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
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
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 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 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 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
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
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
4. Shout At The Devil
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
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]
2.Lay It On The Line
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.