RECORD STORE TALES #942: My Brushes With Metallica
I don’t mind admitting that my first Metallica was Load. Yeah, I was one of them. Hate on if you gotta.
Like many my age, the first exposure came in 1988 via their first music video: “One”. To say the visuals were disturbing would be accurate. Although I did enjoy the song, I didn’t feel the need to hit “record” on my VCR when it come on. Other kids at school sure liked it, and copies of Johnny Got His Gun were claimed to have been read by some of them. I figured I could continue to live without Metallica.
The Black album was released in 1991. I was watching live when Lars Ulrich called in to the Pepsi Power Hour to debut the new music video for “Enter Sandman”. The new, streamlined and uber-produced Metallica looked and sounded good to me. I loved when James said “BOOM!” and thought that hooking up with Bob Rock had worked out brilliantly. The sonics were outstanding. While I enjoyed the singles Metallica released through the next couple years, I never took a dive and bought the album. Why?
Three main reasons. The key one was that I knew, even before I knew I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, that I would feel compelled to collect all the Metallica singles that I had missed over the years. That was, as yet, a bridge too far. Second reason was that I satisfied my craving for that style of Metallica in 1992 when Testament came out with The Ritual. It had a track like “Sandman” called “Electric Crown”. It had a song like “Sad But True” called “So Many Lies”. It was perfect for my needs. Thirdly, for whatever reason I didn’t think I was going to enjoy “old” Metallica, which again, I would feel compelled to collect.
When I started working at the Record Store in 1994, I had the night shifts alone. I could play whatever I wanted and sometimes I gave Metallica a spin. I can remember “Enter Sandman” coming on while I was cleaning, and saying to a customer, “Man I love this song!” He nodded awkwardly and wondered why I was telling him.
A bit later I was hanging out with this guy Chris. He was extolling the virtues of thrash metal, and put on Kill ‘Em All. I was astonished when “Blitzkrieg” came on. “I know this song! I love this song!” I exclaimed as I jumped up. Air guitar in hand, I started bangin’ to the riff. “This is a song by Blitzkrieg,” I explained to Chris. “It’s on the New Wave of British Heavy Metal CD that Lars Ulrich produced. I didn’t know he covered it.”
This is the point at which I like to say I became a Metallica fan. Collecting the older stuff was still daunting, and a lot of it was expensive because it was out of print. Which is really why it took Load for me to finally buy a Metallica CD.
1996 was a glorious but so stressing summer! I was managing my own Record Store for the first time. The weather was gorgeous. The stock we had was incredible. The stress came from staff, which turned over faster than a dog begging for belly rubs! There was “Sally” who was caught paying herself excessive amounts of cash for the used CDs she was selling to the store. There was The Boy Who Killed Pink Floyd who came to work hungover and worse. And, most trying of all, music sucked for people like me who missed the great rock of the 70s and 80s.
On June 4, Metallica released Load to great anticipation. Their new short-haired look (a Lars and Kirk innovation) turned heads and it was said that Metallica had abandoned metal and gone alternative. Of course this was stretching the truth a tad. Metallica had certainly abandoned thrash metal on Load, and arguably earlier. Alternative? Only in appearance (particularly Kirk Hammett with eye makeup and new labret piercing).
Load was the kind of rock I liked. The kind of rock I missed through the recent alterna-years. I had been buying Oasis CDs just to get some kind of new rock in my ears. Finally here comes Metallica, with the exact kind of music that I liked, and at the exact time I needed it.
And yes, I did immediately start collecting the rarities and back catalogue. Garage Days and Kill ‘Em All (with “Blitzkrieg” and “Am I Evil?”) were both out of print at that time. I snapped up the first copies I could get my hands on, when they came in used inventory. We were selling them for $25 each, no discount. I later found a copy of a “Sad But True” single featuring the coveted “So What” at Encore Records for $20. The new Load singles were added to my collection upon release. The truth is, I picked the best possible time to get into Metallica collecting: when I was managing my own used CD store! I soon had the “Creeping Death” / “Jump In the Fire” CD. A Japanese import “One” CD single only cemented what a lucky bastard I was to be working there.
Because Metallica came to me relatively later in life, today they never provoke the kind of golden memories that Kiss or Iron Maiden do. However the summer of ’96 was defined by Metallica. Driving the car, buddy T-Rev next to me, playing drums on his lap. His hands and thighs got sore from playing car-drums so hard. Load was our album of the summer and it sounded brilliant in the car. Hate if you hafta, but that’s the way it went down for this guy in the dreary 90s.