Throughout Metallica’s history, chaos has never been too far away. Most bands would have buckled under the adversity they’ve faced, but somehow, Metallica found a way to carry on. On one occasion, tensions got too heated during a concert, and James Hetfield unloaded his anger on Lars Ulrich.
At the time, Metallica was yet to become the stadium-conquering rockers they are today and was still at the beginning of their journey. Thankfully, they managed to have this disagreement in a private setting, as the embarrassment of the fight occurring in front of their fans could have been calamitous for Metallica. Although word of the altercation spread, it only added to their reputation as hell-raisers and made them appear even more dangerous.
The incident took place at one of their earliest shows, and for the first time in their career, Metallica were given the rockstar treatment by their fans. Despite only being a band for a matter of months, the crowd at The Troubadour in Los Angeles were in complete awe of what they were witnessing and demanded an encore.
As this had never happened before, Metallica were unsure of what they would play next. On The Howard Stern Show, Ulrich reminisced about the infamous show while Hetfield stood sheepishly next to him and awkwardly laughed at the violent actions of his younger self.
Ulrich explained: “We were playing, I think just down the street from here. I think it was the Troubadour. It was the first show where we ever, at least in our minds, received an encore. We were six, nine months into our career, and we got an encore. So we’re standing off stage discussing what song to play, and let’s just say there was a difference of opinion, so I suggested a song that started with drums”.
“When we came off, I got a slight punch in the stomach. I did stand up for the rest of the night,” Ulrich said, downplaying the attack. “For balance, I will say that throughout the rest of the ’80s, James helped me in many situations. I had a little bit of a big mouth and could definitely throw they best smart ass comments back to people.”
He added: “There were a couple of times when the beer and the good times were flowing where I would say the wrong things to the wrong people. But still, they were really funny and 30 years later, and as soundbites, illicit chuckles when you tell the stories. But James was there as my big brother.”
Although Hetfield used anger to vehicle his frustration on that evening, Ulrich holds no resentment towards him and admits it was a deserved punch. Judging from his remarks to Stern, Hetfield saved the drummer from getting beaten up far more times than he dished out violence upon him.