The story behind Metallica’s career saving song “One”

The story behind Metallica’s career saving song “One”

On this day in metal, January 10th, 1989 Metallica release “One”

The song is based on the idea of a soldier losing all of his limbs and jaw and unable to hear, speak, or see, set to a World War I backdrop.

I can’t remember anything
Can’t tell if this is true or dream
Deep down inside I feel to scream
This terrible silence stops me

Now that the war is through with me
I’m waking up, I cannot see
That there’s not much left of me
Nothing is real but pain now

Hold my breath as I wish for death
Oh, please God, wake me

Partially based on the 1939 Dalton Trumbo novel, Johnny Got His Gun, One had started as a song James Hetfield had dreamt up, based on the notion of “just being a brain and nothing else,” before Cliff Burnstein suggested he read Trumbo’s book. The story of Joe Bonham, a good-looking, all-American boy encouraged to fight in World War I by his patriotic father, Bonham loses his legs, eyes, ears, mouth and nose to a German shell. After coming to terms with his gruesome circumstances in hospital while surrounded by frankly horrified doctors and nurses, Bonham uses the only part of his physical being he is still able to control – his head – to tap out a message in Morse code: ‘Please kill me’. “James got a lot of input from that,” said drummer and co-writer Lars Ulrich.

Watch the video here:

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to This Day In Metal.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.