Tomorrow, the most anticipated (by comedians, anyway) album of the year comes out: Lou Reed and Metallica. Yeah. We know. But it does put me in the mind to reflect upon the Metallica I used to know.
The first time I heard Metallica, Ride the Lightning was still an indy record. I was used to heavy...after all, I listened to Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. Nothing, though, could've prepared me for my first listen of the bay area thrash band. A friend of my brother's made a cassette, and I remember him telling me I "had to hear this." "Fight Fire with Fire" came on, and I stopped in my tracks. Could you even DO that? Could music actually sound like that? They seemed to be breaking rule after rule...and it worked! Over the course of the next year, I utterly devoured that album.
Later, I went to a record store (remember those?) to try and find Metallica's first album. When I went up to the counter to pay, the clerk complemented me on my taste and told me their new album was coming out the next day...did I want it? Hell, yes, I wanted it. When album four came out, I would throw the cassette in my car radio, drive around endlessly, and turn up the volume until my windows shook.
Then Metallica's fifth album (The Black Album) came out. I bought it on my way to work. Heard the commercial polish and sheen. Got through the first six songs. With each song, my heart dropped. Quoting nursery rhymes? Ballads? Why on earth was the most innovative band on earth (or at least in my (admittedly limited) listening experience) moving closer to the mainstream? Why did they sell out...after hitting it big? I sold the cassette to someone at work that very day.
Ever since, Metallica has dropped further and further away from my attention. The only real time I think of them is when I find a student wearing a Metallica shirt. What does Metallica sound like to them? I have tried to explain to a few what hearing "Fight Fire With Fire" (or any song off their debut) was like, but I know I'm never going to come close. What was once the most exciting band in the world to me has become classic rock....and rather lame classic rock at that. When they announced the Lou Reed collaboration, my only thought was "of course they'd try something so obviously stupid."
I used to love Metallica...and the saddest thing is I know I will never think of them in quite the same way. But at least I still have their old...their REAL music.