Earlier in the day (at least where i live) i watched a livestream of Metallica headlining the Download Festival (formerly Donnington). They have played several of them over the years, most notably in 2004, when Lars was hospitalized right before the show, and Dave Lombardo, Joey Jordinson and Flemming Larsen sat in for him.
Speaking of… Here is what Jordinson (who is probably having a conversation with Larsen, Cliff Burton and John Bonham somewhere in space) had to say about Lars, in an interview with Metal Hammer magazine in 2016: “A lot of people give this guy shit, but they need to shut their fucking mouths because Lars Ulrich is probably one of the best and most innovative drummers ever. I got to tour with the guy and I watched him play every night from behind the kit, and his double bass was completely on point. He’s also one of the best businessmen that keeps this type of music going; he’s the heart of the whole fucking community, because Metallica are the kings. There’ll never be anybody that will match them, and Lars is a huge, huge part of that. Without that guy, and the influence of that band, I wouldn’t even be sitting here talking to you. Lars is one of my gods and he always will be. That guy fucking rules, period. So when I got the call asking if I’d fill in for him at Download festival, of course I knew everything because he’s one of my hugest influences. I remember playing to his shit all the time growing up and trying to be as good as him. Our technical abilities are way different but I’ll still never be as good as that guy, and getting to sit in his stool was one of the biggest fucking dreams come true. What an honor. I love that dude.”
You already know how i feel about Lars. While the experience and soundtrack of Metallica is what’s helped me tremendously through out this (still relatively new) journey as an amputee; it is Lars that has inspired me to do these drumming posts. And after playing to ‘The Judas Kiss’, i really don’t understand why people give the guy such a hard time. i understand that there have been things he’s done that are not immune from critique; but to totally say he’s a bad drummer makes no sense to me. There is no way Lars could arrange the songs in the way he does, with the mass variations in timing/signatures; if he was such a ‘bad drummer’. There’s no way he could be as in sync with James Hetfield as he is, if he was such a ‘bad drummer’. In learning to play these songs (in my own way, of course), it’s clear that he listens to the riffs, and creates narratives around that.
Up to this point, this song for some reason was the hardest for me to get through. There’s songs to me in the catalog that are actually harder, but for some reason i had a lot of trouble getting through this one. i definitely didn’t attempt to echo all of the rolls and fills done in the song. i’m not that great- which is why i ask again, why are people saying Lars is a ‘bad drummer’?
Either way, i hope i did alright.
‘The Judas Kiss’ is my favorite song on Death Magnetic, the follow-up release to the heavily polarizing (and heavily adored by me) St. Anger. The original/demo version (entitled ‘Gymbag’) was a bit slower, had some additional riffs, and a whole different set of lyrics, the best of them being ‘On your feet, or on your knees/Freedom is just one of these’. That definitely would have fit, but not as much as the finalized more powerful and menacing ‘Judas lives, recite this vow/I’ve become your new god now!’
There’s more than a few biblical references throughout Metallica’s catalog, just as there are veiled (and not-so-veiled) references to addiction. Generally, this song seems to have the (other) running theme of humans generally having the capacity in them to do evil things. Like Judas Iscariot (in the bible), despite being one of the 12 disciples, he was also faced with temptation. With that, he ratted Jesus out. You aim to do good in the world, and everything goes wrong. So what do you do? Your halo turns to fire.
This song, the more i thought about it, made me think of the ending scene of the director’s cut of one of my favorite movies of all time, the 1986 version of Little Shop Of Horrors. Aside from the stark anticonsumerist message (which is why i love it), it’s visually stunning. In line with the theme of the song, Seymour (the main character) aimed to do good as well. He longed to save his romantic interest from an abusive relationship. He wanted the shop he worked at to stay afloat… but he made a deal in which the consequences not only changed his life, but every single person around him, both locally and remotely. It was a deal he could never escape.
So i did the Dark Side Of The Moon/Wizard Of Oz move, and did an experiment to see if things would work out.
And it fit perfectly.
Little Shop actually has another connection for me: When i just got out of the hospital, my cousin was my primary caretaker. She fed me, cleaned the commode, washed my clothes, and helped to change the dressings on my leg, when my legs still had major open wounds. Our life’s perspectives and ideologies were vastly different. However, one of the things we shared was our common love of Little Shop Of Horrors. She would come in, and we’d sing the songs, and recite the lines together. i will always cherish those moments.
i am posting two versions here: the one of me playing the song in full (where for some reason the camera decided to cut off towards the end), and the Little Shop version. i also recommend playing the scene to the actual song where Lars is playing.
i always love when the bass opens a Metallica song. It’s a good chance the song will be a head nodder. It’s just a groove.
Keeping up with today’s theme though (of biblical references and temptation and likely references to addiction), we’ve got ‘Devil’s Dance’ (from the other polarizing (and much adored by me)) album, ReLoad. As complicated as ‘Judas Kiss’ was for me, it was also nice to take a little break, and just chill.
i mean… who can hate this song? It’s got one of Hetfield’s best ever ‘YEAH’s in their whole catalog; The bass intros the song; it’s a perfect example of the drums communicating clearly with the rhythm guitar; the solo (as was common during this period) initially had minimal notes, then moved into those blues scales (which i always love), sounding both chaotic and smooth all at once.
One thing i do know: If you take a chance on this song, you WILL dance.
i’ve mentioned this in other posts, but i will say it again; whatever songs i do, i have to connect with them in some way. That connection can be emotional or spiritual; it could be that a memory that was jogged up about the song when thinking about something else. It could be that the artist i am covering has played a significant part in my life’s journey.
The ‘Metallica Fridays’ posts were birthed for this reason.
Before we get into why the title of this post is the way it is, i do want to briefly (re)discuss a memory: December 3, 1991- the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium. It was four months after the start of the first leg of the Wherever We May Roam tour. i had just turned 15 one month prior. ‘Battery’ was my favorite Metallica song (and honestly, probably my favorite song of all time at the time). i didn’t make the connection that they were touring for the Black Album. i was entirely fixated on wanting them to do ‘Battery’.
i have seen hundreds of bands as a teenager, and most shows are a blur- including this one. i don’t remember them doing ‘Through The Never’ at all (which makes me sad, since it was my favorite song off of the Black Album at the time, and still is). i don’t remember any of the guitar, bass or drum solos, and i have a vague remembrance of the banter in the opening film and between songs. i vaguely remember the Justice medley, but ultimately i don’t remember this set list at all. From the looks of it this was a pretty great show (i mean, they played ‘Whiplash!’ ‘Creeping Death’! ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’! ‘Eye Of The Beholder’ (as part of the Justice Medley- A SONG THEY NEVER PLAY ANYMORE!!! Part of that medley was also ‘Frayed Ends Of Sanity’, ‘…And Justice For All’ and… ‘BLACKENED’!!!- BUT I DON’T REMEMBER IT. i don’t even remember them playing ‘Master Of Puppets’, the title track from my favorite album of theirs at the time. i guess that makes me a terrible fan- heh heh…
While not remembering the majority of the show, i remember what happened directly after the show. That said, i DO remember them opening with ‘Enter Sandman’ very clearly though- the first song in a 2.5- 3 hour set (of 22 songs!!!). i remember them playing ‘Battery’ as part of the second encore- the song i had been waiting for all night. When i heard that opening riff, i went OFF.
And i DEFINITELY remember the final song of the night (and the third encore): their cover of Queen’s ‘Stone Cold Crazy’ (from their 1974 album, Sheer Heart Attack, and b-side to ‘Enter Sandman’). i remember James Hetfield introducing the song by saying something like, ‘This song is by the not so straight band, Queen…’ Something like that. It’s funny that i remember those things, but not the much else of the show. i already liked Queen (and songs like ‘Sheer Heart Attack’ (from 1977′ News Of The World) piqued my punk sensibilities), so i was very pleased with Metallica’s cover. Of course, they Metallica’d it up (with some lyrical changes, the little tail at the end (as opposed to the abrupt end) and no harmonies in the chorus), but their cover is just as good as the OG.
