Mustaine was every bit as cocksure answering Metallica's wanted ad as his reputation would suggest. The band's original bassist, Ron McGovney remembers it clearly; he was the one who answered the phone.
McGovney recalled the first lineup of the iconic metal band in a recent conversation on the Talk Is Jericho podcast with Chris Jericho. Frontman James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich had been auditioning people at McGovney's house for a while when they got a call that would end up giving the band a big push forward.
"One time we got a call at my house and I answered the phone and it was a guitar player," McGovney said. "He said, 'Yeah, I got four Marshall stacks, I got 17 guitars!' And I'm like, 'Whoa, huh? James and Lars, you guys take this call because this guy's head is not gonna fit through the door.' And that was Dave Mustaine."
But Mustaine had reason to be confident, McGovney continued.
"And Dave Mustaine came in and he plugged in and he was warming up and it was like, 'Holy crap! This guy is good! he's really good!'"
A lot of Metallica fans feel bad for McGovney, since he left the band just as its earliest demos began gaining underground buzz. McGovney says he's really a guitarist and has never felt like he had a good handle on the bass; his role in Metallica was never meant to be long-term, he said.
In fact, the only reason he was in Metallica at all was because he knew their songs from always hearing them rehearse. With Mustaine established as the guitarist, Metallica wanted to start playing shows, but they couldn't find another bassist who could keep up.
"I was there and I was available and it was never going to be a long-term thing until they found somebody," McGovney recalled.
The band used to practice for four or five hours at a time, sometimes turning out the lights in the garage so they would be comfortable playing without seeing their instruments.
While Mustaine's eventual firing from the band in 1983 was as contentious as it gets, McGovney said his time in the group was mostly positive, except when Mustaine would drink a lot.
"We all got along and we drank, but we didn't get completely ripped out of our minds," he said. "Dave, he would sometimes get just so loaded that he was out of control. It wasn't good whenever he got like that. It wasn't."
McGovney said he, too, was amazed when he first saw Cliff Burton perform, and he knew they wanted Burton to be in the band. Being replaced was a relief.
"I wanted to be a motorcycle mechanic," McGovney said. "I wanted to ride dirt bikes in the desert all the time. That's what I wanted to do. I'd be out...on the sand dunes, and I'd be riding and I'd be like, 'Man, it's so good to be away from those guys. I don't want the fighting. I don't want the arguing.'"
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