"Why is everyone leaving me?" "Fleming, why are you doing this to me?"
The short middle-aged guy is leaning up against the bar, joking with Fleming at the end of what might be just another night at House of Blues. Except that tonight, we're talking about legendary Metallica producer Fleming Rasmussen, the current subject of torment from Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich, who is still hanging out at nearly
3 a.m. at HOB's bar.
On the eve of Metallica's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the band gather at HOB for a super-hush hush party hosted by their longtime management Q Prime, with only friends, Q Prime employees and select label execs on the invite list. Earlier in the week, rumors began to circulate that Metallica would play a secret show before/after the induction ceremonies. By the end of the week, rumors of the event had been downgraded to "private party" status and HOB employees did their best to appear completely unaware of the event, with one employee emailing me back the reply "I honestly haven't heard anything about that!" in response to my inquiry trying to confirm the event. Another associate spoke with Metallica brass and got the message "If Metallica doesn't know you, you're not getting in."
I was there with a label friend of mine that had a high placed connection with Megaforce Records founder Jonny Zazula, and a promise to get in the door on that evening. The only problem is that we've got a bad connection with Jonny's wife Marsha, who keeps answering Jonny's cell phone, unable to hear the caller on the other end.
After a few more phone calls, we decide that it's time to find another way into House of Blues. We encounter a quick roadblock with the HOB employees working the door/guest list, "Who are you" is the question that comes from the HOB employee. "Jonny Zazula" replies my friend. "Who is he?" is the question directed toward me. "Don't I get a plus one?" "No ... um ... well OK, go on inside."
And like that, we're inside. My friend immediately hunts down Jonny Zazula, hugs are exchanged, and Jonny laughs when he hears that we used his name to get in the door. Tonight's party is the best party you've never been to — free food, free booze and an audience with a dizzying list of future Rock Hall inductees, presenters, and tons of celeb friends.
No pictures is the rule, with the understanding that if you are caught taking pictures with your cell phone camera or otherwise, you'll be shown the door immediately. This allows for an atmosphere that finds all four Metallica members — singer James Hetfield, drummer Ulrich, guitarist Kirk Hammett and bass player Robert Trujillo — to hang at ease with friends and family with minimal interruptions. It is without a doubt, one big giant Metallica family reunion, as the members of Metallica reminisce and swap stories with their longtime former and current business associates, musical comrades, and family.
There are staff photographers on hand, hired to capture the evening's events on film. Legendary guitarist Jimmy Page is holding court, talking with Anthrax members Scott Ian and Charlie Benante. Hetfield is deep in conversation with Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry, who is walking with the aid of a lavish wooden cane, the result of recent hip surgery. Others in attendance: legendary Metallica producer Bob Rock (no hard feelings about the trash can drums, I guess,) syndicated radio personality Eddie Trunk, longtime Rolling Stone scribe David Fricke and a couple of former Metallica bass players.
That's right, Jason Newsted AND original Metallica bass player Ron McGovney are both in attendance for the evening. With Rock and Trujillo there, we've got all four bass players from Metallica in the same room. It's good to see Newsted there, and Father Time has been good to him — he doesn't appear to have aged a day since his 2001 departure from the band. For anyone that was wondering the current state of relations between Newsted and Metallica, it's apparent that things are currently all good, at least for this weekend.
Celebration is the focus for not only the pending Rock Hall induction, but also the incredible legacy of Metallica. And that's why tonight feels so good, because nearly all of the principal players that helped Metallica carve out that legacy, are at House of Blues. It appears that no one was left off the guest list, and nearly all have come to Cleveland to celebrate — current and former Q Prime staffers, the previously mentioned musical friends, and some important living breathing footnotes in Metalli-history, including "Metal" Joe Chimienti and "Rockin'" Ray Dill. As members of the "Metal Militia," Dill and Chimienti gave crucial early support to the band and also
gave the band a place to stay in their early days. Chimienti's house was also the birthplace for many of the writing sessions for a little album called Ride The Lightning.
During an impromptu roast late in the evening, Dill stood in front of a giant ice sculpture in the Metalli-appropriate shape of a "middle finger salute" (there was also an ice sculpture of "devil horns,") and recalled selling his New Jersey home to a group of young adults. When he told them that James Hetfield had gotten sick in the bathroom, the kids paid attention, remodeling the entire house, except for the hallowed bathroom, which would remain untouched.
McGovney spoke, recalling that the band would refer to themselves as the "young metal attack," a phrase that was used on some of the band's earliest T-shirts and merchandise — "Young because that's what we
were, Metal, because that's what it was, and Attack, because that's what we did to each other." There were no speeches from the members of Metallica — there would be plenty of time for that during Saturday's ceremonies — tonight was all about having fun.
For Metallica, it was an evening that also showed they hadn't forgotten where they came from, or the people who got them there. And how many times do you get the chance to bump elbows with Joe Perry and Jimmy Page in the same room? It was a night to remember for all in attendance, and from this guy here, I'll rate it at two metal horns, way up. Best. Night. Ever. —Matt Wardlaw