Perfect Sound Forever

Metallica As Prom Band


by Al Terrain (April 1997)

There are theme songs for many "important" events which may be part of one's life. Theme songs are songs designed to build some sort of collective spirit amongst the group who is listening. For instance, there are sports team theme songs, protest theme songs and of course the prom theme song. The prom song you ask? The senior prom song is really the ultimate theme song as it represents not only the theme for the evening, but the theme for the rest of your pathetic little life. Generally, prom theme songs exhibit youthful hopefulness combined with expressions of innocence lost and love everlasting. One exception was the theme song for my class which was "Tainted Love", possibly a reflection of youthful alienation towards life in the early 1980's.

The important thing about prom songs is that they reflect how the leaders of the class see themselves and their relation to the world beyond them. If the class leaders tend to snotty intellectuals, you will end up with "Tainted Love". This is rarely the case as the snotty intellectuals rarely get involved with the prom at all. If the leaders of the class are people who organize the prom because they have no other interests in life you get songs like Foreigners "I want to Know What Love Is". If the leaders of the class are anti-intellectual, unmotivated stoners (which is also a rare case) you end up with a prom theme song like "Stairway to Heaven"(I would pay to see a group of people dance to this song), or in my mind the ultimate stoner prom song "Nothing Else Matters" by Metallica.

Metallica belongs in the ranks of the ultimate stoner hero bands: the perfect band to listen to while cruising the highway to hell in a primed Chevy Nova or Camaro (feathered roach clip hanging from the rear view mirror) while defiantly casting out beer bottles at shotgun riddled road signs. Lyrically speaking, the whole 1991 Metallica album screams stoner rebellion. Songs like "The Unforgiven" ridicule all efforts to tame the wild beast which exists in every teenage old stoner (the ultimate noble savage), while "My Friend of Misery" makes light of a woman's effort to protest a certain societal ill implying that her time would be better spent on her back in the rear seat of her boyfriend's camaro. Yet, the one song which stands out as the stoner hero theme song is "Nothing Else Matters" which earns the honor of being the ultimate stoner prom song. The love everlasting optimism prevalent in such prom night classics as Foreigner's "I want to Know What Love Is" (which I was forced to dance to), runs rampant in "Nothing Else Matters".

To an otherwise sugary soup of love everlasting lyrics and lovely romantic strings, Metallica's prom night masterpiece adds the crucial stoner defiance of the us against the world mentality with lyrics like "Forever Trusting who we are, and nothing else matters". The song makes good use of that terribly annoying "they" word heard in much rebellion rock. The horrible, unknown"they" who lurk around every corner: parents, teachers, the local police, nerds, jocks, etc. Add to this "they just don't understand us" insular paranoia a couple slices of disinterest in the world outside them"Never cared for what they say, Never cared for what they know"and you get a lovely theme song not only for one night of wasted glory, but a whole life of getting stoned in the parking lot behind the local Seven Eleven. A brief night of walking up the stairway to heaven before their trip down the highway to hell.

Also see our Lou Reed/Metallica Lulu article and our article on Metallica's "One"