Yesterday I talked about two line-up changes from Metallica’s early days. Today I’ll get into the two remaining changes, both at the bass position. (Three if you ask Bob Rock, I guess…)
The first change came in 1986 and was born of tragedy – a bus accident claimed the life of Metallica’s legendary bassist.
Cliff Burton dies, succeeded by Jason Newsted
On September 27, 1986, Metallica’s tour bus crashed in Sweden. The cause is disputed – a point I’ll leave alone here. The result was the death of Cliff Burton at 24 years old.
Cliff’s death was an obvious shockwave through the Metallica camp, as well as the metal scene in general. Cliff was a massive force and contributor to the Metallica sound, his presence was going to be missed no matter what.
The band did decide to press on and after a huge audition process, chose Jason Newsted for the role. Newsted hailed from Arizona thrashers Flotsam And Jetsam, who had just been getting the ball rolling on their output. F&J would go on to have a nice career, but Newsted would find something far beyond nice in Metallica.
The lineup formed in 1987 would stay intact until 2001. In this period, Metallica would become one of the best-selling bands in the world. Their first effort with Newsted, …And Justice For All, would become their biggest seller to date. Then in 1991, their self-titled effort smashed records and stands as one of the best sellers of the 1990s.
Success would not necessarily be easy for Newsted. He wound up with just a few songwriting credits during his time in the band, which saw four full-length albums released. Jason was a total sparkplug when playing live, he was often cited as a highlight of the show for his energy and headbanging. The physical toll of that, coupled with another huge issue, led to him departing the band in 2001.
Jason Newsted quits, replaced by Robert Trujillo
When Jason Newsted announced his departure from Metallica, it wasn’t a quiet event. The band happened to have a film crew around them, shooting for a very drama-filled movie that became Some Kind Of Monster.
Newsted cited physical issues from touring, as well as discouragement from the band when he wished to do a side project. The discouragement came solely from James Hetfield, Newsted originally found the rest of the band and management keen on the idea.
Newsted would perform in a variety of bands over the years after Metallica – with that “side project” Echobrain, a tour with Ozzy Osbourne, as a member of Voivod and in a self-named band. Newsted disbanded that outfit sometime in 2014, citing the extreme expenses he was funding to take the band on tour. He has sporadically appeared in various capacities since, though not with a full time act.
For Metallica, they were between a rock and a hard place as they were working on their next album. With a lot of delays and drama found in plentiful supply on the Some Kind Of Monster film, the band’s producer Bob Rock filled in on bass for the album. It did at least come off as if Bob thought he was joining the band in a full capacity, though I don’t wish to speak for someone I’ve never met.
In any case, the audition process for a new bass player commenced, also documented on Some Kind Of Monster. The band chose Robert Trujillo, a career musician with an impressive resume spanning from Suicidal Tendencies to Black Label Society and Ozzy Osbourne (Newsted directly replaced Trujillo as Ozzy’s bassist, in fact).
Trujillo hit it off well with the established members of Metallica and was accepted fully into the band, something that never found his predecessor Jason. And it’s fair to say that Robert’s embrace into the group was the result of lessons learned from Newsted’s departure, James and Lars have said as much over the years. The band have released two albums with Trujillo and have toured extensively as the bearers of a now 40 year legacy as metal’s most successful band.
That about does it for the line-up changes in Metallica. There are other things that could be discussed, like fill-in guitarists when James has injured himself, the luminaries who auditioned for the bass role in 1986 and 2001, and the band’s idea to bring in John Bush as a vocalist and let James concentrate on guitar. But all of that is side stuff that can wait for another day. For today I’ll rest on the band’s present (and likely final) construction, ending with a final mention of Dave Mustaine simply because it’s not a Metallica discussion without Dave Mustaine.