When legends become mortals.

My two favorite bands, of all time, are Led Zeppelin and Metallica. They’ve been so evenly tied for so long that I no longer rank them anymore in my “Top Five Lists” that I get asked about from time to time. I list them both as number one.

Anywho, back in my college days, in one of my many late night, very drunk “Professor” moments (when I would come up with amazing theories), I developed the theory that Metallica is the Led Zeppelin of my generation. Of course, I promptly forgot about it, and was reminded of it several years later after Chuck Klosterman published the same theory. Oh well. Basically, they are both larger than life bands who’ve achieved tremendous worlwide fame, have legions of fans, countless books written about them, defined their genre, at times both embraced and completely alienated a large segment of their fans, and most importantly, become the anthemic band of young men everywhere.

My teen years were heavily influenced by Metallica, starting primarily with “…And Justice For All”, followed by their earlier work, and ending with the “Black” album. The “Black” album was in some ways similar to Led Zeppelin “III”… a lot of fans just didn’t like it. Many said it was the worst album Metallica had ever done… at least until the next three. ANWAY… the “Black” album had a profound effect on my life as a young bassist. It was the first metal album I had listened to where the bass is extremely clear, very full, and very important. I’m a huge fan of Cliff Burton, but I don’t feel his bass was mixed well in the albums he played on. Unless you are really listening for it, it just kind of sits in there. (Which is actually the sign of an extremely well crafted bass line. We miss ya, Cliff). The “Black” album was the essentially the ONLY thing I listened to for at least four months. I think the only other album I picked up at that point was Slayer’s “Decade of Aggression”, but from August until December of 1991, all Metallica, all the time.

It’s cliched as hell, but what broke me out of a constant cycle of the “Black” album was when some videos from a bunch of guys in Seattle had some videos on MTV…… basically, my band started covering some Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and I started listening to them to learn the songs. We still played Metallica, I still listened to Metallica, but it was no longer the soundtrack to my life as it had been previously. It was around then that I started doing something that has been a major influence on my listening habits, and that’s finding out the influences of bands I like, and checking out their albums. One common thread of all the “grunge” bands was that they all loved Led Zeppelin. So I picked up “II”, and was hooked. The bass line off of “The Lemon Song” is still one of my all time favorites. I started hearing stories and legends about Zep’s mythology, and the mud shark incident, and their occult dealings, etc., and it built them up to be these legendary creatures of pure rock.

Until I read “The Hammer of the Gods”, the infamous Led Zeppelin biography. Finding out the intricate details of your idols real lives is a double edged sword; you learn about the people behind the songs, but you mainly find out that they’re just people. It turns out that Led Zeppelin weren’t these mythical rock warriors. They were “just” great musicians, who happened to live a life that included a lot of strange occurences. I still love Zeppelin, and their music still holds a great deal of mystery for me, but I just can’t see them the same as I did as a 16 year old kid any more. Maybe it’s age, but I think I delved a bit too deep when reading about them.

A similar thing happened recently with Metallica. As I’ve seen WAY too many hours of Behind the Music, any thoughts of Metallica’s history instantly cues the intro to “Fade to Black” and a smooth voiced narrator saying “Metallica was on a meteoric rise to fame and fortune….. until tragedy struck”.

Last year, I received a really kick ass coffee table book about Metallica from a friend of mine. I’ve slowly read through all the early years pictures and articles, and it’s been awesome. Then, over the last week, I’ve been reading a lot of their interview questions, and it’s been very odd. I mean, I’ve seen “Some Kind of Monster”, so I know that Lars is a tool. But really…. he is almost single handedly responsible for the direction of the last three albums…. which is, you know, NOT GOOD. It’s crazy…. you read these articles from early 1995, and he mentions how Oasis is his favorite band, about how he is leaving messages on Bob Rock’s answering machine, wondering HOW THEY CAN WRITE SONGS LIKE OASIS. Fast forward five years, and he’s talking about how he’s sick of the current music scene, how he wants to write music that’s ugly, and full of ANGER.

But more than that, you read about some of James’ problems, and you just feel this kind of sadness, like finding out that the superhero has issues too. I STILL wish I could sing like James (am i right-tah!?), but reading these in depth interviews, seeing the movies…. it’s all to real. Sometimes, you sleep better at night knowing that the superheroes, even though they’re regular guys most of the time, keep that identity secret.

On the other hand, I used to think that Jason Newsted was crazy for leaving the band. I now realize he may be the smartest rock musician of all time.

2 Responses to “When legends become mortals.”

  1. rhyandjay says:

    When I read “A Long Strange Trip: The Inside History Of The Grateful Dead”, I cried at the end, reading about Jerry’s heroin addiction.

    Random idea for a project: pick an album that came out in the current or previous year, and listen to no other music but that album for five months. I wonder if it would have the same profound effect? Or at least a similar one?

  2. areabassist says:

    I’m not sure it could have the same effect. The “Black” album was the first album I recall actively waiting for. I was also, at the time, buying maybe one album per month. I was also, most importantly, 14 years old. I think for an album now to have the safe effect, it would have to be truly epic in proportion to cut through the years and find my inner 14 year old again.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.