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James Hetfield’s opinion on Van Halen

James Hetfield


James Hetfield’s opinion on Van Halen

The Metallica singer and guitarist James Hetfield is one of the driving forces of the Thrash Metal band and it was fundamental for the group to become one of the most successful bands in the history of music. Formed in 1981, the band evolved in the 80s and became even bigger in the 90s, being an inspiration for countless musicians all over the world.


Over the decades Hetfield talked about many of his peers, including bands that came before Metallica. One of them is the groundbreaking American Hard Rock band Van Halen.

What is James Hetfield’s opinion on Van Halen

Van Halen and Metallica were both formed in California, the first one in Pasadena and the second in Los Angeles. When the Thrash Metal group released their debut album, Van Halen already had five successful studio records out and were one of the biggest Hard Rock bands in the music business.

The band led by the brothers Alex and Eddie influenced how the Heavy Rock would sound in the 80s. Their self-titled debut album, released in 1978, shocked all the musicians that played this kind of music, especially because of Eddie Van Halen’s guitar playing.

In an interview with Marc Maron in 2017 (Transcribed by Rock and Roll Garage), James Hetfield talked about that album. “It’s unbelievable. I still get blown away by that record. It is so alive sounding. (Also has so much youth) and rebellion. It sounds so great. It was party, it was definitely party music (It wasn’t dark).”

In a TV interview back in 2008, reported by Van Halen News Desk, he had recalled his first reaction when he heard the album. “I remember hearing on some radio station that Van Halen’s (first) album (when it) was coming out. (I was like) ‘Whoa, what is that? It’s crunchy! That really made my hair stand up. Back when I was growing up Van Halen was the heaviest we had in California,” James Hetfield said.

James Hetfield and Metallica members considered Eddie Van Halen an idol

The legendary guitarist passed at the age of 65 back in 2020 after years battling cancer. The band paid tribute to him in an official statement, saying they considered him an idol.

“We are enormously saddened to hear about the untimely passing of Eddie Van Halen. We considered him an inspiration, an idol, and after spending a summer together on the road in ’88, a friend. Sending love to Alex, @wolfvanhalen, and everyone in the greater VH family. #LightUpTheSky”

James Hetfield and his bandmates lost a bet with Sammy Hagar once

As Metallica mentioned, the two groups had shared the same bill of festivals. Back in 1988 they were part of the Monsters Of Rock Stadium Tour. Those shows happened across the United States and had as headliners Van Halen and Scorpions. Dokken, Metallica and Kingdom Come were the opening acts.

Curiously, Sammy Hagar, the band’s vocalist at the time, recalled on a post on his Instagram in 2023, that he bet the members of Metallica $100 dollars during that tour that their next record would go platinum. Hagar was right and the “Black Album” released in 1991 became their best-selling record. However, he said that only Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett paid him back.

“There’s a lot of metal going on here. This was the press conference for the Monsters of Rock stadium tour. I must admit we had a good time that day hanging out with all these guys. Metallica hadn’t broke yet with ‘Enter Sandman’. But they crushed it every night. Put a big hurt on Dokken, who had to follow them, ouch!”

“I bet the members of Metallica $100 each that at the end of this tour their next record would go platinum. So far Lars and Kirk are the only ones that paid up. Ha ha,” Sammy Hagar said.

Hetfield and Sammy were part in 2020 of a tribute performance to Eddie Money, who died in 2019 at the age of 70. Both artists were good friends of Money.

Metallica performed Van Halen tracks many times during rehearsals and once at the band’s hometown

As every band, Metallica also plays songs that don’t belong to them during rehearsals just to change things a little bit or warm up. Many times over years they have played snippets of Van Halen tracks.

Once James Hetfield even tried to play the classic and really difficult Eddie Van Halen solo track “Eruption” from the band’s self-titled debut album.

The band had also played “Somebody Get Me a Doctor” from “Van Halen II” (1979) in 2008 with Hetfield on the drums.

But, the “official” tribute that they made to the band was when they played the classic track “Runnin’ With The Devil” during their concert. It happened back in 2017 at Pasadena, California, town where Van Halen was formed in 1972.

James Hetfield sang the song with the help of the crowd that went crazy hearing Metallica playing one of the most famous songs from Van Halen.

In 2023, Eddie Van Halen’s son, Wolfgang Van Halen will be Metallica’s opening act at several tour dates with his band Mammoth WVH.

I'm a Brazilian journalist who always loved Classic Rock and Heavy Metal music. That passion inspired me to create Rock and Roll Garage over 6 years ago. Music has always been a part of my life, helping me through tough times and being a support to celebrate the good ones. When I became a journalist, I knew I wanted to write about my passions. After graduating in journalism from the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, I pursued a postgraduate degree in digital communication at the same institution. The studies and experience in the field helped me improve the website and always bring the best of classic rock to the world! MTB: 0021377/MG

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