How Raven Got Secretly Screwed Out of a Record Deal By Metallica

  • Phil Boozeman

Alternate universes are always fun, if not slightly terrifying to think about. In fact, if it weren’t for alternate universes, the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe would fall on its face faster than Gene Simmons trying to walk onstage. But in one of those universes, it’s Raven who we’d all be talking about instead of Metallica.

Speaking to the Artists on Record Podcast, famed music executive Michael Alago told Stefan Adika about how he was going to sign Raven to to Elektra Records…but then had a change of heart after hearing Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All back in 1983. Here’s Alago, as transcribed by Ultimate Guitar:

“…Soon after I got to Elektra in ’83, Johnny [Zazula] called me up and he told me about his label. And he wanted me to hear some of the artists on his label. So he brought me a small box of records — maybe Metallica’s ‘Kill ‘Em All’, the first Anthrax [album], Raven… And initially, he wanted me to sign Raven. And I love the Gallagher Brothers. They’re marvelous. And so I did a demo with them. I think like a five-song demo, I gave them five grand.

“But the problem was, I heard ‘Kill ‘Em All’. And that completely blew me away, because I never heard anything like that – all of us never heard anything like that, ever. Because these young people were combining hard rock, punk rock, British heavy metal into this one thing that you mixed up, and it’s called Metallica — sometimes it was called Alcoholica [laughs] — but officially, it was called Metallica.”

Although Metallica didn’t sign until a few months after they released Ride The Lightning on Megaforce Records in 1984, the rest, as they, was history once Alago heard the band play live:

“[It was] at L’Amour in Brooklyn, with my friend Philip Caivano, who you all know from Monster Magnet, and we lost our mind. I remember sitting down at the bar, Phil talking to Cliff Burton, our beloved Cliff Burton, and I was just roaming around and drinking beer and talking to everybody. Then I got to see them at The Stone in San Francisco; that’s when I gave Lars [Ulrich] my business card. You know, I was 22 years old, and I still looked like I was 14. And he couldn’t believe that I was a music executive. But he saw the Elektra card, and I said: ‘If you come to New York, I would love to have more of a conversation with you.’

“I didn’t hear from them for about six or eight months. Lars called me on the phone, he said: ‘Do you think you’re still interested in our band?’ ‘Absolutely!’ And he said: ‘We’re coming to play Roseland in August of ’84. Will you come?’ I went to that show. It was mind-boggling. They ripped the proverbial roof off the venue. And that night was the night I said: ‘You know what? I want you in my life, and you got signed to Elektra.’ I think it was the next day, they all showed up. And we were in the conference room, and I ordered beer and Chinese food. And I gave them a lot of [vinyl records from] Elektra catalog.”

History and all of its “what ifs” are an incredibly fine line I tell ya, and thinking about it too hard is guaranteed to make your head hurt.

Check out the full interview here:

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