Master of Puppets (song)

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"Master of Puppets"
Single by Metallica
from the album Master of Puppets
B-side Welcome Home (Sanitarium) (Edit)
Released July 2, 1986
Format 7" LP
Recorded October–December 1985 at Sweet Silence Studios, Copenhagen, Denmark[1][2]
Genre Thrash metal
Length 8:36
Label Elektra
Writer(s) James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Cliff Burton, Kirk Hammett
Producer(s) Metallica, Flemming Rasmussen
Metallica singles chronology
"Creeping Death"
"Master of Puppets"
"Harvester of Sorrow"
Music sample

"Master of Puppets" is a song by American heavy metal band Metallica, released as the only single from Master of Puppets.

It is the second and title track of the album, preceded by a shorter, high-speed typical thrash metal track, "Battery". There are several such similarities between Metallica's albums Ride the Lightning, Master of Puppets, and ...And Justice for All. "Master of Puppets" is also notable for its extensive use of downpicking and its long instrumental section, beginning at three minutes thirty-four seconds into the song.

The song, as lead singer James Hetfield explained, "deals pretty much with drugs. How things get switched around, instead of you controlling what you're taking and doing, it's drugs controlling you."[3]

The song was Cliff Burton's favorite song on the album, as quoted when the album was released. The song is one of the band's most famous and popular songs, frequently played at concerts.

Live performances[edit]

The videos Cliff 'Em All and S&M include live performances of "Master of Puppets" in its entirety. A shortened form appears in Cunning Stunts. Both versions can be seen in the Live Shit: Binge & Purge set.

"Master of Puppets" is the band's most played song of all time, first played on December 31, 1985, in San Francisco's Bill Graham Civic Auditorium for a crowd of 7,000.[4] As of August 9, 2014, the song has been performed 1,476 times (the most recent being August 9, 2014 in Montreal, Canada at the Parc Jean-Drapeau).[5] During the band's World Magnetic Tour, additional live performances were filmed in Mexico City; Nîmes, France and Sofia, Bulgaria. These performances were released on video in November 2009 (Mexico and Nîmes) and October 2010 (Sofia).

From Late 1999 through 2000, Metallica would often combine the song with "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" in concert, calling it "Mastertarium".

Track listing[edit]

French 7" single
No. Title Length
1. "Master of Puppets"   03:27
2. "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" (Edit) 04:06


VH1 ranked the song as the third greatest heavy metal song ever.[6]

In March 2005, Q magazine placed it at number 22 in its 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks list.[7]

Martin Popoff's book The Top 500 Heavy Metal Songs of All Time ranked the song at number two. Popoff composed the book by requesting that metal fans, musicians, and journalists nominate their favorite heavy metal songs. The author derived the final rankings from a database tallying almost 18,000 votes.

The song also ranked number one on a 100 Greatest Riffs poll conducted by Total Guitar magazine.

The readers of Guitar World voted the song as ranking at number 51 among the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos. Lead guitarist Kirk Hammett's solos for "Fade to Black" and "One" ranked significantly higher on the same list.

In popular culture[edit]

Cover versions[edit]

"Master of Puppets" has been covered by multiple artists.


The song has also been used in various media as a theme song:


  1. ^ Gulla, Bob (2009). Guitar Gods: The 25 Players who Made Rock History. ABC-CLIO. p. 103. ISBN 9780313358067. 
  2. ^ Brannigan, Paul; Winwood, Ian (2011). Birth School Metallica Death 1. Da Capo Press. p. 195. ISBN 9780306821868. 
  3. ^ Hetfield, James (1988). Interview with Metallica, from Vol. 6, No.8. Interview with Pushead. Thrasher Magazine. Retrieved 2008-01-30. 
  4. ^ Brannigan, Winwood 2011, pp. 199–200.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "VH1 40 Greatest Metal Songs". VH1. Retrieved 2008-01-30. 
  7. ^