METALLICA WILL HEREBY ASSASSINATE ME
Not many people are aware of this fact, but it's true: I am a founding member of Metallica, their original bassist. Back in 1980, it was just me, James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich -- a spunky trio of acned musicians with a lot of hopes, ambitions, decibels and hair. If you don't believe me, you can consult your Trivial Pursuit game at home -- it's on card No. 7136842, question 5: "Who was Metallica's original bassist? Answer: Jon Resh."
In fact, it was me who originally suggested the name 'Metallica,' and it took 40 full minutes of me explaining why it was a reasonably good moniker, seeing as they had never even heard the word 'metallic' before. Even at that, they thought it sounded weird. Lars said it sounded like a flamenco or salsa band or something. He said: "People will call us met-a-LEEK-a."
James, with his infinitely deep intellect so evident in lyrical outpourings of future Metallica songs --(a-hem)-- thought the word 'Metallica' was, for some reason, too reminiscent of the word 'Indiana.' He said: "Metallica... Indiana... Don't you see? People are gonna think we're like from Indiana or something." This was the kind of mental landscape I was working in, so you can understand why I soon quit.
In the beginning, all James knew how to play was the first 12 notes of 'Stairway to Heaven.' He planned to base an entire band on his compositional understanding of the first two seconds of that horrible song. It was me who changed all that.
I said, "Hey man, fuck 'Stairway to Heaven.' You ever heard 'Green Hell' by the Misfits?"
James replied: "I don't go for that punk shit." But one night I slipped some uppers in his beer and laced his bowl with PCP, then went ahead and played "Green Hell." Between the drugs and the tunes, James was so cranked up that he wound up putting his head through the door of his Dad's parked Buick. That night changed James Hetfield's life -- and, some would say, the future of heavy metal.
(There's sort of a side note too, a funny thing about that night: I needed a new bass amp around that time, and realizing the money-making potential here, I took James, who was totally passed out, to Sunset Strip and sold his relatively lifeless body to a couple of middle-aged johns cruising for the night who, well, sodomized James thoroughly, and I was able to get my new bass amp. So, y'know, that night, James really took one for the team... I still have that amp somewhere... anyway...)
Now here's something relatively unknown about the early years of Metallica: one night I stopped by Lars' house and walked into his room. There I found Lars and James in tight little sailor outfits and pink panties, wearing lip gloss and rouge, holding a fake parrot and pull-out telescopes and whatnot, singing a song acapella from Gilbert & Sullivan's 'HMS Pinafore' while fondling each others asses. They were startled that I had caught them in the act, as anyone would be, and I shook my head and said: "Man, I just don't know what to say -- except that I THOUGHT you guys were metal." They were totally chagrined, claiming they were rehearsing for a school performance or something. But, for whatever reason, Metallica's music became increasingly aggressive from that day forward.
They had a lot to be angry about, those guys, plenty of rage to vent that went a little bit beyond a love of hard music. Lars had his annoying lisp, a promising future in tennis (this is true -- he was supposed to be a big tennis star), a generally irritating Scandinavian countenance, and a great talent on the piccolo -- all detriments to the street cred of a budding young metalhead. James, on the other hand, was -- and remains to this day -- a hermaphrodite. So yeah, their music was raging and angry for a reason.
One time, when considering if they should pursue the occult metal market, they asked me to meet them in a graveyard to 'raise Satan.' "How're you gonna do that?" I asked.
Lars said: "We got a book by this guy LaVey. It tells exactly how to do it. Just bring some candles, red cloth, a knife and some whiskey. We'll find a squirrel or something to sacrifice when we get there."
So I crept into this Southern California graveyard a few minutes before midnight, and I could tell from a distance that they had already started the ceremony. Seeing as I thought this whole thing was a crock of shit, I figured I'd just light some M80s and throw them in the big pentagram circle they had outlined in the ground. So I did, and when they exploded you would've thought James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich had just been spanked by the devil himself, as they fell to the ground and tried to scamper away in sobs and little-girl screams. I came out of the bushes laughing; Lars had pissed his pants, James was weeping uncontrollably. It was actually rather pitiful. And that's why they decided not to pursue the occult market.
Eventually, James and Lars wanted this Dave Mustaine guy to play second guitar, but I didn't like the looks of him -- I remember at clubs he always complained of being constipated, which made me sorta suspicious. Then there was this other guy, Cliff, who had this amazing headbanging technique, which Lars and James thought was really cool. I thought it was cool too, but only because he'd jolt his skull around with such force that I figured he might one day inadvertently decapitate himself, y'know, ripping his noggin right off his neck, which was something I would surely want to see.
In any case, I had grown tired of these dumb cross-dressing heshers. I knew this was a good band and that they were going places, but quite frankly I'd had enough of them. And so, with a lot of hugs and tears, we bid each other farewell and wished ourselves the best on our respective paths.
Y'see, I was on my way to Georgia. I knew these waify, pasty-faced college guys who wanted to start a jangly guitar band and needed a bassist. I even suggested a name to them: R.E.M. Of course they hated it at first too -- but that's another story.