Metallica are almost as famous for their covers as they are for the thrash metal they pioneered.
In the band's '80s and early '90s heydey, Metallica introduced legions of fans to the bands they loved and were influenced by through these covers. Many people didn’t know about Killing Joke until Metallica covered “The Wait,” and if you’re a Budgie fan, you likely heard Metallica’s version of “Breadfan” first on some radio station’s Mandatory Metallica segment.
Their covers became live staples in their own right, as is the case with the catchy vulgarity of Anti Nowhere League’s “So What.” It worked in the favor of the bands they covered, too — Metallica covered the Misfits with “Last Caress/Green Hell” on 1987’s "Garage Days Re-Revisited," and Misfits vocalist Glenn Danzig’s solo career took off around the same time Metallica were ascending to global stardom.
On their current tour, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Robert Trujillo have been covering a song from a popular local artist. Recently in Minneapolis, they paid tribute to Prince with “When Doves Cry” (to a whole lot of derision). They honored Garbage in Madison, Wisconsin, with a cover of “Stupid Girl,” and in Stockholm they weren’t too metal to play ABBA’s “Dancing Queen.” Metallica have always been serious, but never that serious, and these covers, even if they’re not always successful, are at least a lighthearted break mid-set.
What might they have in store for their Saturday headlining sets at ACL Fest? Let’s take some bets.
Stevie Ray Vaughan — “Texas Flood”
The obvious choice. Tourists come to ACL; tourists know Stevie. Metallica go for who is most known in a city as a safe bet, and there isn’t a safer bet than a guy who has a statue in the middle of town. Hammett would get to indulge in his bluesy side, too. Odds: 2 to 1.
Willie Nelson — “Whiskey River”
The other super obvious choice. Tourists come to ACL; tourists know Willie, too. He might be a safer bet than Stevie on paper, yet there’s not as much noodling potential. Odds: 3 to 1.
David Bowie — “Let’s Dance”
Somewhat less of a given, but Vaughan did play on this, which makes it one of the only songs you’ll hear at Barbarella '80s night and any random Rainey Street bar. And there’s plenty crossover between Bowie and Metallica fans. Metallica are part of rock vintage whether they accept it or not. Odds: 4 to 1.
ZZ Top — “La Grange”
Look, we know, ZZ Top is a Houston band. But ACL Fest will be Metallica's only appearances in Texas this year. The Top are more Metallica’s vibe anyhow — vocalist James Hetfield has probably hummed “how how how” in his own twang many times before. And La Grange is a little closer to Zilker Park than Houston. Odds: 20 to 1.
Daniel Johnston — “True Love Will Find You In The End"
In the early '90s, Elektra — Metallica's label at the time — were considering signing Daniel Johnston. When Johnston found out Metallica was on the roster, he turned Elektra away because he thought Metallica was a satanic band. Though they skewed televangelists with “Leper Messiah” and “Holier Than Thou,” Metallica were not in league with the devil. Who knows if Metallica's members are even aware of this dispute? Still, it would be a nice olive branch to cover Johnston. Odds: 500 to 1.
Mammoth Grinder — “Total Extinction”
There’s a slim, slim chance that Metallica even know about Mammoth Grinder, much less know their music. How awesome would it be if they were plugged in to local metal talent, though? And should Lars Ulrich or Hammett ever feel like taking a couple sick days, they should give Chris Ulsh a chance to fill in — he really can do it all. Odds: 666,666 to 1.
St. Vincent — “Los Ageless”
Annie Clark is not only a Texas native; she grew up a teenage metalhead, too. She’s a big fan of Dallas’ very own Pantera, and it’s likely she has a couple Metallica licks stored in her head, too. Can we hope for a walk-on? Odds: 20,000 to 1.
Travis Scott — “Sicko Mode”
Metallica and Travis Scott are no longer playing on the same day, since Scott took over the Sunday headlining slots after Childish Gambino had to cancel his sets. Taking it back to ZZ Top, though — Metallica did an amazing cover of DJ DMD’s “25 Lighters,” a Houston rap staple. Hammett and Trujillo are the more musically adventurous side of Metallica — maybe they’ll be up for reinterpreting Scott’s hit. Odds: 500,000 to 1.
Dangerous Toys — “Teas’n Pleas’n”
Dangerous Toys were Austin’s entry into the glam metal craze of the '80s. They had a little more boogie than some of their contemporaries, and Jason McMaster, also of local prog-metal legends Watchtower, could wail with the best of ‘em. Very long odds here, but stranger things have happened. Odds: 1,000,000,000 to 1.