Let’s keep it real- i know there’s the direct connection and influence with the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM), as well as punk bands like the Misfits, Discharge and GBH; but Queen walked so bands like Metallica could run. Queen had ‘thrash metal foreparents’ like ‘Stone Cold Crazy’ sit right next to pop hits like ‘Killer Queen’, and didn’t stutter. Would any of their albums post-Kill ‘Em All be as they were, without the musical diversity of Queen albums? Who knows. i also wouldn’t be surprised if Metallica (and especially bands like Guns N’ Roses) took performing cues from Deacon, Mercury, Taylor and May.
So here we are… jogging that precious memory back from December 3, 1991. i am not as good a drummer as Roger Taylor or Lars Ulrich, but it’s my little tribute.
(Also, you can’t tell me that Lars was not influenced by Roger Taylor in any way. Look at side by side videos of them (not just drumming wise, but interviews as well), and you’ll know what i mean.)
So here we finally are…. St. Anger.
If you’ve been following these posts up to now, you know that there are songs from the album spread throughout. This week though, i was particularly feeling it. Sometimes there are songs i want to do for these Friday posts, and when i go to do them it doesn’t feel right. But this week, St. Anger felt right. And i began to think more about it.
St. Anger is the Metallica album i actually listen to the most.
You heard that correctly.
With all the Puppets, the Justices, the Black Albums, the Hardwireds… With all of those beloved albums, yes… i continually return to St. Anger. WHY??!!
While Load is actually my favorite album of theirs (and as i love to say, Load walked so St. Anger could run), St. Anger is the one that means the most to me. Ultimately, while people are repulsed by the chaotic nature of the album, it’s actually the reason i love it.
i don’t get upset when people say how much they hate St. Anger. The album is full of a mishmash of copy and paste riffs and beats, no guitar solos, an infamous ‘garbage can’ snare, ‘therapy 101’ lyrical content, and a production as if it was recorded in a cave or tunnel. The album gets linked to a lot of ‘nu-metal’ that was produced at the time; however, while i’ve heard of a lot of the bands tagged with that label, i’m not familiar with the actual music made by those bands. So for me, St. Anger stands on its own without those influences.
On the surface, it is my favorite album to work out to. On a deeper level, There is no way an album like this could be made without it being chaotic. Load/ReLoad (lyrically) were rooted in the same mental health and addiction struggles St. Anger depicted; however, a whole band wasn’t openly on the brink of a breakdown. With Load, it was much easier to reinterpret some of the lyrical content, because you weren’t necessarily familiar with the root. With St. Anger you couldn’t escape that (especially if you watched Some Kind Of Monster, the documentary charting the journey of this era).
On the film, James Hetfield states: “It is the best mirror we’ve ever had in our lives.” On St. Anger, he says: “Everyone was pretty vulnerable with each other. And it made us stronger.” He’s also talked about “a lot of (the) growing up (that) happened” in the process of recording the album. Self-criticism is crucial for any progress to happen in life. St. Anger was the musical accompaniment to the self-critical process of Some Kind Of Monster. The Playboyinterview (published in 2001) were the first public tinges of a band on a sinking ship. Most people who read it or knew about it (including myself- the interview was actually circulating on the internet at the time) were most likely thrown off by the candidness, and were still surprised by Jason Newsted’s departure from the band. i didn’t see this performance until years later, but most people who did see the original airing of the VH1 awards in the year 2000 were not aware that (the aptly titled) ‘Fade To Black’ would be the final song Newsted performed live with the band. This includes the rest of Metallica.
Everything is dialectical. Jason Newsted leaving not only held a mirror up to the entity that is Metallica, but the humans within it as well. The perceived/assumed/creative chaos of St. Anger is a direct contradiction to razor sharpness and coldness of what has previously shaped the band’s identity. Each song on the album was a chapter in the collective mind and experience of the band, but for all intents and purposes it (like every other album) was still a vehicle for exploring the mind of James Hetfield. As everyone did contribute to lyrics for this album; since Hetfield is (usually) the primary lyric writer in the band, it does make me wonder if the others who contributed wrote what they imagined would be his perspective, or were they writing to chart their own mental health journeys as well. ‘Frantic’ set the stage of someone who is aware their addictions have utilized more hours in the day than desired; by the end of ‘All Within My Hands’, you’ve met someone who, despite talking about control being the driving force of things, has lost complete control.
Again, i totally understand why someone would hate this album.
Anyone trying to play anything off of this album- unless you are absolutely skilled at everything- might need a little bit extra time to learn these songs. For some of the songs, there is no solid BPM or count you could follow. Time changes/signatures are all over the place. Everything about this album, as far as i’m concerned, despite the copy/paste nature of it, is as complex as Justice (which was ALSO a copy/paste album, just much colder, cleaner, and drier). Both albums have a lot to do with grieving the loss of a bassist.
So while Load walked so St. Anger could run; St. Anger walked so METALLICA could run. In more ways than one.
Within St. Anger is that much-maligned, universally panned, never performed second to last song, ‘Purify’. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS SONG. To me, this is the thematic crux of the album. while i could (obviously) be wrong about the song’s intent, i interpret this song is about therapy itself, and the use of it to strip away any illusions or pretenses- whether it’s the image of the entity which is Metallica, or the accoutrements that accompany said entity (the addictions and behavior fueled by it). i don’t think the message of ‘Purify’ is to forget the past as a whole, but to not hold onto it as a crutch. The cobwebbed skeletons are the coat rack in the closet, and you keep putting more and more clothes on it, hoping the coat rack doesn’t break.
Old paint, old looks Cover up the past
It’s time to move, so you have to clean out the closet.
Strip the past of mine My sweet turpentine
In an interview he did with Road Recovery, Hetfield says, “You wouldn’t really like me if you knew my story, if you knew what horrible things I’ve done. I’m coming to grips with that, ’cause I have groups of people that I’m able to share all my horrible stuff with. Shameful, extremely shameful, dark stuff. Some of it is things I’ve taken from my parents and carried it a little further. Other ones, I’ve been able to drop some of that. Other ones I’ve picked up on my own and created. Shame’s a big thing for me.” In an interview he did with Joe Rogan he talked about the experience of therapy/treatment “tearing you down to bones, ripping your life apart; anything you thought about yourself or what it was, anything you thought you had; your family, your career, your anything… gone.” He mentioned how the purpose of this process is to “slowly rebuild you.”
For me, this is what ‘Purify’ is about.
‘All Within My Hands’ (well, the album version anyway) is another maligned song. Everything about this song is perfect. Its imperfections are what make it perfect.
(The generally preferred alternate version is just as amazing to me. Like many songs done from earlier years with more recent readings, this version is more pensive, as if they escaped the fire, not unharmed, and are ruminating on the experience.)
There is absolutely NOTHING about this song that carries the usual Metallica metaphors. “Love is control/I’ll die if I let go.” All who love me, this is your verbal warning. I WILL crush you. This is the story of a person who doesn’t have the capacity or willingness to give love in the same ways they desire/receive from others. Love is conditional. LOVE IS CONTROL. CONTROL IS LOVE.
“You wouldn’t really like me if you knew my story, if you knew what horrible things I’ve done.”
Hetfield initially sings with a self-aware smugness, and as the song progresses he is pleading, and descends into instability. All instruments follow this slow descent.
It is a brilliant look into a particular mental health struggle, and an even more brilliant ending to a soundtrack covering various aspects of mental health and addiction.
