James Hetfield discussed the first ballad Metallica ever recorded – “Fade to Black” off 1984’s “Ride the Lightning” – telling So What when asked whether the tune’s lyrics are “deeper and richer” almost 35 years later:
“Absolutely. Songs like ‘Fade to Black’ or ‘The Unforgiven’ – those are songs that morph. They constantly morph for me.
“When ‘Fade to Black’ was originally written, this was real. Like, ‘I f*cking hate life. Our gear just got stolen, we can’t live our dream, we’re not gonna make it to Europe,’ all these things.
“And then, obviously, when Cliff [Burton] or somebody important in our lives passes, that song pops up. Or like Chris Cornell, Dio… Someone’s passing gives that song new life for me.
“When I look at the crowd [while we’re playing ‘Fade to Black’]… I saw somebody just sobbing. This was a younger girl, had long dark hair, she was in tears.
“I was attached to the acoustic but I wanted to go over there and, I don’t know, mentally give her a hug or something. You know, just give her a wink or like, ‘It’s gonna be okay.'”
Way back in ’91, James told Guitar World about “Fade to Black”:
“That song was a big step for us. It was pretty much our first ballad, so we knew it would freak people out…
“Recording that song, I learned how frustrating acoustic guitar can be. You could hear every squeak, so I had to be careful.
“I wrote the song at a friend’s house in New Jersey. I was pretty depressed at the time because our gear had just been stolen, and we had been thrown out of our manager’s house for breaking sh*t and drinking his liquor cabinet dry.
“It’s a suicide song, and we got a lot of flak for it, as if kids were killing themselves because of the song. But we also got hundreds of letters from kids telling us how they related to the song and that it made them feel better.”