For Whom The Bell Tolls
Let’s play a quick game of word association…
OK, here we go…
I say, Metallica. What is the first thing that pops in your mind? Be honest now. What was the very first thing that you thought of when I said Metallica? There are plenty of options to choose from, I must say.
By a show of hands, how many of you thought, instantly, of James Hetfield? I don’t see too many hands out there. Even though Hetfield is the co-founder and driving force of the greatest metal band the world has ever known, he does not get the credit or adulation of someone who helped changed the world of rock music.
The story behind Metallica is a simple one. James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich each advertised in a Southern California magazine looking to join or recruit musicians to form a hard rock band. They were literally the only two in that area of the classifieds. They decided to join forces and that was how Metallica was formed. Being a young rock band in the Los Angeles area in the early 1980s meant you needed hair spray, spandex, lipstick and an array of cheesy, radio friendly power ballads. Metallica had to choose between looking like Motley Crue and Ratt or doing something fresh and new. Thankfully, they chose the latter.
They looked more like Lynyrd Skynyrd than they did Quiet Riot and they sounded more like Venom than they did Hanoi Rocks. They wanted attention. They wanted fans to notice them. They played louder, faster and were a much more aggressive form of hard rock that the world had not yet seen. They ended up creating a brand new genre called “Thrash”.
Lars Ulrich is in the public eye much more than Hetfield. We all remember the diminutive drummer’s feud with Napster. Make no bones about it. Even though Lars is the public face of the band, Metallica is and always be Hetfield’s baby. James is the chief song writer and , until recently, the sole lyricist. Hetfield is a tremendous guitar player. He is also a fantastic front man and has this unique ability to reach out to and connect with fans with from-the-heart lyrics.
Hetfield’s lyrics captured that spirit of rebellion and anarchy that has become a staple of good metal music. When you’re listening to the beginning of “Seek And Destroy”, and your hear that iconic riff, can’t you imagine Hetfield and his band mates walking down the Sunset Strip in LA in 1982 and can’t you imagine them scanning the streets in the city at night, looking for someone to start-up a fight? He encapsulated that ‘pissed off young male” with his lyrics as well as anyone yet, he doesn’t really get mentioned among the great lyricists.
Speaking of iconic riffs, guess who came up with them? Yup, our friend Mr Hetfield. He may not be as talented on the fret board as Kirk Hammet but from a songwriting point of view, Hetlfied is “Some Kind Of Monster” Yet, he rarely if ever gets mentioned when people talk about the great songwriters. When people talk about the great rhythm guitarists, you’ll hear Keith Richards, Malcolm Young, and Scott Ian but you probably don’t hear people mention Hetfield. In my view, I believe James Hetfield is a vastly underrated frontman, songwriter, guitar player and lyricist.
Admittedly, Metallica is not about one person. Metallica is a tsunami, an earthquake, a category 5 hurricane and a F5 tornado all wrapped up in one. If I had my own personal DeLorean, I’d travel back in time to around 1984. I would find someone who just bought their first Metallica album. I want to see their reactions to hearing that earth-shattering music. I want to see 15 year olds who were inspired to pick up a guitar because they just heard “For Whom The Bell Tolls” or ‘Fade To Black”
James Hetfield grew up a shy boy from a Christian Science family. He was introverted and isolated. His mother died when he was just 16 years old. Music became his solace and his sanctuary. His rough adolescence inspired many of his songs in the early years of Metallica. Those of us who also had it rough during our teenage years could relate to James’ lyrics and stories. As stated earlier, Metallica is a band and not one person. But, it was the brilliance of James Hetfield that got that band out of the LA clubs and in to sold out stadiums all over the world. James Hetlfied is a genius. I can see it. I would only hope that others can see it, too.
Two of my biggest passions are sports and rock music. Both of which, I have many strong and at times provocative opinions on.
My favorite bands are AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Pantera, and 80s Metallica and well, I have to admit I listen to a lot of Kiss, too.
My teams are the Mets, Jets and Rangers(I know, they all suck)
I've never met a place for buffalo wings that I didn't like.
I am a customs house broker by trade but I have this yearning to express my views on a variety of topics and blogging has become a great outlet for my voice.
In the words of the immortal Bon Scott, "Lock up your daughter and lock up your wife. Lock up your back door and run for your life. The man is back in town, so don't you mess me around"