovi, Cheap Trick, Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Dio, Y&T, Guns N' Roses, Slayer and Poison.
The Monsters of Rock festival continued on as the premier hard rock and heavy metal event in Great Britain in the 1990s but started to fall upon hard times as heavy metal became less popular, with another cancellation in 1993 due to being unable to find a strong enough headliner. In 1995 the festival found itself in a similar situation until Metallica agreed to play with the condition of the band having control over the event and naming it "Escape from the Studio". In 1996 Ozzy Osbourne and KISS co-headlined the festival and although there were plans to extend the festival into a two-day event in 1997, the promoters once again found themselves in a struggle for headliners and the event was cancelled and discontinued.
Donington Park remained event-less until 2001 when the Rock and Blues Festival and Stereophonics held events at the site. In 2002 the Ozzfest tour returned to the UK using Donington Park as their only British event and the following year Live Nation picked up the reins as Monsters of Rock's successor in the name of Download Festival. An outstanding success from the offset, the festival continues to this day having increased to a three-day event with five stages, though as of 2008 the event has been relegated outside of the track.
In 2012 Harlan Hendrickson & Monsters of Rock Worldwide partnered with Larry Morand and Mike London to launch the inaugural Monsters Of Rock Cruise.
(Note: Line-ups in this section are for the events held in the United Kingdom. They are listed with the headlining band first, followed by the reverse order of appearance by the other bands.)
16 August 1980
- Judas Priest
- April Wine
- Saxon (released as the semi-official live album Donington: The Live Tracks [sic]. "I still meet people," noted Biff Byford, "that come up and tell me about their own little twist on the day: 'Just as you started 747 (Strangers In The Night), a plane came over.' Of course, we wrote a song about [the event]: And the Bands Played On.")
22 August 1981
21 August 1982
20 August 1983
18 August 1984
- AC/DC (first band to headline twice)
- Van Halen (David Lee Roth's final appearance with Van Halen in the UK)
- Ozzy Osbourne
- Gary Moore
- Y&T (Not in the Karlsruhe lineup)
- Mötley Crüe
- Tommy Vance (DJ)
17 August 1985
16 August 1986
- Ozzy Osbourne
- Def Leppard (drummer Rick Allen's first major concert appearance after his 1984 car accident which resulted in the loss of his arm).
- Bad News
- Warlock (first time a female performed at the festival)
22 August 1987
20 August 1988
- Iron Maiden (the show released as part of Eddie's Archive)
- David Lee Roth
- Guns N' Roses
18 August 1990
The entire 1990 festival was simultaneously broadcast live on BBC Radio 1, which had previously recorded many festivals for later broadcast.
17 August 1991
- AC/DC (their portion released as Live at Donington)
- Mötley Crüe
- The Black Crowes
22 August 1992 (this was also broadcast live on Radio 1)
4 June 1994 (another festival broadcast live; highlights were transmitted in 1995 and 1996)
This was the first year that two stages were used. Readers of Kerrang! magazine were invited to vote on bands to appear at the festival, and Extreme easily won the right to appear second on the bill.
26 August 1995
1995 was not officially billed as 'Monsters of Rock' but as 'Escape from the Studio' due to Metallica's decision to headline while recording the Load album.
- Metallica (Their fourth appearance and only appearance as headliner)
- Skid Row
- Slash's Snakepit
- White Zombie
- Machine Head
- Warrior Soul
- Corrosion of Conformity
17 August 1996. Ozzy Osbourne and Kiss co-headlined with Kiss being the final band on stage.
3 June 2006 – Milton Keynes Bowl
1983 Germany Tour
1984 North European Tour
1986 North European Tour
1987 European Tour
Italy: Reggio Emilia, Aeroporto di Reggio Emilia – 26 August 1987
- Deep Purple
- Pretty Maids (Due to technical reasons, their show in Pforzheim was cancelled)
1988 USA & European Tour
USA: 23 May – 30 July
- Iron Maiden
- David Lee Roth
- Testament (Megadeth cancelled)
- Great White
- Treat (did not play in Bochum)
1990 European Tour
Note: This particular show was promoted as "Super Rock 1990".
Note: Face to Face was a French band related to Trust. Faith No More was not on the ticket list but was present to the show.
