On October 28, 1986, just three weeks after the funeral of Cliff Burton, 23-year-old Jason Newsted was officially installed as Metallica’s new bass player. Less than two weeks later, on November 8, the San Francisco band made their first public appearance with their new man, appearing unbilled as support to their friends Metal Church at the 1,000 capacity Country Club in Reseda, California. It would prove to be an emotional night for all in attendance.
The new-look Metallica played 14 songs on the night, starting their set with Master Of Puppets opener Battery, and closing, as a second encore, with Fight Fire With Fire, the opening track on Ride The Lightning. Happily, for those of us who couldn’t be in attendance, some bright spark decided to tape the gig, preserving this seminal moment for future generations of metalheads.
While this document of the night omits both the set’s opening and closing songs, the 51 minutes of music uploaded to YouTube finds Metallica in ferocious form, and clearly delighted to be back onstage once again, following the horrific bus crash in Sweden which claimed 24-year-old Burton’s life on September 27.
“Welcome to the very, very secret Metallica gig that every fucker knows about!” says James Hetfield after the quartet perform Master Of Puppets together in public for the first time. “Here’s the new fucker right over here man, this is the guy… Jason Newsted, we fucking love him, man, so make him feel at home, alright? I want to have some fun tonight.”
“I was there for Jason’s first show and it was fantastic” recalls Doug Goodman, one of the San Francisco Bay Area metal scene’s original ‘Trues’, and later a tour manager for Slayer, Green Day and Smashing Pumpkins. “Everyone in the audience knew who Jason was because we all knew him from [Newsted’s former band] Flotsam And Jetsam. I remember everyone there was looking forward to the show.”
“It was a different situation from when Kirk [Hammett] joined the band. There were some people who didn’t like Kirk when he joined Metallica because they were mad that Dave Mustaine had been thrown out of the band. I remember at one of Kirk’s early shows in Palo Alto, someone pulled the power on his [equipment] rig. But when Jason joined the band there was no one that felt any animosity towards him. And why would they? It’s obviously not his fault that there was a fucking bus crash that had caused someone to die. It has nothing to do with him that a position in Metallica had opened up in the first place. So Jason is coming in not as someone on hand to save the day, but just as a kid who finds himself in circumstances that neither he nor Metallica could have imagined. Everyone watching knew that, and that’s why they were rooting for him.”
This is the sound of metal history being made.