by Bill Hale (ECW Press)
by Scott Deckman
When I was a 10th-grader, I’d drifted so far from music in pursuit of other interests that I puzzled to see a dirtball wearing a denim jacket with this weird band patch on it. I thought the name said Metalactica, so the young metaller had to set me straight. Now, more than two decades later, only someone who’d been in a coma since the late-’80s would fail to recognize the insignia of the undisputed masters of thrash and, Black Sabbath aside, all metal, Metallica.
You’ve come a long way, baby. And in Metallica: The Club Dayz 1982-1984, Bill Hale, chief photographer of ’80s Metal Rendezvous International Heavy Rock-Metal Magazine chronicles the band at an even earlier incarnation: The Cliff Burton/Dave Mustaine Years. (Even original original bassist Ron McGovney is given face time here.) In what amounts to a hagiographical picture book, you get an inside look at the band’s (and thrash metal’s) birth pangs at San Francisco clubs the Stone and Old Waldorf. Soon, Metallica would take over the world, but here in intimate (mostly) never-before-seen photos (including Hale’s last photograph of Burton), they were just a bunch of dirty, long-haired punks drinking copious amounts of alcohol, playing faster than anyone could imagine, and living out their lean years with great vigor.
The band were merely babies here, and it’s startling to think of the transformation James Hetfield would undergo in just a few years after these pictures were taken. He would go from a gangly, pock-marked kid to a nasty-looking dude with that muttonchops-mustache hybrid who would kick your ass for touching his Harley. Hale clearly has an affinity for the band, as the book is peppered with insightful comments to go along with the candid photos. Metallica: The Club Dayz 1982-1984 also features extended heartfelt remembrances from several scenesters of the era, including John Strednansky (former editor and chief of Metal Rendezvous International Heavy Rock-Metal Magazine); Ron Quintana (Rampage Radio DJ); Scott Earl (bassist from the band Culprit); and, of course, Hale himself.
The book chronicle’s Kirk Hammett’s first San Francisco show (there are even Exodus-era Hammett photos), as well as a goofy shot of Jason Newsted playing a Hammond organ just after enlisting in the band. But it’s that aforementioned picture of Burton and Mustaine together near the end of the book where you get food for thought concerning Dave’s pity party ouster story all these years later. In the shot, taken backstage on 8/12/86 at the Stone where Megadeth opened for King Diamond, Mustaine is seen hanging out with Burton and sharing a smile (or what passes for a smile with Dave). Hale writes: “Dave and Cliff seemed to be on great terms, like brothers who hadn’t seen each other in years. Gone for a moment was any of the animosity of the Metallica/Megadeth rivalry.”
It was an odd moment of bonhomie between old friends before impending disaster would change metal forever.