For Jason Newsted, at the time the 23-year-old bassist of Arizona thrashers Flotsam and Jetsam, the opportunity to audition for the role of bass player in Metallica, vacated by the tragic passing of Cliff Burton on September27, 1986 was a huge honour: “Just to be amongst them was very special,” the Michigan-born musician tells Metal Hammer, in one of 40 new interviews published in a special ‘Metallica 40’ issue, celebrating the Californian metal superstars’ 40th birthday.
Newsted didn’t fly to San Francisco in the autumn of 1986 as just another Metallica fanboy however: “I went in totally prepared and confident,” he recalls today. The last man to audition for James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett and Lars Ulrich, the bassist quickly emerged as a frontrunner for the position: Newsted’s return flight had barely touched down in Phoenix, Arizona before Ulrich phoned to ask him to return to California for a more comprehensive try-out.
“That evening, it was the third day that I played with the boys, I think I stayed overnight in San Francisco for the first time,” Newsted recalls. “That third night, they had ‘the elders’ come in for their blessing. So Torben Ulrich, the Burtons, a couple of the crew guys, people that had been there from the get-go… We got through about six tunes: Master…, Fade To Black, …Bell Tolls, the masterpieces! So I am just composing myself for a second, putting my bass down, turning off Cliff’s amp - I’m playing fucking Cliff’s amp dude! Jan [Burton, Cliff’s mother] comes walking in the room by herself, and she grabs me, and gets my attention. She says, ‘Great job, son’ and I’m like, ‘Oh fuck!’ She embraced me, and it seemed like it was quite a while, and she said, ‘You’re the one, you must be the one. Please be safe, we love you,’ and she gave me a kiss. That was 35 years ago, and I'll never, ever forget it.”
For the full Jason Newsted interview, and interviews with Metallica’s friends, heroes, collaborators and former members, pick up the new issue of Metal Hammer.