Because the UK has gone ’tallica wild this week, we thought it best to head over to France to sample the band’s Worldwired… tour early, before counting down their 25 best jams
SINCE THE very BEGINNING, METALLICA HAVE HAD A SPECIAL Bond WITH BRITAIN. From READING ABOUT our record SHOPS IN THEIR Bedrooms, To HEADLINING our BIGGEST FESTIVALS, we’ve HAD QUITE THE RELATIONSHIP. AS THEY prepare For THEIR FIRST uk Tour IN EIGHT YEARS,
‘ Ileft my heart in San Francisco,’ goes the song, a love letter from crooning lounge lizard Tony Bennett to his favourite city. Coincidentally enough, Kirk Hammett, a son of Frisco himself, has a similar story about one of his own favourite places: London.
Except it wasn’t his heart he left there, it’s not a romantic tale, and we doubt Tony meant it quite so literally or as bloodily as this.
“I had to have an emergency appendix removal in London,” laughs Metallica’s guitarist.“we were doing press there, and I was bent double in pain.at first I thought it was a hangover, but it was just getting worse and worse. I called my wife and said,‘i’ve got really bad indigestion or something,’ and she told me to go and get an electric blanket and put it on my stomach. But what that did was, it cooked my appendix! So I called down to the front desk and said, ‘I need to get a doctor.’ He came and said,‘you’re really, really bad.we can’t call an ambulance because it’ll take too long. I’m going to have to take you to the hospital myself.’ He took me to St Thomas’ hospital in his car, and I had to go straight into surgery there and then and get it removed.”
One lucky fan even got the thrill of thinking they’d won a piece of genuine Metallica offal (“We gave it away as a
contest prize, but it was just a sausage in a jar!” hoots Kirk). But as manky as this story is, it’s just one of many anecdotes the men of Metallica have about their special relationship with our green and pleasant land. From the influence and inspiration drawn from early British metal heroes and getting Kerrang! on import before they were even signed, to headlining Donington for the first time and using the UK as a proving ground for not one, but two new bassists, via low-key, gold-dust ticket shows that have taken their rightful places as major chapters in Metallica lore, the band are as at home in London as at their HQ in San Francisco. Hell, it was (in part) a teenaged Lars Ulrich’s “pilgrimage” here in the summer of 1981 that solidified his desire to pursue a career in music, rather than tennis, after spending several weeks punting around with the cream of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal movement like Diamond Head, Iron Maiden and Motörhead.
We’re talking about all this not in a London boozer (despite Kirk’s professed love for “British bitter and Carlsberg Special Brew” the first time he visited the UK), but in Lyon, France, at the start of the European leg of their globe-straddling Worldwired Tour. But they’re coming. Oh yes, Metallica are coming.and this will be their first proper UK tour, in proper venues, since 2009. No festivals. No tiny, secret, one-off things. Just Metallica, the UK’S biggest arenas, and tens of thousands of fans going apeshit on a real album tour.tonight, as a chargedup James Hetfield bellows “Metallica loves you, Lyon!” from a 360-degree, in-the-round stage, above which appear some of the most eye-melting visuals this band have ever had, it gets the standard giant roar in return. But you can’t help feeling that when he does it in London or Manchester, he’s going to be hit with a bill for fixing the roof. Get ready, UK: Metallica are coming home…
When you put the word ‘Anglophile’ to Lars Ulrich, he turns it over in his mouth like a good wine, eventually smiling and nodding in something of agreement.a favourite place of his to stay is Claridges, the old-fashioned London hotel where the doormen still wear top hats and the dress code stipulates “No ripped jeans, vests or baseball caps”. He lists Oasis’ Definitely Maybe as a favourite record, and Glastonbury as a favourite festival (“It’s unlike any other festival. I like to go and just lose the world for a few days…”).
The first time Lars Ulrich came here, it was for music. Metallica weren’t even a band then; they hadn’t even met one another. But it was during that holiday in 1981 that the young Lars realised that starting a band was definitely going to the top of his ‘to-do’ list. Already a big music fan, he’d read about bands coming out of the UK in the British weekly music press he’d get on import in his local record shop.
“The weeklies were really important,” he explains, lounging on a sofa in one of the arena’s many backstage rooms. “Kerrang!, Sounds, Melody Maker… that’s where you’d hear about a lot of new bands, and what was coming out. It was a good source of information.there would be adverts where you could order records on import, too, which was important, because a lot of those records didn’t come out in the States.”
It’s difficult to overstate the importance on the budding Metallica of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal – a phrase Lars and his future comrades read in the pages of Sounds, coined by future Kerrang! founder Geoff Barton to group together the swell of new metal talent coming out of the UK in the early 1980s. Lars had spent that summer of ’81 absorbing a lot of it first hand, having been to see Stourbridge metallers Diamond Head and hitting it off with them so well that he ended up crashing at one of their houses, spending the following weeks hanging out with them and going out to shows.when, after his return to the States, he’d decided to start a band of his own, it was in the vein of bands like Iron Maiden, Priest,venom and – most notably, if you listen to some of the riffs on Kill ’Em All – Diamond Head. It was even a bit of NWOBHM merch that first brought Lars to a label’s attention.
“The first time I met Brian Slagel from Metal Blade was outside a show where he was selling fanzines,” recalls Lars.“i was wearing a Saxon shirt, and he came over and started speaking to me because he’d never seen anyone in a Saxon shirt before. He didn’t really know anyone else who knew who they were. So we got talking pretty quickly and found we had a lot in common.”
Bonded over their love of Barnsley’s finest, Brian agreed to put Lars’ band on one of his label’s compilations (despite not really having any recorded music or, actually, a solid line-up yet).
Quickly, the American metal underground took to Metallica. But it was on their inaugural trip to London in 1984 that they made their first really big splash, when they played two nights at the Marquee Club, at the end of a jaunt around Europe with Venom. Kirk Hammett remembers, pre-tour, he’d seen demonic Venom frontman Cronos “take a bite out of a glass and chew on it”.there would be no glass eating on tour, but the Marquee shows were important for a number of reasons. First, um…
“We also all went down to Kensington Market and bought black stretch pants,” remembers Kirk, today (sadly) not wearing stretch pants as he relaxes in the band’s ‘Tuning Room’ where they jam to get in the zone before shows.“a couple of us bought leather jackets, too.at the time, people in London still had full-on mohawks and architectural hair designs. I distinctly remember this one guy who had