From rock and roll to electronica and beyond, the late David Bowie left such an indelible mark on popular culture that it can be viewed from practically countless angles today. Although regularly cited as a primary influence for many artists, one might not expect for California thrash legends Metallica to be counted among that number.
As it turns out, Bowie impacted the heavy metal pioneers to such a degree that they snuck an homage to one of his songs into their classic track, “Master of Puppets”.
Metallica were at their creative apex in the mid-1980s. Taking cues from the new wave of British heavy metal movement and hardcore punk, the band merged musicality and raw aggression with an effortless grace. As visceral as Metallica could be, their influences reached far beyond what many headbangers might expect.
At a standstill during the compositional process, bassist Cliff Burton suggested they borrow a connecting part directly from David Bowie’s ‘Andy Warhol’, a track featured on his 1971 album Hunky Dory. Metallica took the initially acoustic riff and beefed it up to breakneck speed at the 6:19 mark on “Master of Puppets.”
Speaking to the One On One With Mitch Lafon podcast in January of 2016, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett talked about Bowie’s influence on him, Burton and Metallica as a whole, recalling: “(Bowie’s) influence on me was huge. Changesonebowie was one of the… part of a handful of albums that I bought when I was a young kid.”
He explained: “David Bowie has been a pretty huge influence on me and on other people in (Metallica) as well. I know that… Cliff Burton and I used to listen to the Ziggy Stardust album a lot on the Ride The Lightning tour. The title (of) ‘Leper Messiah’ is actually in the song ‘Ziggy Stardust’.”
Enigmatically, Hammett turned his attention to ‘Master of Puppets’: “And if you wanna dig any further into how much of an influence he was, all you have to do is listen to the song ‘Andy Warhol’, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
That song was a heavy influence on Cliff Burton and that album, Hunky Dory, was a big influence on Cliff Burton as well. If you listen to ‘Andy Warhol’, you’ll hear something in that song that totally… You’ll hear something in that song that will make you say, ‘Ah! Okay. Bowie’s music was an influence on Metallica.’ I’m not gonna say where or what or how or whatever; I’m just gonna leave it up to you.”