Friday, April 15, 2022

"One" by Metallica

Grammy Alert!
Gold Record Alert!
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  3807
Date:  02/18/1989
Debut:  76
Peak:  35
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal

Pop Bits:  This metal quartet's beginnings go back to 1981 Los Angeles when drummer Lars Ulrich put an ad in a paper looking for other metal musicians. One person who answered was guitarist James Hetfield. Five months later, the first iteration of Metallica was born. Joining Ulrich and Hetfield prior to the recording of their first album for the indie Megaforce label, 1983's Kill 'Em All, was guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Cliff Burton. While Kill 'Em All would only reach #155, it garnered the band solid reviews and helped to expand their audience. Their next effort, 1984's Ride the Lightning, would also be well received and get to #100. It was then that Elektra Records came along and signed the band. The backing of a major label helped when it came time for their third album, 1986's Master of Puppets. It would become the band's first to crack the Top 30 (#29) and go gold. With their career on the upswing, the band then had a setback. A tour bus accident ended up killing Burton. Metallica nearly called it quits, but decided to move ahead with a replacement and hired in Jason Newsted. The new lineup would record their fourth album ...And Justice for All. The epic work was the band's longest yet coming it at 65 minutes, yet that didn't stop record buyers who sent the album to #6 a mere two weeks after its release in the fall of '88. It quickly went platinum. However, the band wasn't quite done with the album yet. They would film a video for the track "One" and it became an instant hit on MTV. The song was released as a single and while it didn't garner a ton of airplay due to its 7+ minute running time (although there was an edited version for radio), it sold well and was able to crack the Pop Top 40 (#46 Rock). A little over a year later, the single would be certified gold. Metallica had broken through to the mainstream with their uncompromising speed/thrash metal sound. Of course their career would hit its peak with their 1991 classic Metallica, which would hit #1, sell over 16 million copies, and win a Grammy.

ReduxReview:  Okay, so thrash/speed metal was definitely not in my wheelhouse in the late 80s. I was barely stretching my ears over the glam metal hits of the day so the intense assault of guitars and drums from Metallica were a bit much for me. That came to an end with this song. I remember seeing the video for "One" on MTV and it totally blew me away. The movie scenes combined with the band's performance, lyrics, and the song's theatrical arrangement just gave me chills. It was so awesome. I immediately ran out and got the single. It wasn't long before I got the album as well. While I didn't become a huge thrash metal fan, Metallica did open my eyes and I would get albums from other speed/thrash metal bands. Still, Metallica were different. I connected with them more than other artists of the genre. Of course when Metallica came out next, I was all over it. Yet it all started with this song, which still gives me thrills and chills. Beyond epic.


Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) "One" is about a soldier who lost his arms, legs, jaw, sight, and hearing after a landmine blast, yet his mental capacity stayed intact. He remained alive with no way to communicate and praying for death. The lyrics were based on the 1939 novel Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo. Trumbo would later write a screenplay and direct a film version of the book in 1971. It starred Timothy Bottoms. When it came time for Metallica to shoot a video for the song, a first for the band, they wanted to use dialog and scenes from the film in the video. While they would initially pay royalty fees for use of the film, the band later chose to just buy the rights to the film so they could use what they wanted from the film without having to pay royalties.  Johnny Got His Gun received mixed reviews upon initial release and did not do well at the box office. It might have stayed a relatively obscure and forgotten film, but then Metallica's video gave it new attention and it became a cult flick.  2) The timing of this single led to it becoming nominated for a Grammy in the Best Metal Performance category. It was the first year for that category and Metallica would win the award. While deserved, it was also somewhat of a consolation prize from the previous year's bungle. In 1989, the Academy created a new category called Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental. Metallica would be nominated in the category for ...And Justice for All. They were expected to win over AC/DC, Iggy Pop, Jane's Addiction, and Jethro Tull. Tull was such a long shot to take the award that their label told them not to make the trip to attend the awards. They didn't and in one of Grammy's biggest upsets, they won. The backlash was immediate and swift with many saying Jethro Tull didn't even belong in the category. The next year, the Grammy listened and decided to split the category in two. There was Best Metal Performance, won by Metallica, and Best Hard Rock Performance, which was won by Living Colour. Metallica would win the Best Metal Performance Grammy three years in a row and would win it two more times. Oddly, they would also later win a Grammy in the Best Hard Rock Performance category.



  1. I've always been fascinated that this was a top 40 hit. Although it's an amazing song - I don't ever remember hearing it on the radio and I can't possibly imagine this smack in the middle of Paula Abdul and Rick Astley....

    1. Ha! So true. Actually, I don't even think I've heard the radio edit. This was one song that would not benefit from an edit. It would be like an artist finishing a masterpiece and then someone comes along and says - I'm putting it in this frame which is far smaller, so I'll just cut it to fit. Yeesh. For me, every second is necessary.

    2. By this time, being on top 40 radio was not a requirement for a song to hit the top 40 on the Hot 100. Rap and Rock were starting to infiltrate the chart, which caused a major problem for AT40. This is ultimately what led the show to stop using the Hot 100, and go with a chart more reflective of what was being played on top 40 radio.