The idea that a Metallica album could sell 10 million copies once seemed so preposterous, Kirk Hammett bet his Porsche against it.
As the story goes, longtime tour manager Tony Smith promised Metallica’s lead guitarist that the band’s 1991 self-titled set, aka the Black Album, would someday sell 10 million copies. Hammett half-jokingly replied that if that ever happened, “I’ll give you my Porsche.”
The Black Album of course went on to become the biggest album of the Nielsen Soundscan era and 30 years later, has yet to leave the Billboard 200. In 2012, the RIAA certified the album 16x platinum for sales in excess of 16 million in the U.S. alone.
Shortly after the Black Album crossed the 10 million sales mark, Hammett surprised Smith with an envelope containing the keys to his 1989 Porsche 911 Carrera 4.
“I told our tour manager on the Black Album, ‘If it sells over 10 million copies, I will give you my Porsche.’ He called me up when it sold 10 million and one,” Hammett later explained.
In a recent episode of my Metallica-themed podcast, Speak N’ Destroy, Whitechapel guitarist Ben Savage remembered his amazement when he learned the Metallica fan club was located in his hometown. Neither of us knew why the Met Club (since relocated to the Bay Area) was once stationed in Knoxville, Tennessee, until a listener enlightened us.
Tony Smith is a British-born tour manager who worked for Metallica from around 1987 till his retirement from the road in 1999. In 1994, he founded The Metallica Club and wrote much of the early content for the official fan club magazine, So What! In a June 1996 online Q&A with fans, Smith said he was one of only two full-time employees of Metallica.
“His wife was also on the staff, and I believe she was a native of the Knoxville region,” Speak N’ Destroy listener Jake Bartels explained in an email. “In those days we often got hand-addressed mail from Knoxville, calls from the staff, and there was even a Knoxville number you could call each week to hear an answering machine recording of band news.”
Bartels first learned the full track listing for the band’s 1996 Load album from that phone line. “We also got these postcards to put complaints on, pre-email era. Those complaints were often answered by phone or mail by Tony. One night, when I was in high school, my dad answered a call from the Met Club.”
In 2003, Smith put some of his memorabilia on an online auction site, including an autographed Rolling Stone magazine, promo photos, guitar picks, and T-shirts.
The Porsche itself found its way onto eBay a few years later.
The listing explained the circumstances surrounding the car’s ownership, noting, “It was a very special time for all those involved who knew the meaning behind the gesture.”
Hammett was fine with the auction. “He was having health problems. He called. ‘Is it OK if I sell it?’ I said, ‘Hey bro, I gave it to you. You can do whatever you want with it.’”
Speak N’ Destroy is the first podcast featuring interviews about Metallica. Across more than 100 episodes and counting, previous guests include M. Shadows (Avenged Sevenfold), Robb Flynn (Machine Head), Lzzy Hale (Halestorm), Rex Brown (Pantera), Mark Tremonti (Alter Bridge), Dino Cazares (Fear Factory), Gary Holt (Exodus), Billy Duffy (The Cult), Dave Lombardo (ex-Slayer), and Marty Friedman (ex-Megadeth).