£7.50 for an all-day rock festival – bloody extortion!
Well it was 1981. August 1st at 1.30pm to be exact.
‘Heavy Metal Holocaust’ at Port Vale FC promised to be the gig to end all gigs for English rock fans. I had bought my tickets mainly for the headliners Motorhead. Black Sabbath had been billed as support and, to be honest, as a huge Ozzy fan, I was a little miffed that the new impostor lead singer would be performing instead of the Prince of Darkness.
The Gods of Metal must’ve heard my anguished prayers because weeks before the concert the ‘new’ Sabbath pulled out of the gig and lo and behold the fledgling ‘Ozzy Osbourne Band’ stepped into the Sabbath-shaped-hole. Over three quarters of the tickets issued still had Black Sabbath printed on them as it was too late to re-print.
Now it really did promise to be the gig to end all gigs, the music press at the time boasted Lemmy’s claims that this would be the loudest and biggest sound system ever to be heard in Europe and problems faced the road crew as the PA kept melting cables with the power drain. Local residents had banded together to try and stop the gig, fearing the invasion of 60 odd thousand hairy, leather clad rockers. So much so that when we arrived we found that the alcohol licence had been revoked and the whole day would be tea - total once inside the grounds!
Confession and apologies to any fans: the first half of the day was a little dull; bands like Triumph, Riot and some others totally failed to get the stadium rocking, the crowd on this blistering hot day were a little bored and very thirsty.
Stalls selling plastic bottles of pop at highwayman prices were soon empty and the fans baked. That is until the Hell’s Angels decided, as unofficial security, to ‘liberate’ some refreshments and, standing atop vast speaker bins, proceeded to throw hundreds of free drinks out to the gasping fans. This kind action was rewarded with several hundred empty pop bottles being thrown back at the Angels, who took their role as moving target with good humour.
Dusk fell and the highlight (for me) began, Ozzy Osbourne took the stage and instantly owned it and the crowd, his new guitarist, the legendary and too-soon gone, Randy Rhoades, was stunning and I mean stunning. Ozzy finished with ‘his bit’ of Black Sabbath tracks, somehow made new and dare I say it, better, by the young wizard on lead guitar!
Motorhead did what Motorhead do best, loud, fast and funny. I have a dim recollection of a huge volume control being turned up to ‘eleven’ as ten just wasn’t loud enough. The thump of bass and drums tore into your chest as they performed their set. Another recollection was a bomber flying over and dropping parachutists over the ground, apparently not on cue as the sheer wall of noise confused the pilot!
Getting out of the ground was a bit of a free for all and very badly marshalled, but with ears ringing I was a very happy lad on the journey back home. I was lucky enough to see Ozzy and Randy perform several times together before Randy’s tragic death in 1982, but that first time will live in my memory forever.