Thin Lizzy’s Eric Bell Recalls His First Reaction To Metallica’s Cover Of ‘Whiskey In The Jar’
Thin Lizzy’s original guitarist Eric Bell recently spoke to Andrew DiCecco from VWMusic about his first reaction to Metallica‘s cover of ‘Whiskey in the Jar.’ The musician thought the band presented their version as the traditional arrangement, although theirs was.
The Thin Lizzy version of the Irish traditional song, ‘Whiskey in the Jar,‘ arrived in late 1972 as a single. The song was an immediate international hit and topped the charts in various countries across Europe. Later in 1998, Metallica also delivered a heavy metal version of the track in their compilation album of cover songs, ‘Garage Inc.’ The band won a Grammy for the song in 2000 for Best Hard Rock Performance.
Back in 1999, Metallica once invited Eric Bell to play ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ together on stage at a show in Dublin’s Point Theatre. The guitarist flew from the UK to Dublin on the band’s private jet and returned home after playing the show. During his recent interview, Bell talked about his thoughts on Metallica’s version of their hit song. The guitarist said he first heard of it when people mentioned him during a tour in Sweden.
However, he wasn’t interested in heavy metal, so he had never heard of Metallica’s name. Then, he ran into their version in a record shop, saying it was a traditional arrangement from the band. Eric Bell immediately phoned Thin Lizzy’s office to inform them about the situation.
After a short time, he got an invitation from Metallica to play at a show together. Although he hadn’t listened to the group’s version of ‘Whiskey in the Jar,’ he agreed to join them on the stage. Yet, he wasn’t satisfied with the way the band treated him. He thought he would be paid for his performance but received no money. Although he tried to get in touch with Metallica, he couldn’t contact anyone.
Eric Bell speaking on his first reaction to Metallica’s ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ cover:
“Well, that was funny. That was very funny. I’d left Thin Lizzy and had one of my bands, and I was doing a tour in Sweden at this point. After every gig, people come into the changing room for autographs, a talk, and so on. Every night, some guy would walk in there going, ‘Hello, Eric. Have you heard Metallica’s version of ‘Whiskey in the Jar?” And I’d go, ‘Who?’ I had never heard of Metallica because heavy metal doesn’t interest me, apart from Slipknot.
So, each night, these guys were coming in, ‘Have you heard Metallica?’ ‘No.’ ‘They’ve done ‘Whiskey in the Jar.” ‘No, I haven’t heard it.’ So, about ten days later, we’re at the airport waiting to fly back to London. And there’s a little record shop, so I go in, and I look under ‘M’ for Metallica, and there are about five thousand f*cking albums. I went, ‘F*ck me! This is Metallica?’ So, that’s all the information I got. But then I looked at one of the sleeves, and it said, ‘Whiskey in the Jar,’ traditional arrangement: Metallica. And I went, ‘Right.’
So, whenever I got back to London, I phoned Thin Lizzy’s office and said, ‘Can I speak to Chris Morrison?’ ‘Speaking.’ I said, ‘Chris, Eric Bell here. Listen, there’s a band called Metallica.’ ‘Yes, yes. We know. Our lawyers are on it at this very moment.’ I said, ‘They’ve put down that it’s their arrangement. It’s not their arrangement; it’s my f*cking arrangement. Or Philip, myself, and Brian’s arrangement.’ ‘Yes, we know.'”
The guitarist continued:
“So, about six months later, I’m in my flat in London, and the phone rings. He says, ‘Hi, can I speak to Eric Bell?’ I said, ‘Yes, Eric Bell speaking.’ ‘Oh, hi, Eric. I work for Metallica. We’re doing a world tour at the moment, and the guys would be very pleased if you could appear with them in Dublin to do ‘Whiskey in the Jar.” And I said, ‘Oh, yeah?’ He said, ‘Have you heard Metallica’s version of ‘Whiskey in the Jar?” I said, ‘No.’ ‘What planet are you living on, man?!’ I said, ‘Jupiter, where are you?’ So, anyway, I flew over with Metallica to Dublin. They played in this theatre called The Point, which holds about 8,000 people, and I played ‘Whiskey in the Jar’ with them on stage.
The funny thing is that we got on the plane at Dublin airport, then flew back to England. As I was getting out of the plane, one of the road managers came over to me with this huge, big ball of merchandise, scarves, t-shirts, belts, badges, and f*cking God knows what. ‘Here you go, man. Really nice night. Bye!’ And they all f*cked off and left me with a car that was going to drive me home, but they hadn’t paid me a penny. So, I was scratching my head, going, ‘Wait a minute. They’ve f*cked off, and I haven’t been paid!’ I was expecting about two grand, you know?
Because these guys are loaded, two grand wouldn’t mean shit to them. But they didn’t pay me one f*cking cent. The whole way home, I was thinking about this, ‘What the f*ck’s happened? I mean, did they think I was a fan, and they gave me all this merchandise, and that was my fee?’ Anyway, I went home and told my mother-in-law, who was well on the case for these types of things. She tried to get in touch with Metallica, but we couldn’t find a way to get in touch with them. We couldn’t find any opening to get to them.”
You can listen to Eric Bell’s performance with Metallica below.