March 14, 1982: Metallica Play Their First Concert

A Metallica photo that has absolutely nothing to do with March 14, 1982.

A Metallica photo that has absolutely nothing to do with March 14, 1982. (Image credit: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

Thirty-six years ago today, four kids from California took the stage at Radio City in Anaheim, California, completely unaware that their band would one day be among the biggest in the world.

Just months before they made their recording debut on the first Metal Massacre compilation (on which they were credited as Mettallica), James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Ron McGovney and Dave Mustaine played their first show, which, according to most sources, included only two original tunes: "Hit the Lights" and "Jump in the Fire."

The cover-heavy set also included versions of Savage's "Let It Loose," Blitzkrieg's "Blitzkrieg," Sweet Savage's "Killing Time" and four—count 'em, four—Diamond Head songs. What's perhaps most surprising about the show is that Hetfield had not yet started playing rhythm guitar while singing, leaving Mustaine as the sole guitarist in the band.

"The first gig was at Radio City, and I was just singing," Hetfield told Kerrang! a few years ago. "There were a lot of people there, maybe 200, because we had all my school friends and all Lars' and Ron's and Dave's buddies. I was really nervous and a little uncomfortable without a guitar, and then during the first song Dave broke a string. It seemed to take him eternity to change it and I was standing there really embarrassed. We were really disappointed afterwards. But there were never as many people at the following shows as there were at that first one."

This incarnation of the band recorded multiple demos together, including the now-famous No Life 'til Leather and Power Metal tapes. McGovney would be replaced by Cliff Burton by the end of 1982, and Mustaine was dismissed in April 1983 before being replaced by Exodus guitarist Kirk Hammett.

1. "Hit the Lights" (Hetfield, Ulrich)
2. "Blitzkrieg" (Blitzkrieg cover)
3. "Helpless" (Diamond Head cover)
4. "Jump in the Fire" (Hetfield, Ulrich, Mustaine)
5. "Let It Loose" (Savage cover)
6. "Sucking My Love" (Diamond Head cover)
7. "Am I Evil?" (Diamond Head cover)
8. "The Prince" (Diamond Head cover)
9. "Killing Time" (Sweet Savage cover)

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Josh Hart

Josh Hart is a former web producer and staff writer for Guitar World and Guitar Aficionado magazines (2010–2012). He has since pursued writing fiction under various pseudonyms while exploring the technical underpinnings of journalism, now serving as a senior software engineer for The Seattle Times.