Metallica have taken to social media to pay tribute to Marsha Zazula, the co-founder of their first label Megaforce Records, who passed away earlier today at the age of 68 following a long illness.
Posting on their Instagram account, the band commented: “Rest In Peace, Marsha. Thank you for everything. Much love to @thejonzazula & the Zazula family.”
Marsha’s death was confirmed by both her daughter Rikki on Facebook and on Megaforce’s own Twitter feed, which acknowledged her as “a guiding force” during her time at the label.
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Megaforce was founded by Marsha and her husband Jonny Zazula in 1982 out of sheer devil-may-care enthusiasm. By that point, the pair had already established Rock’n’Roll Heaven, the legendary shop originally based in a flea market in Old Bridge, New Jersey, which soon became the focal point for the entire East Coast metal scene.
As its name suggests, the store was initially geared towards selling classic rock but, under Marsha’s watchful eye, it began to stock an increasing number of imports – most specifically New Wave Of British Heavy Metal releases from the UK.
When Kerrang! magazine launched in 1981, Rock’n’Roll Heaven was one of the first outlets in the U.S. to stock the magazine. Around that time the Zazulas also began promoting shows by the likes of Anvil, Exciter and Manowar, as well as visiting UK acts including Venom and Raven. The latter pair signified a sea-change in metal towards a more aggressive, streetwise sound that would spawn its own underground scene in the U.S. within a year.
When the couple heard Metallica’s No Life ‘Til Leather demo in the summer of ‘82, Jonny flipped and offered to manage the band, inviting the four-piece to head to the East Coast to record, and welcoming them into the Zazula family home.
“They gave American headbangers something to hang their hat on,” quipped Marsha years later, discussing the band’s impact during those early days.
When securing a record deal for Metallica seemed problematic, Jonny and Marsha re-mortgaged their house and formed Megaforce in order to release the band’s debut, Kill ‘Em All, in July 1983. Licensed to Music For Nations in the UK, Kill ‘Em All introduced thrash metal to a global audience and secured them a rabid following in Europe. A year later, Metallica’s second album, Ride The Lightning (again on Megaforce) would have the same impact in America.
While Jonny Z became the public face of Megaforce, Marsha exerted a huge influence on the label itself as it began to grow, with the signing of key acts that included Anthrax, Testament Overkill, King’s X, Ministry and Mindfunk.
In 2001 the couple sold the label for good, opting for a quieter life and moving to Florida.
To many, Marsha Zazula is remembered as the godmother of modern American metal and, above all, as a supportive presence to all those she worked with.
Kerrang! would like to extend our condolences to Jonny, the Zazula family and friends, not forgetting members of the Old Bridge Metal Militia. Rest in peace, Marsha.
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Posted on January 10th 2021, 9:22p.m.