The A-Z Of Metallica

They’re the biggest heavy metal band of all time and have had nothing short of a rollercoaster career. But how much do you know? Here’s the complete 26-point alphabetical guide to everything ‘Tallica related – from Alcoholica to Zazula.

A is for Alcoholica

It’s no exaggeration to say that if it wasn’t for alcohol, there almost certainly would never have been a Metallica, with the super-introverted James Hetfield leaning heavily on booze from day one in order to conquer his stage fright and crippling shyness. On Ride The Lighting the quartet gave a shout out to Carlsberg, by Master Of Puppets their burgeoning status meant they were giving “xtra fucken yahooz” to Absolut Vodka. But as Hetfield later noted, the Alcoholica tag “turned from fun into destruction: it started to take over us.” Hetfield’s subsequent admission into rehab circa St. Anger saved his band, his marriage and quite possibly his life.

B is for Burton, Cliff

Though taken from this world in tragic circumstances on September 27, 1986, Clifford Lee Burton aka ‘The Legend in Loon Pants’, will always be part of Metallica. That James Hetfield, Dave Mustaine and Lars Ulrich were prepared to uproot from Los Angeles to San Francisco purely to make Burton part of their band speaks volumes about the bassist’s charisma and talent, and his musicianship, compositional skills and creative fearlessness helped transform a scrappy garage band into a genuinely world class outfit. He will be forever missed.

C is for Covers

From 1987’s $5.98 EP (Jason Newsted’s first recording with the band) to 1998’s Garage Inc. collection through to their 2012 cover of Deep Purple’s When A Blind Man Cries (exclusively covered for a Classic Rock fan-pack magazine), Metallica have never been shy of paying tribute to their influences. Indeed at their very first gigs, back in March/April 1982, the quartet would play up to seven or eight cover songs a night, neglecting to tell those watching that the likes of Am I Evil? and Killing Time were in fact NWOBHM originals. Cunning.

D is for Doris

The crumbling centre-piece of Metallica’s …And Justice For All stage-set, Doris aka ‘Lady Justice’ represented Metallica’s first real foray into stage production. Pulled out of storage for the band’s 2012 The Full Arsenal tour, the statue was one of the ‘stars’ of the Through The Never film, and was subsequently broken up into chunks and given away with a special deluxe edition of the movie on DVD. Perhaps they should have used the chunks of masonry to stone to death whoever conceived the utterly shit script instead. Just a thought…

E is for Ednas

‘Edna’ was Metallica slang for any young lady willing to spend time, and share bodily fluids with, band or crew members. The young Californians weren’t particularly choosy, and clearly the young ladies who wanted to hook up with these stinky, spotty, bumfluff-‘tache- sporting metalheads weren’t either. “They enjoyed what they did,” James Hetfield told Playboy in 2001. “And, heh-heh, they were good at it. Back then, we all shared stuff. ‘I did her. Dude, here! Have my chick.’ Lars would charm them, talk his way into their pants. Kirk had a baby face that was appealing to the girls. And Cliff – he had a big dick. Word got around about that, I guess.”

F is for Fade To Black

Metallica’s first ballad (accompanied, inevitably, by the first accusations that they’d “sold out”), dealt with themes of suicide, helplessness and despair, and was originally inspired by the theft of the band’s gear in Boston in January 1984. “I’m sure I wasn’t really thinking of killing myself,” James Hetfield noted, “but it was my favourite Marshall amp!” When the band first premiered the song in San Francisco, their mates in the audience took the piss by waving hankies at the stage.

G is for Glastonbury

Yeah, this happened: you might remember there being some talk about it last year. For all the heat and light generated by Metallica’s decision to headline Worthy Farm, the gig itself was rather unremarkable, just another crushing day at the office for the biggest metal band in the world. The bespoke ‘Glastallica’ T-shirt and specially-commissioned Julian Temple intro film are works of genius, though.

H is for Hetfield and Hammett

Gorham and Robertson. Smith and Murray. Tipton and Downing. Not a ‘twin’ guitar team in the classic sense, Hetfield and Hammett are nonetheless one of the most formidable and well-respected duos in six string science. Arguably the best rhythm guitar player in metal, Hetfield didn’t actually permit Kirk Hammett to record rhythm parts on a Metallica album until Load, while the decision to restrict their gifted lead guitarist to only rhythms parts on St. Anger remains one of the most curious decisions of the band’s career.

