Anyone even remotely familiar with Metallica’s story knows that Dave Mustaine, founder of Megadeth, was their original lead guitarist.
He was also uncermoniously fired from the band right before they recorded their debut album, Kill ‘Em All.
A fter he got the boot, Mustaine vowed he’d “kick Metallica’s ass,” formed Megadeth, and did very well for himself with ‘Deth becoming one of the “big four” of thrash.
Getting fired from Metallica was a big source of self-pity with Dave years after the fact, as he’s not really that forgiving, and only recently was able to let it go and extend the olive branch to James and Lars. (Ten minutes from now, who knows?)
A nd of course, it’s always been a big game of “what if” among metalheads if he’d managed to hold on to his job – meaning, wondering about what would have and could have been.
Ron Quintana, a San Francisco underground DJ who came up with the name Metallica and has been a major underground metal supporter for decades, says, “I thought Metallica could have gone farther with Dave. Time has proven me wrong. If only they could have contained him…”
Yet, considering how hard headed and stubborn Mustaine is, and how much he, James and Lars would have continuously butted heads, it’s also hard to imagine the band lasting longer than an album or a tour with a combination that volatile.
Part of what got Mustaine fired from Metallica was his drinking, and it goes without saying if you’re drinking too much to be in Metallica, you’ve really got problems. But Mustaine couldn’t have survived in Metallica because he has the worst qualities of James and Lars together. He’s a micro-manager/control freak from hell like Hetfield, and he has the ego from hell like Ulrich. One guy like that in a band is enough, but three of them? No way.
A lot of times in bands, one or two guys tops run the show, like Aerosmith with Steve and Joe. You can’t have four or five guys all making the important decisions, or nothing will ever get done. Mustaine was always better suited running the show, and Kirk Hammett fit better because he didn’t want to take over, and had a much more easy going, go with the flow personality.
Metallica was huge fans of the L.A. band Armored Saint, and James and Lars asked their singer, John Bush, one of the most under-rated vocalists and frontmen in metal, to join because at one point, Hetfield just wanted to play guitar.
Bush turned them down twice, and he never regretted his decision. “It wasn’t meant to be,” he says. As Mustaine once told KJ Doughton on a good day, “I know there are two great bands now…,” and as Bush noted, staying in Metallica just wasn’t meant to be.