DON DOKKEN: Touring With METALLICA In 1988 Was 'Kind Of Maybe The Reason' Classic DOKKEN Lineup Broke Up

October 12, 2023

During an appearance on the latest episode of the "Battleline" podcast, Don Dokken reflected on DOKKEN's participation in the 1988 "Monsters Of Rock" U.S. stadium tour, also featuring VAN HALEN, SCORPIONS, METALLICA and KINGDOM COME. The trek kicked off in East Troy, Wisconsin on May 27 that year and took in 28 dates over the ensuing weeks before concluding on July 30 in Denver.

"Yeah, that was a tough tour, because they hadn't done the 'Black Album' yet," Don said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET). "I mean, METALLICA's now the biggest band in the world… And that was kind of maybe the reason we broke up, because of METALLICA. Because when we played the stadium tour, METALLICA came on stage every day with this attitude like, you know, do or die. I mean, they just gave it 100 percent, 110 percent. They were kicking ass. They were just coming out with '…And Justice For All', which was not my favorite METALLICA album. And they hadn't done the 'Black album' yet that's now took them into superstardom. And I would talk to the band. I'd say, 'Look at METALLICA.' And they're opening for us. And we had the same manager. And I used to say, 'Well, Cliff [Burnstein], I know they're opening up and they're only making half the money as us, but could you put them on after us?' Because when METALLICA went on and they closed the show with whatever it was, 'Kill 'Em All' or something like that, we're coming on stage doing 'In My Dreams', we look like THE MONKEES practically, 'cause we're just a straight-ahead rock and roll band. But I respected METALLICA so much because we'd be in Texas and it'd be, like, 105 degrees and they'd go on at, like, 3 o'clock, and it's just sweltering hot. But they went on every day. METALLICA had this mindset that, 'If this is our last show, we die. So be it.' They gave it 110 percent."

Don continued: "We'd been on the road for a year and a half. And I think we just kind of got full of ourselves. I mean, we had toured with AEROSMITH and all these other bands, and we weren't playing well, in my opinion, because the drugs. When you're on stage in front of a hundred thousand people, and I'm trying to front the band, and you've got all these cameras on you and big screens, and the camera would go to George [Lynch, DOKKEN guitarist] during a solo, and I'd look over and there's no George on stage. Where's George? I hear him playing, but he wasn't on stage, because he was standing behind his Marshall amplifiers doing coke. And I begged and pleaded and said, 'Is there any way you guys can't do drugs for 90 minutes?' And basically they said no. They were doing coke on stage and it was really, for me, depressing. I started the band, the band's called DOKKEN, and everybody was doing coke on stage. And I was, like, 'Jesus Christ.' And that's when the band unraveled."

Back in April 2021, Lynch told MetalTalk about DOKKEN's stadium tour with METALLICA: "That was pretty much the pinnacle of it, wasn't it? That was the last big tour of that style, I think, in that kind of giant rock arena tour, I think that was the last one. So it was kind of an end of an era. Nobody knew it at the time. And we were misplaced on that bill. It was kind of good for us, I guess, in a way, but we were billed over METALLICA; they hadn't quite gone over the edge yet. We had the same management company [Q Prime], so we were very fortunate to get that spot.

"The thing I will never understand about the management and that tour and the band was that in their insane thinking, the management called a meeting before the tour started and informed the band that Don was gonna be breaking the band up and trying to just hire us as musicians on the band," he continued. "Or else, if that didn't work, we didn't agree to that, he was just gonna leave, keep the name and kick us out. [And that was] before the tour started — literally days before it started.

"I operate — or at least then operated — out of a sense of commitment and on a mission. We built this thing as a family, as friends, as a band of brothers. And that was really the struggle between Don and I. Don was kind of out for himself and used people as best he could. I'm not saying this in a derogatory way. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, because we succeeded because of him and that mentality — the way he views the world and the way he operates. He's able to do things that I personally couldn't do, or I wouldn't live with myself. For better or worse, I don't know if it's good or bad — I can't even say — but we benefited from it. But it also was a double-edged sword and it worked against us in a sense that we split everything up equal, we all worked hard and to the best of our abilities, and we all contributed what we have to contribute, and a rising tide floats all boats and we all win. And we have this sense of like we did it together, and there's enough to go around. Don saw the writing on the wall, and with the managers' help, decided that he wanted the whole thing for himself. Because we were up for renegotiation on our [record] contract. And that's where you wanna be in this career. When you build yourself up and you double your record sales every record for three consecutive [albums], and then your contract ends and you have to renegotiate that contract, that is exactly where you wanna be.

"When you renegotiate, you're negotiating from a position of strength. And now you're MÖTLEY CRÜE, now you're VAN HALEN, now you're set for life," George explained. "And we all were looking at that, and we all worked for that, and we all earned that, and we should have been patting each other on the back and in a really good place. Instead Don took that as, 'Well, I'm gonna take this all for myself, and fuck these guys.' I had to go on stage knowing that every night. And it depressed me, and I kind of just fell into drugs and alcohol and just went out and went through the motions. I was quite dispirited. I mean, I had some good shows, but I was maybe just faking it to a certain extent, 'cause I was definitely dispirited. All this for this, and now I have to go out and put on a face? I'm just sort of like a 'wear my heart on my sleeve' kind of guy, and it was [very hard] for me to do. It was very depressing. And the only way I'd deal with it was drugs and alcohol."

All the members of DOKKEN's classic 1980s lineup — Dokken, Lynch, bassist Jeff Pilson and drummer Mick Brown — reunited on stage for the first time in more than a decade in November 2009 at the House of Blues in Anaheim, California.

Seven years ago, the four musicians rejoined forces for a short Japanese tour. The trek marked the first time in 21 years they had hit the road together.

A DOKKEN concert DVD focusing on the band's reunion tour, "Return To The East Live (2016)", was made available in 2018. In addition to the Japanese performance, the set included footage from the classic lineup's only U.S. show in September 2016 at Badlands in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, as well as newly recorded acoustic reworkings of "Heaven Sent" and "Will The Sun Rise". Also featured on "Return To The East Live (2016)" was "It's Just Another Day", the first DOKKEN track featuring the group's classic lineup since 1997's "Shadowlife".

Since completing the Japanese reunion dates, DOKKEN has continued to perform with the group's current lineup — including bassist Chris McCarvill, guitarist Jon Levin and drummer BJ Zampa (HOUSE OF LORDS).

DOKKEN will release its 13th studio album, "Heaven Comes Down", on October 27 via Silver Lining Music. The LP was produced by Bill Palmer and Don Dokken and was mixed by Kevin Shirley (AEROSMITH, IRON MAIDEN).

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