One (Metallica song)

One (Metallica song)
Single by Metallica
from the album ...And Justice for All
B-side The Prince
Released January 10, 1989
Format CD single
Recorded January-May, 1988
Genre Heavy metal, thrash metal
Length 7:24
Label Elektra
Writer(s) James Hetfield / Lars Ulrich
Producer Metallica, Flemming Rasmussen
Metallica singles chronology
"Eye of the Beholder"
"Enter Sandman"
Alternative cover
One (Live) cover
Music sample

"One" is a song by the American heavy 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", "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" and "The Day That Never Comes", 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 Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield.



"One" was written in November 1987 by Metallica's principal composers James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. The song was released in 1989 as the fourth 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 is in different time signatures. It begins in 4/4, then shifts to 3/4 (both with an occasional measure in 2/4). After the verses and choruses it shifts to 6/4. The heavy doublebass part is again in 4/4, soon switching to 2/2 (Double-Time) up to the end.

In 1991, James Hetfield told Guitar World Magazine that he wrote the song's opening B-G modulation based on an idea prompted by the Venom song "Buried Alive".

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.

Sound effects (0:00-0:17)

For the first 17 seconds of the song, there are a series of sound effects with a battle theme, an artillery barrage and helicopter, with a screaming backing vocal. It fades in the guitar intro.


The song's theme and lyrics are based on Dalton Trumbo's 1939 novel Johnny Got His Gun, telling the tale of a soldier whose body is severely damaged by a mortar shell. His arms, legs, eyes, mouth, nose and ears are gone and he is unable to see, speak, smell, or hear. His mind functions perfectly, however, leaving him trapped inside his own body. Trumbo directed the movie adaptation in 1971, from which the footage for the "One" music video is taken.

Live performance

"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 was also featured on S&M—Metallica's album of live performances in collaboration with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Kamen.

Track listing

One single

US Single
  1. "One"
  2. "The Prince"
International Single
  1. "One"
  2. "For Whom the Bell Tolls (Live)"
  3. "Welcome Home (Sanitarium) (Live)"
International 7" Single
  1. "One"
  2. "Seek & Destroy (Live)"
Japanese EP
  1. "One"
  2. "Breadfan"
  3. "For Whom the Bell Tolls (Live)"
  4. "Welcome Home (Sanitarium) (Live)"
  5. "One (Demo)"
Gatefold Vinyl Single
  1. "One (Demo)"
  2. "For Whom the Bell Tolls (Live)"
  3. "Creeping Death (Live)"

One (Live) single

International Single
  1. "One"
  2. "One (Demo)"
  3. "One (Live)"
International 2-track Single
  1. "One (Edit)"
  2. "One (Live)"
International Digipak Single
  1. "One (Live)"
  2. "Whiplash (Live)"
  3. "For Whom the Bell Tolls (Live)"
  4. "Last Caress (Live)"

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, CA, 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; 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 39 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

Chart[1] Position
Australian Singles Chart
38 in 1989 / 5 in 1994
Dutch Singles Chart
3 (in 1994)
New Zealand Singles Chart
Norwegian Singles Chart
Swedish Singles Chart
Swiss Singles Chart
US Billboard Hot 100
UK Singles Chart


  • "One" was covered by Crematory for the A Tribute to the Four Horsemen CD and was also on their Revolution album.
  • "One" was covered by the 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 and their album Live and Rare. 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", however, as of 2009, "Fake" usually ends with the "One" outro.
  • Apocalyptica has covered the song. It is the last track on the 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.
  • "One" was covered by German thrash metal band Dispatched.
  • "One" was covered by Die Krupps, a German industrial rock/EBM band.
  • "One" was covered by Iron Horse, a Bluegrass band.
  • "One" was covered by Periphery, a Djent band, for the Homefront soundtrack. Guitarist Misha Mansoor later stated that he was not pleased with the cover and thought that it was "a waste of time" because they did not add something of their own style to it.
  • "One" was covered by Nuclear Rabbit, an American 'avant-garde' metal/ska band, on their 1991 demo, "Bowling For Midgets."

Other appearances

  • "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.
  • "One" was featured in the remake of the 1971 film adaptation of Johnny Got His Gun, which was released in 2008.
  • "One" is sampled in the song "Like This" on Feed the Animals, the 2008 album by artist Girl Talk.
  • "One" was featured in an episode of Beavis and Butt-head.
  • The second half riff appears at the beginning of Avenged Sevenfold's song Blinded in Chains in their 2005 album City of Evil.




External links

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