Pat Boone On Reissuing ‘In A Metal Mood’ And Working With Metallica, Alice Cooper, And Other Hard Rock Royalty

With over 45 million records sold worldwide and 220 consecutive weeks on the charts to his credit, few singers have accomplished even a small fraction of what Pat Boone has. However, music has only been one facet of Boone’s career, as he is the holder of three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In addition to starring in 15 feature movies, Boone has also been a television star and host for decades. The Columbia University graduate has been famous on an international basis for almost 70 years.

A very peculiar period of Pat Boone’s career was the mid-1990s. While Boone was still touring and recording, he had essentially been circulating around the nostalgia circuit. This all changed with the release of 1997’s In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy. A collection of interpretations of hard rock classics by the likes of Judas Priest, Van Halen, Metallica, Ozzy Osbourne and Guns N’ Roses — to name a few artists — Metal Mood quickly hit the Billboard Top 200 chart. It taught a new generation about Pat Boone, metalheads included, and actually led Boone to being temporarily shunned by the Christian community that had embraced him for decades.

November 3, 2017, brings the 20th-anniversary re-issue of Boone’s Metal Mood — as originally released by MCA Records — via his record label, Gold Label Artists. The year has also seen Boone expand into the podcast world. All the while, Boone continues to record, write, appear on television, and tour the world; beyond concert appearances, he will be hosting the Holy Land Tour, a group outing to Israel, in May of 2018.

On behalf of the Inquisitr, I had the pleasure of talking with Mr. Boone by phone. Our chat was largely focused on In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy, while also discussing some of the other projects he has been working on as of late. More on Pat Boone can be found online at www.patboone.com.

On what inspired him to reissue Pat Boone In a Metal Mood:

Pat Boone: It was a hit… It became a hit immediately after the American Music Awards show in which I and Alice Cooper presented the award for Hard Rock to Metallica. Dick Clark had asked that Cooper and I present the award because Dick had heard my album that was going to be released the very next day on MCA [Records]. He knew it was going to be a hit because these are all giant heavy metal classics that nobody had recorded again, after they became hits, except me. These big band jazz versions of these songs, treating the songs as songs, not just heavy metal classics.

Twenty years have gone by… Why not bring some attention to it and celebrate? Every time I appear anywhere, the sound technicians all bring out their copies of the CD and want me to sign it, or they will play it during my soundcheck and stuff. So it won a wide audience of people who liked the original songs, of course, the college kids… They know the songs already and like them, they would welcome some other version if they were somehow compatible with the songs themselves and the rocking good music that they were or are.

On appearing with Alice Cooper at the American Music Awards:

Pat Boone: We went on that show and presented the award, except we swapped images. Cooper was supposed to come out carrying a glass of milk and wearing a V-neck sweater, his long hair pulled back under a golf cap looking as much like me as he could. Dick Clark had Bill Belew, who designed most of Elvis’s outfits, created for me a leather vest with no sleeves, hardly covering any of my chest, with tattoos and that whole regalia. We were swapping images, that was the joke, but Cooper backed out at the last minute without letting Dick Clark or anybody know. When he told me he was not going to come out like that, he assumed I would come out in a tux. I was wearing it that minute…

When the half-hour call came, I went down and put on the leather. I already had the tattoos on my shoulders, and I came upstairs and I shocked the king of shock rock, Alice Cooper… He had just introduced me as Pat Boone, the future of heavy metal, and his jaw dropped. He had never seen me in the outfit. He didn’t think I was going to be going along with what Dick Clark recommended and suggested to us and had arranged.

On what his American Music Awards appearance with Alice Cooper did to his career:

Pat Boone: It stunned him, it stunned the audience. The album went halfway up the charts the next week at Billboard and went all the way to number three on alternative and number six on the hard rock chart. I mean, it just went through the roof immediately… It got me kicked off Christian TV at the same time.

On his respect for the songs featured on Pat Boone In a Metal Mood:

Pat Boone: I had gone over all the lyrics of all the songs, including “Enter Sandman,” Metallica’s song, and they came onstage. I played it for them the night before and they came onstage bowing to me and saying I was their new lead singer… I have great respect for the musicality of that and all the others, “Stairway to Heaven” and “Long Way to the Top” and “Smoke on the Water” and Cooper’s own “No More Mr. Nice Guy.” So it was an album that I did seriously, but I knew the humor was in it that Pat Boone doing metal was going to be source of many jokes and cartoons and all kinds of wrong assumptions on the part of some music critics who decided I was trying to be a heavy metal singer, which I was not.

