RockStory - Heavy Metal: The Us Festival 1983
The Us Festival 1983: The last day, with exclusively hard rock bands, the crowd grew to a stunning 600,000

The Us Festival 1983

By Fredrik Nilsson


In the beginning of the decade heavy metal was seen by many as a dead genre, although a few bands like Van Halen and Rush still had successful albums and tours.

In 1982 the british bands Iron Maiden and Judas Priest started selling more albums, and doing successful tours also.

In 1983 Def Leppard broke big also. But no one really knew how big heavy metal was becoming until the Us Festival in 1983. It was the brainchild of Steve Wozniak, founder of Apple computer.


Us Festival

Dubbed as a festival of peace and music, it went on for three days. The first two nights some of the biggest names in pop were drawing crowds up to 300,000.

The last day the bill was exclusively hard rock bands, and the crowd grew to a stunning 600,000 which was a shock to everyone, not at least the bands themselves.

The line-up consisted of Quiet Riot, Mötley Crüe, Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest, Van Halen, Scorpions, and Triumph .


Van Halen

Van Halen headlined the festival. The band that consisted of the Van Halen brothers Eddie and Alex, singer David Lee Roth and bass player Michael Anthony was one of the most influential bands on the whole 80’s metal scene.

Their groundbreaking debut album from 1978 is a milestone, and Eddie set new standards for guitar players and “Diamond” Dave became the ideal for the ultimate front man.

By 1983 they had released five successful albums, but their biggest one was yet to come. The album simply titled 1984 was a huge success, and spawning hit singles like “Jump”, “Panama”, “Hot For Teacher” and “I’ll Wait”.

The synthesizers that were all over “Jump” helped bring keyboards into the metal scene (although already used frequently by AOR bands), just like the Hammond organ was prominent in many rock bands from the 70’s.

But just as they were at their commercial peak, the band split with David Lee Roth (who launched a successful solo career that died down after three very good albums). He was replaced by solo artist, and former Montrose singer Sammy Hagar, who had released his most successful solo album to date, called VOA (short for Voice Of America), including his biggest hit “I Can’t Drive 55”.

Their two following albums (5150 and OU812) both debuted at number one on the American charts, and the band recovered without any problems.

Their success continued into the 90’s, but after some twist and turns the band faded away later that decade.

Judas Priest

Judas Priest were at their peak in -83, touring on what is arguably their greatest album (Screaming For Vengeance).

They would release one more similar album (Defenders Of The Faith), before their infamous “sellout” in -86 with the keyboard influenced album Turbo.

The band somewhat came back to form on Ram It Down in -88, and a couple of years later released one of their greatest albums ever (Painkiller).

Unfortunately the 90’s would be an unfortunate period for the band after splitting with lead singer Rob Halford.


Scorpions who had lost their lead guitar player Uli Jon Roth in the late 70’s, and replaced him with Mathias Jabs had their most successful decade in the 80’s.

Albums like Blackout and Love At First Sting were full of anthems like “Blackout”, “No One Like You”, Rock You Like A Hurricane” and “Still Loving You”.

In fact, every Scorpions album released up until the excellent Crazy World (1991) was worthwhile.

And they were also one of the best live bands of the whole decade, always putting on an excellent show.

Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy Osbourne was not only one of the biggest rock stars of the 70’s (as the singer in Black Sabbath), he was even bigger in the 80’s.

After stealing the virtuous guitar player Randy Rhoads from the band Quiet Riot, he released two of the best albums of the whole decade in Blizzard Of Ozz (1980) and Diary Of A Madman (1981).

Randy was one of metal’s most influential players, and introduced classical thinking into metal guitar playing (to a larger extent than Ritchie Blackmore did before him).

Great songs like “Mr. Crowley”, “Crazy Train”, “Goodbye To Romance”, “Over The Mountain” and “You Can’t Kill Rock N Roll” showed how much this collaboration worked.

Also included in the band and in much of the songwriting were Bob Daisley (former Rainbow bass player) and Lee Kerslake (former Uriah Heep drummer), who were both later sadly stolen of their royalties from those albums by Ozzy and his manager and wife Sharon.