1991 European Tour
Denmark: Copenhagen, Gentofte Stadion – 10 August 1991
Poland: Chorzów, Śląski Stadion – 13 August 1991
Germany: München, Galopprennbahn München Riem, 24 August 1991
Netherlands: Nijmegen, Goffert Stadion – 1 September 1991
Germany: Mainz, Finthen Army Airfield – 7 September 1991
Austria: Graz, Liebenauer Stadion – 11 September 1991
Partially released as For Those About to Rock, Monsters in Moscow. The versions of "Whole Lotta Rosie" and "The Jack" that AC/DC performed at this concert, were released on two of AC/DC's live albums, AC/DC Live and AC/DC Live: 2 CD Collector's Edition. Metallica's performances of "Harvester of Sorrow" and "Creeping Death" from this show were used as B-sides for the "Sad but True" single in different regional editions. Pantera's "Cowboys from Hell" performance is featured as a playable song in the video games Guitar Hero Smash Hits and Rock Band 4. The Airfield itself was recreated as a virtual venue in Guitar Hero Metallica.
1992 South European tour
Italy: Reggio Emilia, Arena Festa Nazionale Dell'Unita' – 12 September 1992
- Iron Maiden – the song "Heaven Can Wait" of A Real Live One album was recorded there
- Black Sabbath
- Pino Scotto
Spain: Barcelona, Plaza de Toros – 14 September 1992
Spain: San Sebastián, Velódromo de Anoeta – 17 September 1992
Spain: Madrid, Las Arenas Plaza de Toros – 18 September 1992
Spain: Zaragoza, Municipal Tent – 19 September 1992
1994 South American Tour
- Black Sabbath (with Tony Martin on vocals)
- Suicidal Tendencies
- Dr. Sin
- KISS (Headliner)
- Black Sabbath (with Tony Martin on vocals)
- Hermética (Manowar was announced but never got to play)
- Gatos Sucios
1995 South American Tour
- Iron Maiden
- Skid Row
- King Diamond
- Mercyful Fate
- Héroes del Silencio
1998 South American Tour
Van Halen was supposed to be the headliner, but it never became official or happened.
Italy: Como, Stadio Sinigaglia – 13 July 2004
2005 South American Tour
Spain: Zaragoza, Feria de Zaragoza – 18 June 2006
Spain: Zaragoza, Feria de Zaragoza – June 2007
2008 Chile & Spain
Spain: Zaragoza, Feria de Zaragoza – July 2008
12th (Cancelled due to rain)
2015 South American Tour
- Attend/Capacity/Gross Sales: 72,337 / 76,428 / $6,365,540 (1 sellout)
- Attend/Capacity/Gross Sales: 12,820 / 20,000 / $1,038,600
Brazil: Porto Alegre, Estádio Passo d'Areia – 30 April 2015
- Attend/Capacity/Gross Sales: 14,199 / 19,600 / $997,006
Argentina: Buenos Aires, Ciudad del Rock – 2 May 2015
- Attend/Capacity/Gross Sales: 26,354 / 35,000 / $1,304,240
In popular culture
The 1986 appearance by Bad News was featured in the TV mockumentary More Bad News.
In 1993, the Monsters of Rock radio show debuted. Harlan Hendrickson, host and creator of the Monsters of Rock, broadcasts from the rock radio station WRIF in Detroit. The Monsters of Rock is currently syndicated nationally/internationally through United Stations Radio Networks where it currently airs in over 60 markets in the United States alone. The program currently holds the number-one or number-two slots among males 25–54 on the majority of stations that carry it. Guests on the show have included of AC/DC, KISS, Van Halen, Motörhead, Cinderella, Ozzy Osbourne, Bon Jovi, Cheap Trick, Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Slayer and Poison.
In the 2005 Half Man Half Biscuit song "Mate of the Bloke" on their album Achtung Bono, the protagonist sings of legal action taken against him by More O'Ferrall for spraying the legend "in church hall if wet" onto a billboard for Monsters of Rock.
In 2012, Harlan Hendrickson teamed up with Larry Morand and Mike London to launch the "Monsters of Rock Cruise" which is a multi day music cruise celebrating the Castle Donnington festival. Artists such as Saxon, UFO, Cinderella, Tesla, The Quireboys and others from the original festival have been featured on the cruise.
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- Elliott, Paul (August 2015). "Biff Byford's Top 10 Festival Moments". Classic Rock #213. p. 123.
- "The Monsters of Rock". ukrockfestivals.com. June 2021. Retrieved 26 July 2021.
- "The Monsters of Rock". ukrockfestivals.com. October 2013. Retrieved 29 June 2021.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 14 October 2013. Retrieved 13 July 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
- "Superrock". Frank Hameister. 2 February 2016. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
- 1990 France
- "AC/DC tour history". AC-DC.net. Retrieved 25 April 2021.
- "Paris, France - Hippodrome De Vincennes / September 21, 1991". Metallica. Retrieved 25 April 2021.