Metallica’s journey as a band has been a long one — more than 30 years long — so when they returned to where it all started only days ago, it was quite the event.
Metallica rocked California’s independent record store, Rasputin’s, on April 16 as part of Record Store Day 2016. In fact, Metallica acted as ambassadors for Record Store Day, promoting the continuation of independent record stores around the world. As soon as the band was finished with their blistering set at Rasputin’s, Metallica, some of their closest friends, and colleagues, all progressed to El Cerrito, California.
Why? In the early days of Metallica, between 1983 and 1986, Metallica called 3132 Carlson Boulevard home. It was in the garage of this house in El Cerrito that the band and its then infamous lineup — James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Cliff Burton, and Kirk Hammett — wrote and rehearsed most of the songs for their second and third albums, Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets. Though the garage of the house has long since been torn down, the house remains, and it was there that Metallica, an entourage of associates, and a fair number of fans returned on April 16 to celebrate the heritage of the house. Metallica’s drummer, Lars Ulrich, reflected on the spot where much of Metallica’s seminal work originated.
“A couple years ago we thought it would be cool to come over and see if we could buy the garage from the people that lived here, and we were going to put it inside our Headquarters. But the garage is long gone. Whoever’s got the garage, please return it. Maybe we would finish the new record quicker if we were in that f—ing garage. The fact that houses can shrink over time is really crazy. This house is officially 30 percent smaller than it was in the ’80s. I don’t know if anybody else is thinking that, but that’s my first thought. Thankfully, most of the things that went on in here are forgotten. But we had a lot of fun.”
Fans must wonder what it must have been like to be a hanger-on of the band’s in the early 1980s. To sit back and hear the band put together songs like “Orion” or “For Whom the Bell Tolls.” To hear them arguing about drum parts and bass parts; to hear James struggle through the right melodies on the lyrics; to see the band in their late teens as a heavy metal legend was fully formed.
Metallica front man James Hetfield commented briefly on being back at the old house in El Cerrito.
“This is unbelievable, to be back in this place. I think we’ve all kind of forgotten a lot of stuff that’s happened in our history, and this is a great way to jog our memories.”
To be sure, however, being at one of the primary places where the Metallica legend began brought back memories that weren’t all pleasant. For one, the ghost of Cliff Burton certainly pervaded. In 1986, just as Metallica was coming into its own, just as it was being perceived as the preeminent metal band in the country, just as Metallica was spearheading the spread of thrash metal to America, Cliff Burton’s life was tragically cut short in Sweden in a tragic bus accident.
Kirk Hammett didn’t speak particularly of Burton, but his emotion and sentiment echoed the distance of the past, and of those the rise of Metallica had left in its wake.
“It’s really, really emotional for me. I’m sure it’s emotional for you guys, too. I’m just glad we’re here together, you know, 30 years on… to celebrate together, and it’s a beautiful thing.”
The mayor of El Cerrito, Greg Lyman, was on hand to present the current members of Metallica, Hetfield, Ulrich, Hammett, and bassist Robert Trujillo with a proclamation commemorating the music legends ties to the city.
Metallica visited the city in conjunction with the special reissue of Metallica’s first two albums, Kill ’em All and Ride the Lightning. The albums have been remastered and released in a special boxed set including both records on vinyl or CD. The set also includes several live recordings and a book of photos and essays looking back on the recording and release of those first two seminal albums.
[Photo by Alexandre Meneghini/AP Images]