Before he wrote Nothing Else Matters, James Hetfield considered love songs ‘a sign of weakness’

James Hetfield
(Image credit: Michel Linssen/Redferns))

Metallica’s James Hetfield admits to feeling conflicted after writing one of his band’s biggest hits, the third single from ‘The Black Album’, Nothing Else Matters.

Written about Hetfield missing his then-girlfriend Kristen Martinez while on tour, the tender power-ballad is one of the most striking songs on Metallica’s self-titled fifth album, but Hetfield confesses to Classic Rock that he was in two minds as to whether it should even be recorded for the album.

“What was it about not wanting to write a love song?” he asks rhetorically. “That’s pretty easy. It’s a huge sign of weakness. You’re in Metallica. This is hardcore. What the fuck are you doing?”

"At first I didn't even want to play it for the guys,” Hetfield admitted to MOJO in 2008. “I thought that Metallica could only be the four of us. These are songs about destroying things, head banging, bleeding for the crowd, whatever it is, as long as it wasn't about chicks and fast cars, even though that's what we liked."

“But that song was for me,” Hetfield tells Classic Rock. “It’s about being on the road, missing someone at home. But it was written in such a way that it connected with so many people. It wasn’t just about two people. It was about a connection with your higher power, lots of different things.”

“All I could think of at the time was, ‘James wrote a fucking love song to his girlfriend? That’s just weird’,” Kirk Hammett later admitted. “James always wanted to be perceived as this guy who is very confident and strong. And for him to wrote lyrics like that - showing a sensitive side - took a lot of balls.”

Metallica are set to reissue the ‘Black Album’ on September 10 to celebrate its 30th anniversary. 

This deluxe reissue will be accompanied by the release of a huge, 53-artist Metallica tribute album, The Metallica Blacklist, featuring artists such as Ghost, Corey Taylor, Miley Cyrus (with Elton John), St. Vincent, Biffy Clyro, Idles, The Hu, Dave Gahan, Weezer, Chase & Status and covering tracks from the 1991 album.

You can hear Miley Cyrus’ versjon of Nothing Else Matters, featuring Andrew Watt, Elton John, Yo-Yo Ma, Robert Trujillo and Chad Smith below.

The new issue of Classic Rock featuring Pearl Jam, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Genesis, Styx, Gojira and many more, is out now.

Classic Rock issue 290

(Image credit: Future)
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