Metallica faced a difficult challenge in 1987. With their stopgap EP, The $5.98 EP: Garage Days Re-Revisited, they found that in order to move forward they needed to look backward. To learn where they were heading next in their career, they took it all the way back to the beginning to pay homage to the bands that inspired them to make music their lives.
Facing up to their grief
The world never witnessed the full potential that lay at the fingertips of Metallica bassist Cliff Burton. It was the musicality he brought to the band that piqued the interest of major labels and became the driving force behind the huge success of Master Of Puppets. It was while touring that album that the band was famously involved in a bus crash. Burton was killed instantly. Metallica soon recruited Jason Newsted, from Phoenix thrashers Flotsam And Jetsam, sure that Burton would have wanted them to carry on. Touring for Master Of Puppets wrapped up in early 1987, leaving the band to finally face up to their grief and figure out what they wanted to do next.
With an appearance at the legendary Monsters Of Rock festival at Donington on the horizon, the pressure was on from their UK record label for new material to coincide with the show. However, early sessions with Newsted had only produced a demo of “Blackened” – which would later appear on … And Justice For All – and frontman James Hetfield broke his arm while skateboarding, bringing an abrupt halt to the writing process. Needing a distraction, drummer Lars Ulrich utilized Newsted’s experience in construction to convert his El Cerrito, California, garage into a rehearsal space. Then, as they hammered through “White Lightning” by little known NWOBHM band Paralex, inspiration hit them.
If Metallica couldn’t move forward with their own material until Hetfield’s arm had healed, they would instead take the songs that influenced them and make them their own. Lead guitarist Kirk Hammett began ripping the riff to Killing Joke’s ‘The Wait’. Something clicked and they decided to record it. What followed was The $5.98 EP: Garage Days Re-Revisited.
Shining a different light
In keeping with the DIY nature of the project, Metallica didn’t waste time reworking their chosen covers into more Metallica-friendly songs. What materialized from the Garage Days Re-Revisited sessions were faithful yet raw renditions of NWOBHM stalwarts Diamond Head’s “Helpless,” Scottish metalers Holocaust’s “The Small Hours,” synth-punks Killing Joke’s “The Wait,” Welsh metal outfit Budgie’s “Crash Course In Brain Surgery” and a mash-up of “Last Caress” and “Green Hell” by goth punks Misfits. Moreover, the collection shone a different light on the San Francisco-based thrashers – these kids had more tricks up their sleeves than the breakneck metal the world had seen so far.
Released on August 21, 1987, The $5.98 EP: Garage Days Re-Revisited was initially only available for two years before print runs stopped in 1989. When Metallica’s popularity surged in the 90s, lucky owners realized they had themselves a collectors’ item. However, all the EP’s songs were later included on Garage Inc, a double-album collating The $5.98 EP with more covers that featured as B-sides throughout Metallica’s career, plus a disc of all-new cover tracks. Thirty years after its original release, The $5.98 EP: Garage Days Re-Revisited was reissued in 2018, on the band’s own Blackened Recordings imprint, with a vinyl version being made available for the first time.