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Metallica Week – Day 3: An Excerpt from the Book!

TO CELEBRATE THE UPCOMING RELEASE OF OUR 108TH 33 1/3 ON  METALLICA, WE’RE PLEASED TO BRING YOU THE THIRD INSTALLMENT OF METALLICA WEEK BY AUTHOR DAVID MASCIOTRA

In the sweaty summer of 1990, Metallica opened for Aerosmith in Toronto, Canada at the CNE Fairgrounds. It had been twelve years, but it had passed in what must have seemed like the time it takes to tune a guitar, since James Hetfield would drop the needle on Toys in the Attic, look at his bedroom wall adorned by Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, and imagine himself on stage, creating the controlled chaos and funneled fury of hard rock. Now, he was the center of posters in air guitar adolescent bedrooms all over the world. He was the idol for other precocious teenagers, and he was sharing billing with his idols. Aerosmith played their seminal tributes to the hedonism and liberation of rock ‘n’ roll—“Walk This Way,” “Dream On,” and “Same Old Song and Dance.” They slithered and slid through the songs from Pump, the album they were there to sell to a lusty public: “Love In an Elevator,” “F.I.N.E.,” and “Young Lust.”

As Aerosmith gave visual and aural evidence, for the millionth time, cementing their place in the pantheon of soul groove gods, Metallica talked. Hetfield and Ulrich were sitting in a private area underneath the audience—the “bowels of the stadium,” as Lars put it—listening to Perry’s riffs and Tyler’s shouts reverberating down into their quarters. “We talked about the approach for the next album—shorter songs, simpler songs.” Hetfield might have had memories of his teenage nights, and perhaps Ulrich was going back to a time and place even earlier—a different summer night when he was only five, and his parents took him to a free outdoor concert with the world’s biggest rock ‘n’ roll band.“The Rolling Stones came up.” Another band, different from the Stones and Aerosmith in speed and style, but sharing the spirit of rock defiance played a part in the conversation—“The Misfits came up.”

“I remember us talking about writing edgy and heavy Metallica songs, but referencing people like the Misfits, in terms of the other extreme—the two-minute song,” Ulrich explained. “We didn’t walk out of there with an agenda, but we were inspired to try to simplify.”

Kirk Hammett said that Metallica would consistently joke and talk about their “quest for world domination.” Taking over the world of rock, becoming the royal ambassadors of heavy metal, and making and breaking music history might not have been on any agenda either, but when four guys walked out of a Canadian stadium thinking about Aerosmith, AC/DC, The Rolling Stones, The Misfits, and The Ramones, it was about to happen.

– David Masciotra

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