The night Lemmy and Ozzy rocked Vale Park

Last weekend around 12,000 people packed in to Hanley Park for 2012 Live – a summer pop concert which brought the some of the biggest names in British music to the Potteries.

I have to admit I hadn’t heard of most of the acts because I’m a crusty old rocker who was weaned on hair metal and pays no attention to the contemporary music scene.

My first concert was on August 19, 1989, at the Milton Keynes Bowl.

I was 17 and it was my first taste of live rock music – courtesy of the mighty Bon Jovi.

But eight years earlier there was a gig right here in the Potteries that teenage me would have given my right arm to be at.

It was a concert that very nearly didn’t take place at all because of objections by local residents who sought an injunction to prevent it happening.

Originally, families in the Louise Street area of Burslem threatened to withhold payment of their rates to the council in the gig went ahead.

Indeed, the concert only happened because at the eleventh hour the event’s promoters paid for a bus trip to Blackpool for the disgruntled folk of Burslem who didn’t much fancy having their Saturday ruined by some of the loudest bands on the planet.

Heavy Metal Holocaust took place at Vale Park on August 1, 1981 – a blisteringly hot summer’s day in Burslem.

More than 20,000 rock fans paid £7.50 for tickets in advance or £8.50 on the day to see their heroes in action.

It was a time when heavy metal bands such as Iron Maiden regularly featured in the charts – making the genre fashionable. Well, almost.

Black Sabbath had originally been scheduled to top the bill alongside Motörhead but had been forced to pull out just weeks before the gig.

Thankfully, former Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne – accompanied by ex-Quiet Riot guitarist, the legendary Randy Rhoads – stepped into the breach.

Ozzy was introduced to the sweltering crowd by Motörhead bassist and vocalist Lemmy Kilmister for whom the concert was something of a home-coming as he had been born in the Mother Town on Christmas Eve 1945.

Also on the bill were Triumph, Riot, and Vardis but it was the joint headliners who took most of the plaudits – although some felt it was the set by Frank Marino, of Canadian hard rock outfit Mahogany Rush, which stole the show.

Many attendees recall the incredible noise levels generated by the headliners and what was reputed to have been the largest PA system which had ever been used in Britain.

As Motörhead finished their set, six sky-divers parachuted on to the pitch to close the show in spectacular style.

The 10-hour concert, which cost £250,000 to stage, has since attained something of a cult status among rock fans – partly because of the line-up (this included a rare appearance by guitar god Rhoads before his tragic death the following year) and partly because, astonishingly, it was a ‘dry’ gig – i.e. no alcohol was sold inside Vale Park on the day.

This presumably explains the presence of a Samaritans ‘quiet tent’ on site which didn’t see many referrals as their counsellors couldn’t make themselves heard.

The gig was a roaring success and police praised the crowd for their exemplary behaviour.

Port Vale made £25,000 from the event which left chairman Don Ratcliffe eager to stage more as it had allowed the cash-strapped fourth division club to buy two new players – Ernie Moss and Ray Deakin.

Unfortunately, rock bands haven’t appeared at Vale Park since – although I’m half tempted to suggest the idea to new owner Keith Ryder the next time I see him.

Pick up a copy of the Weekend Sentinel every Saturday for 12 pages of nostalgia

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