Wednesday, 26 June 2013

ZZ Top, Castle Donington, 1985

Having just seen ZZ Top this week at the Manchester Apollo on their La Futura tour, I thought I would revisit the only other time I've seen them in concert. 28 years is a long time to wait to see one of your favourite bands again but the concert passed without anything dramatic happening unlike that day at the Monster of Rock festival.

This is an excerpt from my book "Drum Solos, Bottles and Bands - Memories of a Concert-goer 1981-1999". If you'd like to read another bit from it, listen to the introduction or buy a copy please see -


1985 was the year I celebrated my 21st birthday. I threw a party in the Nite Club function room of the Edinburgh Playhouse which also doubled up as a venue for smaller bands - I had seen the boogie band Spider play there the previous year. Some friends at work had clubbed together and bought me a ticket for ZZ Top's Rocking The Castle date at Donington as a birthday present. I booked a seat on a coach and departed from Edinburgh, after a few hours in the pub, late on the Friday night arriving at Donington sometime after 7am. We were then told to get off the coach by the driver as he wanted to get some kip which meant we had a few hours to kill before the gates opened.

These days the Download Festival at Donington has five different stages but back in the 80s there was only the one stage. I wandered round and found the Motor Museum but sadly it was shut. Of the six bands that played that day, I'd have to say that Metallica certainly impressed me though this was the only time I've seen them in concert. I was a bit disappointed by Bon Jovi compared to when I saw them headlining at the Playhouse and I don't remember much about Ratt and Magnum. Marillion, however, played a good set which included material from their latest album, Misplaced Childhood.

After Marillion had left the stage certain members of the crowd took it upon themselves to hurl plastic bottles up into the air. Some of these were empty, which was fine if one hit you as it just bounced off. But other bottles had been filled by those who couldn't be bothered to traipse up the field to the toilets. If you were hit by one of those, you knew all about it as I was about to find out. I noticed two bikers in front of me putting their helmets on and sitting down on the ground, which was a good move. I decided to follow their example and just watched the bottles flying about until I saw someone not far from me lob a bottle in my direction. As this was an empty one I couldn't resist picking it up and chucking it back at the lad who'd thrown it at me. Just a bit of harmless fun. Well, it was until the inevitable happened and I was struck on the head with a bottle which was far from being empty. My hand instinctively went to my head and I was alarmed to see blood on my fingers.

I made my way to the First Aid centre where I got stitched up and I returned to the arena shortly before ZZ Top came on stage. I was one of the more fortunate ones. There were one or two lads who were lying unconscious, though whether this was from having been hit by a bottle or the result of drinking all day, I couldn't say. I stayed away from the stage as there were still some bottles being lobbed into the air. Looking round I saw a very drunk individual wearing nothing but a loose-fitting sheepskin jacket running around between the fires people had lit at the top of the field. He would fall over, get up, stagger on a bit further and then fall over again. At least that brought a smile to my face.

ZZ Top were still riding high on the success of Eliminator and their set included the singles from that album 'Legs' and 'Gimme All Your Lovin' along with old favourites like 'Jesus Just Left Chicago', 'Cheap Sunglasses' and 'La Grange'. After the firework display at the end of the night I headed back to the coach and the return journey to Edinburgh. Perhaps not surprisingly, the injury I sustained put me off such events and I didn't attended another festival until 1996 when I went to T in the Park at Strathclyde Country Park.

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