I was feeling very musical this morning, which is odd, because I didn't actually listen to any music, or even stick a CD on in the car on my way to work. I did sing the Sheepy Magna song in my head, as I drove through Sheepy Magna though. It had different words this time, and I think it might be in danger of becoming a free-form sound poem, rather than your actual song. (Still sang it in a Scottish Accent though, if that helps)
I did spend some time thinking about live gigs that I've been to and bands that I've enjoyed in the past. Long time readers may have read my recollections of Monsters of Rock in 1981, where bands such as Slade, Blue Oyster Cult and AC/DC rocked out on a rainy August day and impaled themselves onto my sometimes untrustworthy memory.
Today I'd like to fast forward to 1985 (That's twenty-eight years ago kids... Before some of you were born), when I had just turned seventeen and I was full of hormones and cider, and covered in long hair (well, my head was at least) - It was also the first 'Donington' (Not, you notice 'Monsters of Rock - It had been rebranded 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 innapropriate studded wristbands and huge white Hightop baseball boots that made them look like poundshop astronauts.
I (well, I should really say 'we' I suppose, but this Blog's about my recollections,and the time we spent together didn't end particularly amicably, so from now on I'm going to say 'I', OK?) arrived on site by bus, because that is without doubt, THE most Rock-n-Roll way to arrive at any Gig, Festival, Cattle Auction or Outbreak of Infectious Disease (All of which could be used to describe Donington) that there is.
Once I'd staked out a decent spot a few hundred yards from the stage, and complained about the heat a few times, Donington stalwart and professional bottle of urine avoider, DJ Tommy Vance came on to whip the crowd up into a state of mild annoyance. Now, a lot of people have had a go at Tommy (or Richard Anthony Crispian Francis Prew Hope-Weston as his Mother called him for some UnGodly reason), and broadcast, via the medium of chanting, far and wide of his imagined pleasure in solitary sexual pursuits. I remember personally commenting that there was no way that someone as old as him could know about what the 'Kids' wanted to listen to... I now appreciate that I am as old now as he was then - And I am a little embarrased. But he did more to promote Rock and Metal music than pretty much any DJ or presenter at the time, I was an avid listener of his 'Friday Rock Show' on Radio 1, as was everyone I knew at the time, and he was really, very good at dodging bottles of urine and chunks of mud that were propelled at him all the time he was on stage. Rest in Peace Tommy, you W*nk*r!
OK, so... To the music. Magnum were first on - I'll be the first to admit that I wasn't their greatest fan, they always struck me as the kind of band whose name you'd see scribbled in ballpoint pen across the back of some spotty thirteen years old's denim jacket. But I have a vague memory of them not being all that bad, 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 alchohol I'd brought with me, until Ratt came on. I've never being a fan of Hairspray rock, and I'm sad to say that I completely ignored their set and wandered around the ground trying to buy a t-shirt that didn't have the ZZ-Top Eliminator or a hand, clutching a dagger, coming out of a toilet on it (I failed) and getting a burger (I succeeded)
I got back just in time to see 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, as Metallica get through Bass players like Spinal Tap get through Drummers.
Next up were Bon Jovi, who also weren't particularly famous at the time. Remembering that this was (just) before Slippery When Wet was released, so the only songs I recognised were In and Out of Love and Runaway, and they were dressed like refugees from a Tom Baker era Doctor Who episode. Oddly, they headlined Monsters of Rock two years later, and played one of the greatest sets I'd ever seen there.
The sun was, whilst not exactly setting, but certainly heading for the trees when Marillion took to the stage. This band was the whole reason that I'd attended that year. I loved them, I bought all of their singles, albums, 12" EPs and would play their stuff constantly on whatever recording device was closest to hand. I knew every word to every version of every song that they ever released. They were the first band I ever saw that sounded exactly the same live as recorded.
Highlights of their set 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 didnea 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 ZZ-Top's Eliminator car was flown over the crowd, slung under a Marlborough Cigarettes branded helicopter.
The headliners, of course, as has been mentioned on various occasions, were 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 OK, I mean I liked their music and everything, but 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 oooo-ed and Aaaaah-ed at the fireworks for a while and then found our way back to our respective car-parks... None of us aware that we had missed the best part of the entire gig, something we could have told our Grandchildren...
Secreted somewhere backstage was a fifteen year old Suzy Perry (off of the Gadget Show and F1 Coverage and stuff), and if you're a man, and the words, 'Suzy Perry' and 'Backstage' don't get your juices flowing, then you're already dead... (Note I said nothing about the whole fifteen years old thing... Not in the current climate... Hoooo no!)
Rock on my loyal followers!