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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, the United States and the former 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.
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 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, but 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, 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.
To date, the only band that have headlined the festival more than twice is AC/DC, with four occasions: 1981, 1984, 1991 and 2010 (Download Festival).
(Note: Line-ups are listed with the headlining band first, followed by the reverse order of appearance by the other bands)
16 August 1980
22 August 1981
21 August 1982
20 August 1983
18 August 1984
17 August 1985
16 August 1986
22 August 1987
20 August 1988
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
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.
17 August 1996. Ozzy Osbourne and Kiss co-headlined with Kiss being the final band on stage.
3 June 2006 – Milton Keynes Bowl
Italy: Reggio Emilia, Aeroporto di Reggio Emilia – 26 August 1987
USA: 23 May – 30 July
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.
Denmark: Copenhagen, Gentofte Stadion – 10 August 1991
Poland: Chorzów, Śląski Stadion – 13 August 1991
Germany: München, Galopprennbahn München Riem, 24 August 1991
The Netherlands: Nijmegen, Goffert Stadion – 1 September 1991
Germany: Mainz, Finthen Army Airfield – 7 September 1991
Austria: Graz, Liebenauer Stadion – 11 September 1991
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 games Guitar Hero Smash Hits and Rock Band 4.
Italy: Reggio Emilia, Arena Festa Nazionale Dell'Unita' – 12 September 1992
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: Madrid, Municipal Tent – 19 September 1992
Chile: Santiago, Teatro Caupolican – September 1995
Italy: Como, Stadio Sinigaglia – 13 July 2004
Spain: Zaragoza, Feria de Zaragoza – 18 June 2006
Spain: Zaragoza, Feria de Zaragoza – June 2007
Spain: Zaragoza, Feria de Zaragoza – July 2008
12th (Cancelled due to rain)
Brazil: Porto Alegre, Estádio Passo d'Areia – 30 April 2015
Argentina: Buenos Aires, Ciudad del Rock – 2 May 2015
Germany: Sankt Goarshausen, Loreley Freilichtbühne - June 17, 2016
The 1986 appearance by Bad News was featured in the TV mockumentary More Bad News.
In 1993, the MONSTERS OF ROCK radio show debuts. Harlan Hendrickson, host and creator of the Monsters of Rock, broadcasts from the legendary 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.