This album resonates with me greatly, as a person who has particular mental health struggles, who has experienced varying levels of trauma (the biggest one, losing a leg i guess), who has struggled with loss and rejection… and as a person who hasn’t struggled with alcohol or drug addiction, but who grew up with a mother who was an alcoholic. In terms of myself, i struggled with an addiction to food bingeing, as a result of struggling with rejection and abuse. In terms of dealing with people, a portion of my life was also played out in a song like ‘All Within My Hands.’ i hated when people left, so i did some things i thought would make them stay, but all it did was push them away. i relapsed with the bingeing a few times (all without people knowing- as far as i know), and had to do a lot of work to be where i’m at now, in terms of my relationship with food, and myself. Fortunately i currently do not have the same struggles with food i have had in the past, but i know that it’s something always lurking around the corner.
In terms of my relationships with people, i did a lot of work practicing non-attachment. It’s not about not giving love or compassion to others; the non-attachment i worked on was practicing the understanding that people come in and out of your life, and you learn something from all of those people. The non-attachment is in not holding on to toxic relationships (whether it’s you performing that toxicity or someone else) and thinking something loving or beneficial could be produced out of them. In practicing this non-attachment i have learned to accept myself as a whole person, instead of seeking validation from those who clearly don’t love me in the same ways.
“…I have groups of people that I’m able to share all my horrible stuff with.”
The other role of non-attachment in my life is understanding and accepting there are those who do contribute positively to my life who may not have the same capacity for connection i have. i am a person who does need daily check-ins, but not everyone does. If i don’t hear from someone for a few days it doesn’t mean they love me any less.
I CAN’T CONTROL HOW PEOPLE LOVE ME. But i can control how i respond to that love.
(It is interesting and amusing how at the end i miss the crash cymbal, but i thought it was fitting for how chaotic the end is, so i decided to just let it happen).
Quoting Hetfield once again; on St. Anger (an album even the band knows has divided the fan base, to the point where they joke about it), he says that it’s an album that has “found its people.”
i’m gonna be honest: there was a point where i just wasn’t feeling it this week.
Depression can do that to you. It’s inexplicable. It comes and goes in quick waves sometimes; other times it takes up a mass load of space. When i’m feeling tired and unmotivated i have to closely watch myself, to make sure i’m not entering a crisis. When playing music is not helping (and it certainly wasn’t helping this week), i know i’m verging on the edge of trouble. When i’m there everything that normally seems okay to play, i can’t seem to mentally make connections. Nothing i play comes out right. Fortunately, it passed right as it was about to get to that edge. As i was recording for this week’s session, a lot of what i was feeling began to pass.
i can’t believe it’s been five months since i’ve started these posts. Five months in this journey of not only Metallica being part of the soundtrack of living and learning post amputation; it’s also been a journey of me working on being okay with just letting go and allowing myself to JUST PLAY. i maintain that listening to and experiencing Metallica prior to the accident is extremely different than it is now. To echo the words of a Mr. Hetfield- When it comes to be a soothing ride towards a new day, there was a semi truck that came my way.
The positive of that will always be a reacquaintance with the things i never knew i would return to in the ways they have… not only playing music, but also myself. And while depression is not something that miraculously goes away, i have become better at reading when the freight train (or the semi truck, if you will) is approaching.
With that, we’ll start with something that might actually feel like a freight train to folks… one of the worst pains in existence on this earth: a toothache. Not too many things will down you faster than a toothache. Apparently Cliff Burton may have been thinking the same thing, because he made a tune (supposedly) inspired by it.
And while i absolutely love playing the bass to Metallica songs, i in no way shape or form am at the level of a Cliff Burton, so i did not play ‘Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)’. i did play drums to it though. The thing i love about this song is that the band decided to do a song with BASS AS THE PRIMARY INSTRUMENT, AND NO GUITAR on their first album.
No… even better. The DRUMS came in after a couple of minutes. Bass and drums- the two instruments people love to make fun of all the time.
‘Hardwired’ is quite fun to play. It was the last song written for the album bearing it’s name (Hardwired…. To Self Destruct), and it was once again, the band saying, “We don’t need to prove our chops to you, but once again, here you go. Now shut up and stop complaining how we ‘sold out’.” It was a great opener to a pretty emotionally devastating (at least to me) album.
Come on. We had to get here eventually.
Yes, it is ‘Enter Sandman.’ Yes, it has been played to the point where everyone knows the song, whether or not they know the band who made it. As i’ve said several times though, there really is a difference between consuming a piece of music, and listening to a piece of music. ‘Enter Sandman’ really is a great song, in terms of its construction.
Thank you Kirk Lee Hammett for laying that groundwork. And thank you Bob Rock for encouraging the lyrical changes. ‘Disrupt the perfect family’ honestly is not as powerful as the contrast of Never Never Land and nighttime prayers, with nightmares and the sandman. Given that Metallica have also prided themselves on writing songs where the lyrics are open for interpretation, a song’s subject matter as specific as crib death honestly would not have worked as well, especially given the content of the other songs on the album. i don’t think ‘Harvester Of Sorrow’ pt. 2 would have worked.
i did switch it up a bit. Inspired by the switch-up of ‘The Unforgiven’, i half timed the verses, while the chorus (which was originally half speed) went in the other direction. Interestingly (but maybe not surprising to some), it gave the song a little bit more of a ‘Southern rock’ reading.
(This post is dedicated to Carly, who has helped me tremendously in dealing with some mental stuff. Thanks for the connection.)
Okay… so i am FINALLY doing an MJ-related post. You may be asking yourself, ‘if you’re not that big on pop music, why do you always mention that Michael Jackson is your favorite artist?’
The thing is, while i actually do enjoy his music my love for MJ actually has nothing to do with his music. To me, the art he has produced has to do everything with his experience outside of that art. Sociopolitically, he is an incredibly polarizing figure. He is the physical embodiment of a warning of what happens when you don’t deal with childhood trauma in healthy, wholistic ways. He strongly challenged hypermasculinity- and at the same time embraced particular types of misogyny.
Because he is either extremely lionized or demonized, there aren’t to many examinations of his contradictions in ways that humanize him.
He grew up being trained by the decidedly (so-called) apolitical Motown machine (where he aimed to use that as a virtue as a celebrity), while the world around him- with its political upheavals, police terror upon economically and sociopolitically marginalized communities, and even changes in how art was created- did not reflect that same apoliticism. He went from the lyrical idealism of ‘We Are The World’ and ‘Black Or White’ … to the anger of the visual second half of ‘Black Or White’ and ‘They Don’t Care About Us.’ While being seen as a (so-called) liberal, he espoused unchecked (so-called) conservative values, with songs like ‘Wanna Be (Startin’ Somethin’)’. If, say, a republican politician said something like, “If you can’t feed your baby, then don’t have a baby,” many of MJ’s fans would probably be upset. Understandably, given that said politician has the ability to create policies.
However, Michael Jackson sang those lyrics, and many who would take up issue with the politician, happily sing those same lyrics. Even songs like ‘Man In The Mirror’ and ‘Keep The Faith’ read with a sort of ‘bootstrap theory’ conservatism that he gets away with consistently. i see thousands upon thousands of criticisms when it comes to the ‘persona’ of MJ, but never a solid critique of the lyrical content.
The strongest defense of his conservatism (if people were inclined to defend that sort of thing) is the posthumously released ‘Abortion Papers (aka ‘Song Groove’)’. Given that the man wrote a ton of songs, it’s curious to me why they chose THAT one to be released on Bad 25. His contradictions are vast- and again, if ANYONE else were to do at least a quarter of the things he did, no one would be talking about his impact, even 13 years after his absence on this earth.
‘But the values you espouse are the polar opposite of his- why is he your favorite artist?’
Because he was the very public face of so many of our internal and societal struggles and contradictions. No one has done that before, and no one has done that since. Michael Jackson was the catalyst for me to actively want to work on my own healing from childhood trauma. i had a similar childhood (without the fame, obviously), and i didn’t want to end up like him. MJ’s music (and how he presented himself) isn’t just a bunch of popular culture jargon; it’s about how an African man did his best to survive environments that consistently attempted to box him in. i have a ton of criticisms all day about it, but for all intents and purposes he was declared ‘weird’ both by internal circles and outside of them, and he embraced that weird.
