One of the most controversial moments in rock and metal history is when Jethro Tull edged out Metallica for a Grammy win in 1989. Looking back, even Tull frontman Ian Anderson doesn't feel his band properly won the award and his record label at the time assumed Metallica were going take the trophy home.

The nominees for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance (Voice or Instrumental) included AC/DC, Iggy Pop and Jane's Addiction, in addition to Jethro Tull and Metallica. Given the success of Metallica's second major label record, ...And Justice for All, as well as the popularity of their first-ever music video, "One," the thrash titans seemed like a shoo-in.

"I didn’t think it was very likely that we would win the Grammy," Anderson told Classic Rock in a recent career-spanning interview. He confessed the nomination being a head-scratcher as Tull didn't necessarily fit the hard rock/metal bill, continuing, "And yes I was a little perplexed and amused when we were nominated in that category."

Anderson wasn't even present at the ceremony to accept the award on the off chance his band was named the winner. The label didn't have much faith either as the frontman recollected, "Our record company told us, 'Don’t bother coming to the Grammys. Metallica will win it for sure.'"

More than 30 years later, the singing flautist doesn't feel it wasn't a victory predicated on the strength of his then current record, Crest of a Knave, but more of a token of recognition.

"My view is that we weren’t given the Grammy for being the best hard rock or metal act, we were given it for being a bunch of nice guys who’d never won a Grammy before," Anderson admitted, joking, "And there wasn’t an award for the world’s best one-legged flute player, otherwise I’d have to buy several more fireplaces to have enough mantelpiece space for all the trophies."

As a result of widespread criticism — even award presenters Alice Cooper and Lita Ford were confused as Hell in the moment — the Grammys elected to split the category the following year into hard rock and heavy metal independently. It wouldn't be the last year the metal awards were criticized, however.

Metal Grammys Year by Year: Who Really Should've Won


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