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#ThrowbackThursday: “One” by Metallica

Image Via Elektra Records

by Sean Smith

Metallica is in the news for a number of reasons this week. It was recently announced that the popular Late Late Show with James Corden “Carpool Karaoke” sketch will be getting its own spin-off series on Apple Music. So what does this have to do with Metallica? The group will be making an appearance on the program with comedian Billy Eichner driving them around Hollywood, California. Other artists who will be showing up on the new Apple Music series include Will Smith, Ariana Grande, John Legend and Alicia Keys. James Corden, the host who first made the sketch popular by driving around artists, will reportedly only be hosting the show for one of the episodes. That being the Will Smith edition.

Metallica is also in the news this week because they are marking an important anniversary in regards to their music. On January 10, 1989, the heavy metal band released one of their more mainstream singles with “One.”

At the end of the Summer of 1988 Metallica released their fourth studio album …And Justice for All. After releasing the first two singles off that record “Harvester of Sorrow” and “Eye of the Beholder” in 1988, Metallica started 1989 off with a bang by releasing their third single from their fourth LP on January 10, 1989.

The third single “One” was written by the band’s own James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. The subject of the song revolves around a severely disabled World War I soldier. Hetfield got the idea for the track from reading the book Johnny Got His Gun by author Dalton Trumbo. Hetfield had the book about World War I recommended to him by his brother. There is “One” particular passage from the book which directly inspired the song. It reads:

“How could a man lose as much of himself as I have and still live? When a man buys a lottery ticket you never expect him to win because it’s a million to one shot. But if he does win, you’ll believe it because one in a million still leaves one. If I’d read about a guy like me in the paper I wouldn’t believe it, cos it’s a million to one. But a million to ONE always leaves one. I’d never expect it to happen to me because the odds of it happening are a million to one. But a million to one always leaves one. One.” 

The Trumbo book was turned into a motion picture in 1971, and when Metallica created a music video for “One” they utilized footage and audio from the film. The music video for “One” was the first time the band created one for play on MTV.

Commercially speaking, “One” performed moderately well for the band in the U.S.. The track received some crossover mainstream success with it catching with a wider audience thanks in part to MTV. It became a Top 40 success for Metallica, peaking at #35 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was nominated and won the first ever Grammy given out for Best Metal Performance. A year removed from performing the song on the Grammy stage in 1989. Metallica would perform “One” once again at the Grammy’s in 2014 with Chinese concert pianist Lang Lang.

So with Metallica in the news this week for a number of reasons, this week we take a few moments to recall their Top 40 1989 single “One.” Enjoy.



From: …And Justice For All

Elektra Records