Some time back, I wrote about going to see Status Quo for the first time. The year was 1982, and you can read my account here – it’s worth it if only for the videos!
That took place in May. In August, they topped the bill at Monsters of Rock held at Donington Park, only a few miles from where I was living.
Monsters of Rock had been going for a couple of years then, though some fans talked about it as if it’d been there forever. Clearly a rock festival, it leaned towards the heavier end, so I was quite surprised to see Quo headlining. Still, being practically on my doorstep, and curious about the event’s growing status, I was keen to go.
In all honesty, my memories of it are not as clear as I’d like them to be. But there must have been some wet weather either on the day or in the run-up to it. I don’t mean Glastonbury wash-out kind of weather, but I seem to recall the ground being soft underfoot at times. I certainly don’t recall sitting down at any point – not something I could cope with nowadays. Then again, my boggy memory may have more to do with the toilet facilities on the day. No portaloos back then, just canvas covered affairs with some kind of hole inside to do your business in and nothing to flush with – providing the added benefit of sharing the experience of all previous visitors to your ‘cubicle’.
Aside from Quo, the line-up on the day were:
Anvil – a name I was aware of, but whose music I was unfamiliar with and, in spite of this performance, remain blissfully ignorant of.
Uriah Heep – a band I was also aware of, but unfamiliar with. Even today, if you played me one of their songs, I wouldn’t be able to identify it. Still, I remember enjoying their set. The keyboard player sticks in my mind because he took an upright piano and tilted it at an angle several times while playing it. It’s hard to explain, but it brought a sense of precariousness and somehow added an extra layer of energy to the performance.
Hawkwind – now, this was a band I was familiar with, if only for Silver Machine, so I’d looked forward to seeing them. Well, they looked all right. As for the sound, it was just a wall of noise, and they were more than halfway through Silver Machine before I realised they were playing it. I had a similar experience with Motorhead playing Ace of Spades. It was only in more recent years I discovered Lemmy had played with Hawkwind before forming Motorhead. I guess a trend had been set.
Saxon – I can’t recall whether I’d already seen them. I know I did see them two or three times in all. Unlike Hawkwind or Motorhead, they played loud but you could still hear them. They also had a great sense of humour. I remember going to see them at De Montfort Hall once and, while the support act were on, a sweeping brush appeared from the wings at the back of the stage, closely followed by lead singer Biff Byford, who casually wandered across to the other side, sweeping as he went, the support act oblivious as they played, and no doubt puzzled by the sudden cheer from the crowd.
This is a long video, but if you want to see Biff getting the crowd going, it’s worth it…
Gillan – Ian Gillan had been the lead singer with Deep Purple, so his presence would have given a lot of Purple fans cause for celebration. As with Saxon, I did see him perform at Leicester, and I’m pretty sure it was before this gig. To my shame, I wasn’t massively familiar with Deep Purple and their music – and I’m still not – though Black Night and Smoke on the Water are obvious exceptions.
Not one for Purple fans, but a lively cover he released as a single…
Clearly, the first half of the line-up did very little for me. Things went up several notches when Saxon came on. They knew how to work the crowd, and they had some hits we could sing along with, especially since we could hear them. Gillan was good. He had some great music to work with – aside from the old Purple stuff, he had produced a few hits of his own in the previous year or two – and he was a great performer. But, yet again, this was Quo’s day. There were a few technical issues with the sound, and I remember Alan Lancaster thumping down hard on the top of his mic because it wasn’t working properly. It was a shame, because he didn’t get to sing lead very often, despite having the best voice in the band (in my opinion).
A reminder of how good Quo were back then…
In spite of the event ending on a high note, I was glad to leave when it was over. I loved Quo then – still love the Quo of that era. But, after a long day in less than ideal conditions, and having refrained from relieving myself since my first excursion to the loos there, I was keen to get home.
Future line-ups included some bands I didn’t get around to seeing, but would have like to: ZZ Top, Whitesnake, Van Halen and Def Leppard. Still, the thought of having to contend with the facilities there again led me to forgo those pleasures. I suspect it was this event that put me off festivals. I like my home comforts too much.