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.
When Megaforce Records owner Jonny Zazula signed Metallica to his then-fledgling label the band packed into a U-Haul and drove all the way from California to New Jersey. When they arrived, they were dirty, hungry and had no place to stay, so Zazula invited them to crash at his place. Zazula soon realized the extent of his mistake, as he told Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal:
We didn’t know what to do because they were young and they were wild. The first second we were together, they raided the alcohol cabinet in my house of everything there was. They drank all the bottles down without even using glasses. They were all raging drunk and Dave Mustaine is throwing up all over the place. I was like, 'Hmm, this is going to be interesting.' They stayed with me and [my wife] Marsha for a little while, but that didn’t work out so we got them another place to stay.
After kicking Metallica out of his home, Zazula found a makeshift room for them to stay in at a rehearsal building they called the Music Room. Numerous bands practiced there, including Anthrax, but Metallica were the only ones who slept there over night.
As Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian recalled in Louder Than Hell:
Mustaine would get super-drunk and f*ck with other people’s rehearsal rooms. A band would show up the next day and there’d be a mountain of garbage piled up in front of their door because Mustaine would get all the garbage cans and dump them in front of the practice room door of a band he didn’t like. Of course, everybody knows who did it because Metallica was the only band there overnight...
At one show in L’amour [In Brooklyn] Metallica was opening for The Rods and Vandenberg. We were all hanging out in the middle of the afternoon. Vandenberg is sound checking at 4 p.m. and Dave is just ripped. And he’s screaming at Adrian Vandenberg, ‘Get the f*ck off the stage. You suck.’ And the other dudes in Metallica are trying to run and hide. They didn’t even have a record out yet. Dave was an absolute troublemaker back then.
Before Metallica landed on a major label, the members were on a tight budget, so James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich lived together in the same room for nearly four years.
“They each had their own corner of the room and whenever James had his girlfriend over Lars would just sit in his corner and listen to them go at it,” reported The Times Online. Sometimes, he allegedly even joined in.
“I can’t say that hasn’t happened,” Hetfield said. “You know, you’ve got to remember I met him 24 years ago. He is my brother in arms.”
Regarding groupies, Ulrich told the publication that first, he would have sex with them and afterward he would figure out if he could “actually tolerate being with them during the day.”
Metallica shopped regularly at a local San Francisco market called Pick N Pack, which the band and their friends nicknamed Pick N Pack N Puke. There, Hetfield and company bought lots of booze but very few groceries.
“We used to drink Vodka and Pepsi Light,” D.R.I. member and photographer Harald O told Revolver. “I was doing a lot of the driving because they were usually too hammered to drive. But Lars always had his Gremlin parked out front, which was so not metal. He would never admit it was his, but whenever he would leave the party, it would be gone.”