Back to the metal underground at square one
With the Big Four of metal, Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax, all finally touring together, it's amazing to see how far things have come since these bands got started three decades ago.
"It was an exciting time for any kid who was involved with the underground scene," says Patrick Scott, who was there right as a new American metal revolution was launching.
"I don't remember having any foresight as to where this whole thing was going. It was more like, 'What's coming in the mail this week?'"
The cornerstone of the underground was NWOBHM, or The New Wave of British Heavy Metal with bands like Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Venom and more.
It seemed only a matter of time before there would be bands with the British New Wave flavor would be hitting the States, but it wasn't easy for them to take off in L.A., where the major labels were looking at bands like Motley Crue and Ratt, and Metallica couldn't get arrested. But good things come to those who wait, and its clear who really stood the test of time, and made history.
I've always enjoyed talking to the people who were there from the beginning with bands and movements, and Scott was there when a young Lars Ulrich was advertising for musicians in The Recycler, a local L.A. classified paper.
As Scott recalls, "I was just starting to play guitar, so I would check out the Musicians Looking For Musicians section, and saw this ad from a drummer looking for bandmates. The bands that were listed as influences in the ad were Motorhead, Saxon, and Tygers of Pan Tang, I believe.
"So I contacted the drummer. I didn't know very many people in L.A. into NWOBHM bands at that point, so after comparing record collections over the phone, this kid, who had an accent I couldn't place, invited me over. I think he was as excited as I was to find people into this stuff."
One day, Ulrich played Patrick the original version of Metallica's "Hit the Lights." "I remember being blown away by how much they sounded like the bands from overseas," Scott continues.
"The raw energy, the riffs, and the speed perfectly matched what I was looking for. I remember thinking how they fit in with the bands I was obsessed with at the time. I knew they were special, especially for America, but had no idea of the impact and success that would follow."
Not to mention, as Scott notes, "It wasn't even a thought that a band of this style could play arenas."
Scott also recalled when the band finally got out of L.A. to permanently set up base in the Bay Area, a move that bassist Cliff Burton insisted on. Metallica's original bassist was Ron McGovney, and as Scott recalls, "A guy named Tony called me about a band he was working with called Trauma," which was Burton's previous band.
"They were coming down from San Francisco to shoot a promo video in Santa Ana, CA, and I called Lars and james to come down and hang out. Everybody knows the rest of that story."
As you've read in previous TG Daily stories, the word on these bands was spread through letters, phone calls, duping cassettes, and sending them all over the world through regular mail.
"It seems amazing now that it all happened so fast for a band like Metallica without the technology we have now," says Scott.
"Back then, even in L.A., it seemed like these bands could never get big...no way could they get huge. I was credited for writing the first story ever on Metallica,but it was 'Top Secret, Classified Information' that was written at the Newport Beach apartment where Lars lived with his parents, and was published in Ron Quintana's groundbreaking Metal Mania fanzine. I never imagined that the quote we came up with, 'Potential to become U.S. metal gods,' would ever come true.
"Imagine if you knew some kid when you were in high school, and he ended up masterminding one of the biggest bands in the world, of all time," Scott continues. "When I see them now, I try to put myself in a different state of mind, like what would I think of them if it all hadn't happened the way it happened. I figured out I can't get to that place in my mind. Can't separate myself from the past. Seeing them live, as far as they've come, even to this day, is a pretty magical thing."