Metallica were still trying to find their identity, sound and even a stable lineup when they entered Chateau East Studio in Tustin, Calif., on July 6, 1982, to record the seven-song demo No Life ‘Til Leather.
They were full of youthful vigor, though, which made up for any shortcomings in other areas. No one was more energetic than new guitarist Dave Mustaine, who had linked up with the Los Angeles band just a few months earlier.
“Dave was a force of energy,” drummer Lars Ulrich told Rolling Stone in 2015. “He came like a hurricane, just like whirling into our world with his charm and his good looks and he had great gear, like a backline, and he had roadies. He had everything. He had some skeletons or blueprints for a couple songs, and we tweaked them. We ‘Metallica-ized’ them or whatever.”
Their studio time was financed by Kenny Kane, who ran the punk record label High Velocity. The band began working on new music, which included “Hit the Lights,” a song that had found its way onto the Metal Massacre compilation album just a few weeks earlier. Kane had envisioned tightened versions of the punk-flavored songs he had seen the band perform live, like “The Prince” and “Helpless,” unaware that those were covers.
“When we were in the studio and began recording our own songs with Kenny, he said, ‘It sounds completely different!’” James Hetfield said in Joel McIver’s Metallica: Justice for All. “’Yeah, Kenny, the other songs aren’t by us.’”