Metallica pissed off their first managers by raiding their drinks cabinet and drinking a bottle of champagne they'd been saving since their wedding day

(Image credit: Pete Cronin/Redferns)

It's not unfair to say that Metallica had some issues with alcohol abuse long, long before frontman James Hetfield checked himself into rehab during the band's studio sessions for the St. Anger record: the quartet didn't earn the nickname 'Alcoholica' for their measured, moderate and mature attitude to the consumption of booze.

In fact, the San Francisco-based fondness for alcohol actually threatened to derail their career before it even started, ahead of the recording of their debut album Kill 'Em All

Bad enough that, having been invited to America's East Coast by Jon 'Jonny Z' Zazula and his wife Marsha, who so loved the quartet's No Life 'Til Leather demo cassette that they were prepared to start their own record label to get Metallica's music out into the world, the band turned up at the Zazula's family home in New Jersey with the revelation that they were going to fire their lead guitarist Dave Mustaine because of drinking problem: compounding this, the feral Californians repaid the couple's kindness in letting them crash in the basement of their Old Bridge, New Jersey home by raiding the pair's drinks cabinet and necking a bottle of champagne that the couple had been saving since receiving it on their wedding day. 

A somewhat shame-faced James Hetfield shared this story in a special tribute video the band prepared ahead of their recent Florida show honouring the memory and legacy of the Zazulas, at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, on November 6.

"They put up with a lot of shit from us," Hetfield admits in the clip.

The video finds Hetfield, Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett, Mustaine's replacement, reminiscing about their earliest memories of the Zazulas, who passed away in 2021 (Marsha) and 2022 (Jon).

At the outset of the video, Hetfield recalls standing at a phone booth in El Cerrito, California, as his motormouthed Danish drummer spoke to Jonny Z for the first time, and was invited to come to New Jersey to record an album. 

"We were ready for whatever at that time," adds Ulrich. "We threw all our shit in a U-Haul truck, spent about a week going across the country, and ended up in Old Bridge, New Jersey... Ground Zero for everything that was Metallica... was their house."

"We were just wild and unruly," Hetfield continues, leading into the drinks cabinet raid story. "She [Marsha] was pissed: 'Dude, I was saving that! That was the champagne from our wedding!' They found us a place to live after that..."

Watch the full video, posted by YouTuber Kick Ass Forever, below:  

Metallica's set list on the night was as folows:

1. Creeping Death
2. Ride The Lightning
3. Motorbreath
4. No Remorse
5. Trapped Under Ice
6. The Call Of Ktulu
7. Phantom Lord
8. Am I Evil
9. Metal Militia
10. For Whom The Bell Tolls }
11. Whiplash
12. Fade To Black
13. Seek & Destroy


14. Fight Fire With Fire
15. Bliztkrieg
16. Hit The Lights

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. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.