Part one: Monsters of Rock

As this year has been very strange, OD Saxon were planning a live set to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1980 Donington Festival and play part of the set that was performed on the day. Although when we revisited the live recordings from the festival we marvelled at the energy we had at that time with Pete Gill on drums - like a human metronome - sadly, due to the pandemic, the live set was not to be but it prompted me to recall the festival memories I have of the day.

Monsters of Rock Donington 1980 Poster

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On the Friday night I was in the local Rock pub, The Ship with loads people coming up and saying hi and we will see you tomorrow at Monsters of Rock. I was totally exited as it was to be our first major rock festival and we set off early the next morning and arrived at the dressing rooms that were quite away from the stage. There was a shuttle service to the backstage area and our dressing room was next to Riot from the USA and from our balcony, we saw Judas Priest in full metal regalia having press photos taken but we had to get ready as our slot was quite early. These were our early days and we only had a old fashioned tuning fork belonging to Paul Quinn to use to tune our guitars and once we were tuned and ready we were in the shuttle bus on the way to the backstage area where there were smaller dressing rooms for the bands who were about to perform and it was a walk to the stage even then.

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As we walked past the end-of-show fireworks to the stage were our crew were getting ready for the changeover, there is a picture taken o by Robert Ellis and it catches the band looking ready to rock. I have my Gibson Flying V over my shoulder looking cool; Robert’s photo as always catching the moment perfectly.

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The moment we were in side-stage, it was apparent how many people were there. The crowd was huge and I am told fifty five thousand plus were in attendance and I think it was DJ Neal Kaye that announced us to a huge roar of approval and we hit the stage for our set which was recorded thankfully but unfortunately not filmed which is a shame as my memory of the brief set is that we were on fire, charging through song after song with Machine Gun as the finale were I mistreated the Stratocaster and although I came near to destroying it, I did not.

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The live recording is out in poor quality released by another band member in 1996 (spelling Donington with two T,s incorrectly) but thankfully Steve Dawson and I were invited to Abbey Road to listen to all the old tapes for bonus tracks on CDs and in among the outages was the reel off Donington. However, it had to be baked and then transferred to digital as baking in a oven restores the old magnetic tape allowing it to be played - a process used for old recordings. Once it was copied EMI in 2009 released various tracks as bonus ones to the remastered first 9 albums and these were all released again in 2017 by BMG so these are well worth checking them out as they are much better quality than the pirate sounding early released. 

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Back to the festival. We returned in triumph to our dressing rooms and straight into interviews and photos before the journalists rushed off for the next band. I got changed and took the shuttle bus with Joe Elliott from Def Leppard as he was a VIP guest and Scorpions were due on and I wanted to see them. As I walked to the stage, a Mercedes was parked right were access was to the viewing area and the back window was coming down and someone was shouting “Graham! Graham!” I turned and I was being hailed by Ritchie Blackmore who although we did a couple support slots I had only once said hello in the Marquee in London one time so I was very surprised he knew my name. He motioned me to come over to the car and we had a good chat as though we were old friends. I asked him questions about his guitars and what happened to his original black one and he said he got it after seeing Hendrix at the Isle of White in 1970 but he broke it and regretted it as it was his favourite. I missed the Scorpions due to my chat with the man in black but as a huge Rainbow fan (I saw them in1976) it was surreal to have Ritchie treating me in first name like a old friend and our paths will cross again in1982 on a full USA tour but that's for another blog.

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The gig was well received and did get decent reviews I recall and incidentally, we became the first band to play it twice as we did it again in ‘82 with Status Quo headlining. We were then ready for our next outing the USA tour where we supported Rush , Black Sabbath and AC/DC and I recall Lemmy was envious that we got to America before Motörhead which was his goal but we beat him to it.