“Sad But True”
I was an awkward waif in elementary school. I had mangy black hair and couldn’t figure out how to properly make friends. (I still can’t.) I liked to sing and be in choir but there was no one with whom I could discuss outside music. Oh, sure, I could chat with with people about the church piece we were doing or about the number the piano teacher picked for us to perform at the annual spring concert, but not about the Smiths or Simple Minds song I just discovered. So I did the only thing I could: I pulled a Casey Kasem. I tried compiling my own weekly Top 40.
It eventually became a Top 10 chart, but I closely modeled my version on his program. I bought a 50-cent, two-subject ultramarine spiral notebook and filled it to the brim with weekly countdowns. I’m not sure how many years elapsed between its covers; but, one thing’s for certain, I wouldn’t mind revisiting my choices again if I could find the thing.
The rules were simple. A song from any epoch of human history qualified for my Top 10 provided it had banged around my brain pretty steadily during the week. This was long before my epic dalliances with the Doors, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd, so there was quite the diversity on my chart then. An anonymous church anthem often made the cut. So too did items from Felix Mendelssohn, Meryn Cadell, and a few James Bond capers. The best part, though, was how I handled the selection process: I’d decide on my fictitious radio show. Before revealing anything, I told stories, shared letters from listeners, and made up commercials in my head. I sent out dedications and had my imaginary friends call in to make requests or otherwise just vote on their favorite tunes.
When I was forced into a tough spot, like getting yelled at by my old man, for example, I’d often run my Casey Kasem. A dissociative Top 10 was still better than reality, and much less painful. But since I couldn’t carry the notebook in those situations, I’d have to memorize the order of song titles for future enshrinement.
The melody I most remember writing in the top slot, though, was Metallica’s “Sad But True.” I suppose you could call it my version of Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road” or Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” — contemporary big hits — but I could never share how I felt about it. I didn’t have a partner for that type of conversation.
Lars Ulrich pelting those drums, that elephantine guitar tone tromping around, Kirk Hammett’s squirrelly-cued solo and, of course, James Hetfield spitting out lines with perfect disgust like a psychotic archer — damn! The whole thing was undoubtedly the most eviscerating five minutes I’d ever heard.
Fast forward to the WorldWired Tour. After Hammett and Robert Trujillo dueled to the melody of “I Disappear,” Trujillo offered tribute to late bassist Cliff Burton with a mesmerizing take on Burton’s classic “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)” — or, as I always refer to it, “Bass Solo, Take One.” After that, I didn’t think I could be more satisfied hearing Metallica live for the first time.
Then, suddenly, they ripped into “Whiplash.” Having given it the speed of their original recording, I was ruptured in disbelief. Afterwards, trying to recover, I was taking a deep swig of water when “Sad But True” — the first bars of it, anyway — began pounding themselves out. People from around the gridiron started flexing right out of their seats. Heads went bobbing back and forth. Ulrich did that “DUT dut-dut-dut-dut, DUT dut-dut-dut-dut” drum intro and the boys went off hammering. When I sang the refrain as loud as I could with everyone else at MetLife Stadium, I realized for a minute I was making over 46,000 friends.
The band’s setlist was Hardwired, Atlas Rise!, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Fuel, The Unforgiven, Now That We’re Dead, Moth Into Flame, Wherever I May Roam, Halo on Fire, Trujillo and Hammett’s version of I Disappear, Trujillo’s take on Burton’s bass solo Anesthesia, Whiplash, Sad But True, One, Master of Puppets, Fade to Black, Seek & Destroy, and Fight Fire with Fire. The encores were Nothing Else Matters and Enter Sandman.
Photos by Rick Stachura. May 14, 2017.
James Hetfield (rhythm guitar, lead vocals), Kirk Hammett (lead guitar, backing vocals), Lars Ulrich (drums), and Robert Trujillo (bass, backing vocals) of Metallica at MetLife Stadium. The WorldWired Tour.
(1) Waiting on the encore!
(2) Hetfield during “Nothing Else Matters.”
(3) The band on the mini-stage with “Seek & Destroy.”