Read Birth School Metallica Death - Vol I Online

Authors: Paul Brannigan,Ian Winwood

Tags: #Arts & Photography, #Music, #Musical Genres, #Heavy Metal

Birth School Metallica Death - Vol I

BOOK: Birth School Metallica Death - Vol I
4.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Birth School Metallica Death - Vol I
Paul Brannigan Ian Winwood
Faber Faber Rock Music (2013)
Arts Photography, Music, Musical Genres, Heavy Metal
Arts Photographyttt Musicttt Musical Genresttt Heavy Metalttt

Metallica have sold in excess of 100 million albums and won seven Grammys. Their journey from scuzzy Los Angeles garages to the stages of the world's biggest stadia has been an epic and often traumatic one, and one of the few truly great rock 'n' roll sagas.

****No music writers have been afforded greater access to Metallica over the years than Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood, two former editors of Kerrang. Having conducted hundreds of hours of interviews with the band, they have between them gained an unparalleled knowledge of the group's history and an insiders' view of how their story has developed: they have ridden in the band's limos, flown on their private jet, joined them in the studio, been invited to the quartet's 'HQ' outside San Francisco and shared beers and stories with them in venues across the globe. There are countless memorable stories about the band never before seen in print, tales of bed-hopping and drug-taking and car-crashes and fist-fights and back-stabbing that occur when you mix testosterone and adrenaline, alcohol and egomania, talent and raw ambition.

Perceptive, emotionally attached, and intellectually rigorous,
Birth, School, Metallica, Death
will be the essential and definitive story of this extraordinary band. Volume I takes us from the band's inception through to the recording and eve of release of their seminal, self-titled, 1991 album.


The scrupulously researched story of the band's early days with deep detail gleaned from over two decades of first-hand exposure to the guys and new interviews with key supporting figures. (Ben Mitchell 
Q Magazine

It's hard to imagine the tale of San Francisco metal behemoths Metallica being told any more authoritatively than it is here. (Stevie Chick 

Journalists Paul Brannigan and Ian Winwood have worked closely with the band over the years, and it shows, both in the access they've gained, the anecdotes they witnessed first-hand and the warmth they afford their subjects. No stone is left unturned as the band's insane life is meticulously researched ... Volume 2 will pick up the baton next year to complete the picture. On this evidence, it'll be worth the wait. (Emma Johnston 
Classic Rock

Big, and impressive, and, like its subject, irresistible. (Robert Collins 
Sunday Times

The Metallica story has been told many times before, but seldom as entertainingly or as smartly as this ... Ian Winwood and Paul Brannigan's vivid prose makes this well-worn saga seem somehow fresh and fascinating again. The second volume promises to be an absolute belter. (Dom Lawson 
Metal Hammer

This objective study is a refreshing approach to the traditional music biography. Even the most knowledgeable fans will eagerly await the second volume. (
Publishers Weekly


On June 5, 1993, Metallica drew a crowd of 60,000 rock fans to Milton Keynes Bowl for their first open-air headline show in the United Kingdom. While this deliberately recalled such grand occasions as Led Zeppelin’s historic two-night stand at Knebworth House in the summer of 1979, the quartet’s appearance at the verdant man-made arena on that overcast June evening represented a very singular triumph, a triumph of determination and talent over compromise and equivocation. This was a group that had begun their journey not so much on a road less travelled as on a thoroughfare entirely of their own making. In the nine years that had elapsed since the San Franciscan band first played live on British soil, an appearance before just four hundred people at the Marquee club in central London, they had plotted their course to the stages of the world’s largest venues with a ferocity of purpose that was always determined, and sometimes plain perverse. For the longest time, Metallica had resisted playing the standard music industry games, yet despite this – actually,
of this – the group had acquired millions of fans.

With their 1983 debut album,
Kill ’Em All
, Metallica staked their claim to be the fastest, heaviest metal band on the planet. Three years later their pivotal
Master of Puppets
album sold one million copies worldwide without a single, a promotional video or any support from mainstream radio or television, establishing the Bay Area quartet as the most compelling band of that decade. With the 1991 release of their self-titled fifth album – universally known as ‘The Black Album’ – this most uncompromising and defiantly independent collective became international superstars.

But even as Metallica shifted the tectonic plates upon which mainstream music stood, their audience affixed themselves to the group with a devotion that was remarkable even by the standards of modern metal. In acknowledgement of this fiercely obsessive fan-base, the band chose the occasion of their European tour in summer 1993 to deliver a most brazen statement. This they issued on the back of a black T-shirt displayed on boards erected behind and above the heads of the merchandise sellers exchanging soft clothing for hard currency at ‘The Bowl’ on June 5. On its front the faces of the four members of the visiting band were featured, each man’s forearms positioned in a manner that resembled the crossbones on the flag of a pirate ship. It was, though, the words emblazoned on the reverse side of this garment that truly kidnapped the imagination:

‘Birth. School. Metallica. Death.’