 Unfortunately Randy died in a plane crash in -82, but he is still one of the most beloved hard rock guitarists ever.

He was replaced by Brad Gillis, Jake E Lee and Zakk Wylde respectively, and Ozzy continued to release great and very successful albums throughout the whole decade (and further on…).

Triumph, Quiet Riot and Mötley Crüe

Triumph, Quiet Riot and Motley Crue were the up-and-coming bands on the event.

Mötley Crüe would in the long run turn out to be the most successful of the three; Quiet Riot the most successful in the short run and Triumph never really got the big break although they survived comfortably throughout most of the decade.

Mötley Crüe had just released their second album Shout At The Devil, which would give them hit songs like “Looks That Kill” and “Too Young To Fall In Love”. It would turn out to be the greatest album of their career, only rivalled by their debut album (Too Fast For Love) and the album Dr. Feelgood (from 1989).

Quiet Riot who had replaced Randy Rhoads with Carlos Cavazo released the first heavy metal album to reach number one on the American charts, and that was the album Metal Health which was released in -83 (it went on to sell 5 million copies in the states).

The biggest single from the album was their excellent rendition of the old Slade hit song “Cum On Feel The Noize”. But Quiet Riot were never able to match the success of the Metal Health album, and slowly faded away after two more tries with the same lineup.

Triumph was always destined to stand in the shadow of Rush, much to the fact that both bands were trios from Canada. But Triumph played much more straightforward hard rock, and had a couple of enjoyable releases throughout the decade. On the Us Festival they were touring on their Never Surrender album, which was the follow up to their greatest album (Allied Forces).


Epilogue Us Festival 83
Us Festival, Sunday May 29th 1983, is without a doubt the biggest heavy metal event ever, and an important part of the history of heavy metal.

Sunday May 29th:
Quiet Riot [12:10 - 12:50 pm]
1. Danger Zone
2. Cum On Feel The Noize
3. Slick Black Cadillac
4. Let's Get Crazy
5. Metal Health

Mötley Crüe [1:20 - 2:20]
1. Take Me To The Top
2. Looks That Kill
3. Bastard
4. Shout At The Devil
5. Merry-Go-Round
6. Knock 'Em Dead Kid
7. Piece of Your Action
8. Live Wire
9. Helter Skelter

Ozzy Osbourne [2:50 - 4:00]
1. Over The Mountain
2. Mr. Crowley
3. Crazy Train
4. Suicide Solution
5. Flying High Again
6. Paranoid

Judas Priest [4:30 - 5:40]
1. Riding On The Wind
2. Breaking The law
3. Diamonds And Lust
4. Victim Of Changes
5. Living After Midnight
6. The Green Manalishi
7. You've Got Another Thing Comin'

Triumph [6:10 - 7:20]
1.Allied Forces
2.Lay It On The Line
3.Never Surrender
4.Magic Power
5.World Of Fantasy
6.Rock And Roll Machine
7.When The Lights Go Down
8.Fight The Good Fight

Scorpions [7:55 - 9:10]

Van Halen [10:00 - midnight]
1. Romeo Delight 5:04
2. Unchained ~Drum Solo 7:53
3. The Full Bug 3:57
4. Runnin With The Devil 7:33
5. Jamie's Cryin 3:45
6. So This Is love 5:18
7. Little Guitars 4:44
8. Bass Solo / Dancing in the Street 7:14
9. Somebody Get Me A Doctor / Girl Gone Bad / I'm So Glad / Guitar Solo 8:55
10. Dance The Night Away 3:19
11. Cathedral 3:27
12. Secrets 3:29
13. Drum Solo 2:34
14. Everybody Wants Some 14:48
15. Ice Cream Man 5:28
16. Pretty Woman 5:49
17. Guitar Solo 11:57
18. Ain't Talkin Bout Love 7:41
19. Bottom's Up 4:39
20. You Really Got Me / Happy Trails 6:27

The event can be seen as the start of heavy metal’s biggest period in the states, and for the rest of the decade heavy metal would be the biggest individual genre of popular music.

Although the line-up would be rivalled by the big Monster Of Rock festivals in Europe in the 80’s, especially Donington, the attendance would remain unrivalled.