It’s hard to imagine the cocktail of emotion that Jason Newsted must’ve felt walking in to audition for Metallica in 1986 after the tragic death of Cliff Burton. Intense fear and anxiety sprinkled with a dash of excitement would’ve been our guess. However, Newsted recently told Metal Hammer that he was actually cool as a god damn cucumber, stating incredulously: “I went in totally prepared and confident.” Alrighty then… respect, because we would’ve crapped our pants.
The audition process apparently went pretty swimmingly right away, as Jason was quickly called back for 2 subsequent auditions.
On the third night, however, Kirk, James and Lars brought in “the elders” to really put Newsted to the test. From Lar’s father, Torben, to the Burtons, to some of Metallica’s day one crew, it was a tough crowd to please for sure.
After jamming through about six songs, Jason recalled a very touching encounter with Cliff’s mother, Jan [as transcribed by Metal Hammer]:
“So I am just composing myself for a second, putting my bass down, turning off Cliff’s amp – I’m playing fucking Cliff’s amp dude! Jan comes walking in the room by herself, and she grabs me, and gets my attention. She says, ‘Great job, son’ and I’m like, ‘Oh fuck!’ She embraced me, and it seemed like it was quite a while, and she said, ‘You’re the one, you must be the one. Please be safe, we love you,’ and she gave me a kiss. That was 35 years ago, and I’ll never, ever forget it.”
An incredible story, and one that – if you stop and think about it- had a profound impact on metal history. Jason was a pivotal part of the post-Cliff era of Metallica and who knows where things would’ve gone sonically if the talented super-fan hadn’t been chosen for the gig.
Respect to Mr. Newsted for keeping it real after all of these years. We leave you with this pretty rad tribute for Cliff that Jason gave back in 1989 at a Metallica gig in Seattle:
Words by The Pit staff.