I is for I Disappear

Recorded at the personal request of M:i-2 star Tom Cruise, I Disappear, Metallica’s first ever contribution to a Hollywood film soundtrack, is most significant because its appearance – in unfinished form – on peer-to-peer music sharing networks sparked off Lars Ulrich’s epic, much-misunderstood battle with Napster. Mercilessly abused at the time for his campaign, Ulrich’s arguments have proved uncannily accurate, even if the affair left an unpleasant stain on Metallica’s public profile.

J is for Junior Dad

At 19 minutes 29 seconds long, the closing track of Lulu, Metallica’s controversial collaboration with Lou Reed is the longest piece of music Metallica have ever recorded. It’s also the first Metallica song to reduce both Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield to tears. “It was insane,” recalled Hammett of the moment he and Hetfield broke down in the studio. “[Lou Reed] managed to take out both guitar players in Metallica in one fell swoop, with his amazingly poetic lyrics. And [then] he came into the kitchen and he was laughing. He looked at James and I and said, ‘That’s a good one, huh?’”

K is for Kill ‘Em All

They may have been forced to back down from their original plan to call it Metal Up Your Ass, but Metallica’s debut album was otherwise compromise-free: an unkempt, snarling, in-your-face riff assault which re-defined the metal genre. On the opening day of the two week KEA recording session producer Paul Curcio pulled James Hetfield aside and informed him that the sound coming from his Marshall amp didn’t sound ‘normal’: “It’s not meant to sound normal,” Hetfield spat back. And so a legend was born.

L is for Load

The haircuts! The guy-liner! The blood-and-semen artwork! When Metallica’s sixth album emerged in 1996 it was accompanied by howls of protest by devoted fans who couldn’t figure out what the fuck their favourite band was doing. “Cliff would have hated this!” they howled, seemingly oblivious to the fact that it’s more bluesy, ‘greasy’ feel drew much inspiration from many of the late bassist’s favourite bands – ZZ Top, Skynyrd and Thin Lizzy among them. It’s better than you remember, honest.

M is for Mustaine

On the morning of April 11, 1983 Dave Mustaine was rudely awoken by James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, and Cliff Burton and informed that he was no longer a member of Metallica. It was a brutal exit for the guitarist who’d contributed much to the band’s early sound, and was viewed by many at the time as the group’s de facto leader. Dumped at NYC’s Port Authority bus station, Mustaine’s anger only increased when he realised he’d be undertaking the three day trip back to California without a single cent in his pockets. “It had to happen,” James Hetfield later mused. “[With] his personality in this band, there would have been myself, Lars and him all trying to drive and it would have been this triangulated mess.”

N is for Newsted

With hindsight, it’s easy to see why, but jeez, in the early days of his time in the band, Metallica were absolute dicks to ‘Newkid’ Jason Newsted. One hilarious ‘wheeze’ found Metallica informing the media that their new bassist was gay, another saw them charge thousands of dollars worth of drinks to the hapless new recruit’s hotel room. At autograph signing sessions, James Hetfield would adjust Newsted’s custom signature ‘Jason, bass face’ to read ‘Jason, ass face.’ Hilarious stuff. When Newsted walked out of the band in January 17, 2001, following a fight with Hetfield over his desire to release music with his side-band Echobrain, his exit precipitated a psychological meltdown for his former friends.

O is for Orion

Using the title of Cliff Burton’s classically-informed instrumental masterpiece as the name of their own bespoke music festival was a nice touch from Metallica. For all the goodwill and positive press generated by the event however, after just two stagings, Orion is now effectively dead in the water. “It’s been a disaster financially,” James Hetfield admitted bluntly. “Right now, it seems like metal is struggling a little bit in the States.”

P is for Paradise Lost

In licensing their music to Paradise Lost, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s documentary about the West Memphis Three, Metallica threw their weight behind the campaign to have the convictions of Damian Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley Jr, three Arkansas teenagers accused of the murder of three eight year old boys, over-turned. In 2011, after 18 years in jail, the three young men finally walked free, by which time the film-makers had already turned their cameras on Metallica themselves, for the film Some Kind Of Monster.

