The general consensus is that by the mid-90s, Metallica’s most dangerous days were over. They weren’t “Alcoholica” anymore, or pushing the boundaries of what thrash metal can do. By this point they had become superstars with the Black Album, cut their hair short and embraced blues rock and country on Charge.
However, anyone who had assumed the Four Horsemen had lost their edge got a rude awakening on November 14, 1996. That was the day James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich and Jason Newsted performed the MTV Europe Music Awards at Alexandra Palace , London. It is a date now anchored in the history of Metallica.
Let’s set the scene. The awards show wasn’t all about metal or even rock. It was as common as the mainstream could get. Robbie Williams hosted it. Prizes have been awarded to musicians such as George Michael, Oasis and Alanis Morissette. Meanwhile, live performances came from Boyzone and Simply Red.
Then Metallica came out. Things weren’t so family-like anymore. The original plan was for them to play king nothingthe first radio-wooing single from the all-new Charge. Instead of the shrill guitar and groovy bass that start the song, we heard Hetfield barking “I got something to say!”
Oh dear. In true heavy metal form, the band had come off the script and started ripping through a Misfits cover. last caress. Choice lyrics in the 80-second punk jam include “I raped your mother today” and “I killed your baby today”. Then things got even more derailed.
With two and a half minutes of their allotted time, Metallica have even less PC. Hetfield said “So what the fuck!,” somehow showing enough restraint to make it the first swear word of the evening. It was also a call to start Metallica’s coverage of Anti-Nowhere League’s So what: a piece that makes last caress resemble Little twinkling twinkle star.
On MTV primetime, Papa Het sang the lyrics, “And so, and so, you annoying little prick!And that’s just the first verse. “I fucked the queen, I fucked Bach! I even sucked an old man’s cock!» comes a few lines later, quickly followed by «I fucked a sheep, I fucked a goat! I shoved my cock down her throat!”
MTV was not thrilled. Metallica was banned from the channel for years and their slot was removed from each subsequent repeat of the show. Pissing off music TV’s greatest strength isn’t normally on an artist’s to-do list, but when you’re as untouchable as Metallica, well… so the fuck what?!