Why Metallica Would Be Nowhere Without Me

Metallica headlined Glastonbury last weekend. Here is why they'd be absolutely nowhere without me. Sort of...
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Metallica headlined Glastonbury last weekend. Here is why they'd be absolutely nowhere without me. Sort of...

Like many headlines, the tiniest scintilla of truth, the one grain of sand in the Sahara, allows the writer to make an outrageous- sounding claim. I thought of this as I was watching Metallica deliver what their fans and anyone who has a passing interest in Heavy Metal music, knows,  was their customary energetic and skilled set as the first ( and what a fuss has been made of this) Heavy Metal band to headline Glastonbury.

Apparently though, this came as something as a surprise to the BBC and to some music journalists; "Metallica are quite good, shock" could have easily been the incredulous headline in TheObserver as they finally discovered a band that has been around for 33 years, considerably longer than the review writer I suspect. As someone who often had to speak in whispered tones about the fact that I have had, and continue to have, an interest in a genre of music that is associated with smelly, denim- clad Neanderthals, and generally looked down on by those who feel they have risen above what they see as nothing more than sexist lyrics and thrashing guitar riffs- musical snobbery really annoys me. I like what I like, and some of what I like happens to be metal music.

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Anyway, I'm not about to start defending Metallica or lampooning music journos, they both do a good job of that themselves. Back to my rather spurious claim. Such is my lack of musical pretentiousness, and the fact that I had one or two other things going on in my life, I didn't actually know until a few years ago, courtesy of a good friend and Metallica devotee, that Metallica were essentially formed on the back of Lars Ulrich's devotion to a British rock band called Diamond Head. Now, Diamond Head, whether you have heard of them or not, ( and, if you haven't, please check them out) should have been as huge as Metallica became, but, such is the arbitrary and random fate of artists, small things like talent are often not the determining factors when it comes to fame and recognition. That said, Diamond Head did ok- and those who know, including the aforementioned Mr Ulrich, appreciate them to this day.

Like many bands, Diamond Head were formed, first in the imagination and then in the bedrooms of teenagers ( notice how I didn't say teenage boys- there's no sexism here). Because my best friend at the time, Steve, someone I played cricket with ( how heavy metal is that?), was a Stourbridge- based school friend and, because he had a bit of commercial nous, the first manager of, Diamond Head. He got them their first gigs. I attended their first, in a school hall in Stourbridge. We also used to spend time, as you do as teenagers, in the bedrooms of the band members, notably Brian Tatler, the brilliant lead guitarist and musical driving force of the band. Talking of musical snobbery, I remember him saying as we sat round his black-painted bedroom one afternoon, "...this is a good riff- for a pop song" about "Just what I Needed" by The Cars.

I lived way over the other side of Birmingham,but still in heavy metal central, so knew one or two venues that might be quite useful to Steve and his nascent rockers. One was Bogarts, a subterranean bar in the centre of Birmingham, where bands used to play on Saturday lunchtimes. The other was my local pub, The Sheldon, where Friday night bands were a fixture. I approached the manager, as an 18 year old ( I may have been 17 but don't tell), and sang the praises of Diamond Head, gave him a tape, and facilitated a gig. I was so excited when the gig actually happened. Not so excited when, half way through the first set, Sean Harris, the lead singer, who had an ego to match his monumental rock voice, complained that his voice was giving way, and that was the end of the gig- and of my brief career as a music impresario.

That said, Diamond Head went from those humble beginnings to an, initially, meteoric rise and rightly became legends of British heavy metal. They, of course, ditched my friend as their manager when they started to enjoy some success, and l lost touch with them.

I wonder therefore, if I hadn't organised those Birmingham gigs, if Michael Eavis would have got his Saturday headliners this year? Of course he would, but it's a good story, all true- even if my headline is a bit of a  tabloid-esque, exaggeration.