Q is for Quintana

As anyone who’s ever been in a band will testify, choosing a good band name is a painful, tortuous business. When the teenage James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich decided to unite in the cause of heavy metal, their initial ideas were not exactly inspiring, with Helldriver, Death Chamber, Exterminator and er, Thunderfuck among the monikers under consideration. By coincidence, however, Ulrich’s friend Ron Quintana was searching for a title for his new fanzine around the same time, and had shown a list of potential names to the little Dane. The canny drummer duly advised Quintana to go with the name Metal Mania, while filing away the next suggestion on his pal’s list – Metallica – for his own use.

R is for Riots

Just as Spinal Tap’s manager Ian Faith liked to carry around a cricket bat (“In the topsy turvy world of heavy rock having a good solid piece of wood in your hands is often useful”) so Cliff Burton never left home without his trusty ball pen hammer. During a tension-filled gig in Finland on the Ride The Lightning tour, the wisdom of that decision became obvious when Burton dispersed a rioting crowd of pissed-off teenagers by wading into their midst swinging his hammer like a vengeful hippy Thor. If the Californians thought this would be the only disturbance to mar their concert history, they had yet to encounter Mr Axl Rose…

S is for Some Kind Of Monster

What. A. Film. A raw, unflinching depiction of Metallica’s fumbling attempts to hold their band together in the wake of Jason Newsted’s exit and James Hetfield’s disappearance into rehab, Some Kind Of Monster is one of the greatest music documentaries ever made. Not least because of this scene…

T is for ‘Tub Tarts’

‘Tub tarts’ was the not terribly PC name given to any adventurous young female who wished to prolong an evening with Metallica by joining the band for a post-gig shower. Things, predictably, would get a little steamy from this point on. “It started around the Ozzy tour, was perfected around the Black Album tour,” recalled Kirk Hammett. “It was a pretty big motivation at one point, just how many women we could get into the shower. I remember one time I turned the corner and there were at least 30 women in there…”

U is for Ulrich

Aka The Little Prince. Whatever truth there might be in the rumours that James Hetfield and Cliff Burton were of a mind to kick their motormouth Danish drummer out of his own band in 1986, there’s simply no question that Metallica would have amounted to anything without the driving ambition, networking ability and sheer bloody-minded work ethic of the young Lars Ulrich. Haters gonna hate, but when it comes to Metallica business, their biggest fan usually has the last laugh.

V is for Video

Despite MTV’s undoubted ability to break metal bands into the mainstream, Metallica refused to shoot a promo video for any of the songs from Kill ‘Em All, Ride The Lightning or Master Of Puppets. The quartet finally acquiesced on the …And Justice For All album, but on their own terms, with a stark, horrifying meditation upon war which still gives Editor Simon Young nightmares…

W is for Whiplash

“Bang your head against the stage like you never did before. Make it ring, make it bleed, make it really sore…” Metallica have written more sophisticated songs, but as mission statements go, this paean to the unadulterated thrill of pure heavy fucking metal is hard to top. Some 33 years after the teenage James Hetfield penned its lyrics, the lines “we’ll never stop, we’ll never quit ‘cause we’re Metallica” remain a wonderful statement of intent.

X is for X-Rated

On November 14, 1996 Metallica were billed to appear alongside the likes of George Michael, Boyzone and Simply Red at the MTV Europe Music Awards, staged at London’s Alexandra Palace. Rather than playing new single King Nothing as scheduled, however, the quartet chose instead to treat a watching television audience in the tens of millions to a cover of the Anti-Nowhere League’s So What. “I fucked a sheep, I fucked a goat, I rammed my cock right down its throat” sang a beaming James Hetfield above the sound of MTV executives’ jaws bouncing off the venue floor. Priceless.

Y is for Yea-Yuhhh!

We’re just going to leave this one here…

Z is for Zazula, Jonny

Metallica’s first manager, a New Jersey record store owner who re-mortaged his house to start Megaforce Records to release Kill ‘Em All when no label in the world showed the slightest interest in the noisy Californians. Should you ever stumble across him, buy that man a pint from us.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.