Metallica's concerts have changed a lot over the past few decades, but a few things have stayed the same — like the group's intro music, which has been Ennio Morricone's "The Ecstasy of Gold" since almost the very beginning.

The band's long connection with the late Morricone's music was detailed during their residency at the Mill Valley Film Festival in 2014 — seven years after they recorded a cover of "The Ecstasy of Gold" for the all-star tribute album We All Love Ennio Morricone. Appearing for a Q&A session alongside a screening of The Good, the Bad & the Ugly, frontman James Hetfield reflected on his memories of the classic Clint Eastwood western as well as Metallica's history with the acclaimed composer whose work scored a slew of beloved films in the genre.

"I don't remember the first time I saw it. I became a Clint Eastwood fan early on in my life," said Hetfield. Calling Eastwood's character in The Good, the Bad & the Ugly "one of the early mentors onscreen that I kind of wanted to emulate," he added, "I actually identified with each person in the movie — the ugly one, the good and the bad. Without getting too deep, metaphorically, we all have that in us, we all have the potential to be each one of those."

Speaking specifically of the Ugly soundtrack number "The Ecstasy of Gold," Hetfield attributed its spot in Metallica lore to the group's first manager, Megaforce founder Jon Zazula, who heard their original intro music — "this really terrible intro tape that was just this heart beating and it got faster and faster and faster" — and suggested the song as a replacement.

"That was one of the coolest things that our first manager ever did," laughed Hetfield. "That was pretty much the only thing that we kept from him, advice-wise."

Zazula, who is preparing to release an audiobook version of his Heavy Tales autobiography, detailed his opening selection in a recent Loudwire interview. "I’ve always been a huge Morricone fan, and I was looking for an intro song to be played prior to Metallica’s performance onstage," he said, emphasizing that he wanted "something emotional to get the crowd ready."

Before landing on Metallica's show-opener, the industry veteran also considered a different Morricone composition from the same film: "I was tossing around 'The Trio' because of the fiery coronets at the finale of the song but 'Ecstasy of Gold' won."


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