Tuesday, January 10, 1989

Metallica released “One”



Writer(s): James Hetfield/Lars Ulrich (see lyrics here)

Released: January 10, 1989

First Charted: February 18, 1989

Peak: 35 US, 46 AR, 13 UK, 38 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 0.5 US, 0.2 UK, 0.7 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 329.6 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

With three previous albums, Metallica had built a strong base among heavy metal fans, but few could have predicted how they would become so embraced by the mainstream rock crowd. Arguably, the song “One” was the catalyst for this transition. The band had never even landed a single on the Billboard Hot 100 and this one – based on the strength of sales – eeked into the top 40.

To get the song played on radio, the band edited it down from its initial seven-and-a-half minute run time to just under five minutes. Some fans accused the band of selling out, to which Lars Ulrich replied, “Yes, we sell out everywhere we play.” SF To that same end, the band – who’d distanced themselves from MTV for ignoring metal – opted to make their first video. SF

The video, shot in black and white by director Michael Salomon, intercuts scenes from the 1971 anti-war film Johnny Got His Gun. The anti-war song depicts a World War I soldier who has lost his arms and legs and senses. Dismayed by his inability to speak or move, he desperately wishes to communicate his desire to die. In the video, the doctors are concerned by his constant spasms, but another soldier figures out he’s using Morse code to say “kill me.”

The lyrics and video, as well as the 1971 movie, were inspired by the 1939 Dalton Trumbo novel Johnny Got His Gun. One passage says, “How could a man lose as much of himself as I have and still live?...I’d never expect it to happen to me because the odds…are a million to one. But a million to one always leaves one. One.” SF


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First posted 1/5/2020; last updated 12/27/2022.

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