" is a Grammy Award
winning song by heavy metal
. One of Metallica's most famous songs, "One" appeared as the fourth track of, and was released as the third single
from, the band's 1988 album …And Justice for All
. Metallica won their first Grammy Award
in 1990 for "One", winning Best Metal Performance
. "One" was also the band's first Top 40 hit single, peaking at #35 on the Billboard Hot 100.
"One" was written in November 1987
by Metallica's principal composers — rhythm guitarist
/vocalist James Hetfield
and drummer Lars Ulrich
. The song was released in 1989 as the second single taken from the album (the first being "Harvester of Sorrow
For the first 20 seconds of the song there is a series of sound effects with a battle theme; an artillery barrage is 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 two bass drums) before the final, often highly praised, guitar solo by Hammett, and a final dual solo by Hammett and Hetfield.
"One"'s opening A-G modulation was written by Hetfield based on an idea prompted by the song "Buried Alive" by the band Venom.
I had been fiddling around with that A-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.
- James Hetfield, Guitar World
The song's theme is based on Dalton Trumbo
's 1939 novel Johnny Got His Gun
It is based on the story of a soldier whose body was severely damaged after he was hit by a German artillery shell during World War I
. His arms, legs, eyes, nose and ears were gone and he could not see, speak, or hear — but his mind functions perfectly, leaving him a prisoner in his own body.
"One" is a favorite of many Metallica fans, and thus is a fixture of the band's live shows. 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-Black Album
era) and is preceded by pyrotechnics
and the same sounds of war such as machine guns, bombs exploding and helicopters as heard on the recorded version. The song was also featured on S&M
— Metallica's album of live performances in collaboration with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
, conducted by the late Michael Kamen
"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 is almost entirely in black & 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.
Metallica bought the rights to Johnny Got His Gun so they would be able to use it exclusively for the video for "One". 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 contained only the band performing the song (without any scenes from the movie).
Like many other music videos from the metal band, "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. 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.
The music video was ranked 38 on Rock on the Net: MTV: 100 Greatest Music Videos.
- "One" was covered by Crematory for the Tribute To The Four Horsemen CD.
- "One" was covered by nu metal band Korn as part of the MTV Icons Metallica tribute TV-show. This cover version is featured as a hidden track on their 2003 album Take a Look in the Mirror. However, Korn's version was shortened to a little more than four minutes, like most performances at MTV Icons, and lacks much of the second half of the song, including the final guitar solo. The bridge is also played often at live shows as an outro to their song "Shoots and Ladders".
- Apocalyptica has covered this song. It is the last track on their album Inquisition Symphony.
- Mexican-born, Dublin-based duo Rodrigo y Gabriela covered "One" on Live in Manchester and Dublin.
- Finnish Symphonic Power Metal band Sonata Arctica has performed "One" at live performances.
- Jonathan Davis from Korn and Daron Malakian from System of a Down on vocals and guitar, respectively, joined Jason Newsted, Kirk Hammett, and Lars Ulrich for a live performance of "One" in its' entirety in July 2000 at a show in Sparta, Kentucky. A bootlegged video of the song is now on YouTube.com
- Tribute duo Harptallica recorded a harp version of the song on their album Harptallica: A Tribute.
"One" was voted as the 7th of the " 100 Greatest Guitar Solos
" of all time by readers of Guitar World
, placed between "November Rain
" by Guns N' Roses
(6th) and "Hotel California
" by the Eagles