Lars Ulrich Says Dave Mustaine Tried to Make Metallica Sexy
Mustaine's stint as Metallica's lead guitarist was brief. The musician was fired before the band's debut album, Kill 'Em All, was released in 1983, though he shares writing credit on four of the LP’s songs: "The Four Horsemen," "Jump in the Fire," "Phantom Lord" and "Metal Militia."
“Dave brought in some things he had from his old band, Panic – things he’d been jamming, bigger-picture ideas, stuff like that,” Ulrich revealed. “The song ‘The Four Horsemen' was, in its early version, called ‘Mechanix,’ and it was literally a song about sex. There were lyrics about taking the hose and sticking it in the tank – a gas-station stop disguised as sexual engagement.”
The drummer went on to explain that Mustaine’s sexually themed lyrics didn’t jive with Metallica’s direction. “It didn’t make a lot of sense to me at the time, but we knew that was the sort of thing we wanted to move away from – the sexual stuff that hard rock bands were singing about at the time, which we thought was a little light and a little obvious,” he said.
A cursory glance at the top rock songs of the era seems to back up Ulrich’s claim. While many of the early '80s' biggest bands were turning to lyrics dripping with sexual innuendo, Metallica chose to go in a different direction.
“When you talk about Metallica during that time period, you have to use the word ‘contrary,’" he said. "It’s not so much what turns you on as what turns you off. You often went, ‘We definitely don’t like that, so we’re gonna do this.’"
Over their career, Metallica's lyrical content has covered subjects like drug use, religion and mental health. Still, the topic of sex is rarely broached; the band's cover of Nick Cave's "Loverman" and the group's most romantic song, "Nothing Else Matters," standing out as possible exceptions.
Still, Mustaine’s lyrics weren’t the only thing that felt out of place in Metallica. According to Ulrich, the guitarist's lifestyle was much more hedonistic than the rest of the group. “When we went and hung out with him at his apartment, there were girls there," he recalled. "He was much more of a man of the world, where James and I were these weird little awkward, disenfranchised teenagers.”
Mustaine was fired from Metallica in early 1983. Kirk Hammett replaced him and has been the band’s lead guitarist ever since.