I was handed a copy of Ride The Lightning and that. Was. Fucking. It.
It’s tough to remember the order. It was a long time ago now, I’m fucking old and my brain is shot. It would have been impossible not to know “One”, the video made its rounds on MTV, and as a small child I remember specifically waking up early and watching either cartoons or music videos. I feel like if I try hard I can recollect where I got specific albums, cassette tapes, though it is blurry. I got And Justice For All from Caldwell Connection, a place where I would later take guitar lessons in my mid twenties, although it would be at a different location in Whitestone. I believe a close friend of the family got me Master of Puppets at Queens Center Mall and I think I got Kill ‘Em All at Coconuts on Main Street in Flushing, and my parents got me the Black album with both volumes of Use Your Illusion for Christmas in 1991.
The obsession began in my older cousin Kenny’s room in Ridgewood. Obviously the cousin character in Dart Etiquette was an homage, but like all the characters they are composites of many people and influences.
We would visit my family fairly often when I was small for barbecues and functions, but after my parents divorced that was the end of it, I saw them maybe once or twice after that.
When I was a little kid I couldn’t wait to go to their house. There were five of them, four brothers, and all but one was older than me. Die hard Ranger fans. Rough housing and burgers. They had cool toys. We would go to the park, Starr Playground, down the street from their attached house on Willoughby and Onderdonk, and run around, find some trouble to get into and gawk at the prostitutes.
One holiday, a fight broke out in the living room when Kenny was accused of theft. Kenny, the oldest was smaller than D, the second in line. The two brothers squared up in the center of the living room. The younger brothers and I watched with open mouths from the stairs. Who was I supposed to root for? It was metal vs. jock. D started to get the better of Kenny, so naturally Kenny snatched a heavy German beer stein, conveniently placed on a table within arm’s reach and broke it over his brother’s face. The adults had to pull them apart, the elder with the handle to the glass still in his hand. There were some stitches and some sore feelings. No stranger to violent episodes, I thought it was incredible.
My obsession with Metallica was underway when I sat in my cousin’s messy room and he handed me a white cassette tape. Ride The Lightning. He said I could keep it and I thanked him profusely. I popped the tape into my walkman, and listened to it on the ride back home to Whitestone in the backseat of my parent’s beat up whip, and each subsequent day after that. I was hooked.
I had posters on the wall. I wanted to grow my hair out. I threw up horns and banged my head. I wore my Pushead Shortest Straw t-shirt to death. Metallica seemed like the most mind boggling, most ferocious sounding music imaginable at that stage of my life. I wanted to learn how to do that. I took a few guitar lessons, so I could emulate Hetfield and Hammett, but that ended quickly, since my family couldn’t afford the lessons. They told me it was because we were busy, scheduling conflicts, but I knew the truth. We didn’t have the money, and it wasn’t long after the lessons ended that so did my parent’s marriage. It happens. I would eventually go on to learn a little and take lessons on my own as an adult, but I am nowhere near proficient.
Kenny also gave me a record, and at the risk of sounding redundant, I’ll share an excerpt from chapter four of Dart Etiquette.
“Indeed, it was a badass looking record. A twelve inch released in 1984, consisting of three songs. Creeping Death on side A, flip it and listen to two covers of bands I had not heard of until that day, songs which would eventually be released on Garage Days. It was a picture disc. If this was to be my first record, Kenny had made a sound choice. An artist named Alvin Petty created an otherworldly scene, something Lovecraftian, a landscape of jagged stone with passageways carved out of mountains, a subtle depiction of a skull beneath the arch of the path in the void, hues of purple with a green fog. The Metallica logo, impressive and looming overhead, and accented with green and silver. The words Creeping Death beneath the band’s name, in a strange font but nevertheless etched and unforgettable in my teenage mind and most likely for as long as I shall live.”
In real life I wasn’t a teenager yet, I maybe just broke double digits, regardless of my age I was thrilled about the record. I kept the record safely for years, and during the entire duration I held it in my possession I had never owned a record player or actually listened to it. I kept it as a souvenir. A momento. I worshipped it and hung it up. Eventually I would lose it. Queens is comprised of 39 towns. I have approximated that I have lived in a minimum of 20 houses/apartments in about 8 of those towns. I don’t have many things from my childhood and the twelve inch record is just another casualty.
I incorporated the record into the novel to pay tribute, and also I felt it made sense thematically. I still obsess. Everyone has their favorite Metallica record. It’s subjective. I would never tell you which should be your favorite. I might have a strong opinion on which shouldn’t be. Mine is Justice, and before you even think it, I don’t give a fuck about the bass levels. I don’t. It is a fucking masterpiece. The close second is Ride The Lightning, and I can admit that Master is a better record, but Lightning is extremely sentimental to me and I hold a soft spot for it. My love for that band spans a stretch of eight years and five records.
They could write and record a hundred more albums that I’ll never listen to, it doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t tarnish or take away from the legacy they carved out with those first five bangers. Metallica, most certainly, killed ’em all.