One might drive oneself mad attempting to replace the third of this quartet of words with the name of a different band. The field occupied by those that might make the claim that life can be distilled down to just four components, only one of which is nominated by choice, is vanishingly small. The Clash, perhaps; Nirvana, probably; the Grateful Dead, certainly. The difference is, of course, that each of these groups exists only in the past, their reputation burnished and buffed by the soft touch of nostalgia. But Metallica made this claim not only in the present tense but at the very first point at which they would not appear foolish. In doing so, the band exalted their own position without seeming to demean that of their audience. Rather than appearing arrogant, Metallica were simply being emphatic. It was a statement of chutzpah and brio entirely typical of the band. Two decades on, this is a group still equipped to make such a claim. And this is the story of their most extraordinary union.

What a long strange trip it has been. Formed in Los Angeles in 1981 by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, and fuelled by the influence of Motörhead, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) and nihilistic American punk rock, Metallica began life as front-runners of the nascent American thrash metal scene, an underground community powered by fanzines, the trading of badly dubbed cassette tapes and a peer-to-peer buzz gradually amplified from a whisper to a scream. But in the three decades that have elapsed since the release of their debut album, the band have effectively developed into two separate groups. One of these is a crowd-pleasing operation that rolls into motion each summer as the quartet convene in foreign fields and stadia to play songs – most of which are more than twenty years old – for tens of thousands of people in exchange for appearance fees in excess of a million pounds each night. It would be wrong, however, to suggest that these days Metallica spends its entire time in the pasture. Because for the ‘other’ Metallica, a group that constantly seeks to stand in opposition to the established order, the fear of becoming creatively irrelevant is a demon that never sleeps. This anxiety has led the quartet to act with a sense of creative and artistic derring-do the fearlessness of which borders on the reckless, as evidenced by their collaboration with Lou Reed on 2011’s brutally uncommercial

Occasionally Metallica as brand and Metallica as band coalesce as one. This was the case on the weekend of June 23 and 24, 2012, when the group staged the inaugural Orion Music + More event, their own bespoke, self-curated music festival. The gathering was staged at Bader Field, an abandoned airstrip in Atlantic City, New Jersey, and featured appearances from groups as diverse as Modest Mouse, the Arctic Monkeys, Best Coast, Roky Erickson and Fucked Up. The event also featured installations such as a showcase of James Hetfield’s classic cars and a display of guitarist Kirk Hammett’s collection of vintage horror movie memorabilia.
Elsewhere a talk was given by music journalist Brian Lew, one of the authors of
Murder in the Front Row
, a fabulous
book chronicling the Bay Area thrash metal scene that first gave Metallica life. Indeed such was the scope of the lovingly compiled festival that Lars Ulrich was even moved to joke that Orion Music + More would feature Metallica toilet paper, with each patron afforded the choice of which band member’s face to despoil.

While at pains to point out that Orion was emphatically
a ‘metal’ festival – ‘Because we’re doing it, it gets branded as a particular thing,’ Lars Ulrich noted. ‘If Radiohead does it, it’s cool. If we do it, it’s not.’ – inevitably and fittingly, Metallica themselves headlined their own event. On the first of the two evenings, the group performed their 1984 album
Ride the Lightning
in its entirety for the first time, while night two saw ‘The Black Album’ profiled in full. As has been their tradition, the quartet called time on their set both evenings with ‘Seek & Destroy’, one of the highlights on their debut album. Introducing the song on June 24, James Hetfield addressed the mass of people gathered in the darkness before him at Bader Field.

‘We’ve had the spotlights on us all night,’ he said. ‘[Now] we want to turn it on the fifth member of Metallica … [you] the Metallica family.’

Hetfield’s belief, some might say obsession, that Metallica and their audience together comprise a family is strong and sincere. For their part the feeling of the people that have provided his band with wealth beyond their dreams and sometimes pressures beyond their nightmares is mutual. But while this union may be familial, it is not democratic. Metallica’s first responsibility has always been to please themselves, it is just that in doing so they have managed to delight millions of people.

This book is the first of a two-volume biography. It spans the period from the childhoods of James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich to the point at which Metallica stood ready to secure the title deeds to the planet with the release of ‘The Black Album’. For the authors it has been an excursion into the world of a ‘family’ that at times resembles a mafia organisation, occasionally a cult, and often the coolest gang in the world. In pursuit of the story we have attempted to retrace the journey made by our subjects. These endeavours have taken us from the front door of the erstwhile ‘Metallica Mansion’, the bungalow in which James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich roomed together upon relocating to San Francisco’s Bay Area, to the building that once housed Sweet Silence Studios in Copenhagen, where both
Ride the Lightning
Master of Puppets
were recorded, to stage left at various stops on the quartet’s most recent world tour. Combined with this are insights gained from interviewing Metallica on scores of occasions. As teenage rock fans we stood in the front rows of Metallica concerts in the United Kingdom and United States; as working journalists we have flown on the band’s private jet and sat in dressing rooms from Cowboys Stadium in Dallas to the BBC Television Centre in London’s White City. We have seen the band perform with an orchestra in Berlin and on the back of a lorry, in front of an audience of just two people, in Istanbul. Theirs is a remarkable story, one embracing community,
, the pursuit of dreams and the continued dominance of a musical form they have made entirely their own. Volume two of
Birth School Metallica Death
, set for publication in the autumn of 2014, will document the band’s journey into a future as yet unwritten, their status as the Led Zeppelin of their generation assured. No rock band will ever again come to equal their success.

The game’s over: Metallica won.

BOOK: Birth School Metallica Death - Vol I
4.97Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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