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When OZZY & MOTÖRHEAD Almost Caused an Evacuation Due an Invasion of "Murderous Metalheads"



When Black Sabbath had to drop out of the first (and sadly last), Heavy Metal Holocaust Festival in Stoke-on-Trent, England to head back into the studio to record Mob Rules in Los Angels, their recently fired former vocalist and his band stepped in to take over their spot alongside Motörhead. After hearing about Sabbath's departure from the festival, members of the band in touch with John Curd, the promoter putting on the gigantic gig (along with Kerrang!) who has worked with everyone from The Clash to the Ramones. Curd agreed to have Ozzy and his band take Sabbath's slot. Something that Curd would express regret for later saying that the next time Ozzy came back to England, it would be for a court appearance. Sounds about right. Since this was 1981, tickets for the festival were $8.30 and a whopping $9.30 the day of.

When OZZY & MOTÖRHEAD Almost Caused an Evacuation Due an Invasion of "Murderous Metalheads"
The updated show poster for Heavy Metal Holocaust with Ozzy taking Black Sabbath's spot.

Other bands on the bill included Canadian band Triumph (who were very much heavy metal adjacent during the late 70s and early 80s), Mahogany Rush (Quebec), Riot (aka New York metal band Riot V), and English band Vardis. Here's the thing, the festival almost didn't happen because when word got out that Ozzy and Stoke-on-Trent native Lemmy and Motörhead would be playing the Port Vale soccer stadium, Vale Park, a wave of panic swept through the community, specifically its elderly population. There was so much alarm that a group of residents petitioned their city council to have the show cancelled out of fear they would be murdered in their beds by the headbangers headed to the show refering to it like an invasion. Curd and his team then came up with the idea to offer a day trip to the seaside town of Blackpool, which was more than good enough for Stoke-on-Trent's senior citizens and the show was a go. 

When OZZY & MOTÖRHEAD Almost Caused an Evacuation Due an Invasion of "Murderous Metalheads"
The Ozzy and The Blizzard of Ozz on stage at Port Vale and a look at some of its massive PA system. Source.

Lemmy has referred to this one-off show as Motörhead's loudest (noted in his book White Line Fever), and as usual, it's safe to believe him. The PA system at Port Vale was 100,000 watts strong. The oversized stage took three weeks to construct. Metalheads trekked over 200 miles to get to the show and a couple of teen fans who made the journey even got to hang out with Lemmy and Motörhead. Here's a bit from Neil Dutton, a local who was sixteen at the time and went to hang out behind the stadium on a spot nicknamed "the big wall" the night before the show with his pals Nig and Phil:

"I must have sensed something special was going to happen as I had my compact 110 camera in my denim jacket and a Motörhead programme I purchased two years earlier when they played Victoria Hall in Hanley. We sat around with a few other locals just watching the comings and goings, hoping to see someone we recognized. We didn't have to wait too long, when the door to the players entrance opened and the man himself Lemmy (Kilmister) stepped through it and started walking toward Hamil Road. It took me three seconds to get off the wall and up beside Lemmy along with another half-dozen or so fans. I pulled out the programme from my pocket, pushed it under Lemmy's nose and he signed it for me. Then I remembered my camera and took a few photos. I asked Lemmy where he was going and he replied 'off downtown Burslem (a part of Stoke on Trent) for a few beers, ya coming with me? If you are though make sure you have plenty of cash on you.' The only thing that stopped me from following him was I was only sixteen and I only had three quid (about three dollars) in my pocket."

The trio attended the show on Saturday not knowing that seven months later, Ozzy's guitarist Randy Rhodes would be gone. Dutton smuggled his camera into the stadium and took some incredible photos you can see here. Dutton called Ozzy a "master of audience captivation and pure genius," and noted that his ears are still ringing "34 years later" after Motörhead's set. Another group of around 50 attendees, upon arriving at the stadium, was told by the local police to avoid certain areas as there were reports of groups of "skinheads" looking to beat up headbagers (or "rockers") headed to the show. When they arrived, they were greeted not by skinheads but by a big crowd of rockers and Hells Angels hanging out at the back of the stadium with members of Stoke-on-Trent’s finest bobbies.  

When OZZY & MOTÖRHEAD Almost Caused an Evacuation Due an Invasion of "Murderous Metalheads"
Another look at Ozzy and Randy surrounded by Port Vale's deafening PA system.

As we mentioned Triumph was also on this bill, here is another moment where the good will of Lemmy Kilmister came out to shine. Unbeknownst to most of the 25,000 crowd, the gig was a dry one–meaning no booze for sale, just soda, coffee and water. People in the crowd started throwing bottles eventually hurling them at Triumph during their set.  It got so bad that Triumph stopped playing and Lemmy came out on stage to tell the crowd to stop throwing them. Speaking of Lemmy, how loud was the show? Well, as we've already discussed, Lemmy said it was the loudest show the band ever played. People told stories oft their bodies shaking due to the sheer size and power of the PA system. Alan Johnson, a part of the crew that assembled the stage and PA joked about how the set up was capable of "deafening 20,000 people in one swoop." Others working at the gig reported their ears rang for days after the show. As far as roving bands of murderous metalheads, well, there wern't any. In fact, the Red Cross tent had very little business that day, despite the size of the crowd and hot temperatures. Don't forget, there was no booze which certainly contributed to the lack of mayhem at Port Vale, though I'm certain Lemmy and Ozzy didn't comply with that rule. 

Footage from the Heavy Metal Holocaust Festival.
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