One (Metallica song)

Single by Metallica
from the album ...And Justice for All
B-side "The Prince"
Released January 10, 1989
Genre Thrash metal
  • 7:27 (album version)
  • 4:58 (radio edit)
Label Elektra
Metallica singles chronology
"Eye of the Beholder"
"Enter Sandman"
...And Justice for All track listing
"Eye of the Beholder"
"The Shortest Straw"
Music video
"One" on YouTube
Music sample
Alternative cover
"One" (Live) cover

"One" is an anti-war song by the American heavy metal band Metallica.[1] It was released as the third and final single from their fourth studio album, ...And Justice for All (1988). "One" was also the band's first top 40 hit single, reaching number 35 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song hit #1 in Finland.

Metallica performed "One" for the 1989 Grammy Awards show broadcast from Los Angeles. The next year the song won a Grammy Award in the first Best Metal Performance category.[2] 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 the album ...And Justice for All.

A video for the song was introduced in January 1989 on MTV. It portrays a World War I soldier who is severely wounded—blind and unable to speak nor move—returned home as a supposed vegetable case to wait helplessly for death. His only hope is to devise a way to communicate with the hospital staff.[3] 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 #1 on MTV soon after its introduction.[2]

Recording and composition

"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. 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.

The song starts off in a soft melodic setting, but it develops through multiple sections into heavier and faster speed metal sounds,[4] leading up to a technically complex tapping solo by Kirk Hammett,[5] and a dual guitar section by Hammett and James Hetfield.[1]


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.[6]

Live performance

"One" is a favorite of many Metallica fans, and therefore 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

"One" single

US 7" single
No. Title Length
1. "One"   7:24
2. "The Prince"   4:26
CD single and international 12" single
No. Title Length
1. "One"   7:24
2. "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (Live) 4:48
3. "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" (Live) 6:06
International 7" single and international 10" picture disc
No. Title Length
1. "One"   7:24
2. "Seek & Destroy" (Live) 8:42
12" Gatefold
No. Title Length
1. "One" (Demo Version) 7:03
2. "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (Live) 4:48
3. "Creeping Death" (Live) 8:00
Japanese EP
No. Title Length
1. "One"   7:24
2. "Breadfan"   5:43
3. "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (Live) 4:48
4. "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" (Live) 6:06
5. "One" (Demo Version) 7:04

"One" (Live) single

CD single and 12" picture disc
No. Title Length
1. "One"   7:24
2. "One" (Demo) 7:03
3. "One" (Live) 9:38
No. Title Length
1. "One" (Edit) 4:59
2. "One" (Live) 9:38
No. Title Length
1. "One" (Live) 9:49
2. "Whiplash" (Live) 4:46
3. "For Whom the Bell Tolls" (Live) 5:50
4. "Last Caress" (Live) 2:25

Music video

"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 (wrote 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, 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 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.

Chart positions

Chart (1989–94) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[7] 38
Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[8] 23
Finland (Suomen virallinen lista)[9] 1
Germany (Official German Charts)[10] 31
Ireland (IRMA) 12
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[11] 3
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[12] 13
Norway (VG-lista)[13] 4
Spain (AFYVE)[14] 14
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[15] 3
Switzerland (Schweizer Hitparade)[16] 22
UK Singles (Official Charts Company 13
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 35


Other appearances



See also


  1. 1 2 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.
  2. 1 2 Crouse, Richard (2012). Who Wrote The Book Of Love?. Doubleday Canada. p. 156.
  3. Corwin, Joanna (2009). "Trapped in Myself: 'One' and the Mind-Body Problem". In William Irwin. Metallica and Philosophy: A Crash Course in Brain Surgery. John Wiley & Sons. p. 180. ISBN 9781405182089.
  4. Doughton, K. J. (2008). Metallica Unbound. Grand Central Publishing. p. 96. ISBN 9780446554589.
  5. Pillsbury, Glenn (2013). Damage Incorporated: Metallica and the Production of Musical Identity. Routledge. p. 54. ISBN 9781136091148.
  7. " – Metallica – One". ARIA Top 50 Singles.
  8. " – Metallica – One" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  9. "Billboard Hits of the World peak". Google Books. Retrieved January 17, 2012.
  10. " – Metallica Single-Chartverfolgung" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH.
  11. "Nederlandse Top 40 – Metallica search results" (in Dutch) Dutch Top 40.
  12. " – Metallica – One". Top 40 Singles.
  13. " – Metallica – One". VG-lista.
  14. Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2.
  15. " – Metallica – One". Singles Top 100.
  16. " – Metallica – One". Swiss Singles Chart.
  17. "100 Greatest Guitar Solos". Retrieved December 8, 2005.
  18. "Rock 1000 Countdown 2009". The Rock 1000. Retrieved September 11, 2009.
  19. MacDonald, Patrick (January 12, 1990). "Soundgarden Nomination: The Growth of Local Rock". The Seattle Times. Retrieved December 17, 2009.
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