RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #117: One by Metallica.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #117: One by Metallica.

I am not a heavy metal fan per se but, as I have stated in these posts before, sometimes, that driving energy is exactly what the doctor ordered and I like it a lot. This sentiment is very true of today’s song, “One” by Metallica. I think that the musical construction of this song is amazing, the musicianship being displayed by the quartet of James Hetfield, Kurt Hammett, Robert Trujillo and Lars Ulrich is top-notch and, most importantly for me, the concept or idea that this song is built around makes for excellent storytelling. “One” won the Grammy Award for being the Best Metal Song the year it was released. As well, the official video for “One” has been downloaded/streamed over 100 million times and is generally regarded as one of the finest heavy metal videos ever made. So, let’s take a few moments and do a deep dive into one of my favourite songs of all-time, “One” by Metallica. Here goes.

The concept for the song, “One” comes from a movie about WWI called, “Johnny Got His Gun”. The story revolves around the idea of experiencing a “lottery odds” event in your life. Many people claim that there is such a thing as “true love” which means that there is someone in the world who is the “one” for you and you are the “one” for them. The flipside of that experience is having something horrendous and unimaginable happen to you. That is the case in “Johnny Got His Gun”. In that story, a young soldier finds himself trapped in No Man’s Land and is hit by a mortar round. As a result of that blast, the soldier loses part of his jaw and is unable to speak. He is blinded, as well. Finally, his limbs are destroyed, too. Against all odds, he comes to in a hospital bed; eyes bandaged, immobile but, very much still alive. What unfolds then is how this soldier comes to grips with the reality of his situation. His immediate problem is being unable to communicate with the doctors and nurses in the hospital. He quickly realizes that he has, for all intent and purposes, become buried alive within his own body. At that point, he cannot see a future for himself and the rest of the story revolves around how he seeks to let someone, anyone know that he remains a sentient being but that he cannot face the prospect of going on living as he is and will always be forever more.

As odd as this will be to hear, “One” by Metallica is constructed on a foundation of classical piano. The song is played by guitar and drums but, the pounding beats change in tone and in intensity, much the same way operatic classical scores do. It will not be surprising then, that one of the things that has lifted “One” out of merely being a metal song, is how adaptable it is to being paired with classical artists. One of the videos I will show you involves Metallica playing “One” with classical pianist, Lang Lang, in which Metallica swap out some of their guitar parts in excahnge for Lang Lang’s piano notes. I will, also, share a video that is strictly a piano cover to show you how the entire song is based upon classical piano scores. But, for now, the original version of “One” is constructed with layers of guitars, weaving in and out of each other. The purpose of their notes is to, at first, create the sound of a war zone, with machine gun fire being created by the staccato notes of guitarist Kurt Hammett. The guitars and drums create a frantic mood, while James Hetfield’s lyric’s give voice to the frightened thoughts of the soldier trapped helplessly within his own mind and body. It is a story of life against all odds and of the search for release through death; all expertly told through song and sound.

The song, “One” lasts for over seven minutes and is told in three parts. It is fairly easy to note the transition periods in “One” and, as such, to know where you are in this soldier’s story: the stating of his condition, the realization of what that means for him going forward and finally, the search for help to end his suffering. As rock songs go, “One” is fairly operatic in scope and tells a story unlike any other song I know.

So, let’s get down to it. I will start with the official video that combines live action playing by Metallica with scenes from a black and white movie based on the movie, “Johnny Got His Gun”. Then, I will play the live concert version that the band plays with Lang Lang in China. From this video, you will be able to start to see how this metal song has classical music roots. Finally, I will play a full piano cover of “One”. Look past the beautiful, leggy blonde who is at the piano and watch her as she does a fabulous job replicating the entire song on piano. From her rendition, it is easy to see the entire classical base that “One” was constructed upon.

Overall, “One” is my pick for the best metal song of all time. I love the story idea and the wonderful playing by the boys in the band. So, without further delay, here is “One” by Metallica. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “One” by Metallica, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “One” by Metallica and Lang Lang, can be found here.