Most probably see him as a larger-than life celebrity (who did some weird stuff); i see him as a person learning to survive in a world that enabled excess and consumption as a means of dealing with any sort of struggle. Whether it’s ‘celebrity culture’ thriving and profiting off of mental health breakdowns, or family, friend or religious communities encouraging you to perform/pray/laugh the pain away; Michael Jackson left this earth never really having gotten the help he needed.
This Is It (which i finally watched after 9 years of boycotting it) is the WORST movie i have ever seen in my life. MJ was clearly going through the motions, and his voice was diminished where, even at the final scene after the credits’ roll, he’s just having a mini tantrum. The movie was terribly edited, and was a clear cash grab/rush job. For 2.5 years i was in the midst of writing a book on MJ, where i interviewed people who were impacted by him, who loved him and who worked directly with him. The book’s primary theme was not a biography, but it was about him being the catalyst to my own healing. He passed, as i was 3/4 of the way done. After June 25, 2009 i ceased writing it, out of respect to him. i never really looked at the book again, and honestly don’t have a desire to.
i felt incredibly disgusted by a film like This Is It, because Michael Jackson, to me, was more than an entertainer. Past the music and the image, his impact reached people in places who don’t even have much access to many of those things. All This Is It proved was that Michael Jackson’s labor was exploited, just like the rest of us. Capitalism be capitalismin’.
So doing this post wasn’t that easy for me. Because as much as i like MJ’s music, i realize that i don’t really CARE about the music, as much as i think about the impact he’s made on my life in ways outside of it. MJ’s music didn’t get me through hard times (like, say, a Metallica). MJ didn’t influence my political analysis (like punk did). MJ got me to get up and dance- but just getting up and dance isn’t what makes you my favorite artist.
i tried playing to a number of songs, and it was hard. I wasn’t necessarily in a mental space because again, while there are songs i find some value in, i don’t connect with the songs in the same ways i connect with (again), a Metallica. i mean, ‘Childhood’ is a musical rationalization for why the dude should continue problematic behavior. “I am the way i am because… bad childhood. SO LET ME BE ME!!!” i’m like, ‘Michael, i had a traumatic childhood too homie. No excuse.’
But i digress…
The other thing about his music- particularly with later stuff- is that its base is drum programming. So i need to practice the songs a little more to get to an arrangement that makes at least a modicum of sense. i’m not a John Robinson or a Jonathan Moffett. i’m not the best at ghost notes (yet), and ghost notes are ALLLLLLL over MJ albums. With that, i figured i’d start out with some earlier stuff.
i suppose we will be chronological here, and start with some Jackson 5. From (the one of my favorites from that era) and Third Album we have the deep cut ‘How Funky Is Your Chicken’. The post 60s era of Motown is my favorite, because (a. the musicians got to show their chops a bit more (as opposed to the constraints of appealing to ‘Middle America’), and (b. While not incredibly revolutionary, the music had more political subject matter (to Berry Gordy’s chagrin).
‘Chicken’ is a fun song; it’s one of many that highlighted a ‘dance craze’ (shout out to Rufus Thomas). Can y’all do the funky chicken? DO ITTTTTTTT!
Next, we have the title track from a (from my vantage point) pretty slept-on J5 album, ‘Skywriter’. The song had an early use of the flanger, plus some pretty dope bass lines. The album also has the very questionable ‘Touch’ (which the Supremes also did- it was not unusual for Motown groups to do a lot of the same songs). That song is WAY too adult for a bunch of kids to be singing.
Nevertheless, ‘Skywriter’ is fairly innocuous, considering.
Finally, we have one of my top 5 favorite MJ songs of all time, ‘Take Me Back’, from one of my top favorite albums, Forever, Michael. Though they popped out on occasion on other albums, that was the album where you really began to see some of the beloved flourishes MJ did as an adult.
i have every J5 and MJ album on vinyl; two of the singles from Forever, Michael (‘Take Me Back’ and ‘We’re Almost There’) are the first time i recall there being completely different mixes from the album versions. In interviews, he stated that Forever, Michael was the first album where he felt free to contribute to making decisions in regards to the process. The album was a clear nod to varying musical styles and artists popular around that time- Chicago and Barry White among others, but of course it’s got Michael’s stamp all over it. With its horns and strings (plus MJ’s desperate vocals), ‘Take Me Back’ sounds simultaneously hopeful/optimistic and downtrodden.
Even though i’ve written songs over the years (and continue to), i never exactly focused on the construction of a song in the ways i do now. Doing these challenges has given me a bigger insight into it all. It has also led me to think even more how one doesn’t have to know how to play music in order to critique it; however, i think the critique would most likely look a whole lot different if they did. It’s not easy to construct a song, and while i don’t think it’s necessary to like every song on the planet i am beginning to have a bit more general kindness for people who take the time to do it.
i am not playing these songs in the ‘traditional’ way they tend to be covered (not only because i’m an amputee, but i’m also not that great in comparison to those who play this music), but doing this really has given me a much bigger appreciation for Metallica’s music- and music in general. Eight months ago, if you told me i’d be playing ‘Blackened’ i would have laughed at you.
Is it better to play it in your own way (making lots of mistakes along the way) and find your groove until you finally hit a point where it feels right; or is it better to complain that you aren’t getting it ‘right’, and not play at all? For someone who’s not that great at drumming (again, in comparison to the many who play to this type of music) to be on the 19th week of learning, practicing and covering Metallica songs… i’d say that is an accomplishment i’d never thought i would see.
i enjoy doing this every week; it’s incredibly healing, and it helps take my mind off of the more traumatic things happening in my life. Doing this is incredibly humbling. This was the first week though, where i’m really starting to just let go and truly embrace it all. i’m calculating it via ‘spiritual math’ (as Clint Wells of Metal Up Your Podcast tends to say) when i choose which songs i’m going to cover each week. Honestly, the songs choose me. The more i do this, there are songs i begin to connect with in ways i hadn’t before.
‘Am I Savage’ is one of those songs.
It’s actually one of my favorite songs in the Metallica catalog. That said, though (of course) i listened to it enough for it to be one of my favorites, i never LISTENED to it until doing it for this post. People focus on that amazing riff (you know which one i’m talking about), but really, it’s an incredibly haunting, moving song. On the surface it can be interpreted as another one of those ‘werewolf/maybe Ktulu’-type songs. On the musical tip, the opening riff reminds me of something Duane Denison would play, merged with the obvious Sabbath influence. Lyrically is where it hits a bit deep.
Say hello to junior dad The greatest disappointment Age withered him and changed him Into junior dad Psychic savagery
This is exactly what i thought about when actually listening to ‘Am I Savage’. ‘Junior Dad’, the almost 20-minute final song on the much maligned Lulu, the collaboration the band made with Lou Reed. While the lyrics (inspired by German playwright Frank Wedekind’s ‘Lulu’ play cycle) had some questionable things on occasion, i love the music. That said, ‘Junior Dad’ is an incredibly moving piece, and it is one i return to.
In the piece, the narrator laments the fact that he sees his father- a man who despised him- in himself. ‘Am I Savage’, to me, holds a similar theme. The video accompanying the song involves a man becoming more and more distant from his family, coworkers and other surroundings… and eventually himself. Like much of the Metallica oeuvre, there are various songs- some veiled and some not so veiled- regarding familial relationships and addiction. Instead of the desired connection with nature of ‘Of Wolf And Man’ for instance, is the “savage… scratching at the door” the “dog at (the) back step” from ‘Low Man’s Lyric’?
Is the beauty the high, and the beast the withdrawal?
