The Metallica Cover That James Hetfield Changed The Lyrics


Doing covers of other musical efforts is not uncommon in the music industry. There may even be some songs that you have listened to for years, thinking it was the band’s original song when it was actually created by another artist. However, covering songs also comes with its challenges in terms of doing the song justice, especially if it is famous and beloved by many.

When artists and bands sing others’ songs, they have to put their spin on the track to make it their own. Sometimes some details are only recognizable by the original owner of the material. For instance, Metallica’s cover of one particular Blue Oyster Cult song, sung by James Hetfield, has different lyrics from those of the co-writers.

The Blue Oyster Cult Song That James Hetfield Sung With Different Lyrics


The lyrics of the song ‘Astronomy’ have changed throughout the years. Even though the song’s original co-writers had penned them down, they were later modified in Metallica’s version of the track, as James Hetfield changed the lyrics when he re-recorded it.

Blue Oyster Cult released the song in question in 1974 on the ‘Secret Treaties’ album. It was also featured in several of the band’s albums throughout their career. The original lyrics belong to a poem by Sandy Pearlman, who also happened to be the genius behind ‘The Soft Doctrines of Imaginos.’ This was the third version of the song that was included in the ‘Imaginos’ album.

However, before the song reached its third version, Sandy’s original lyrics were altered by Joe Bouchard, who became the song’s co-writer. The journey of the lyrics didn’t end there. Drummer Albert Bouchard also made some changes to the lyrics that Joe hadn’t touched and came up with a middle section.

The lyrics ‘Four doors at the Four Winds Bar’ became the words that everybody who got a hold of the song got wrong one way or another. The initial glitch happened with Eric Bloom‘s first attempt at recording the song. Sandy tried to fix it by changing to ‘Four doors at the Winds bar,’ which became Bloom’s track recording. However, the original lyrics included ‘Four winds.’

Albert Bouchard recalled the story of ‘Astronomy’s lyrics in a previous appearance in Rock Pages as:

“At the time, I thought the changes he made were brilliant, but it’s pretty ordinary now because everybody uses these changes. So I took other words Joe didn’t use and wrote the middle section – ‘Four doors at the Four Winds Bar,’ which everybody gets wrong!”

He added:

“I didn’t want to go into it, but Eric sang it wrong on the original recording, and, of course, Sandy was like: ‘No, you gotta sing Four doors at the Winds bar.’ So, Eric started singing that live, but it was ‘Four Winds’ on the original recording, and when Metallica re-recorded it, James sang ‘Four Winds’ instead of ‘Four Doors.’ And when I did my version, and Joe heard it, he goes, ‘You know you’re singing the wrong lyrics?’ I said: ‘No, I’m singing the right lyrics… That’s what Sandy wanted.'”

After many years when Metallica wanted to cover the re-recorded song, James Hetfield sang the lyrics as ‘Four Winds’ instead of ‘Four Doors.’ The cover of ‘Astronomy’ became a part of Metallica’s ‘Garage Inc.’s compilation album of cover songs in 1998. The song’s journey of change ended when Albert decided to cover it with the correct lyrics that Sandy had written in 1972.