Metal titans Metallica were affectionately referred to as Alcoholica in their early days -- and with good reason. The members drank with the thirst of parched nomads and didn’t seem to know the meaning of when enough is enough. There’s no question that Metallica were serious thrash pioneers. They were almost as serious about their partying.
The No Life Til Leather demo era of Metallica is marked by the saga of founding member Dave Mustaine, who was booted from the band before Metallica entered the studio to record their full-length debut Kill ‘Em All. Mustaine, who was fired for being a belligerent drunk, was sent back to LA on a Greyhound bus. In addition to being rightfully pissed that the band send him back to Cali on a bus and played his parts on the four songs he co-wrote for the album, Mustaine was miffed that a bunch of drunks fired him for being too drunk for their band.
“I was really hurt because I didn’t really believe that I got a chance,” Mustaine told Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal. “At that time, if someone would have sat me down and said, 'You know Dave, you’ve got a f*cking problem…' But no one said that to me. I didn’t hear that from anyone’s lips.”
Before they let Mustaine go, Metallica recruited Exodus guitarist Kirk Hammett, who shared his bandmates penchant for a good time. It was with this take-on-the-world-and-drink-all-their-booze mindset that Metallica entered the studio to record their debut album. And despite their copious boozing, they were able to destroy night after night without missing a note.
Metallica kept the party raging until the late ‘80s and beyond. The more popular Metallica became, the more the more groupies considered them a prize. And Metallica were happy to deliver. Drummer Lars Ulrich once joked that Metallica considered naming 1988’s …And Justice For All album Wild Chicks, Fast Cars and Lots of Drugs, according to Mick Wall in the book Enter Night: A Biography of Metallica.
Here are 12 of Metallica’s wildest, most destructive and most debauched stories as recalled by friends, writers, photographers and the band members, themselves.
Metallica’s first major U.S. tours was a headline run with W.A.S.P. and Armored Saint. Even though the group had recently signed with Elektra Records to release Ride the Lightning, most of their money went back into equipment… and beer.
Photographer Gene Ambo recalls:
They played a show in Milwaukee at the Eagle Ballroom and they were backstage in their little dressing room. It was cramped and Cliff was sitting on the drums. It was really cold so we were drinking to try to stay warm. We went to the hotel afterward and bought as much beer as we could. I mean, if we had five bucks it all went to beer and nobody ate that night until you found a place that had two hot dogs for a dollar or a thing of rice and gravy for 70 cents the next day. At night time food was out. It was beer only.
Metallica were destructive at home with their friends, but when they got together with other bands on the road it felt like they had something to prove. One night while partying with Armored Saint bassist Joey Vera, Hetfield let loose and a wild night climaxed with the musicians trapped in an elevator. The chaos started in Vera’s hotel room.
Hetfield told UK journalist and drinking buddy Xavier Russell in Kerrang! magazine:
We were all getting really ripped and started throwing bottles out the window. They were smashing and it sounded really neat. But that soon got boring, so I threw Joey’s black-and-red leather jacket out and it landed in the pool, which, luckily had its cover on. We went down to get it and on the way back up to the tenth floor I decided to open the elevator doors between floors. We got stuck for half an hour and everyone is like freaking out and I started shouting, ‘Get us the f*ck out of here!’ We finally get up to the tenth floor and by now I’m pretty mad so I see this fire extinguisher hanging on the wall. So I kinda took it down and started squirting people with it – this [carbon dioxide] or some kinda shit was comin’ out of it.
While Metallica rehearsed for their first full UK tour they stayed in a cheap, dilapidated flat in Kensington, which was cheaper than booking hotel rooms. One night after a rehearsal in Shepherd’s bush, Hetfield and Russell got so smashed that Hetfield climbed to the roof of a movie theater and unleashed his own version of seek and destroy.
“I got arrested for destruction of property,” he said in Mick Wall’s Enter Night: A Biography of Metallica. "[I was] kicking the lights down on people. It was just one of those things we had to do when we were drunk.”
By the time Metallica’s dark ballad “Fade to Black” hit rotation on rock radio stations they were deemed worthy by the Grade A groupies. To get to the band, the ladies often had to satisfy members of the road crew.
Former roadie Thomas Bright told Word magazine:
These women would be there before the show, usually in the afternoon, before the sound checks. And we, you know, the roadies, we were looking for these chicks twenty-four hours a day, every waking moment. It was every man for himself, but most of them were more than willing to do more than one guy. The most memorable were the Chicken Sisters from Philadelphia. They would do everybody, gladly. Both gorgeous, cute, little [eighteen-year-old] blonde strippers.