Mountain Music: The Leadville Connection, Part Three
By Kathy Bedell, © Leadville Today
Intro: When it comes to music, Leadville has other mountain towns beat in some unusual ways. The Leadville Connection shines through in the melodies and lyrics of music produced long ago, and today. In Part One of this series, was the story of “Home on the Range,” and the Leadville Connection to this popular sing-along and American cowboy classic. Then, in Part Two, the Leadville Connection continued into the 20th century, with some contemporary musical pieces from Jimmy Buffet to String Cheese Incident.
In today’s Part Three, things move into the 21st century with a Leadville Connection for all you heavy-metal lovers. Did you see the video? Did you catch the t-shirt? Yes, America’s highest city made it into one of America’s heavy-metal band’s music videos released late last year. It’s now been viewed more than 27 million times, and that’s just on YouTube.
The now-famous Leadville t-shirt’s appearances are broken-up into three quick segments, the longest being at the 4:57 time mark in the video, the others coming in at 1:08 and 5:10.
For a combined ten seconds, Metallica’s lead guitarist/vocalist James Hetfield is seen wearing a Leadville t-shirt in the music video for the recently released “Atlas, Rising.” And as the song quickly climbed the charts, Leadville Today (LT) dug deep to answer the question: how did this hard-rock community make it into the heavy-metal music video?
When it comes to heavy-metal, Metallica and Leadville have a lot in common. Both have seen their share of gold. The band in the form of Grammys and chart-topping, million-selling albums. And the city in the form of earthly veins extracted underground and transformed into ornate opera houses and lavish hotels above ground.
For readers not inclined to the “headbanger” music genre, Metallica is one of America’s favorite heavy metal bands. The group came together 35 years ago in Los Angeles, Calif. when vocalist/guitarist James Hetfield responded to an advertisement posted by drummer Lars Ulrich in a local newspaper. And while that heavy-metal was on the rise, the one in Leadville was on the decline as the Climax Mine began instituting massive layoffs in the early 80s which would forever change the faces of this heavy-metal community.
Both Leadville and Metallica are familiar with the term underground, in fact in many ways it’s central to their very nature. For Metallica, it was their lightning-fast appeal in the underground heavy-metal music community, unearthing consistent veins of gold in the form of ten studio albums, four live albums, five extended plays, 26 music videos, and 37 singles. Metallica is often described as one of the most influential and heaviest of the thrash metal musicians.
For Leadville, underground means the jobs that come with heavy-metals and their extraction from the earth to be used in everything from toothpaste to cars. But for mining towns the rise to riches is often followed by a bust to rags in the ever changing cycle of the industry. Something Metallica has not seen the likes of in its world of heavy metal. In fact, Metallica has been listed as one of the greatest artists of all time by many magazines, including Rolling Stone. And lead man Hetfield is often ranked in the top 100 Greatest Guitarists lists created by industry experts. Pretty impressive, even for your toughest hard-rock miner!
So in late 2017, when Metallica released their latest harvest, Hardwired… to Self-Destruct (2016), long-standing, head-banger investors wondered if the band could jack-leg out the same kind of return that the hard-rock community had come to expect from the aging rockers, now seeing their fourth decade of playing together off on the horizon. But like the legendary Matchless Mine in Leadville, these heavy-metal miners hit pay dirt, once again. And then, they gave it a little bit of magic, by adding that special Leadville twist.
And by means of a ten-second t-shirt, so did America’s highest city!
When it comes to brand development and product placement those 10 seconds are marketing silver and gold! But how did the t-shirt make the cut? Was it an LT100 connection? A gift from a relative?
Actually, it’s more about family values for this heavy-metal rocker It seems Metallica’s James Hetfield has moved his whole family from the San Francisco Bay area to Vail, wanting to escape the “elitist attitude,” particularly in Marin County where he’s lived for many years.
“I kind of got sick of the Bay Area, the attitudes of the people there, a little bit,” stated Hetfield in the interview, originally broadcast on The Joe Rogan Experience. “They talk about how diverse they are, and things like that, and it’s fine if you’re diverse like them. But showing up with a deer on the bumper doesn’t fly in Marin County. My form of eating organic doesn’t vibe with theirs.”
Maybe it was the wide open spaces and prime hunting grounds of Leadville and Lake County that inspired Metallica’s front man for a late-fall visit? In an interview for a Joe Rogan podcast, Hetfield explained that his wife of 19 years, Francesca, grew up partly in Vail, and always preferred skiing there to Tahoe, where Hetfield’s three teenage kids grew up skiing. So perhaps it was Mrs. Hetfield who bought the t-shirt for her husband during a neighborly outing with the family to Leadville to ride the train or visit a museum? Welcome to the neighborhood, James Hetfield and family! Come up and visit any time.
Regardless of how it happened, the Leadville brand’s appearance in a music video seen by tens of millions of people, is priceless and places things on a good path of the Leadville Connections to come!
So stay tuned and be sure to make your own Leadville Connection with some good ole Mountain Music . . . in the Ville!