Metallica's Shadiest Moments

Most bands who've gone non-stop for 35 years have more than a few skeletons in their closet, and Metallica's no exception. Never minding the whole Napster thing, they've pulled some shady, shady stuff since even before they got huge. Metallica would probably like us to focus on the music and not on the following stories, but we've never been good at doing what other people like.

They got noticed by playing covers and pretending they were originals

Metallica started life as a cover band, but they didn't play much Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, or anybody else famous enough to get paid tribute by literally everybody with a guitar. They mostly covered obscure British metal acts like Diamond Head and Budgie, rarely covering anyone more famous than Motorhead or the Misfits. That alone would help them stand out among the hordes of Kiss tribute acts.

But, as drummer Lars Ulrich detailed in Metallica's Garage Inc. album, they apparently did this for a very shrewd reason. Simply put, they never told anybody whose songs they were playing, or even that they were covers at all. It's an extremely clever bit of omission, as this meant people who had never heard these songs before (just about everyone) automatically assumed they were originals. And since they were awesome songs, Metallica got more attention than your typical anonymous cover band, which started them on the road they're still trekking today. Further proof that what you don't say matters just as much, if not more, than what you shout to anyone willing to listen.

Many of their songs are ripped off from other songs

Metallica eventually moved from covers to originals, but even then, they were only kind of originals. Several Metallica songs sound like blatant ripoffs of other people's tunes, such as Master Of Puppets' "Sanitarium," which lifts the main riff of a Bleak House song called "Rainbow Warrior." Amazingly, James Hetfield has since admitted to the theft, though he won't name the band in question because apparently theft only counts when your victim gets a shout-out.

Then there's "Enter Sandman," their biggest hit ever, which evidently stole its iconic opening riff from an Excel song called "Tapping Into The Emotional Void." Excel probably could have sued, but chose not to because, as their manager put it, "A everything else out of your life...Every day you're dealing with it. Instead of dealing with positives, you're dealing with negatives, and nothing is proceeding." That, and Metallica could afford way more throat-ripping lawyers than Excel ever could.

And, as the above video shows, 2008's Death Magnetic shows Metallica may still be up to their old tricks. "The Day That Never Comes" shares a main riff with Joe Satriani's "Chords of Life," while "End of the Line" sounds a ton like Pearl Jam's "Why Go." Once a cover band, always a cover band, apparently.

James Hetfield's terrible treatment of Dave Mustaine's dog

Dave Mustaine was somehow too rowdy for the rowdy young Metallica. He drank more than anyone else, and handled his liquor worst of all, turning into an angry drunk extremely fast. This ultimately led to his dismissal from the band in favor of Kirk Hammett, which gave us Mustaine's band Megadeth, if nothing else.

But it would appear that the biggest catalyst for Mustaine leaving was due to James Hetfield, for one night, turning to animal abuse. According to former bassist Ron McGovney in an interview with Shockwaves, Mustaine brought his dogs to band practice one day, and one of the puppers wound up scratching and pawing at McGovney's car. Maybe he had steak in there, who knows.

Either way, Hetfield reacted by yelling at Dave to get the dog off of Ron's car. And then, according to Mustaine himself in an interview with Lydverket, Hetfield showed he meant business by kicking the dog right in the side. Understandably, Mustaine snapped at that point, screaming at Hetfield, "What did you do? It's a dog, it's what they do. You don't kick animals." This degenerated into a huge fight that ended with Mustaine punching Hetfield square in the mouth. That punch ultimately led to Mustaine's firing and several decades' worth of bad blood between the two. Because there's two things you never mess with: a person's money, and their pets.

Their terrible treatment of Jason Newsted

Metallica never wanted to replace Cliff Burton, but death has a funny way of changing plans. In 1986, Burton was killed in a bus crash during the band's tour in Sweden. Later that year, Metallica recruited Jason Newsted as their new beatkeeper, though they clearly didn't want to. As part of their "mourning through anger" process (as described by Hetfield in a 2001 Playboy interview), they hazed the everloving hell out of poor Newsted. They would destroy his hotel room at 4 a.m. (while he was still there), call him gay to anyone who would listen, and disrespect him and his ideas at every turn. He only co-wrote three songs over 15 years, because everything he pitched got brutally turned down. Speaking of turned down, you can't hear Newsted on the ...And Justice For All album, because the band all but muted his recordings. This would explain the album's "empty" sound, though if you ever wanted to know what Metallica sounds like when performed by the White Stripes, enjoy.

The disrespect continued until the end (seriously — even Hetfield admits "it never ended, really"), when Hetfield thumbs-downed Newsted's desire to release music with the band Echobrain, claiming it would distract Newsted from his Metallica duties. The duties where he rarely wrote anything or contributed much other than grunt work, remember. Even still, that grunt work was apparently meant to be Newsted's one and only thing, as Hetfield described the bassist doing something else as "cheating on [his] wife." Considering how unseriously the "wife" in this metaphor took him, cheating was basically no worse a moral dilemma than Al Bundy going to the strip club behind Peg's back.

And then, according to Newsted, when he actually did record Echobrain music and brought copies for Metallica's management to hear, James apparently got nervous about its quality, and outright vetoed their interest in Newsted's side project. That, it would appear, was the final straw — Newsted left soon after, and was quickly replaced by Robert Trujillo, whom the band openly feels was the right post-Cliff guy all along. As Ulrich said to MTV in 2008, "It's never felt this complete" — in that same interview, Hetfield claims Trujillo had "already contributed more ... than Jason did in 14 years," just in case Newsted was starting to feel alright about himself for once.

Their terrible treatment of Ron McGovney

Ron McGovney, Metallica's original bassist, was never a good fit for the band. While he was good friends with James Hetfield, he rarely got along with Lars and even more rarely with Dave Mustaine, the band's original guitarist. They seemingly looked at him as nothing but a money man. According to McGovney in an interview with Shockwaves, he was the one who paid for just about everything; gas, trailers, hotels, and everything else went on his card. When he complained about this, they apparently just laughed at him and said he needed a sense of humor. Going broke is hilarious!

Plus, while McGovney was a serviceable bass player, the band was seemingly always looking to replace him. They found that opportunity when they attended a Trauma show and found themselves blown away by their bassist, Cliff Burton. Almost immediately, and behind McGovney's back, the band sought to hire Cliff and either fire Ron or treat him terribly until he quit. They mocked him, treated him like an outcast, stole his stuff and—in what appears to have been the final straw—poured beer into his amp so it wouldn't work. That incident was enough for Ron to kick the entire band out of his house, which they reacted to by moving to another city with Cliff, leaving Ron behind with shattered gear and shattered dreams.