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25 Years Ago: Monsters of Rock Tour Kicks Off

It’s been a quarter of a century since one of the 80s’ landmark hard rock concert tours began thundering its way across America. Launched in May of 1988, the Monsters of Rock tour brought together some of the greatest hard rock and heavy metal bands of that era for a day-long rock and roll celebration.

But why that name, exactly? Well, back in England, the Donington Monsters of Rock festival had become a highly anticipated annual fixture of the international rock circuit since first being staged in 1980, typically comprising a one-day event featuring seven, eight, or even more major bands.

But in America, where far greater geographical distances made producing a single, massive concert much less practical, it was decided to apply the highly respected Monsters of Rock brand to a full-fledged tour, featuring Van Halen, the Scorpions, Dokken, Metallica and Kingdom Come — in that descending order, believe it or not!

Not that there was any surprise about the headliner, of course, since Van Halen were flying high at the time, near the peak of their career’s second act with front man Sammy Hagar following the release of the hit-filled ‘OU812‘ album.

Germany’s Scorpions, too, had enjoyed a steady, decade-long climb up the American arena rock hierarchy, and despite being absent for the better part of a year while recording the recently unveiled ‘Savage Amusement’ LP, they could draw thousands of fans of their own accord.

The oftentimes quarreling members of Dokken, meanwhile, were living on borrowed time from the most successful album of their career in 1987′s ‘Back for the Attack’ – thanks in no small part to one of its songs (‘Dream Warriors’) being included in the wildly popular ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ horror film franchise.

Then there was the lineup’s sleeping giant, Metallica, whose manifest destiny to become the world’s biggest heavy metal band had yet to be revealed, as they readied the fall release of their fourth album, ‘…And Justice for All,’ by touring America for the first time with bassist Jason Newsted in place of the tragically departed Cliff Burton.

Finally, rounding out the bill came Led Zeppelin clones Kingdom Come, then enjoying a bright, but all-too-brief, flash in the pan success that nevertheless saw them shifting a million units of their eponymous debut in very short order.

Metallica played a couple of shows at L.A.’s Troubadour club on May 23-24 in anticipation of the tour, which kicked off for real in East Troy, Wis., on May 27 and took in 28 dates over the ensuing weeks before concluding on July 30 in Denver, Colo.

Over that span, the super-sized Monsters of Rock operation crisscrossed the US like a well-oiled machine, suffering remarkably rare travails along the way (a bit of fan violence here, a muffed performance there, an epic audience food fight somewhere else), all things considered.

And while the subsequent career trajectories of four out of the five bands involved would tend to point downhill in years to come – Metallica being the lone, obvious exception – each one left an indelible mark upon hundreds of thousands of hard rock and heavy metal fans who retain fond memories of attending the Monsters of Rock tour during that hot summer of 1988.

Next: See the Top 100 Classic Rock Songs

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