On whether he ever thought of doing a second collection of hard rock classics:

Pat Boone: I was trying to treat the songs like music. If it is good music it can be done a variety of ways. Because it became a big hit, I was already preparing a list of other songs to be done for Volume 2, and some of the groups immediately after was like Poison, the Scorpions, Aerosmith… They were saying, “Hey, why don’t you do one of our songs?”

I was preparing a list of songs to choose from, Bruce Resnikoff, the exec at MCA, they thought it was a fluke and that a Volume 2 might not work, although they were selling the fire out of the first one, but they just quit while we were hit. Meanwhile, I’ve had so many people over the number of years since say they went into record stores trying to buy that album, it was sold out, and the people in the store said we have ordered more but they just aren’t coming. So MCA didn’t treat it like the hit that it was and didn’t want to follow up.

On how Pat Boone may have influenced Metallica:

Pat Boone: I think Metallica was inspired by this. They did an album with the San Francisco Symphony of some of their hits. I got a huge kick out hearing all these [orchestral] musicians who probably have been quite disparaging as I had been of all the cacophony in heavy metal, having to sit there and play these songs, treating them like symphonic jams.

On whether he had heard most of the songs on In a Metal Mood before recording them, how the project was inspired, and how the songs were selected:

Pat Boone: No, that is the other funny part of it. I was in England with my own musicians, five guys I have worked with often for 30 to 40 years, and we were in England doing a concert and mainly featuring my own hits. As time went along, I realized the people were coming not to hear me sing somebody’s else’s song, they were coming to hear me sing my own. So I was doing most of my concerts doing nothing but picking from my own 40-something top 20 hits and 13 million-sellers and so on. I could fill up any show just doing my own songs.

In a break in the travel, we were in an airport in England, somewhere between concerts and talking. A couple of them said, “We enjoy doing your hits, the audience loves them, we love them, but why don’t we go in the studio and do something new?” I said, “What can I do I haven’t done 10 times already?” I have already recorded more than almost any other artist. I have lived in recording studios so much of the time recording country, gospel, patriotic, pop, other types of rock & roll, even audio records, just spoken word recordings… They said, “Well, you never did any heavy metal.” We laughed about the idea of me doing a heavy metal album.

I didn’t know anything really much about any of the songs except by some song titles. My conductor and arranger who is still with me, Dave Siebels, one day we had been talking seriously. Several months later, we were joking about the cover. I was going to be in a tuxedo but with a Fender guitar and a saxophone, and then with a sock showing above one white shoe, one black pattern shoe… Just joking, and then I was going to have a lightning bolt through my hair. Just joking about me doing a heavy metal album!

Then they said, “You know we have been kidding about this thing, but there are a lot of terrific songs that are known only as heavy metal songs and known only to metalheads that we could do a different way.” And I said, “Like what?” He says, “Big band jazz.” I said, “Oh now we are talking.” I love big band jazz, I had done some but not enough. And he said, let’s pick a bunch of songs we think we could do that way. Well, they introduced me to songs that were not all exactly heavy metal, I mean Led Zeppelin, I don’t think was considered heavy, I mean “Stairway to Heaven.” Certainly not Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary”… But a guy at Rhino Records, we had him help us put together a list of songs. “Don’t do just ballads like ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ by Guns N’ Roses… Pick songs that are real, you know, really heavy metal and hard rock songs that nobody would imagine you doing but they are good songs.”

For a couple of months, I was going into record stores to the heavy metal rack. I know that some of the salespeople in the record recognized me but wondered what in the world I was doing looking up Motorhead and the Scorpions and Def Leppard and Deep Purple and all these albums and buying them and taking them home. And collectively Dave, my musicians, and his fella from Rhino helped me select the songs that we wound up doing. I thought I was just going to record them with my own musicians as a custom project because at that moment I wasn’t on a label.

On how doing an interview helped make the album a reality:

Pat Boone: I did an interview… He said, “Well, I guess you have done all you are going to do, right? You are going to hang it up pretty soon?” I said to sort of perversely pique his interest, “Actually I am getting ready to do a heavy metal album.” “What?” “Yeah, I am getting ready to do an album of heavy metal classics… because I have discovered that there are some really good songs under all the noise.”

So he actually was kind of an underground paper or some sort. Anyway, Bruce Resnikoff at MCA he called me and he said, “Are you doing a heavy metal album?” I said yeah. “Just yourself?” Yeah. He said, “Well, it ought to be done over here. We own some 1,200 of your other recordings here are MCA… So it ought to be here where all the rest of your recordings are”… Bruce said we ought to do it big, we ought to do it with a big band, just get a real big band and we will have a producer for the rock part of it and a big band producer for the big band side to be co-produced. We chose Mike Lloyd across the street from me, he has a big studio…. And I recorded over there with Michael before, a dear friend, and he will do the rock part and Jeff Weber who is famous for big band jazz albums, he joined up. The two producers joined up and we started calling various arrangers because the idea was we will give one big hit heavy metal song to one producer and we will have a different producer on each song.

