Dave Mustaine, lead singer and lead guitar player of the heavy metal band Megadeth, has given a thumbs down to rejoining his first band, Metallica.
Wait a minute… what?
Let’s go back in time.
In the very early 80s, Metallica consisted of four teenage punks who had recently gravitated up to San Francisco from Los Angeles to acquire a fantastic new bass player named Cliff Burton. At that time, the aforementioned Burton, along with James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, and Dave Mustaine were on the fast track to the top of the thrash metal market. Playing live as much as they could, Metallica quickly built up a following. The band didn’t wear their hair high on their heads, or wear eyeliner or spandex like many of the “hair metal” bands coming up in Los Angeles. Instead, for the most part on stage, Metallica dressed just like their fans, wearing tee-shirts, jeans, and sneakers.
A demo that Metallica made around this time, called No Life ‘Til Leather, starting making its way through the metal underground. Fans would get a copy of the cassette tape, and make more copies to give to their friends. Eventually, the tape made its way across the country, to New York City, and into the hands of Johnny Zazula, (“Johnny Z”), a record shop owner.
Zazula heard the raw power in Metallica’s demo and immediately called them to come to the East Coast to play some live shows and record a full-length album.
In typical metal fashion, Metallica threw all their stuff into a stolen U-Haul and made their way across the country.
For a band that had acquired the nickname of “Alcoholica,” none of the members were strangers to drinking to excess. However, it was on that cross-country road trip that Burton, Hetfield, and Ulrich came to the conclusion that lead guitarist Dave Mustaine was becoming a liability. Both Mustaine and Hetfield were trying to establish themselves as the alpha males in the band, and between Mustaine’s likelihood of becoming violent when drunk, and his refusal to embrace a secondary position in the band as the lead guitar player, the decision was made to cut him loose.
The now legendary story goes like this. The band arrives in New York City and the first thing that Hetfield and Ulrich tell Johnny Z is, “Hey. We’re here. We’re firing our guitar player.”
The next morning, Mustaine was woken up by the other members of the band. He was handed a Greyhound Bus ticket and told he was out. Mustaine has since said that he asked the others, “What? No warning? No nothing?” Burton, Hetfield and Ulrich said “No,” and gave Mustaine a ride to the bus station, and that was that.
Kirk Hammett, then from the West Coast thrash band Exodus, was suggested as a replacement, and on April 1, 1983, Hammett joined Metallica, and has remained the band’s lead guitar player for over thirty years.
The wound cut into Mustaine’s pride and ego was deep, and there has long been a rift between the guitar legend and Metallica. Mustaine went on to monstrous success of his own, creating Megadeth, and the gulf between the two bands finally seemed to soften a few years ago when Megadeth and Metallica — along with Slayer and Anthrax — came together for a series of concerts called “The Big Four.”
However, if Dave Mustaine could go back right now and join Metallica, would he? Mustaine was asked that very question on Twitter by a fan. His response? Mustaine said that he would be “honored” but would decline.
When another fan asked if he and James Hetfield might ever work together in the future, Mustaine’s repsonse was a bit more direct.
— Dave Mustaine (@DaveMustaine) August 20, 2015
[Photo by Kevin Winter / Getty Images]