24 Years Ago: Western Rockers Play the Moscow Music Peace Festival
Twenty-four years ago, a remarkable lineup boasting some of the world’s most popular hard-rock and heavy-metal bands performed at the Moscow Music Peace Festival. Artists included including Bon Jovi, Ozzy Osbourne, Motley Crue, the Scorpions, Skid Row and Cinderella.
For hundreds of thousands of ecstatic Russian youths, the two-day event (which also featured homegrown rock bands like Gorky Park, Brigada-S and Nuance) was a lifelong dream come true: the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll manifestation of Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev’s so-called Glasnost policies, which slowly opened the Soviet Union to the outside world and thawed the decades-old Cold War.
For the rockers slated to perform, the Moscow Music Peace Festival offered a singular opportunity to swoop into a colossal and largely untapped market. They were there to expose their music to thousands of prospective fans who were eager to absorb every bit of rock ‘n’ roll they could get their hands on.
For manager Doc McGhee, who oversaw the business concerns for every band that made the trip, the mega-event conceived and orchestrated by his Make a Difference Foundation doubled as … community service? Yep. Despite recent unsubstantiated claims to the contrary, McGhee had been found guilty of drug trafficking the previous year and, as part of his plea bargain to avoid jail time, launched the foundation to help promote anti-drug messages through events like the Moscow Music Peace Festival. Whatever the case, it’s supremely ironic that almost every artist who performed probably did so under the influence of controlled substances, as rock stars are in the habit of doing.
Still, the Moscow Music Peace Festival rewarded thousands of oppressed Soviet youths with a well-deserved couple of days of loud, colorful musical entertainment. But it produced a mountain of headaches for McGhee due to the clashing egos on display. When it was all over, Motley Crue and Bon Jovi both fired him. Maybe they should have left the “peace” out of the title.