Inheritance, the past has bit again
James Hetfield has been very open about his father leaving at the age of 13, and his mother’s passing at 16. In the documentary Absent, he addressed the roots of his struggles with alcohol addiction, where he “masked feelings of abandonment.” He also spoke about utilizing particular tools of eschewing emotion, in order to deal with said abandonment, since everyone he loved tended to leave. It was an “easy way to not get close to anybody.”
I feel, The ever changing, you, in me
You saw a little bit of the patterns in Some Kind Of Monster, where he describes celebrating his son’s first birthday in Russia, hunting bears and loading up on vodka for fuel. It got to the point where his wife made an ultimatum, a move Hetfield says saved his life.
He also acknowledges a particular “integrity” that comes with closing yourself off; however, he also says that “most of it is the shield.” On the vagueness of lyrics (despite them also being personal), he says that people are going to “relate to the struggle, and know that there’s someone out there helping speak about this.”
Beauty and the Beast are colliding
While i definitely do play instruments i don’t identify as a musician. It was only within the past few years where i identified as a writer, despite writing for decades. While that riff (yes, that riff) is one of their greatest, it’s the words i connect with the most here, having struggled with some of the same things- with an alcoholic mother, emotionally absent/narcissist stepfather, people dear to me leaving this earth, and closing myself off to people due to fear of rejection.
Transforming into the people you worked hard to escape is scary.
Speaking of words… the next song for this post has only been performed once (in London, UK (August 20, 1987) while ‘Am I Savage’ has been performed zero times (!!!)). ‘Crash Course In Brain Surgery’ stays faithful to the skeleton of the Budgie original, but of course it’s done in the Metallica way- it’s got twice the fills (where the OG only has about a couple), the singing got left out of the bridge (similar to ‘Breadfan’), and while Burke Shelley (who physically transitioned over the past year) does end the song with a few ‘Yeahs,’ it pales in comparison to what James does, which to me is second best only to ‘Fuel’ in all of the band’s catalog. The whole song is great (as is Budgie’s original) but sometimes i just replay that ‘Yeah Yeah… YEAH YEAH!’ over and over… and over.
‘Fight Fire With Fire’ (performed only 339 times- last on May 12, 2022 at Belo Horizonte, Brazil)) is absolute proof that i’m not a musician. i have absolutely no idea what i’m doing technically, but i did what felt decent (at least for now). The funny thing about all this is that when i isolated the drums i did, the way the song is SUPPOSED to be (on the up beat as opposed to the down beat) made more sense. i didn’t change the pattern at all, but when i was playing with the song (and when i would listen to all tracks) the drums would constantly mentally flip back and forth consistently. Despite me not switching patterns, flipping them in my head actually helped me get through the song. As anyone who reads this blog knows, i am a major fan of rhythmic illusions. So of course this is one of my favorites of the band. i am trying to imagine how a bunch of 21, 22-year olds sat and wrote a song like this. The song totally messes you up, structurally, trying to play it. It has to be one of two things: (a. Cliff Burton (who co-wrote the song (and was the primary influence of the intro) used his knowledge of music theory and composition to help craft the songs, or (b. the dudes (for the most part) ultimately had no idea what they were doing in terms of structure, and they were just going on adrenaline and did something until it sounded great.
i know that Lars’ long-time drum tech Flemming Larsen (who recently left this earth) did give him some drum lessons around this time. So perhaps that was a contribution to the construction of this song. However it happened, ‘Fight Fire With Fire’ is definitely one of the greatest album intros of all time.
And of course i can’t keep apologizing for doing no double bass on these tracks… I ONLY HAVE ONE FOOT, Y’ALL! i do what i can. It’s better to play with one foot (and not be perfect) than not at all!!!
Also… this song will always be timely.
i honestly like how James Hetfield puts it: He describes his musical relationship with Lars as one being of Lars as a frustrated guitar player, and he being the frustrated drummer. Jason Newsted also described Metallica as a ‘two-man garage band,’ something to that effect. The more i play to this music the better i begin to understand what they are talking about. Traditionally, the bass and drums tend to follow one another. But Lars ALWAYS follows James. ‘Fight Fire With Fire’ is a perfect example (out of many) of this occurring.
i decided to do a little challenge: play the Metal Hammer version of ‘Fight Fire’. After i was done, i wanted to cry. Their set from 1985’s Metal Hammer festival is in the top 3 of my favorite Metallica shows of all time. i messed up a few times but you know what? i did it. The fact that they did even FASTER versions of this song… i just can’t. Having performed live on stage a whole bunch of times, that adreniline definitely gets to you. But dang. To play that fast and not be sloppy (and yeah, sometimes they were) is a mean feat. To play that fast on bass with fingers… To play that fast with mostly downpicking… To play the skank beat and double kick that fast consistently…
Say what you want and will about this band. But playing these songs give me an even bigger amount of respect. The fact that they are able to laugh at their mistakes does the same.
This post is a major contradiction- after saying numerous times how i feel about pop music (in general), what you are about to see are some of the most poppiest of songs. This led me to want to be clear on my relationship to pop music: if a pop song can convey great storytelling; if it can channel anything outside of the superficial; if it goes beyond lower vibrational energy… it’s most likely something i would enjoy listening to.
A great pop song can make me happy… or it can make me cry. There are a few, like ‘Home’ by Stephanie Mills (my favorite song in the whole entire world), ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going’ by Jennifer Holliday, ‘Love takes Time’ by Mariah Carey, and ‘Didn’t We Almost Have It All’ by Whitney Houston, that automatically bring tears the moment you hear those notes. i guess you can say, even though i’m not particularly a fan of anthemic songs, i do love big, dramatic ones. Not only are songs like these full of drama; you can also hear the tears, sadness or anguish in their vocals.
i am also a major fan of unrequited love longs… you know, when you have feelings for someone and those feelings are not returned. ‘How Am I Supposed To Live Without You’ is a perfect unrequited love song.
i spent a bit of time over the past few months searching for covers of the song, and it has been hard to find any versions that capture the heartbreak of the original. Most people stick to vocal acrobatics, taking away from the actual meaning of the song. While i definitely love a good run or two, i just don’t think they’re fitting for a song like this.
The only one who honestly does the song any justice is the original artist.
Laura Branigan sings the song very plainly, and at some points, deadpan. Michael Bolton (who co-wrote the song (with Doug James, under his birth name, Michael Bilotin)) comes fairly close, but his pleading is no comparison. Laura Branigan’s reading is one of desperation and urgency. You can hear how in the first verse, all the stuff they talk about is small talk; she wants to get all of that out of the way to ask the major questions. This person was her lifeline- all without them even knowing it.
The crux of the story is in this one line: “I don’t wanna know the price I’m gonna pay for dreaming, now that your dream has come true.” i don’t care what anyone says. This performance will always make me cry. To me, it is up there with (one of the greatest vocalists ever in the whole world) Phyllis Hyman’s performance of ‘Old Friend’.
For the post here, the bed of the song was Branigan’s version, but i combined her vocals with Michael Bolton’s, then played some drums. Like much of what we’ll see in this post, i had to do a bit of doctoring. Because the the final part of Bolton’s version has a higher key, i had to lower it to match Branigan’s original key. Also, i combined the full vinyl and CD versions of Bolton’s version. The CD version is shorter for some reason. This is the only Michael Bolton song i’ve dissected, so i can’t speak to the other ones. But i really do like this song. i’ve liked it since i’ve heard the OG back in ’83.
Speaking of…. i have no shame in saying i absolutely love what is now in this day and age, lovingly called ‘Yacht Rock’. Player, Christopher Cross, Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Gino Vannelli… No one should be too punk to love some well-crafted tunes. i came up in an era where a lot of that stuff crossed over into the hood.
‘Biggest Part Of Me’ by Ambrosia was another one of those jams, so when Take 6 covered it years later we all just knew they would do it right. Given that they largely do gospel, they switched up the lyrics in order to stay on that path. Even if someone’s not Christian, that should not stop them from enjoying a great song. Good music is good music. There have been plenty of gospel songs that traveled over into the pop charts. Both versions of the song did fairly well, but i’m not sure of how many people know both.
i did lower the key to Ambrosia’s version to match Take 6’s. i also played the drums.