The link to the video for the instrumental piano version of “One”, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Metallica, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #217: Master of Puppets by Metallica.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #217: Master of Puppets by Metallica

When Metallica first broke onto the Heavy Metal music scene, they were known as a “speed metal” or ‘thrash metal” band. They played fast and loud and they were adored by their fans, of which there were legion. For their first few albums, Metallica consisted of Lars Ulrich (drums), James Hetfield (Guitar and lead vocals), Kirk Hammett (Guitar) and Cliff Burton (Bass guitar). In their younger days as a band, Metallica had quite a reputation for drinking….to the point that they jokingly referred to themselves as “Alcoholica”. They played hard. They partied hard. However, there comes a time in the life of many substance abusers when the novelty of “getting hammered” every night started to lose its appeal. It was in this light that the guys in Metallica wrote the song, “Master of Puppets”, which was the title track from their album of the same name.

The song, “Master of Puppets” is really about the seductive nature of substance abuse. It details the heady, early days of getting high or drunk because it feels good or it is fun or both. But then, before you even realize it, the addiction begins taking hold of you and you are no longer in control of when you seek your high. The substance you are abusing becomes your master and your life becomes a never-ending quest to serve.

As so often happens when a new album is released by a band, Metallica set out on a world tour to support their music. It was one late Fall night, after the successful completion of a show in Copenhagen, Denmark, that life changed forever for the guys in the band. Driving on their tour bus, en route to Sweden, there was an accident. The bus crashed. In the act of crashing, Bassist Cliff Burton was thrown through a window and was crushed underneath the bus as it rolled over. He was only 24 years old.

However, like AC/DC, when singer Bon Scott passed away, the remaining members of Metallica decided that the best way to honour Burton’s memory was to re-group and soldier on. So, they hired a new bassist named Jason Newsted and set out again on tour. With Newsted on board, Metallica went through a transition that saw them fire Newsted a few albums later (hiring Robert Trujillo to replace him), switching away from their thrash metal roots and becoming more rock-oriented (with the “Black” album) and then, finally but, not surprisingly, James Hetfield admitting that he needed help and checking himself into an addiction rehabilitation centre.

The funny thing about this journey we call, Life, is that as brash and wild and invincible one might feel in youth, Life has its own way of teaching you the lessons you are destined to learn. Metallica are regarded today with the respect accorded to those deemed elder statesmen. Whether James Hetfield is able to stay on the road to sobriety is a question that he will have to answer one day at a time but, for now, he has emerged clean and sober and respected by those who know how deep his addiction ran. But, however it turns out, whenever they play “Master of Puppets” on stage….and they still are touring to sold-out arenas around the world….they are reminded of what once was and, by necessity, what had to change.

But, for now, let’s turn back the clock to just after Cliff Burton’s death, to a time when Jason Newsted was still cutting his teeth with the band. In this video, the other members of the band are trying to give Newsted a bit of a showcase, letting him start the song alone. He does well. “Master of Puppets” is generally regarded as being one of the top heavy metal/trash metal songs of all-time. If you are the type who adores “The Headbanger’s Ball” then, this video is for you! Strap in! Buckle up! Here is a young, Metallica with “Master of Puppets”. #RIPCliffBurton.

The link to the video for the song, “Master of Puppets” by Metallica, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Metallica, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KTOM- Song #397 …Enter Sandman by Metallica.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.

KTom: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #397: Enter Sandman by Metallica.

Metallica are one of the most successful Heavy Metal bands of all time. They have album sales of well over 100 million worldwide. The band has consisted of core members: drummer, Lars Ulrich, Singer/guitarist, James Hetfield and guitarist, Kirk Hammett; along with a rotating cast of bass guitarists, of which, Robert Trujillo is the current member. Metallica began in the early 1980s as a “Thrash” or “Speed” Metal band. They played fast and hard and loud. Their songs were often based upon dark themes. Their fan base was very loyal. Metallica rewarded their fans with a string of hits such as “Whiplash”, “And Justice for All” and “One”.

Not only did Metallica produce an impressive collection of Heavy Metal songs during the 1980s and 90s, they were one of the bands most responsible for the system of song downloading that we have in place today. Waaaay back in the day, there was a computer file sharing service called, “Napster”. Napster allowed users to share computer files with each other for free. Not long after starting as a business, members of Napster began sharing song files among each other. In essence, music fans were getting to have their favourite songs without the artists in question being compensated in any form. Metallica sued Napster. For awhile, Lars Ulrich, who became the spokesperson for the band during the Napster trials, became a hated future among music fans for seeking to deny them free access to their favourite songs. As it turned out, there was justice for Metallica and for all artists who place their copyrighted material in the marketplace. The judge in the case ruled in favour of Metallica. As a result, we have pay-per-download streaming services such as Apple Music and Spotify that must compensate artists whenever their music is downloaded.

