Single Stories, Metallica, “Whiplash”
34 years ago today, Metallica released their debut single from their debut full-length album.
Written by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich and produced by Paul Curcio and Johny Zazula, “Whiplash” was – despite holding the lofty spot in Metallica’s history that we referenced in the first sentence – one of the last songs written for their KILL ‘EM ALL album. Recorded at Music America Studios in Rochester, New York, the song was ostensibly written about the feeling experienced when one is banging one’s head, which checks out when you look at the lyrics and their references to “thrashing all around” and “acting like a maniac.”
Although the song did much to help put Metallica on the map, its greatest success from an awards standpoint didn’t occur for nearly 20 years, by which point the band had become so influential as to warrant a tribute album. Motorhead contributed a cover of “Whiplash” to METALLIC ATTACK: METALLICA – THE ULTIMATE TRIBUTE, and they went on to win their first Grammy in the category of Best Metal Performance. This is far from the only time “Whiplash” has been covered, however: there are also versions out there by Crematorium, Pantera (under the name “Pantallica”), Destruction, Stone Gods, and an all-star quartet featuring Vinny Appice, Scott Ian, Billy Milano, and Philip Soussan.
And the highest praise of all? The song was, according to Kirk Hammett, Kurt Cobain’s favorite Metallica song.