During an appearance on The Howard Stern Show on Thursday, James Hetfield was brought to tears when surprise guest Elton John dubbed Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” as “one of the best songs ever written.”
Metallica were guests of The Howard Stern Show with Miley Cyrus, who covered “Nothing Else Matters” with Elton John for the newly released compilation The Metallica Blacklist. With Metallica seated alongside Cyrus in Stern’s studio, the radio host brought Elton in via Zoom.
Elton talked about his cover of “Nothing Else Matters” with Cyrus, which begins and ends with him playing piano. “That idea came from Andrew Watt, who produced the track and played guitar on it. He said, ‘I want you to start the song and finish the song, because I don’t want it to start with the guitar, because that’s how the original record started.”
He continued, “Listen, this is one of the best songs ever written, to me. It’s a song that never gets old. And playing on this track, I just couldn’t wait. The chord structure, the melodies, the time changes, it’s got drama written all over it.”
As soon as Elton said “best songs ever written,” Hetfield can be seen immediately affected, as he palmed his face with his hand. Shortly thereafter, tears welled up in the Metallica frontman’s eyes.
Elton continued, “I have to say, it was a no-brainer playing on this song. Metallica are probably the crème de la crème of those kind of bands. You can’t really define them. They’re not a heavy metal band. They’re a musical band. Their songs aren’t just heavy metal. They’re beautiful songs. This is such a melodic song — it’s f**king great, actually.”
With Hetfield visibly emotional and wiping away tears, Lars Ulrich responded, “If you could have said 40 years ago when James and I started … that 40 years later we would still be functioning, we’d be sitting here with one of the greatest stars in the world (Cyrus) next to us, with Elton on a Zoom, and doing your radio show, and talking about the accomplishments and what this record means to so many people, that would be the mindf**k of all mindf**ks.”
He added, “To be able to hear what you just said, Elton, sitting next to James … the reaction I can feel in his body language when you said it was one of the greatest songs ever written … it’s just incredible to hear.”
The appearance on The Howard Stern Show also featured Metallica and Miley Cyrus performing “Nothing Else Matters,” with Miley taking lead vocals and Hetfield backing her up.
Check out the interview and the performance of “Nothing Else Matters,” as well as the studio version with Elton John below. Pick up The Metallica Blacklist compilation via Metallica’s website or Amazon (CD and vinyl arrive October 1st).