Now, of course, my own arranger friend who dreamed up the whole idea, Dave Siebels, did “Enter Sandman”… The only guy that actually turned me down cold was a famous big band arranger, who worked with Sinatra and so many.

On almost recording with Slash of Guns N’ Roses:

Pat Boone: We did “Paradise City.” Slash actually was going to play guitar. He had agreed to play guitar… When he heard our track he wasn’t there for the recording. We wanted him to play a big guitar solo in “Paradise City,” and when he heard he said, “You do it faster than we do.” I wish I hadn’t done it quite that fast because it was really an assignment to get all the lyrics in doing it as fast as we did it. But meanwhile, Guns N’ Roses were trying to get back together right at that time, so his days and nights were taken up as they were trying to regroup… He bowed out, I don’t think it is because he didn’t think he could play it this fast because I know he could. But I took his explanation to heart that he was trying to get their group back together right then.

On recording “Smoke on the Water” with Ritchie Blackmore:

Pat Boone: The guy who wrote the song, Ritchie Blackmore, we had to contact him and send him the tape… He was recording something himself in a castle in Germany, and so he put our tape on the machines over there in the castle in Germany and played his part of the guitar solo. We let Dweezil Zappa do part of it because he wanted to be on the album… We got Gregg Bissonette, the great drummer who Jeff Weber brought in because he knew that Gregg had played on a lot of heavy metal stuff but also big band jazz. He was a perfect drummer to combine the two things we were doing which had never been done before.

On recording the Jimi Hendrix song “The Wind Cries Mary” for the album:

Pat Boone: Hendrix was certainly not hard rock or even heavy metal, but it was a precursor… Pat Boone doing a Hendrix tune seemed to fit the mix. And so, I checked on it and read everything I could find about Hendrix and his explanation of the song. He said people seem to think it is about marijuana because of the name Mary. “No, it was the woman that I was involved with for a while, and I was kind of sad that we weren’t together, so I wrote the wind cried Mary”… People are just like “Smoke on the Water,” everybody thought that was about bongs and stuff and it wasn’t.

On Metallica and recording “Enter Sandman”:

Pat Boone: When I asked James Hetfield who is doing that, the little kid [voiceover in the middle of the song], he said, “Oh, it is one of our roadies’ kids.” They didn’t have kids of their own and the whole thing was ominous as it sounded like a dad was trying to get his son to stay in bed using the time-tested method of frightening him. “There is something under the bed, something overhead, you better stay there is something going to get you.”

Well, in my case, it was my own 4-year-old grandson, Tyler. Not Steven Tyler (laughs). Tyler Michael is my second daughter’s son, my grandson who is repeating, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” You know a little kid’s voice, and it was very much like the original but that is what it was. It was nothing particularly ominous about it lyrically, but the sound and the way that Metallica does it, it sounds heavy metal anthem; I imagine their most famous song.

On playing “Smoke on the Water” live even to this day, and how he has used it to make a point:

Pat Boone: Even the roadies that worked with Deep Purple said that they never knew what the song was about. They hadn’t paid that much attention to the lyrics, it was just, “smoke on the water, a fire in the sky.” It was the rockiness of it and the sound of it… That is one of the most identifiable introductions ever, and when I do it now in a lot of my shows in my concerts, even though it is an older audience, “How many of you remember when I went on the American Music Awards introducing a heavy metal album?” A surprising number of hands will go up, “Yeah, we knew about it.” And I said, “How many of you rushed out and bought that album, because it was a bit hit?” Well, only three of four hands go up and then the sound guys will yell from wherever they are… There will always be somebody in the audience who says, “I got it,” and sometimes they will even hold it up to show it. But the majority didn’t buy it and haven’t heard the music.

So I’d say, “None of you have even heard any of the songs, would you like to hear one of the songs?” They applaud but kind of tentatively, they are not sure they want to hear me sing something from my heavy metal album. But then when the band starts [singing the riff to “Smoke on the Water”] bum bum bum, bum bum bum [end of singing]…

We use the track and my own musicians too, so the big band part of it is there and we play it loud. While that is playing I slip out of my white coat that I am wearing into a black leather Harley jacket and some shades… I finish the song looking more like I did on the American Music Awards. I always get a very big hand. It is some kind of shock value, also appreciation for the actual musicality and then I stand there in that outfit saying, “I look different, don’t I? Just because I put on a leather jacket and some shades I don’t look like the guy that just sang ‘Friendly Persuasion.’ But I am the same guy.”

