Helter smelter

Dec 7, 2005 at 12:00 am

Finally, in 2005, the world is ready for Jaymz, Krk, Kliff and Ringo.

’Cause back in 1968, when Paul McCartney had the brainstorm of merging the harmonic sheen of England’s phenomenal pop combo with the malevolent rage of yet-to-be-named heavy metal, the kind of music Metallica would one day be synonymous with, well, things didn’t turn out bloody terrific. So the Beatles get one cosmic demerit for inspiring Charles Manson, but my guess is “Helter Skelter” inspired far more serious headbangers than other 1968 metal progenitors.

Fact: The Fab Four put evil incarnate Aleister Crowley on the cover of Sgt. Pepper, aeons before Ozzy wrote a song about him and Jimmy Page bought his mansion. Fact: Long before Dio, Ozzy or Lemmy, there was Lennon’s cartoon likeness on the Yellow Submarine cover, giving us all the metal two-finger salute. And don’t even start with the backward-masking shit. Conclusion? Yeah, yeah, ho-yeahhhh, the Beatles invented metal as we know it.

Metallica fans surely realized the spiritual debt when they nicknamed the band’s eponymous 1993 disc “The Black Album,” although it hadn’t occurred to James, Lars, Kirk and Jason to tailor the song “Enter Sandman” to sound more like “Taxman,” which the four members of Beatallica — Jaymz Lennfield, Krk Hammettson, Kliff McBurtney and Ringo Larz — have conveniently done for us.

“No one’s ever approached us on the Beatles inventing metal, but the next time a rabid Beatle fan wants to lop my right arm off, I can bring that up,” says Lennfield, the band’s Lennon-Hetfield hybrid who finds common ground between the two men who “both drank a lot of vodka in their day.” Beatle fans with zero tolerance for conceptual humor since The Wedding Album have taken Blue Meanie exception to “Got to Get You Into My Life” becoming “Got to Get You Trapped Under Ice” and Paul’s pretty “And I Love Her” co-opted into “And I’m Evil,” a boasting match between Lennfield and a Glenn Danzig impersonator.

What started Beatallica was a one-off lark at Spoof Fest, an annual event in Milwaukee where parody is parity, or something like that. Afterward, these four musicians with metal, space rock and traditional Irish folk music backgrounds were seized with the foolhardy notion to play the Beatles “For No One” at hyper-speed and change the lyrics:

The day breaks, your mind aches / Your girlfriend takes you to / A lame-ass poser Winger concert/ Fucking forget her

“It’s always a combo of both entities,” Lennfield says. “It’s supposed to be a metal show, so people associate it more with the Metallica side. As far as harmonies and costuming, it’s more on the Beatles-esque side.” Looking like hooligans who broke into the van of a touring company of Beatlemania, Beatallica’s stage gear is a mix of Sgt. Pepper uniforms, revved-up Rickenbackers and a hard-rock drum kit cut down to Ringo’s size.

The overwhelming online response to Beatallica convinced the group it had found two great tastes that taste great together, as evidenced on two hilarious parody albums, A Garage Dayz Nite, which took several days to record and The Grey Album, which took even longer. Both albums are free to download (beatallica.org) but cannot be sold until clearance is obtained from Sony/ATV Music, which owns the rights to most of the Beatles’ catalog.

In February 2005 Sony/ATV Publishing served Beatallica with a cease-and-desist order for willful copyright infringement. More than 10,000 fans signed an online petition and it was through the divine intervention of Lars Ulrich and Metallica’s lawyer Peter Peterno that Sony backed off and the site went back online.

“The guys in Metallica mentioned they dug Beatallica in interviews,” says Lennfield. “When the cease-and-desist shook out, their Web guy contacted our Web guy and said, ‘Lars wants to talk to someone in the band and see what he could do to help remedy the situation.’” Clearly Ulrich scored a winning point in rehabilitating his image as a greedy copyright protector. Under a new agreement, Metallica allowed Beatallica use of their band’s name, likeness and distinctive old logo for shirts, merch and potential sound recordings.

If Beatallica simply covered Lennon/McCartney songs in a Metallica vein without changing the lyrics, their CD could be in Wal-Mart on a major label like Dread Zeppelin but Lennfield says, “We’re pretty set in our ways. We know how we’d like the project to be. The bottom line is the [Beatles’] clearance would have to be obtained and labels we talked to in the past weren’t willing to pursue that.”

If Sony needs further convincing to let Beatallica be, might I suggest track 5 on Garage Dayz Nite, sung to the tune of, yeah, that one.

I wake up to the sound of music / Let the metal come to me /Death to the one that will not let it be. —


Thursday, Dec. 8, at Small’s, 10339 Conant Ave., Hamtramck; 313-873-1117.

Serene Dominic is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]