Did The Rolling Stones save Metallica from breaking up?

ABC/Randy HolmesMetallica has been going strong for nearly 40 years now, but there were a few touch-and-go moments throughout the band's history. Apparently, none other than The Rolling Stones helped the metal legends get through one of those moments.

Speaking to the U.K.'s The Sun, drummer Lars Ulrich recalls the difficult time he and the rest of Metallica went through following the release of 2003's St. Anger and the 2004 documentary Some Kind of Monster.

"That was the last time we had a real break," Ulrich says. "We haven't shut down the band in 14 years, but we disappeared then for about a year."

In the middle of that shut down, they got a call from Mick Jagger and company asking if they wanted to open a pair of shows on the Stones' record-breaking A Bigger Bang tour.

"The Rolling Stones called us up and said, 'Come and play some shows with us in ­California,' and we sort of agreed," Ulrich recalls. "You're not going to say no to the Stones, so that was it."

Ulrich explains that those shows gave Metallica "the way to start it back up again" -- presumably, the "Start Me Up" pun was unintentional.

"If you don't care, it's easier to walk away," he says. "But fortunately we cared enough about Metallica on behalf of ourselves and the fans to figure out a way to make it function. I'm happy that we did."

The Metallica train will keep rolling as the band continues to tour through Europe this summer. They'll be back in the U.S. for a pair of orchestra-accompanied San Francisco shows in September.

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