One (Metallica song)

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Metallica - One cover.jpg
Single by Metallica
from the album ...And Justice for All
B-side"The Prince" (7")
ReleasedJanuary 10, 1989 (1989-01-10)
GenreThrash metal
  • 7:27 (album version)
  • 5:02 (radio edit)[1]
Metallica singles chronology
"Eye of the Beholder"
"Enter Sandman"
Music video
"One" on YouTube
Audio sample
Alternative cover
"One" (Live) cover
"One" (Live) cover

"One" is a song by American heavy metal band Metallica.[2] It was released as the third and final single from their fourth studio album, ...And Justice for All (1988). Written by band members James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, "One" is an anti-war song that portrays a World War I soldier who is severely wounded—arms and legs blown off by a landmine, blind and unable to speak or move—begging God to take his life. His only hope is to devise a way to communicate with the hospital staff. In the music video, he jolts in the hospital bed, spelling "Kill me" in Morse code.[3] Production of the song was done by the band alongside Flemming Rasmussen. The song was the band's first top 40 hit single in the U.S., reaching number 35 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was also a number one hit in Finland.

A video for the song was introduced in January 1989 on MTV. Shot in black and white by director Michael Salomon, the video's story is intercut with scenes taken from the 1971 anti-war film Johnny Got His Gun. Due to routinely being required to pay royalty fees to continue showing the music video, Metallica bought the rights to the film. The video was ranked at number one on MTV soon after its introduction.[4]

Metallica performed "One" for the 31st Annual Grammy Awards show broadcast from Los Angeles in 1989. The next year, the song won a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance, the first ever win in that category.[4] The band also performed the song alongside pianist Lang Lang at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards in 2014. The song is one of the band's most popular pieces and has remained a live staple since the release of the album, making this the most played song from ...And Justice for All.

Recording and composition[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 of the album. For the first 20 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. 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 (miscalling 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.

The song starts off in a soft melodic setting, but it develops through multiple sections into heavier and faster speed metal sounds,[5] leading up to a tapping solo by Kirk Hammett,[6] and a dual guitar section by Hammett and James Hetfield.[2]


The song is based on the idea of a soldier losing all of his limbs and being unable to hear, speak, or see, set to a World War I backdrop. In an interview in New Zealand in 1989, Ulrich describes the movie Johnny Got His Gun as having a similar theme, and this was the reason it was incorporated into the video.[7]

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 (written by Dalton Trumbo and published in September 1939; the basis for the 1971 film).

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, Jason 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 Lars Ulrich's drum kit, and dressed in casual street clothes and with long untamed hair.

In the music video, both Hetfield and Hammett play ESP guitars; Newsted is on a 5-string Wal bass. Newsted plays 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 at number 38 on Rock on the Net: MTV: 100 Greatest Music Videos and number one on Fuse's No. 1 Countdown: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Special Edition.

Live performance[edit]

"One" 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 notable performance was at the Grammy Awards 2014, when pianist Lang Lang accompanied the band on an acoustic grand piano.[8]

Track listing[edit]



Weekly charts[edit]

Chart (1989–1994) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[9] 38
Australia (ARIA)[10]
Live version
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[11] 23
Denmark (IFPI)[12] 5
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)[13] 9
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[14] 1
Germany (Official German Charts)[15] 31
Ireland (IRMA)[16] 12
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[17] 3
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[18] 3
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[19] 13
Norway (VG-lista)[20] 4
Spain (AFYVE)[21] 14
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[22] 3
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[23] 22
UK Singles (OCC)[24] 13
US Billboard Hot 100[25] 35
US Mainstream Rock (Billboard)[26] 46

Year-end charts[edit]

Chart (1994) Position
Europe (Eurochart Hot 100)[27] 76
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[28] 21
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[29] 28
Chart (2019) Position
Portugal (AFP)[30] 1823


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI)[31] Silver 200,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[32] Gold 500,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "…And Justice for All (Remastered Deluxe Box Set)".
  2. ^ a b Prown, Pete; Newquist, Harvey P. (1997). Legends of Rock Guitar: The Essential Reference of Rock's Greatest Guitarists. Hal Leonard Corporation. p. 226. ISBN 9780793540426.
  3. ^ Corwin, Joanna (2009). "Trapped in Myself: 'One' and the Mind-Body Problem". In Irwin, William (ed.). Metallica and Philosophy: A Crash Course in Brain Surgery. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. p. 180. ISBN 9781405182089.
  4. ^ a b Crouse, Richard (2012). Who Wrote The Book Of Love?. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Doubleday Canada. p. 156. ISBN 9780385674423.
  5. ^ Doughton, K. J. (2008). Metallica Unbound. Grand Central Publishing. p. 96. ISBN 9780446554589.
  6. ^ Pillsbury, Glenn (2013). Damage Incorporated: Metallica and the Production of Musical Identity. Routledge. p. 54. ISBN 9781136091148.
  7. ^ Metallica - Interview with Lars, New Zealand 1989 on YouTube
  8. ^ "News | Grammy Awards Performance". January 7, 2014. Archived from the original on January 7, 2014. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
  9. ^ " – Metallica – One". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  10. ^ " – Metallica – One (Live)". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  11. ^ " – Metallica – One" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  12. ^ "Top 10 Sales in Europe" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 11 no. 21. May 21, 1994. p. 24. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  13. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 11 no. 22. May 28, 1994. p. 17. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  14. ^ "Billboard Hits of the World - Continued". Billboard. May 21, 1994. p. 43. Retrieved January 17, 2012.
  15. ^ " – Metallica – One". GfK Entertainment Charts. Retrieved May 28, 2019.
  16. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Metallica". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved November 13, 2019.
  17. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – Metallica" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40.
  18. ^ " – Metallica – One" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved November 13, 2019.
  19. ^ " – Metallica – One". Top 40 Singles.
  20. ^ " – Metallica – One". VG-lista.
  21. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  22. ^ " – Metallica – One". Singles Top 100.
  23. ^ " – Metallica – One". Swiss Singles Chart.
  24. ^ "Metallica: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
  25. ^ "Metallica Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved December 18, 2016.
  26. ^ "Metallica Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard.
  27. ^ "1994 in Review – Sales Charts" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 11 no. 52. December 24, 1994. p. 24 (of PDF). Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  28. ^ "Jaaroverzichten – Single 1994" (in Dutch). MegaCharts. Retrieved April 10, 2020.
  29. ^ "Arlista Singlar, 1994". Sverigetopplistan (in Swedish). Retrieved May 23, 2019.
  30. ^ "Top AFP - Audiogest - Top 3000 Singles + EPs Digitais" (PDF) (in Portuguese). Associação Fonográfica Portuguesa. Retrieved September 21, 2020.
  31. ^ "British single certifications – Metallica – One". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved November 13, 2019. Select singles in the Format field. Select Silver in the Certification field. Type One in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  32. ^ "American single certifications – Metallica – One". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved November 13, 2019. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH. 
  33. ^ "100 Greatest Guitar Solos". Retrieved December 8, 2005.
  34. ^ "Rock 1000 Countdown 2009". The Rock 1000. Retrieved September 11, 2009.
  35. ^ MacDonald, Patrick (January 12, 1990). "Soundgarden Nomination: The Growth of Local Rock". The Seattle Times. Retrieved December 17, 2009.

External links[edit]