35 Years Ago: Metallica Finally Enters the Video Age With ‘One’
The nearly eight-minute clip found band performances interspersed with portions of Johnny Got His Gun, the 1971 Dalton Trumbo movie about an American World War I soldier who loses his limbs and most of his senses on the battlefield.
Sources differ on how the movie came into their orbit: A Pitchfork story about the video for "One" notes that the record had already come out when managers Cliff Burnstein and Peter Mensch thought up the concept, but Louder Sound says Burnstein suggested that Metallica frontman James Hetfield read Trumbo's 1939 novel for lyrical inspiration. ... And Justice for All producer Flemming Rasmussen has said the band had purchased the rights to the movie before the album's sessions started.
Either way, Metallica had made the jump to the majors with Master of Puppets two years earlier – and they did it without any help from MTV. "Bon Jovi ruled the world, and we had our little place in it," drummer Lars Ulrich told Pitchfork. But the concept of incorporating the 1971 movie into their video helped them see the light.
"The idea took precedent over the assumption that we had to do a video because that’s what you did when you were putting out your next single," he noted. "We were pretty comfortable with the idea right away — dare I say even excited about it.
Watch Metallica's 'One' Video
The original intention was to get director Wayne Isham, a Metallica fan whose videos for other artists helped define the look of '80s metal. But Isham said he had trouble combining this archival footage with the band shots. So the job fell to Michael Salomon, an editor who'd often worked with Isham on hair-metal videos but whose own directorial credits consisted of a handful of country videos.
For Ulrich, it was a blessing in disguise. "The idea that we would have someone like Michael Salomon - who wasn’t a name director who was going to come in and fuck with whatever the Metallica mentality was or turn us into Warrant - felt as autonomous as the way we were making records," he said.
Cinematographer Bill Pope was hired to shoot the band performing in a warehouse, where they played the song 20 times with Salomon in attendance. Pope and Solomon were credited as co-directors of the "One" video, though Salomon said the two barely spoke during the process.
From there, Salomon created three edits: the original seven-minute-44-second video, a shortened version and one featuring just Metallica performing. The longer clip with Trumbo's images premiered on MTV on Jan. 20, 1989 and was soon placed in heavy rotation, despite its length and heavy subject. The video helped "One" become the first Metallica single to chart and pushed ... And Justice for All into the Top 10.
Ulrich said the video's uncompromising tone unlocked a door for them. "It turned out there were many, many, many disenfranchised kids who wanted their music heavier and darker," he said. "Obviously it had been coming, but nobody knew what to expect."
Metallica Lineup Changes: A Complete Guide
Gallery Credit: Ed Rivadavia
Metallica Released One of Rock’s Most Hated LPs