Metallica – Metallica
“I might forget my own birthday. I’ve absolutely been guilty of almost forgetting my wife’s on occasion. I will never forget the 6th of May 1989 at the Hordern Pavilion.”
Former Soundwave boss AJ Maddah has been behind some of the biggest and most successful festivals in the country, and has no shortage of stories to tell about the music and the bands he loves.
The band went from black sneakers to cowboy boots.AJ Maddah
As a music obsessed teen, he overheard a group of metalheads at school playing Metallica.
They made him copies of their tapes and got him heavily hooked. By the aforementioned date, there was massive anticipation ahead of Metallica’s first tour here.
“We’d been waiting a very long time for Metallica to make it to Australia,” Maddah remembers.
“Their very first trip to Australia was on the album …And Justice For All.
“I got up, dressed for school – instead of my books I put my Metallica uniform in my school bag – left the house nice and early and made my way from the western suburbs [of Sydney] to the Hordern Pavilion.”
For 15-year-old Maddah, there was going to be no school on this day. There was already a huge gathering of fans who had the same idea.
“It was a sold out show and 90 percent of fans were there in the morning,” Maddah recalls.
“We were boisterous, we were exuberant and the constabulary didn’t quite know how to deal with us. We all had long hair, we all dressed exclusively in black and we were singing very loudly and kinda mucking about.
“At some point, people started 20-30 at a time, lifting cars and putting them down into Moore Park. None of It was nasty, none of it was violent, we were just losing our minds.
“By about 3pm the police started to get very aggressive with us and they wanted to cancel the show. Fortunately, someone pointed out to them that cancelling the show would be counterproductive with 6000 kids losing their minds outside.
“The show went ahead and it was basically four chaps wearing tracksuit pants, black sneakers and black t-shirts [who] came out and kicked our arses for nearly three hours. It was a ridiculous show.
“This is the band that it was, there was no pretension, there was no really massive production and every single person there would have taken a bullet for that band. So that’s the background to which two and a half years later, The Black Album was released.
“Alarm bells started ringing when it was announced that a chap called Bob Rock was gonna produce the album. Mr Rock had built his career on producing and co-writing real poodle rock bands – he was the Mötley Crüe, Bon Jovi guy – so the fans were already a little bit worried. First, he was mixing it, then it was he was producing it, so there was a little bit of prejudice to the album before things even got going.”
Just ahead of the official release of the album, Metallica released ‘Enter Sandman’ which Maddah says was a very clever move.
“Because it’s one of the harder tracks on the album,” he says. “It has a classic riff, maybe a bit Metallica-lite compared to Kill ‘Em All or Ride The Lightning, but it’s a classic Metallica song nonetheless, so it kinda pacified the fans.
When Metallica returned to tour The Black Album in Australia, there was cause for even more rumbles in the ranks of the local fanbase.
“It was a slick show,” Maddah says. “The band went from black sneakers to cowboy boots, there was definitely a much bigger production. I guess the stark difference was that we looked around the show and we could see people that weren’t us. We could see people that weren’t metalheads and that kinda freaked the fans out a little bit.
I think losing that Grammy was better for Metallica than winning could have ever beenAJ Maddah
“As metal fans, especially at a time when police were freaking out about metalheads – even though in my experience as a promoter of 20 odd years, metalheads are some of the best behaved crowds in the world – we were outsiders, we were frowned upon. At that time we had a siege mentality.
“I remember at the Grammys in the following year, ‘Enter Sandman’ was up for Best Rock Song, and it was beaten by a really crappy song [‘The Soul Cages’] from Sting.
"Don’t get me wrong, I love Sting, but when Sting beat them, all the fans came back into the fold, that was where our siege mentality was back.
"It was back to us against the world, and I think losing that Grammy was better for Metallica than winning could have ever been!”
Aside from providing him with some of his most treasured items in his record collection, Metallica also played a significant role in Maddah’s involvement in music.
“I managed to meet the band after the third show [of their 1989 Oz tour] at the Hordern Pavilion. You would not believe this, I actually found a [all access] pass on the ground and I got to meet the band.”
It was during a conversation with Jason Newstead about his former band Flotsam and Jetsam that the bass player told Maddah he should really consider doing something in music.
“For a 15-year-old fan, to have one of the band members stand there and talk for 15 minutes was just mind blowing,” he says.
“Maybe he was just being kind, but it certainly lit a fire that took off from there. I would absolutely not have got into working with music if were not for that day.”
And the memory of that day still guides his attitude and approach to music fans all these years on. When young bands ask for help with publicity or how to put a press kit together, or simply asking him to retweet a message when they have tickets to events they can no longer attend.
“Even when I was working 100-120 hours a week, just make sure you make a little bit of time to be available and talk to the kids,” he says. “I will never forget what it meant to me.”
Hardened Metallica fans will always defer to the band’s earlier material as their best. So, what does this long-time fan think of this fifth Metallica record, 26 years on?
“All things considered, the album is a miraculous blend of the Metallica identity but also a more radio feasible album,” Maddah says.
“[It] still stands up, it hasn’t aged, it hasn’t lost its potency. I think most Metallica fans even the hardcore fans back in the day, of the first four albums, appreciate how good the album is now, maybe much more so than when it came out.”
And even though fans had their suspicions and concerns about producer Bob Rock, in the end they, and AJ, can’t fault his work and vision for the record.
“The album sounds immense,” he says. “You put on this album and everything is just perfectly where it’s supposed to be from the tracking to the mixing and mastering, just the album sounds unbelievable. So, for production values, if it was recorded a year ago, I wouldn’t have thought it could sound any better than it does now.”