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When METALLICA & MICHAEL ALAGO Refused To Edit Ride The Lightning Songs For Radio, Made Everyone See Them Live

"Everybody go see the band or don't come to work tomorrow!"

Photo of James HETFIELD and METALLICA and Lars ULRICH and Cliff BURTON
Photo by Pete Cronin/Redferns

After the success of Metallica's 1983 album Kill 'Em All, the band left their original home of Megaforce Records and signed with Elektra at the behest of legendary A&R executive Michael Alago.

In an extensive piece written by Alago for the upcoming edition of Creem Magazine, Alago recounts the late and great Megaforce Records co-founder Jonny Zazula originally pitching him Raven in 1983… but he was a little more into Metallica. Alago had already heard Kill 'Em All and, after seeing Metallica live in 1984 at the Roseland in New York City, had the band in a board room with Elektra executives (plus some beer and Chinese food).

Fast-forward to later that year – Ride The Lightning was done, Metallica was on Elektra, and the meetings for promotion had begun. Alago recounts not wanting to budge on editing a single song on Ride The Lightning to fit radio, and made anyone working with the band go see them live before even sitting in a meeting. Talk about conviction!

"By now everybody at Elektra had their copy of Ride the Lightning. They had to listen to it because there was going to be a marketing meeting. One of the very first things that came up in the marketing meeting was that the radio people believed the songs were too long. I was mortified. My stomach was churning. How am I going to respond to these people? They asked, 'Which tracks are you going to edit for radio?'—meaning, make them shorter so that the radio will find it easier to play. I knew that the band had written and recorded what they had so that it would be heard just as-is. I got up my courage and said, 'Well, we're not going to be editing anything. This is a flawless album that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It is taking us on a journey.'

"If I had even thought of mentioning an edit to Lars, I would have lost all trust and credibility with him and the band, so I couldn't even consider this. I told everyone, 'If you have not seen this band, you have to go see them live.' That became mandatory, because either at that meeting or at the following Wednesday's meeting, I made [Elektra president Bob Krasnow] come in to reinforce that. Krasnow was so great because it was like, 'Everybody go see the band or don't come to work tomorrow!'

"Luckily, a number of my colleagues at Elektra were pretty cool—at least, for corporate people—and understood and accepted that we were not editing anything, and that the beauty and the excitement for the band came from everybody seeing them live. There was not going to be a video, and we were not editing a fucking thing. I was not even going to approach their managers, Cliff Burnstein and Peter Mensch, at all about it.

"I have to imagine some of the people in that meeting thought I was simply being a pain in the ass and making their jobs harder. But Bob told them, 'Whatever Michael says is what we're doing.' He knew I understood the genre and this band, and he personally witnessed the Roseland excitement. This wasn't about radio. This wasn't about any edit, and this wasn't about making videos. It was about keeping these young people on the road."

Get the full story here via Creem!

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