Eric Bell’s awkward encounter with Metallica: “I don’t know why they called me” tt

With their electrifying rendition of hard rock, driven by Phil Lynott’s gritty vocals and dynamic twin guitar harmonies, Thin Lizzy etched an enduring legacy in music. Their influence resonates deeply across heavy genres, inspiring bands from Iron Maiden to Alice in Chains. Among them, Metallica stands out as particularly indebted to Thin Lizzy’s sonic ethos.
Whether through James Hetfield’s raw vocal delivery or the band’s embrace of intricate dual guitar melodies, Metallica’s musical DNA undeniably shares roots with Thin Lizzy. This connection was underscored in 1998 when the Los Angeles outfit covered Thin Lizzy’s rendition of the traditional ballad ‘Whiskey in the Jar’, infusing it with their trademark de-tuned heaviness, albeit with a touch of cheese.

Eric Bell's awkward encounter with Metallica: "I don't know why they called me"

It made sense that during this period, Metallica should cast their fondness of Thin Lizzy in stone by bringing the band’s co-founder and ex-axeman Eric Bell on stage to perform ‘Whiskey in the Jar’. However, for the veteran rocker, it was not an experience he remembers fondly.

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Notably, Bell was there at the formation of Thin Lizzy, alongside Lynott and drummer Brian Downey, and was a key part in establishing their distinctive sound. The guitarist co-wrote fan favourites such as ‘The Friendly Ranger at Clontarf Castle’ and ‘The Rocker’ and helped his band rearrange the traditional classic ‘Whiskey in the Jar’.

In a recent interview with Guitar World, Bell looked back on performing ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ with Metallica one night in Dublin in 1999. However, in as frank a way as possible, the Thin Lizzy legend revealed that he wasn’t thrilled by the invitation. Bell recalled: “I didn’t know anything about Metallica. Not a thing. I’m not into that type of music. So when someone told me they’d recorded ‘Whiskey in the Jar’, I was like, ‘Oh, who are they?’”

“And then they asked me to do the gig, which was chaos. I don’t know why they called me. I think the impression they had was that I knew who they were. I didn’t. They thought I was in awe of them – not true,” he continued. “One of the roadies drove me to their hotel, and I stood in the hall waiting. And one by one, they came down, shook my hand, and they expected me to be impressed. But I didn’t know who they were. I’d never heard their music, and I wasn’t bothered. That took them by surprise.”

Explaining how he disliked their version of his song, Bell concluded: “It wasn’t enjoyable. There was no chemistry. They tuned a whole step down, which is typical for them. I, however, didn’t. So now I’m hearing ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ in F, which was very odd. From that point forward, my brain wasn’t into it. I just played it my way, and we went our separate ways.”

Watch a clip of the show below.



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