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Lars Ulrich talks the covers Metallica played in bars before fame

Lars Ulrich 2020

Classic Rock

Lars Ulrich talks the covers Metallica played in bars before fame

Metallica‘s drummer and leader Lars Ulrich recalled in an interview with Eddie Trunk the cover songs they played in bars before fame. The musician revealed they performed Van Halen, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and more.


Lars Ulrich said about Metallica playing covers in bars before fame:

“You have to remember that, for all intents and purposes, Metallica started as a cover band. So when we got together. We were there in Southern California in February or March of ’82. There were kind of two paths at the time.”

“One was that you basically were sort of like a cover band and you would play bar favorites. You’d go out and play ‘Smoke on the Water’ or ‘Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love’. Or ‘Rock and Roll All Nite’ or ‘Black Dog’. That was kind of one thing. The other thing was you would play all, it was called ‘originals’ at the time – you would play your originals.”

“We weren’t particularly interested in going out and playing a Led Zeppelin evening. We didn’t have any songs that were, quote, ‘originals,’ but at the same time, we were full of spunk and full of piss and full of vinegar and ready to go and wanted to go out and play and interact and sweat and the whole thing,” Lars Ulrich said.

Playing covers and original songs:

Metallica beginning

“So we basically came up with another way. Which was a combination of the two, which was we’ll play a bunch of cover songs. But they were all songs that basically nobody knew. So we didn’t go out and say, ‘Now we’re playing an hour’s worth of material and they’re all our own songs.'”

“We didn’t go out and play an hour’s worth of Led Zeppelin songs. We went out and played Diamond Head, Blitzkrieg, Savage and all these different cover songs. Then we had an hour’s worth of material. We played shows all over Southern California, and it was super fun. So we played four or five Diamond Head songs and all these other things. It sort of got us out, got us playing, and we were playing gigs,” Lars Ulrich said.

Lars continued, saying:

“Then, back in the rehearsal studio, we were writing and working on our new material. Obviously, gradually, our own material replaced the cover songs. But all those songs, whether it’s the ‘Am I Evils’ of the world or the ‘Helpless’. Or the ‘Let It Loose’ or songs like ‘Blitzkrieg’ or whatever, obviously, those songs have remained a pretty big part of who we are.”

“As music fans, we’ll always talk about our influences, our inspirations. I can look you in the eye, and 40 years later, we’re still as big fans of the music around us and that we grew up on, that shaped us. Then the music that turns us on today, 40 years later. So we’re still incredibly huge music fans. I’d say even beyond that, fans of film and art and whatever else.”

“When I hear a song that really turns me on, often I’ll wanna play it. So, obviously, paying tribute to the Mercyful Fates of the world or to people like Nick Cave or to the Discharges or the Blue Oyster Cults. All these different bands that have had such a big impact on shaping who we are over the years is a great joy of ours,” Lars Ulrich said.

He continued:

“To be honest with you, I’ve said this before. Sometimes playing other people’s material, like we do, for instance, when we play the acoustic thing – we’ve done Neil Young’s charity concert a couple, three or four times.”

“We did our own thing last year. We play a lot of cover songs and we love to reinterpret other people’s material and give it an acoustic treatment and so on. There’s so much great material out there that we just love to play. Then getting a chance to turn our fans on to the stuff that has had a significant impact on us over the years is an additional treat.”

“Then obviously, turning people on to some bands that they maybe would not know. Like we said, the Mercyful Fates or the Diamond Heads or even smaller New Wave Of British Heavy Metal bands, it’s a total bonus. So that’s a win-win all around.”

“Playing covers, other people’s material will always be a significant part of the DNA of Metallica. Who knows what’s ahead of us. But we’re always talking about something else that we can do with other people’s material, so I would expect that to be a significant part of who we continue to be,” Lars Ulrich said.

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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