Saturday, April 11, 2009

Eye Of The Beholder

The exciting companion piece to No Sleep 'Til San Francisco!

Umlaut's old friend John Marshall has a long personal and professional history with Metallica. Here is his perspective on Cleveland from The Red Carpet and VIP Tables:

For me this incredible journey started almost exactly 26 years ago—the week of April 1st, 1983, when my friend Kirk got the call to fly out to New York to audition for Metallica. At the time, he thought it may have been some kind of big prank, an April fool’s joke or something. That’s obviously NOT what it was. What it was, was the start of something so huge and amazing that it still boggles my mind.

I don’t want to say that Metallica being inducted into the RRHOF is a “culmination” of the last 26 years, because that makes it sound like an ending. It’s more of a stepping stone, another launch point for Metallica to continue their career long after many said they couldn’t. One thing I’ve learned from being around Metallica is that their milestones—first gold record, first Grammy, first sold out tour, first platinum record, etc. are not high points or endings—they are merely rungs in a ladder that is allowing them to continue to climb higher and higher. And I just don’t see the top rung yet. I don’t think there is one.

One of the things that I keep thinking about is how wrong the public’s perceptions of Metallica truly can be. Living your life under the microscope of public scrutiny is incredibly difficult. Our society pokes and prods at our celebrities, then passes judgment on them based on their reactions. ‘Some Kind Of Monster’ was an unflattering look at these guys at one of the lowest point of their lives, yet that is all people choose to remember of them. Some of the silly common misconceptions about Metallica -- that they are rock star assholes, they tour with a psychiatrist, etc. -- are so blatantly wrong that it’s ridiculous. I’m not naïve, I am aware of the realities of stardom and public perception, but trust me—unless you KNOW Metallica, what you think you know about them is probably untrue. Nothing proves that point more than this weekend.

OK, enough of the analyzing — this weekend was absolutely incredible! Umlaut has already provided many details, which I will avoid repeating here (I would also highly recommend reading Steffan’s account here: Instead, I will just give as many of the good points as I can remember:

I got the call from Kirk in January, saying “keep that weekend open”. I immediately asked him if my wife could join me, and he said yes. As April approached, it dawned on me that I was probably the only one of the invited guests that was allowed to bring a friend or spouse, on Metallica’s dime. This fact has not been forgotten……

Flight 254:

Umlaut > Ian Kallen > John > Ron Quintana

In the weeks leading up to April 3rd, I started to have visions of this flight being like the now-legendary booze-soaked flight to Moscow that had both Ozzy’s and Motley Crue’s band and crews on board. But in the end it was like any other flight, with the exception of getting to meet up with old friends. Stories and memories started flying as soon as we reached the gate and sat down to wait to board the plane. Ian pleaded Post Traumatic Stress Disorder when I reminded him about our “Bowling With Yngwie” adventure, claiming he didn’t remember any of it. Must still be giving him nightmares. Apparently all of his Yngwie memories are like that.

The Party:

The party was almost a direct continuation of the flight, seeing more and more faces and friends I hadn’t seen in literally two decades or more. Trading war stories with Dave Marrs, Metallica’s first drum tech was a high point. Dave, Mark Whittaker and myself were the crew from the fall of ’83 until March of ’84, when the band started recording Ride The Lighting. Other fellow crew members in attendance: Gem Howard, the tour manager from the Feb. ’84 European tour with Venom. Andy Battye, James’ guitar tech for years. Ian Jeffries and Jake Berry, tour manager and stage manager from the ’92 tour when I played. Tony Smith, assistant tour manager from ’92 who later became tour manager. I still keep in touch with Tony, a super gentleman. John Broderick, Lighting Director for many years; he still does light design (the Death Magnetic show is his), but doesn’t tour. Bobby Schneider, who started as a drum tech on Ride The Lightning and ended up as tour manager on Master Of Puppets. Somber note: Bobby was the one who told me “Cliff’s gone, man” (something I had assumed, but hadn’t absorbed yet) as we lay on stretchers while nurses fussed over us in the emergency room at a hospital in Sweden in Sept. of ’86.

I didn’t get the chance to say hello to my old friend Jimmy Page, but since we’d been holed up together in a studio in London for the last month (he asked me to help him write some material for the new Zeppelin release........), I thought it best to let him mingle with some other people for a while.....

More fun: explaining to my wife the difference between the two Brians I had just been speaking to: Brian Schroeder, a.k.a. Pushead, and Brian Sagrafena, the drummer from Echobrain, Jason’s first post-Metallica project.

Pushead > Brian
Sagrafena > John

Metal Joe and Ray Dill from the Old Bridge Militia — many war stories from Metal Joe’s house, Command Central for Metallica for the end of ’83/early ’84. Stories from that place are probably best kept under wraps! Hanging with Ron McGovney, a way cool dude. Ron kept reminding me of the time when I drove with James to L.A. to visit the Jackson Guitar factory to pick up a guitar in my “piece of shit little car”. That night there was a party at Ron’s old house, one that was about to be razed. Nothing more fun than throwing a bowling ball through a wall! For the record—the car was a 1974 sky blue Ford Pinto station wagon with no heater. Hey man, Yngwie Malmsteen rode in that car too!

As the night wore on I tried to find as many people as I could that I knew and say hello to them. I think I did well. The vibe was loose, open and happy. The fact that this would never happen again was what made it special.

To quote Umlaut, it was a fucking GREAT party.

The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame:

I don’t believe in the RRHOF. I must echo Umlaut's sentiment that it’s a lot like the music industry patting itself on the back. I mean, having a place to show old rock and roll mementos is cool, I guess. Maybe it’s just the name—“Hall Of Fame” sounds like stats and wins and losses and such. Call it something else please.

