That Time Metallica Lost To Jethro Tull For 'Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Performance"

December 7, 2018

The Grammys are often a subject of ridicule for when fans feel that certain artists are unjustly named winners, losers or even nominated in certain categories. The 1989 Grammys are no exception.

The '89 Grammys were the first year to include a new category: "Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Performance Recording." Among those included in this category included Metallica, AC/DC, Iggy Pop, Jane's Addiction and... Jethro Tull. Everyone in the room and at home were a bit baffled that Jethro Tull was grouped in with these other artists, yet they were certain that Metallica would take home the Grammy. Not so much.

Alice Cooper and Lita Ford were the presenters of the award and expressed their disbelief in an interview with TeamRock. "I got to read out the nominations, and then it was Alice that opened the envelope," says Ford. "I remember he reached in his jacket pocket and, instead of pulling out the envelope, he pulled out a snake and handed it to me. Then I realised it was a rubber snake, so I threw it out into the audience while he was opening the envelope. Then they threw it back at me and I had to throw it out there again, which was really funny."

Cooper continued, saying, "I opened the envelope, and when I saw the name, I thought they’d given me the envelope from the rehearsal. I looked at it again, and it did have a different seal on it and details like that. It was the real thing. So I said: “For the Best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Grammy… Jethro Tull!”

"I was trying not to show any emotion, but it was like, 'What?!' exclaimed Ford. "It was a shock to everybody when Alice read out Jethro Tull’s name. Metallica were standing right there, all ready to go on, and they were sure in their heads that they’d got it."

"There was a two-minute pause, then everybody broke out laughing," said Cooper. "They thought I was doing a joke. I said: 'No, I’m not kidding. Jethro Tull.' Backstage afterwards, Lita said she thought I was pulling a gag. I had to show her the card. Everybody backstage was laughing. It was the funniest thing that had happened all night. I said to the guys in Metallica: 'You know, if you got a little heavier you could be up there with Jethro Tull.'"

"There were people in the hall who were upset, and there were people complaining backstage, saying: 'How did that happen?' 'Metallica should have got it!' 'How come Jethro Tull got it?' said Ford.

"I think what happened was that the old guys in the Grammy organisation who were voting didn’t really recognise any of the names except Jethro Tull. I don’t think they’d ever heard of Metallica, who were a pretty new band. Everybody who was in touch with modern rock knew who they were, and everybody was sure that Metallica would be the winner," says Cooper. 

Three years later at the 1992 Grammy awards, Metallica justly won "Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance" for "Enter Sandman." During their acceptance speech, drummer Lars Ulrich paid tribute to Jethro Tull by saying, "We gotta thank Jethro Tull for not putting out an album this year, right?!"