Thursday, April 5, 2012

Retro Review + Adventure: Metallica & Ozzy at UIC Pavilion, Chicago 1986

Ozzy Osbourne | Metallica  

UIC Pavilion - Chicago, IL
April 5, 1986

Metallica opens for Ozzy; we hunt down our heroes…

Back in the mid 80s, WVVX ruled our radio world in Chicago. A crappy ethnic station with a weak signal during the day; a metal powerhouse at night. They played bands nobody else would play and it was a ritual to listen each night. Back then, we had (in order of heaviness) Z ROCK, G FORCE, and The Loop. But while the former two would be considered “heavy” in current day radio, we thought they were too corporate back at the time.

On this spring night, my cousin and his friends took me along with them to see Metallica open for Ozzy.  After having seen them in ‘85 and earlier in ‘86 at the Aragon, we set out to see them open for Ozzy.

This was during the ‘Ultimate Sin’ glam era of Ozzy and while I had just started to get into old Black Sabbath albums (stolen from said cousin), this version of Ozzy was a bloated, sequined, hair teased, synth sounding mess.  We weren’t alone in that opinion as it seemed everyone around was also there mainly for Metallica, but would also stick around to see Ozzy as well.

Metallica were blistering. Unlike the previous two concerts, in which I was tossed around like a ragdoll, this one was more memorable. Battery, Puppets, and Bellz started the show and were played faster than on the album. It seemed as though the entire arena was there for Metallica — and while much was made of them playing arenas and later headlining them without any radio or MTV support — it just made sense to us that the biggest band in our world would be playing to crowds that size.

Anyway, being the support act, their set ended in what seemed like a blink of the eye and while some people did leave, most stayed for Ozzy.  His performance was mostly forgettable. The glammed out Ozzy just didn’t resonate with me. About an hour into the show, before the “hits” were played, Ozzy said good night and the house lights came on.  A lot of people booed, and this only served to cement our opinion that his time had come and gone.

Side Note: Ozzy came back in July with Metallica in support and unlike this show, that night many people did leave after Metallica finished.

We piled into my cousin’s friend’s van and (as always) listened to WVVX. On the way back home, we couldn't believe our ears. We started going crazy. Metallica were actually on THAT station. OUR station! The station we could call up and have lengthy discussions with Scott Loftus or Glen The Phone Man about music and shows.

Listen to four part interview here: WVVX Metallica Interview 1986

We knew one thing:  WE HAD TO GO TO THE STATION.

We knew WVVX was located in Highland Park, a suburb north of Chicago, but that was it. You know it was 1986 because we made a stop at a phone booth (huh?) that had a Yellow Pages (what?) in it. No listing. We got change and called 411. We were given an address in Arlington Heights. We knew this couldn’t be true, it HAD to be Highland Park, that’s what they always said on the radio. Someone suggested that maybe they just said Highland Park to throw off the fans. It made sense to us. But we needed a map.  Ranging in age from 9-19, our vast geographical knowledge was mostly limited to our own neighborhoods.

After everyone pitched in money (my contribution: $0.00), we finally secured a map. We made the trek to Arlington Heights to see our heroes. It seemed to take forever, and while my memory is a little hazy, I’m sure we got lost a few times. But they were still live on the radio and getting increasingly more drunk. It didn’t seem like they were leaving anytime soon. And best of all: The band members were frequently going in and out of the studio to meet fans who were showing up outside. Fuck. Yes.

Everyone else was trying to find a pen so they could get their tickets autographed. I was busy trying to think up cool and unique things to say to each of the band members. I can't remember what witty things I thought up, but I do remember this caused an immense amount of anxiety in my nine year old brain. 

It took a while to narrow down the address because it was set back off the street in the corner of an office/industrial complex. There was the radio tower! But oddly, the only building next to the tower was a very small one. The lights were off, a giant fence surrounded the entire structure and there were no cars in sight.  After a sweep of the area: “Do you see a tour bus??” We drove around the entire complex at least five more times, and then sadly gave up. We stopped at a nearby gas station to ask for directions, but nobody had even heard of WVVX let alone know where it is. Adults sucked.

It took some time before we finally realized we were given the address of the radio transmitter, not the actual station. In the weeks that passed, we’d sit and listen to people call up and retell their story of having met the band that night at the station. While I still have a story to tell from that evening, it sure as hell didn’t turn out as expected.

"Fuck it all and fucking no regrets...Never happy ending on these dark sets."