One (Metallica song)

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"One"
Single by Metallica
from the album ...And Justice for All
B-side "The Prince"
Released January 10, 1989
Format CD single, vinyl, cassette
Recorded January–May 1988
Genre Thrash metal, progressive metal
Length 7:27
Label Elektra
Writer(s) James Hetfield / Lars Ulrich
Producer(s) Metallica, Flemming Rasmussen
Metallica singles chronology
"Eye of the Beholder"
(1988)
"One"
(1989)
"Enter Sandman"
(1991)
Music video
One on YouTube
Music sample
Alternative cover
One (Live) cover

"One" is a song by American thrash metal band Metallica. It was released as the third and final single from their fourth album ...And Justice for All. "One" was also the band's first Top 40 hit single, reaching number 35 on the Billboard Hot 100. It is one of the band's most popular songs and has remained a permanent live staple since the release of the album, making this the most played song from the album ...And Justice for All. Like "Fade to Black", and "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)", the song starts off slow and clean, but as the song goes on, becomes heavier and faster, leading up to a tapping solo by Kirk Hammett, and a dual guitar section by Hammett and James Hetfield.

Song[edit]

"One" was written in November 1987 by Metallica's principal composers James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. The song was released in 1989 as the third and final single from the album. For the first 17 seconds of the song there are a series of sound effects with a battle theme, an artillery barrage and helicopter are heard and continues slightly over a clean tone guitar intro by Hetfield before Kirk Hammett comes in over the top with a clean-toned solo. The song speeds up after Ulrich's drums come in and continues until each chorus, when the guitars become heavy and distorted before returning to clean. There is a second solo by Hammett halfway through the song, before lyrics cut out and the song gradually gets more heavy and distorted until the "machine gun" guitar build up (played alongside double bass drums) before the next, often highly praised, guitar solo by Hammett, and a final dual solo by Hammett and Hetfield. The song begins in 4/4 time, and later 3/4 as well as 2/4.

In 1991, James Hetfield told Guitar World that he wrote the song's opening B-G chord change (he miscalls it a 'modulation') based on an idea prompted by the Venom song "Buried Alive" from their second studio album, Black Metal.

I had been fiddling around with that B-G modulation for a long time. The idea for the opening came from a Venom song called "Buried Alive". The kick drum machine-gun part near the end wasn't written with the war lyrics in mind, it just came out that way. We started that album with Mike Clink as producer. He didn't work out so well, so we got Flemming to come over and save our asses.

Concept[edit]

The song's theme and lyrics are based on Dalton Trumbo's 1939 novel Johnny Got His Gun, telling the tale of a soldier who is hit by an artillery shell and loses his limbs, eyes, ears and mouth. His mind functions perfectly, however, leaving him trapped inside his own body (which could also be described as a special form of locked-in syndrome). Trumbo directed the movie adaptation in 1971, from which the footage for the "One" music video is taken.

Live performance[edit]

"One" is a favorite of many Metallica fans, and thus is a fixture of the band's live performances. When played live, the song is usually played with guitars tuned down by one semitone (a permanent fixture of their studio and live work since the post Metallica era, save for Death Magnetic in the case of the former) and is preceded by pyrotechnics and the same sounds of war such as machine guns, and bombs exploding as heard on the recorded version. The song also features heavy strobe lighting during the heavier half of the song, namely before the Hammett solo.
The song was also featured on S&M, Metallica's album of live performances in collaboration with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Kamen. Another mentionable performance was at the Grammy Awards 2014, having pianist Lang Lang accompanying the band on an acoustic grand piano.

Track listing[edit]

Music video[edit]

"One" was the first Metallica song for which a music video was created. The music video, directed by Bill Pope and Michael Salomon, debuted on MTV on January 20, 1989. The video, shot in Long Beach, California, is almost entirely in black and white, and features the band performing the song in a warehouse. It features dialogue and several scenes from the 1971 film adaptation of Johnny Got His Gun. Timothy Bottoms can be seen starring as Joe Bonham, the main character in the novel.

Three versions of the "One" music video were made; the first (the longest, album version) contained scenes of both the band and scenes from the movie. The second was simply a shortened version of the first and the third, often known as the "jammin' version", lacked scenes from the movie (the song and video fades at the last bridge in the third version).

Like many other music videos from Metallica, "One" puts great emphasis on the performances of the band members as musicians, with many shots of Hetfield, Newsted and Hammett's hands picking and fretting. The video features the band members in a typical early Metallica fashion: playing (as if in rehearsal) in some sort of warehouse, in tight formation around Ulrich's drum kit, and dressed in casual street clothes and with long untamed hair.

In the music video, it can be clearly seen that both Hetfield and Hammett are playing ESP guitars; Jason Newsted is on a 5-string Wal bass. It is also clear that Newsted is playing bass with his fingers at the start of the song, but later switches to a pick.

Two of the three versions of the "One" music video appear on 2 of One, a VHS released on July 1, 1990 and both would again be featured on the band's 2006 music video compilation DVD.

The music video was ranked 38 on Rock on the Net: MTV: 100 Greatest Music Videos and number 1 on Fuse's No. 1 Countdown: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Special Edition.

Chart positions[edit]

Chart (1994) Peak
Position
Australia (ARIA)[1] 5
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[2] 23
Finland (Suomen virallenen lista)[3] 1
Germany (Media Control Charts)[4] 31
Ireland (IRMA) 12
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[5] 3
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[6] 13
Norway (VG-lista)[7] 4
Spain (AFYVE)[8] 14
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[9] 3
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[10] 22
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company
13
U.S. Billboard Hot 100
35

Covers[edit]

Other appearances[edit]

  • "One" is featured in the video game Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, where it is mostly remembered as one of the most difficult songs to appear in the series, mostly due to the fast-paced solos that comprise the second half of the song. The song appeared once again in Guitar Hero: Metallica, with its difficulty toned down.
  • In 2008, Shout! Factory released a film adaptation of the stage play Johnny Got His Gun; the DVD release included the music video for "One" and the original film.
  • "One" is sampled in the songs "Like This" on Feed the Animals, the 2008 album by artist Girl Talk and Eminem on the song "Same Song and Dance" from the album Relapse.
  • "One" was featured in an episode of Beavis and Butt-head.
  • "One" is the walkup music for Oakland Athletics closer Grant Balfour. When Balfour enters the game to this song, raucous Oakland fans will wildly punch the air and headbang; this is known as "Balfour Rage".

Honors[edit]

Personnel[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]