I’d said, “However, I learned something valuable in this experience because after I did these songs and I wore this leather and tattoos, partly for the humor of it on the American Music Awards. I got kicked off Christian television, just because of the appearance and the presumption that people made I had gone over the dark side and I hadn’t. I just was doing some songs in a way they hadn’t been done and enjoying the surprise of it.”

On getting accepted back into the Christian community:

Pat Boone: Two months after they took my weekly show called Gospel America off TBN, we went back on and there were 70 Christian bikers out on the parking lot at TBN at Orange County… There are Harleys out there in the parking lot, then with their hair in pigtails and tattoos and wearing leather, but all Christians. I had some entertainers on the show with me talking about the way we judge people by appearance.

On things coming full circle with Alice Cooper:

Pat Boone: As I had found out, a lot of the heavy metal guys themselves are Christians. Certainly Alice Cooper and Dave Mustaine, who by the way, wanted me to do one of their songs, I met him at the Alice Cooper golf tournament over in Phoenix where I played several years with Coop. Cooper said he didn’t know why he backed out on the American Music Awards and didn’t come out like Dick Clark wanted him to… He said, “I think it worked out for the best because you coming out the way you did, nobody understood why and gave you the chance to really play with it and make a much bigger deal out of it than if we have swapped images.”

So he got a kick out of the whole thing, and of course, the subtitle of the album is “No More Mr. Nice Guy,” which is his song. He loved what I did with it, and Metallica loved what I did with their song and one by one as I have had opportunities to meet with a lot of the artists. They were happy, as I thought they would be, that somebody was treating their music as legitimate music and songs.

On how Bobby Darin also helped inspired the album and his career overall:

Pat Boone: I always use Bobby Darin as an example. “Mack the Knife” was very morbid as it was written and people will come out humming the melody, but nobody was going to sing the morbid lyrics until Bobby Darin did it in his big band swing style. It was one of the biggest single hits ever, and in a sense, that was what I was doing with the heavy metal songs, turning into something that other people could enjoy. They didn’t like the original style but they could maybe like my style, but they were the same songs.

On the legacy of Pat Boone In A Metal Mood:

Pat Boone: Tom Jones lamented he hadn’t thought of it first… We actually had real music, real songs, real well-constructed songs to do and many of them with backstories.

Bobby Darin went from pop to blue jean country for a little while. “If I Were a Carpenter”… He died soon after that by the way, and that was very sad, but I’d love to think what he would have been doing. I often wonder what Elvis would have been doing all this time. It’s been 40 years now since he died. I think he, like Tom Jones and others, would have picked up on the success I had with the Metal Mood album.

On his R&B Classics album:

Pat Boone: I do “Way of the World” with Earth Wind, & Fire. I do “Tears of a Clown” with Smokey Robinson. I do “We Are Family” with Sister Sledge. I went to Augusta and recorded “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” with James Brown. I went to Detroit and recorded “Can’t Help Myself” with Levi Stubbs and the Four Tops, last thing he ever did or they ever did, and “Celebration” with Kool & the Gang, and “A Woman Needs Love” with Ray Parker Jr. I mean, I did an album of classic R&B with the original performers, to my amazement who are willing to do them with me. It was full circle — in my career I came in singing R&B and rock.

On his forthcoming podcast:

Pat Boone: I am about to start a podcast. MCA is excited about it now, in fact, they are going to produce and pay for it, where I do a 20- to 30-minute podcast show a week. We’ve already have created 12 themes for the first 12 podcasts and I may do those at least six of them in Nashville next week, I am going in to the Gospel Music Awards, the Dove Awards and they are going to give me a Lifetime Achievement Award because I am in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, not the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

On the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame and his early years in rock:

Pat Boone: I had more rock & roll hits than some of them that are in there, but because I didn’t stick just to rock and didn’t live a rock lifestyle, the group that makes the decisions just don’t consider me as having had anything to do with rock & roll. I call myself a midwife at the birth of rock & roll because I was doing the songs when no other pop artist was.

Elvis came after me, he was my opening act in October of 1955. I had three hits, all rock & roll R&B covers. He had recorded “Hound Dog,” which was a cover, and “Heartbreak Hotel,” but it wasn’t going to come out until February 1956… We introduced the pop audience to what we called then rock & roll, which really was rhythm and blues.

On his music bridging the racial divide:

Pat Boone: Jesse Jackson said not long ago on their station in Chicago, the Rainbow Coalition station… He said, “We’ve loved Pat Boone back since he first started because he was a white kid in Nashville, doing our music and liking our art.” I have never said this, but Jesse Jackson said about me, “I think he did more for race relations back then than any other singer.”

[Featured Image by Liza Anderson]