This next song, i know for sure that there has been no general cross-cultural (or generational) exchange. When you think of ‘Float On’, you are most likely either thinking of the Floaters or Modest Mouse. Not both.
This is something i absolutely had been thinking about doing for a while, but i didn’t know if it was gonna work out. i can’t possibly have been the only person to think of this combination. i’d be surprised if that was the case. i did keep the drums, but played the bass- almost, but not note for note. This was honestly one of my favorite things i’ve made since the start of this blog.
The following song might have you going, ‘there was another version of this song??!!’
Yes. As a matter of fact, ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’ was presented to Bucks Fizz before it was presented to Tina Tuner; they were told the song needed male vocals, which is how they ended up recording it. Of course we all know what ended up happening after Tina Turner sang it.
i did use the Bucks Fizz version as a base. i also used the background vocals, and put Tina Turner as the lead. The Bucks Fizz version is in a lower key, so i made it higher to match the other.
We end this post how we started… kind of. With two versions of the same song, one possibly more obscure than the other.
‘Wouldn’t It Be Good’ is an incredibly sad song. i’m not sure how (or why) it became popular in some circles of the pop pantheon. The lyrics are full of hopelessness and dread. This song is a companion to ‘Fade To Black’… except if you’ve only heard the version released on the Pretty In Pink soundtrack, you might not notice it.
The Danny Hutton Hitters version (the one on the soundtrack) is the first version i ever heard, so i didn’t recognize how sad the song was until i heard Nik Kershaw’s original some years later. Danny Hutton (of Three Dog Night)’s reading of the lyrics sound a bit more hopeful that he will get over to the other side, after some struggle. Nik Kershaw sounds like it’s pointless to even try. With that, i opted to wage a conversation between the two. In between the conversation are scenes from Pretty In Pink– one of the the few John Hughes movies i actually remember liking. Though i hated the end (because i hate scenarios wrapped up in a neat little bow), the movie did take a dip into a discussion on class. i know some of his other movies did as well, but Pretty In Pink is the one i watched the most of as a kid.
i played the bass on this one, while the Danny Hutton version was the bed for the vocals.
i can’t say anything more than what Lars Ulrich (and other musicians) has said: A good song writes itself. Perhaps i will be able to write that great song some day. Until then i will appreciate those who do write them.
Whether it’s their covering and honoring (more obscure- especially at the time) NWOBHM and punk bands over the years (actually taking up most of their live sets in the early days), doing doodles (recognizing local artist from whatever city or country they’re performing in), just taking outright cues for inspiration, or advocating for vinyl; Metallica have always been a band that loves music, regardless of where it comes from. From what i can see, the greatest artists have a diverse interest in music, and will be inspired by sounds they do not primarily perform. Johnny Marr was inspired by Nile Rogers, John Legend’s second album was inspired by Pet Sounds… and even though many took inspiration from James Brown (including Mick Jagger), Mr. Brown himself arguably straight up jacked David Bowie. That said, Carlos Alomar DID play the riff on both songs, and it was said that the riff was constructed during his time with the JB’s (prior to his work with Bowie). So was it a straight jack? This is a debate that will probably go on until the end of time.
Metallica have not only sent clear nods to Sabbath, Budgie, Queen and Motorhead; they also were inspired by bands and artists such as Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and Tom Waits. Sonically they’ve also collectively looked to country, Motown (if you can call that a genre), blues, jazz and punk.
One band they haven’t seem to look to was the Kinks.
The Kinks are one of my favorite groups of all time. As major as they are, they still have fallen under the radar of the pantheon of great bands, in comparison to how many mention, in particular, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. The lyrics were a combination of stream of consciousness, self-awareness, straight-ahead cultural musings, class analysis, satire and biting sociopolitical commentary, giving them a bit more relatability than other pop contemporaries at the time.
James Hetfield (before introducing Ray Davies to the stage at Madison Square Garden in 2009) acknowledged that the band “got completely schooled… on early, early riff rock.” He called the Kinks “one of the original punks.” Interestingly… despite being a punk kid, my favorite stuff from the Kinks is the post-‘riff rock/punk’ stuff. They have great albums like Muswell Hillbillies, Arthur (Or The Decline And Fall Of the British Empire), Village Green Preservation Society, Something Else, Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One, and more.
(Side note: i actually met Ray Davies back in 1998 when he was making appearances for his album The Storyteller. i approached him, and he said, “Hi Sweetheart, how are you?” A lot of people had so much to say to him, asking about specific shows, songs or riffs. i was very shy, and there was a limited amount of time we could talk, so i just wrote down a few questions on a paper and handed it to him, then left. i have no idea if he ever read the questions, or if he thought the questions were any good. He may have just laughed at them.)
In 2010 Davies released See My Friends (obviously titled after a Kinks song), a collaborative effort covering his music. It featured Alex Chilton, Lucinda Williams, Jon Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne and more… including a collaboration with Metallica- ‘You Really Got Me’.
Which is what i do here. It’s very clear Metallica took more of the Van Halen approach when they covered the song. However, despite knowing that version and hearing it a whole bunch of times over the years i am much more familiar with the OG…. so i did make the drums less ‘metal’ than Lars.
i have been vegan for over half my life (28 years) and i absolutely love ‘Of Wolf And Man’. It’s probably as simple as being a song about a dude who turns into a werewolf; on a deeper level (because that’s just what i do) i do think it’s a continuation that was had on the Justice album (if not directly) in regards to how humans mess things up, and how we should regard the ‘natural world’ as being part of ourselves. The Earth is a gift (as is mentioned in the song); let’s stop disrespecting her.
My favorite part of the song though: NOSE TO THE WIND. i don’t even care. It always makes me think of nose boops.
i did my attempt at honoring Lars by doing some take on the great ‘Wolf And Man’ fill he does. it’s one of my favorite fills on The Black Album. i still don’t understand the Lars hate, man.
And finally, we have what is one of my favorite Metallica songs of all time, ‘Lords Of Summer’. It’s one of a handful of songs where they reference themselves (‘King Nothing’, ‘Unforgiven II’ and ‘St. Anger’ being three top ones); it’s also a song, like ‘Death Is Not The End’ or ‘Vulturous’, where they’ve worked on in various incarnations. However, unlike those two it actually got an official release. As much as it would have been an excellent addition to the (also excellent) Hardwired… To Self-Destruct; i think it would have taken away from the somber theme of the album. Having this be an extra track on the CD edition (and side E on the vinyl edition) was to me, a wise choice.
Imagine hearing this song for the first time- which is what happened in Bogotá, Colombia on March 16, 2014. It was the unfinished version, but it was no less powerful.
While i’m still my own biggest critic (and while i make a few obvious mistakes here) i KNOW i’m getting better at drumming, because i actually got through this song. i tried this song a few months ago, and couldn’t even get through the first verse. Also, i know the song would sound better with double kick, but you already know…
There are a lot of songs that make me think of animals. A lot of Metallica songs make me think of cats (which is probably why i love the band so much). This song though, makes me think of seals. i’m not sure why, but it’s definitely okay with me. i absolutely love seals.
(Also, if you don’t know what e-drums sound like to people not playing them, you can see at the beginning. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee…)
If you’ve read anything on this site (hopefully you do read the posts!) you already know i’m not a huge fan of pop music in general. i’m not referring to music that is popular- that would make little sense, since my favorite artist is Michael Jackson. i also make Metallica-related posts every week. i could be wrong; it just seems to me that the genre of ‘pop’ tends to not particularly take risks. A particular artist could be quite good. However, if said artist is deemed ‘the one’, the industry attempts to oversell that particular sound.
