The guitarist, singer and songwriter James Hetfield formed Metallica alongside the drummer Lars Ulrich back in 1981 and over the decades they’ve become one of the most influential bands in the world. They are one of the best-selling groups in history, having sold an estimated amount of more than 125 million records worldwdide.
In the 80s, the group was one of the most important bands from the so called “Thrash Metal” movement, that made Heavy Metal music faster and heavier. They released during that decade three praised studio albums. But it was in the early 90s that they reached another level of stardom. Meanwhile Grunge was the new thing around, the band was lucky enough to release their most famous album, which is the self-titled record, also know as the “Black Album” in 1991.
That record still had the heaviness that was in the band’s roots. But also showed how they had a broad taste in music, that was being at the time also showned in their compositions. All the band members had different influences and were open to hear new groups and new kinds of music. That can be seen in James Hetfield’s musical taste, since he even mentioned a Nirvana song as one of his favorites of all time.
The Nirvana song that James Hetfield picked as an all-time favorite
Formed in Aberdeen, Washington back in 1987, Nirvana hit the mainstream also in 1991, with the relase of their groundbreaking album “Nevermind”. The record sold more than 30 million copies around the world and is one of the best-selling of all time.
Although the group has a huge fanbase and was praised by most part of the critics, there are many Heavy Metal that don’t like their sound. One of the main reasons for that, it’s because the Grunge movement was blamed by many Heavy Metal artists as the new music genre that made Metal be “killed”. Since the genre was forgotten by most part of the record companies, promoters, TV and radio stations.
But that didn’t affected Hetfield as he chose in an interview with Rolling Stone back in 2004, the Nirvana track “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as one of his favorites of all time. “When all that Eighthies Hair Metal was getting overproduced, Nirvana came along with this thrashy garage sound and a huge hook. It was what music needed,” James Hetfield said.
The most famous song from the band, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was part of the album “Nevermind”, released in 1991. Also released as a single, the track reached number 1 on the charts from many countries. Some of them were Belgium, Spain, France and New Zealand.
Curiously, Hetfield’s bandmate, Lars Ulrich also likes the song. He revealed that back in 2019, during his own radio show “It’s Electric” in a conversation with Joan Jett. The Metallica drummer said that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was the best song from the last 25 years.
Kurt Cobain was a Metallica fan and hang out with Kirk Hammett
Although the two groups were not making the same kind of music, they both respected each other’s work. Kurt Cobain was big Metallica fan. The guitarist Kirk Hammett recalled in an interview for the documentary “Get Thrashed” released in 2006, when the Nirvana frontman went to see Metallica playing live. He also revealed which was Cobain’s favorite Metallica track.
“When we recorded ‘The Black Album’ I was listening to this band that was on this independent record label. I was really into their first album. I sat down with the singer and his name was Kurt. He said that one of his favorite albums was ‘Ride The Lightning’. (Also) that one of his favorite Metallica songs was ‘Whiplash’”.
Kirk Hammett continued:
“Right after we finished recording ‘The Black Album’, Kurt put out an album called ‘Nevermind’. Then all of sudden, Grunge was everywhere. Kurt was a big Metallica fan. I can remember when we played in Seattle. I think it was 1992, Kurt came to the show.”
“He was in the snakepit, a little area on the stage. I remember the entire time we were playing he kept waving his arms at me. I went over there. His one question to me was ‘Are you guys gonna play ‘Whiplash’ tonight?’ (laughs) And we did,” Kirk Hammett said.
“Whiplash” is the sixth track of Metallica’s debut album released in 1983. One year later the band released the album “Ride The Lightning”.