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Like it or not, Metallica is the biggest metal band of all time. It has gone from a niche act to an ultra-sized, all-consuming juggernaut -- an inescapable, irrepressible rock entity with the ability to draw massive crowds across the globe or pleasantly do whatever the fuck it wants. Only the likes of Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, and Guns N' Roses could conceivably challenge Metallica's throne as the biggest name in metal. But even then, for all those bands' influence, something just makes James Hetfield and co. tower over them. No other metal band has stayed so prominent within the broader culture -- or become a worthy shorthand for heavy music -- the way Metallica has.
To get an idea of Metallica's cultural influence as the band turns 30 years old this week, let's move past the standard tools used to measure success in the music biz (namely, record sales, ticket sales, and awards won) and instead consider how often Metallica has appeared or been referenced in general pop culture. Along with getting its own edition of "Guitar Hero" and being name-dropped on Murder, She Wrote, here are six curious examples of Metallica's tremendous influence on pop culture outside of heavy music.
1. Seinfeld jokes about Metallica's name
In "The Lip Reader," an episode of everyone's favorite sitcom that first aired in 1993, Elaine is using a limo service but isn't the mood to talk to her driver, so she feigns deafness. After she accidentally reveals her ability to hear to her driver, he's disgusted by her actions. Elaine attempts to make up for her faux pas by giving him tickets to a concert. Later in the episode, Kramer, George, and Jerry ride in the same limo, and the guy mentions having trouble understanding Jerry:
Driver: I'm so sorry. You'll have to forgive me. I can't hear a damn thing. I went to that rock concert last night at the Garden. My seats were right up against the speaker. It's a heavy metal group. Uh, "Metalli"-something.
Driver: My ears are still ringing. Some woman's idea of a joke.
For a goofy, throwaway Who's on First?-esque exchange, it's a fun little reference. Sadly, no one snaps up the opportunity to poke fun at the inherent goofiness of Metallica's name. (Try calling your rap group The Hip-Hoppers or alt-rock band Alt Rock without getting any jokes.)
2. San Francisco gave Metallica its own day
Occasionally, a city will officially dedicate a day to a band or musician of local relevance. July 10 is Beatles Day in Liverpool, while Pittsburgh named Dec. 7, 2010, Gregg Gillis Day after the main man behind Girl Talk. In 1999, S.F. mayor Willie Brown made a similar move, dubbing April 7 Metallica Day. On that date, Metallica received a plaque on the Walk of Fame on Grove Street near Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. The Chronicle reported that guitarist Kirk Hammett used the occasion to declare, "I love San Francisco. I was born here, and I'll die here."