After looking for breakfast in the wicked cold of a ghost town that is downtown Cleveland (and finding only shopping mall food court crap), we headed to the HOF. Because of the induction-day free entrance fee, there was a long line waiting to get in. While waiting in line we spotted on the ground a rusty old safety pin ("Living in sin with a safety pin! Cleveland Rocks!"). Once we got in it was obvious that wasn’t going to be a leisurely, enjoyable stay. There was a crowd 2 and 3 bodies deep at each exhibit. We did see an interesting short film about songwriting, but that was about the only thing we wanted to stay for. (One note—Cliff’s red Rickenbacker and James’ Explorer touched a nerve... I used to tune, restring and care for those instruments, and now they’re being put on display like icons of history! Mind boggling.) So we left.

The Induction Dinner and Ceremony:

In our best black-tie outfits (and man, we looked GOOD) we hopped the shuttle from the hotel at about 5pm to head to the Public Hall for the Cocktail Party and Induction dinner. We were dropped off at a tented entrance that turned out to be the red carpet—as in THE red carpet, lined on either side with paparazzi for about 150 feet leading into the building. When the photogs realized that we were nobodies (which was pretty much instantly) they promptly ignored us. We walked the carpet into the building and got our table assignment.

Also seated at Table 74: Johnny and Marcia Zazula, Ron McGovney, Scott Ian, Charlie Benante, Jim Martin, Steff and Vickie from the MetClub, and Metal Maria. The conversations were varied—from discussing with Scott and Charlie what songs Metallica might play (we all thought “Trapped Under Ice” would be cool, but I thought 'Escape' might just be Metallica’s way of spicing up the event), to discussing with Jim Martin the intricacies of growing championship pumpkins and tomatoes. The food was pretty damn good—chicken and tenderloin of beef, with mashed potatoes and veggies. Being diabetic, I tried not to eat the “giant chocolate tower thing”, but failed miserably. It was stunningly good. Each seated guest also received a goodie bag, complete with a program, HOF baseball cap, HOF journal (which I called a “dairy” in a harried text to Umlaut), and a CD with music from each inductee (the Metallica tracks are 'Enter Sandman', 'Nothing Else Matters', and... 'Fade To Black'!?)
. It was a bit unnerving eating dinner while the public filled the seats above us, but I was OK with it. I had friends up there. Someone commented that it was like being monkeys in a zoo, to which someone else replied—“Does that mean we can throw poo at them?”

A couple of good points of the show: I was really impressed by Little Anthony and the Imperials. I’m not sure what it was — maybe it was because they were the first act that performed, but they were good. Real good. Rosanne Carter’s speech was funny, especially the jokes about Wanda Jackson and her father. I was floored to hear some of the keyboard parts that Spooner Oldham had recorded—I had no idea! Some of the best musicians ARE the sidemen and session cats.

Jeff Beck — the film intro to Jeff Beck’s induction had one of the funniest moments of the evening — as the film jumped between interviews and moments of Beck’s history, it suddenly cut to the dressing room scene in 'Spinal Tap’ where Nigel Tufnel is admonishing Marti DiBergi — “Don’t point at that guitar, don’t even look at it!” Funny! The Jeff Beck/Nigel Tufnel connection has been cemented in history! After being inducted by Jimmy Page, Beck came out with his band and roared into ‘Beck’s Bolero’. As the sound of his guitar filled the auditorium, it was like “THERE it is!” I’ve been listening to THAT guitar for decades, and it was like a familiar old blanket…just amazing. Then Page came back onstage with a guitar and they went into ‘The Immigrant Song’, before jumping back into ‘Beck’s Bolero’. What’s cool is that Page played rhythm guitar on the original recording of 'Beck’s Bolero' over 40 years ago, and here they were doing it again. Way Cool.

The choice of Flea to induct Metallica seemed at first to be way off… but his speech was HAPPENING. It was very articulate with an almost hippy-like twist, interspersed with phrases like “violent beauty” and “Metallica fucking ROCKS!!!!” I welled up with tears when he talked about Cliff Burton. I don’t think anyone could have done it better than Flea. It was perfect.

The speeches were all good—more tears during Ray Burton’s speech. And again when Kirk thanked his brother for the guitar when he was an “angry confused young teen”. James’ dedication to the people “stuck in an image”, daring them to fail, was good.

The song choices of 'Master Of Puppets' and 'Enter Sandman' were perfect, I thought. Those two songs probably best represent the band’s entire career, and having both Rob and Jason playing them was the only way it could have been done properly.

The hugest moment of the evening for me came during the all-star jam at the end. As I was watching ‘Train Kept a-Rollin’ I realized that my friend Kirk was up there with Page, Beck, Ron Wood and Joe Perry— four of our biggest heroes! It took me back to Kirk’s bedroom more than 30 years ago, where we used to play that song and dream of bigger things. By the end of it tears of pride and joy were flowing big time.

There was a large portion of the crowd that didn’t react when Metallica was playing --- and it brought home a point for me. To quote Flea, Metallica is still “outsider music”, and I think it always will be. They will never fit into the establishment. I mean, one listen to the first track off of Death Magnetic will confirm that. I could just imagine many people in the audience thinking, “Oh so THAT’s who Metallica are, THAT’s what they sound like.” They’d probably heard of them but never bother to check them out—and after this night they will probably never listen to Metallica again. And that’s what makes this whole thing great—is that as we grow older it’s still cool to like Metallica. Much like in ’82-’86 when they were the best underground band that no one had ever heard of, they are still the best underground band that everyone’s heard of. Hope that makes sense….

Without my connection to Metallica, I can easily say that I would be living somewhere else, doing something else. They have literally, unequivocally changed my life. Seeing them at this level is just incredible for me. And as with pretty much every part of my life that is connected to Metallica, this event was truly one-of-a-kind and special.