The First Year of Metallica’s Vinyl Club Was Pretty Epic
In the first week of March 2020—before anyone in the United States was concerned about rapid tests, face masks and quarantines—Metallica announced their first-ever attempt at a vinyl subscription service known as, quite simply, The Metallica Vinyl Club.
Promised to include "rare cuts, demos & rough mixes, and live rarities," the club locked fans into a yearlong subscription that delivered a 7-inch record every quarter. Additionally, becoming a member of the club would also open up some doors for you to get exclusive merch.
This didn't come as a big surprise to fans; Metallica have always cared about vinyl and offering distinct experiences for their fans through special records. Whether it's deluxe box sets and reissues or serving as the official ambassadors for Record Store Day in 2016, Metallica love vinyl.
But with all of that, let's just say things didn't go exactly according to plan. And yet, The Metallica Vinyl Club was—and will continue to be—pretty epic.
As vinyl sales surge year after year, the vinyl industry experiences significant pressure on plants to produce. This pressure, often, leads to delays, and everyone feels those delays, even the biggest band in the world. But the delays Metallica faced weren't simply tied to vinyl production; as the band explained in an email sent out to Vinyl Club members in November 2020:
We have received inquiries from many of you regarding your first Vinyl Club shipment. Our software problems never seem to end! We're having issues with the piece of our online store that drives the subscription service resulting in a number of orders not showing tracking. On top of that, we are experiencing unprecedented delays by the US Postal System due the pandemic and the upcoming election, coupled with a huge increase in online and early holiday shopping. Our postal system here is totally overwhelmed, truly creating a perfect storm.
In that same email, the band provided members with a coupon code for the Metallica store.
As one might imagine, that did not bode well for the rest of the releases. More delays ensued, but eventually every 7-inch—along with some extra, exclusive goodies in each jacket, like a poster, postcards, stickers and more—was delivered and every Vinyl Club member was, no doubt, satisfied.
The Metallica Vinyl Club 2.0
Learning from the struggles of the first year, Metallica decided to not only keep the Vinyl Club alive, but to make it bigger and better:
Bigger, literally, as in all releases for Vinyl Club 2.0 will be on 12" vinyl instead of 7". Better, as in pressing on 12" vinyl allows us to give you more consistent, higher quality audio and the opportunity to include more music in each release.
Just like the first round of the Vinyl Club, the bigger and better version will feature music that's never been released on vinyl, and the records will be sent out quarterly. The first 12-inch is expected—fingers crossed—to land in early April 2022.
So, in anticipation of what's to come, we thought it would be fun to look back on the four releases of the first-ever Metallica Vinyl Club.
The Metallica Vinyl Club — Year One
Live at Donington '87
Tracks: "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (Live) b/w "Leper Messiah" (Live)
Visually, the first 7-inch of the club is unforgettable thanks to the always-striking artwork of Pushead. Both tracks were recorded live at the Monsters of Rock Festival in Castle Donington, England, on Aug. 22, 1987. Lars Ulrich writes in the liner notes, "It never felt like there was any place more at the epicenter of the hard rock world in the '80s than the hallowed grounds of Castle Donington in the East Midlands of England."
That epicenter is pristinely preserved on the first release of The Metallica Vinyl Club.
Tracks: "Sad But True" (Live) b/w "Whiplash" (Live)
This is truly the motherload of the Vinyl Club. Both live tracks were recorded at Kroeg Bar in Brunssum, Netherlands, on Sept. 10, 1996. This show was scheduled during one of Metallica's days off on their Poor Touring Me tour of '96. "As a band, all kinds of promotional ideas get thrown in your face along the way," Ulrich notes in the liner notes. "Some cool, some kooky, and most neither." The promotional idea? As Ulrich recalls, "It involved semi trucks, giveaways, fans, the word 'mother' and the word 'load' in the title and definitely also had strong elements of kooky."
Basically, one wildly lucky Metallica fan—Dag Van Gennip—won the prize, and Metallica showed up in his hometown and played a private show in his local bar, Kroeg Bar. It's a once-in-a-lifetime gig, and fans get the best of it with these performances of "Sad But True" and "Whiplash."
Disappear (Leaked and Live)
Tracks: "I Disappear" (Leaked Napster Version) b/w "I Disappear" (Live)
As the story goes—and Ulrich shares it all in the liner notes of this 7-inch—Metallica had two versions of "I Disappear" for the Mission: Impossible II soundtrack, but before they decided on which one they wanted to use, the song was already being played on a handful of radio stations thanks to a little file-sharing site called Napster. "And then the shit storm hit and it turned into the strangest summer ever," Ulrich recalls. "We'd never been in this type of predicament before. Didn't really know what was up, down or sideways. We had always been the good guys. Now that was seriously being challenged." Side A features that leaked Napster version of "I Disappear"—the version that didn't end up on the MI2 soundtrack—and is backed with their performance of it at the House of Blues in West Hollywood on July 18, 2000, less than two months after the movie's release.
The original record was a mispress; Side A and Side B spun at different speeds. Metallica owned the mistake and sent everyone a repressing in a plain white sleeve.
Tribute to Chris Cornell
Tracks: "All Your Lies" (Live) b/w "Head Injury" (Live)
"Thank you Chris." That's how Ulrich opens the liner notes for the fourth and final 7-inch of the inaugural year of The Metallica Vinyl Club. This record is all about Chris Cornell. The cover uses the same style and art of Hardwired...to Self-Destruct, but features Cornell's image, and the songs are both Soundgarden tunes covered by Metallica live at I Am the Highway: A Tribute to Chris Cornell at The Forum in Los Angeles on Jan. 16, 2019.
Ulrich says, "What an honor to have known you, to have shared the stage with you and created next level memories, and ultimately to have been included in the L.A. celebration of your life, which allowed us the opportunity to share with the world just how much your music and your brilliance meant to us. Here are two of our favorite old-school Soundgarden tracks from that special night."
There was no better way to wrap up the Vinyl Club's first year than with this incredibly special honor to the one and only Chris Cornell.