There was a time though, when ‘pop music’ took more risks with their catchy hooks, thereby making radio more diverse than it certainly is today. Australia-based INXS was one of those bands.
Initially, their influences stylistically appeared to be ska, post punk and ‘pub punk’ bands and artists like XTC, Ian Dury and Lena Lovich (and other bands on Stiff Records); and so-called ‘new wave’. They were also coming of age artistically with (the also located in Australia) Nick Cave. Like many bands, they shifted musically into a more ‘pop’ territory. While for all intents and purposes they were still a rock band; and while you in some ways heard some of their original inspirations pop in once in a while, they began to pick up more cues from classic soul and R&B.
While songs like ‘Need You Tonight’ crossed over into the hood, the first INXS song i ever heard was two years earlier: ‘This Time’ (from 1985’s Listen Like Thieves). i remember liking the song, but it wasn’t until a few years later as an early teenager when i became totally obsessed with them.
Yup. i was a burgeoning punk kid, and i was absolutely in love with INXS.
Despite being ‘rock stars’ they didn’t seem that way to me… even with Michael Hutchence as the front man. Yeah, he totally played up the ‘sex symbol’ thing… but they all just seemed like awkward, regular dudes to me. They were huge, but they weren’t bombastic. They played anthems, but they weren’t anthemic.
And they crafted some massively good songs, but didn’t take themselves too seriously.
My favorite INXS song of all time is ‘Horizons’; it became my favorite song of theirs from the moment i heard it years ago on cassette. It’s the first time i recognized a song being written in the way that was written. You could randomly pick a song out of their catalog, and chances are you will like it: ‘Don’t Change’, ‘Communications’, ‘Shine Like it Does’, ‘In Vain’, ‘The Stairs’, ‘Johnson’s Aeroplane’… It was really difficult to choose which songs to do for this post. While their ‘hits are just as great i definitely wanted to focus on their lesser-known songs for the most part.
Like (Minneapolis’) Mint Condition, INXS were a pretty self-contained band. Consisting of Garry Gary Beers (one of the greatest bass players- ever. Both he and Graham Maby are severely underrated), Andrew Farriss (primary songwriter/composer and keys/guitar), Kirk Pengilly (guitar and saxophone), Michael Hutchence (vocals and lyrics- and fan of Anthrax!), Jon Farriss (drums) and Tim Farriss (guitar); for 20 years (until the physical departure of Hutchence), all original founding members were together, since their birth in 1977- originally called the Farriss Brothers.
To begin this musical trip through INXS world, we’ll begin with their first single, released in 1980: ‘Simple Simon’/’We Are the Vegetables’. The clear punk influences are there. Anyone familiar with their later material might find this to be surprising. Of course, the burgeoning punk kid in me was VERRRRY pleased to hear this.
‘Guns In The Sky’ (from 1987’s Kick) is to me, one of the greatest album openers of all time. A response to the Reagan Administration’s Strategic Defense Initiative, the music video (which exists despite it not being a single) flashed ‘SDI’ randomly on the screen. The song is a rightful critique of the u.s. government’s allocation of resources to everything but what it should be going to- which is, assuring the masses’ basic material needs are met.
The drum in the original song is built around a Roland 707; i used the Alessis (and not the Octapad) for this one, so (obviously) the drums are not as booming. i did keep Hutchence’s vocals (because i can’t sing like that!), and played guitar and bass, in addition to the drums. It sounded more like a garage version than the (again) booming anthem it is (smiles).
‘What Would You Do’ (from Underneath The Colours) is another one of my absolute top favorites from the band. In the pocket for the most part, it’s got one of my favorite bass lines in an INXS song. i also love the nod to ‘Stay Young’ (also on the album) as well.
We will take a detour back to the band’s first (self-titled) album, with ‘Jumping’, another one of my favorites. This song is perfect- the bouncy bass, the horn accents (why don’t pop bands have horns anymore??!!), the touch of two tone ska, the guitar being utilized in the verse as a melody with Hutchence’s vocals, the spacey keys, the half-time drums… i love this era of music, with its the post punk disco and ska influences.
Finally, we have a song which is perhaps one of their most beloved- ‘Mystify’. i woke up with this song in my head, so after i got up i started singing it- i wanted to do it just a capella, but it didn’t feel right. i started messing around on the piano, and that didn’t feel right either. Something else was going on in my head. i started messing around on the bass, and i started hearing a beat in my head. It ended up being a sludge rock-influenced half time ditty (with a tiny, tiny bit of tiny tiny discordance (smiles)), as opposed to the bounciness of the original.
i know i’m not that great of a singer- but i do it anyway. i like to sing. Not being that great at singing is a nice feeling, when you’ve survived being hit by a truck.
So… wow. i have a lot of feelings around James Hetfield’s recent comments in Brazil. Every week on these ‘Metallica Fridays’ posts i talk about ‘getting out of my head’ and learning to embrace my mistakes as a way of further understanding the journey… and here he is at the age of 58, openly discussing his anxieties and insecurities around no longer being able to play in the same ways he once did. i wrote my feelings on his speech here; one thing i did not say though, is that if his concerns are around not being able to play well, many would absolutely disagree. There are many who have had harsh critiques for the band for years, who are coming out and saying they’ve been playing better than ever. While none of us could ever know the full extent of what James Hetfield is going through, one thing we can all say is that, unless something happens to really affect his motor skills (God willing that does not happen), he is in no danger of putting on no less of a great performance.
As private a person as he is, being open in where he’s at mentally is significant in that his words may have saved someone’s life- including his own. As a person who lives with depression, his words around mental health (as well as the Load, ReLoad and St. Anger albums specifically) always resonate with me.
i’ve said this elsewhere, and i’ll say it again here: i think 58-year old James Hetfield is cool. And i’m sure at 59, 60 and beyond he will be just as cool.
Don’t let the demons take hold of the Heaven in your head…
Doing the posts for this site- and the Metallica posts specifically- have been helping me pull through the struggle in many ways: the struggles of this ‘new’ life as an amputee; the struggle of learning not to be as frustrated with my mistakes; of learning to let go. The struggle of actually taking in new ways of listening to music. The music experience is very different as a person having to learn how to play the songs, versus simply listening to it. And sometimes that is frustrating, because it seems like you can never get it ‘right’. The point SHOULD be though, that you are playing it in your own way, versus copying what you hear. Given that i am physically limited in how i, for instance, play drums, i have begun to find that i do have a particular style… and that is interesting to see. i just aim to be as respectful as possible to all artists. Even if it’s just me seeing these posts, i know that it’s helping. If others see these posts and it helps them, it’s even better.
…And since i mentioned the album earlier, i think we will start with ‘Attitude’, from ReLoad. It makes me laugh that people always get on Lars for that scene in Some Kind Of Monster (including Kirk and James), when he’s trying to counter the ‘stock’ (according to him) riff with a particular drum pattern… when dude is a MASSIVE fan of rhythmic illusions. As am i. All their albums have them. i’m not sure if it’s because of the few (in comparison to others) lessons he’s had over the years, so he has little technical knowledge, and sees these patterns in his head. Lars adding an extra beat (or coming in a half step beforehand) is very common, and learning how to play to Metallica songs throws off many a more ‘traditional’ drummer.
i will always love Lars for this. There is no one like him.
To me, ‘Attitude’ is an example of this. When i first heard the song i was like, ‘Whut? Wait. i…’ The difference between this song and some others is, Lars counts off on the 2, so you get a little help in knowing where to start. Some of the other songs just blast off, and you’re like, ‘Wait- is he starting on the 2 or the 3??!!’ i’m not that good at counting beats and measures (as y’all probably see with some of the glaring mistakes i’ve made in these posts- HA!), so i do it all by just listening to the song, and going there.
So i think the kick started (a little early) on the 1, and the snare/crash combination started at 2. Then when the song kicks in, it starts on 2. Is my count correct?
i mean, i play music but i’m not a musician. That’s probably safe to say.