Meanwhile, as the Napster trial was going on, Metallica met a Canadian producer named Bob Rock. Rock had been a member of the Canadian band, “Paul Hyde and the Payolas”. Bob Rock went into the production side of the business and one of his first major clients was Metallica. Under Rock’s guidance, Metallica released an eponymous album called “Metallica” that simply became known as “The Black Album”. On this album, Metallica moved away from thrash metal and moved toward a more radio-friendly rock sound. Many of their original fanbase were outraged and accused the band of selling out. Many pointed an accusatory finger at Bob Rock, as well, for leading the band away from their roots. However, the album sales for “The Black Album” went through the roof. The first single released from that album was “Enter Sandman”.

“Enter Sandman” is a creepy, suspenseful song about the fear that children may have about falling asleep and having nightmares. The song begins with the children’s lullaby, “Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep”, which starts out sweetly enough but, as it goes on, the guitars and drums spring to life, rumbling and roaring and then, as the conclusion of the lullaby, they erupt into sonic life! It is a song that has become a staple of all of Metalica’s live shows. (As you will see in the video below….I should note that the live version does not contain the opening lullaby…only the album version does). As well, the song as been adopted by various sports teams as their entrance song. I will show one such instance where the song is used at a US College football game. It is something to see almost 100,000 people getting swept up in the fervour of “Enter Sandman”.

So, without further delay, here is “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. Enjoy.

PS: In the comments section, I am going to share a slightly-inappropriate but, very true story of what this song means to me when I hear it. I am not the main character in this story but, just the same, it affected me. Read the NSFW story below or not, if you would rather just stick to the musical facts in this post.

The link to the music video for Enter Sandman by Metallica can be found here.

Metallica have their own website that can be accessed by clicking on the link here.

The link to the video for Enter Sandman being used as a football hype song, can be found here.

Finally: here is my NSFW story of what Enter Sandman really means to me when I hear it being played.

NSWF: Ok, here is my story about “Enter Sandman”. Before becoming a homeowner, I lived in a series of apartments, in and around, Oshawa, Ontario. One of the apartments I had was in a house owned by a Dutch woodworker. He lived on the main floor of the house and had converted the upper floor into two separate apartments. I had one of the upper floor apartments and a good friend of mine at the time, Barb, had the other. Barb was a very tasteful, professional person and was very quiet. I didn’t even know she was across the hall most days. Eventually, she moved out to a house of her own and a new girl moved in. This is where “Enter Sandman” comes in.

The new girl was about ten years younger than me (so, barely 20 or so). She was a blonde, with a Lady Di-pixie cut. She wore long, flowing Laura Ashley floral dresses (when that was a thing). We were friendly but were never friends. However, every once and awhile, she would knock on my door and ask to use my phone (which, at the time, I thought was weird). After sitting on my couch for several times and chatting with her girlfriends, I imagine, and me not making any moves (Because I was STUPID that way), she stopped knocking on my door and, instead, started bringing a boyfriend around to her apartment. It was her life so I didn’t care what she was doing. Until, one day, when I was returning home from getting groceries, I entered the house to the opening notes of “Enter Sandman” blasting from her apartment. Prior to this, she had been a model tenant and neighbour as far as noise went. So, imagine me climbing the stairs to the landing that we shared as “Enter Sandman” begins to build in intensity. I stopped at the top of the stairs because, truly, I was taken aback that she was rocking out like that. It was really loud! I could feel the bass vibrating through her door. Anyway, as I stood there, surrounded by the sounds of drums and thundering guitars, a new sound joined the mix……moans and groans!!!!……timed perfectly to the rise and fall of the notes of that song. Once I realized that she and her boyfriend were making out, I quickly entered my own apartment, put my groceries away and then, left again to go for a walk. No need to be listening to that going on.

From that day onward, every time they made love, it was to the throbbing beat of “Enter Sandman” by Metallica. And, every time I have heard that song since, all I can think about is that day, grocery bags in hand, when I heard the “Enter Sandman” remix version coming from across the hallway for the first time. True story.