All i know is that i’m glad Load and ReLoad exist. To me, those albums encompassed the ‘bigness’ of the Black Album sound, but in terms of subject matter and arrangement it was an evolution.
Here we return to what was my favorite Metallica album for 30 years- until Load knocked it out of that spot… Master Of Puppets! It amazes me that people so young can make such complex music. i highly doubt you would have had an album like Load, if Lars and James never approached Cliff Burton. He was a major inspiration for the evolution in their sound. Would they have remained strictly a thrash or NWOBHM-inspired band, had they not met him? Would there have been just straight shredding for every single song? Perhaps. We will never know though. What we DO know (again) is that Cliff brought to the band some invaluable elements.
…Including the classic intros. Whether it’s ‘Damage Inc.’ (which i play to here), ‘Blackened’, ‘To Live Is To Die’, ‘Fight Fire With Fire’, ‘That Was Just Your Life’, ‘Fixxxer’ or other favorites… all of those are clear nods to Cliff Burton’s influence. So of course Cliff deserved the intro. After all, it’s him playing the intro.
Metallica definitely are one of the best in knowing how to sequence and bookend albums.
Aaaaaaaaand… even though ‘Blackened’ is my favorite Metallica song of all time, my current favorite song (because there is a difference) is ‘Trapped Under Ice’. ‘Trapped’ was one of my wishes for the 40th shows- AND THEY DID IT. i lost my voice as a result, screaming so loud as those opening chords played, then singing along.
This song involves one of my least favorite things in the whole world- being cold, and one of my greatest fears- being trapped. Snow is one of my top ten favorite things in the whole world, but i absolutely hate being cold. i have also been trapped before. One of my top 3 greatest fears in the whole world was also being hit by a truck, and i actually survived that. Can i survive being trapped under ice? i doubt it.
The bass (unsurprisingly) was recorded so low so i had to figure out for myself how to play it, without any cues from Mr. Burton. i played a bunch of root notes (of course!), and added a bit of harmony. i did end up seeing a few bass covers of the song- most covers of this song are on guitar- but every single person played it their own way, playing mostly with the guitar. My guess is that it’s because you can hardly hear the original, unless you remixed it to make the bass louder (which is what i actually did with ‘Damage Inc.’).
A block of ice made a guest appearance here… They never left their name though.
i was sitting around thinking one day (when does that NOT happen, right?) about the numbers of women who inspired me- the multi-instrumentalists, the composers, arrangers… The women who rejected the notions of what they should do, and how to be. The ones who laid the foundation for not only me, but all the kids who today and yesterday who have been marginalized (by gender, class or culture).
i wanted to make a post honoring these women, but it was difficult to know where to start. Do i start with Betty Davis? Phyllis Hyman? Teena Marie? Alice Coltrane? LaBelle? Chaka Khan? Marlena Shaw? Randy Crawford? Angela Bofill? Rachelle Ferrell? Memphis Minnie? Do i go with Mother’s Finest? Silverfish? DQE? ESG? Skunk Anansie? To make it a little easier i narrowed it down to all-women bands. And still, that’s not easy… because you have everything from Girlschool to Fanny to The Runaways to Big Joanie to Cub to the 5,6,7,8s to L7 to the Bangles to The Go-Gos to Luscious Jackson to The Raincoats to The Slits to (two of my favorite current bands, Voice Of Baceprot and The Warning)… you get the picture.
So i narrowed it down a bit more… and it ended up developing into creating a longer post then usual.
i think i’ll start with ‘Catnip Dream’ by Shonen Knife, because cats are the GREATEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD. They have other cat songs as well, ‘I Am A Cat’ and ‘Like A Cat’. If you make a number of songs about cats, i automatically like you.
(And of course, my hat is actually applicable here.)
Slant 6 was one of my favorite bands from the ’90s. They were only around for three or four years. In those years i saw them live about 2 or 3 times, and even interviewed them for a fanzine i was doing at the time.
To me, ‘Don’t You Ever’ (from Soda Pop * Rip Off) is one of the greatest album openers. i am just playing drums here. ‘Semi-Blue Tile’ was the b-side of the ‘What Kind Of Monster Are You’ 7″. For this song, Christina Billotte’s vocals remain, but i play bass, drums and guitar.
The Lunachicks was one of the funnest shows i have ever seen… and they made a love song to Mabel King. Perhaps the ONLY love song to Mabel King!
It was interesting to edit and look back on this series of videos, because i tend to forget about being covered neck to foot in tattoos (despite seeing them every day). i don’t wear shorts a lot (outside of the time i’m practicing with the prosthetic), so it was funny to see my leg bouncing up and down with the kick drum, with all the visual tattoos and scars. i also forgot the shirt i was wearing has a hole, so you can see a peek of my rib piece (if you look close enough- of course, that rib piece has to do with cats). Outside of forgetting my own canvas, i absolutely love and am obsessed with people who are covered- especially women. So seeing the Lunachicks makes me very happy.
i’m playing drums to the title track to the album Jerk Of All Trades. This song goes after my heart, because i’ve had to punch a few dudes for touching me without my consent.
Speaking of never underestimating a woman… Klymaxx wants to inform you to never underestimate our power.
Before they gained popularity with songs like ‘The Men All Pause’, ‘Meeting In The Ladies Room’, ‘I Miss You’ and ‘Divas Need Love Too’, they were more of funk band. Solar Records had some gems, for sure. Before i was a burgeoning punk kid, Klymaxx was the first all-women band i recall being familiar with, by name. Maybe even before the Bangles and the Go-Gos.
i am playing to the title track of the album, Never Underestimate The Power Of A Woman. i know my drumming isn’t as funky or in the pocket as Bernadette Cooper (who co-wrote the song), but i obviously aim to be respectful.
Another band i have seen live (and if you’ve ever seen them you will not forget it) is Tribe 8. A few of the members currently identify as trans; however i still am posting one of their songs because during the existence of Tribe 8 they all did identify as women (and if i am wrong about that, i apologize). Tribe 8 had no qualms about pointing out the intersections of oppression (i think having band members comprise of Indigenous, African and Asian folks helps), and they were unapologetic in their queerness. Also, they are incredibly cool people. At least they were when i met them.
The song i am playing to here, ‘Republican Lullaby’, speaks to the pro-militarism, jingoism, xenophobia, disinformation campaigns and racism/white supremacy permeating the republican party (in the u.s.); i would argue though, that these lyrics should extend to democrats as well. If you pay attention close enough to the policies (and not these low hanging fruit issues they want you to focus on) you will find little difference between the two.
One of the most well-known groups coming out of the Riot Grrrl movement was Bratmobile. They were a band who used humor to relay messages around sexual violence, racism, and more. i ended up forming a pen pal/friendly relationship with guitarist Erin Smith (who was living in Maryland, if i’m not mistaken). Whenever they came to town i would see her, and hang out a bit.
Bratmobile remind me a bit of the Misfits- tonally, not visually. They actually did cover ‘Where Eagles Dare’, so i may not be too far off. Here, i play to ‘Brat Girl’, which was probably an anthem for many a punk girl (or boy, or agender person) who got groped at a show, or taken advantage of in other ways. There’s no bassist in the most well-known incarnation of the band, so i decided to experiment with what that would sound like here (as well as (obviously) play drums).
And finally, i decided to play one of my own songs- a song i haven’t played since i was about 17 or 18 years old. In fact, it’s a song you can hear in the very first post i made for this site.
As mentioned in that post, i was in a band called The Girlymen. It was the first band i was ever in, with Mayumi (drums), and Abby (bass). i honestly have no idea what most of the lyrics are to this song (save for the title: ‘Chock Full Of Crap’), so i kept Abby’s original vocals, and just played guitar, bass and drums. i need to see if SHE remembers!
And yeah, i am using a China cymbal. Oh no… i really AM turning into Lars!