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Metallica “One” (Song Meaning)
The song is based on the idea of a soldier losing all of his limbs and being unable to hear, speak, or see, set to a World War I backdrop. In an interview in New Zealand in 1989, Ulrich describes the movie Johnny Got His Gun as having a similar theme, and this was the reason it was incorporated into the video.
“One” was the first Metallica song for which a music video was created. The music video, directed by Bill Pope and Michael Salomon, debuted on MTV on January 20, 1989. The video, shot in Long Beach, California, is almost entirely in black and white, and features the band performing the song in a warehouse. It features dialogue and several scenes from the 1971 film adaptation of Johnny Got His Gun. Timothy Bottoms can be seen starring as Joe Bonham, the main character in the novel (written by Dalton Trumbo and published in September 1939; the basis for the 1971 film).
Three versions of the “One” music video were made. The first (the longest, album version) contained scenes of both the band and scenes from the movie. The second was simply a shortened version of the first, and the third, often known as the “jammin’ version”, lacked scenes from the movie (the song and video fades at the last bridge in the third version).
Like many other music videos from Metallica, “One” puts great emphasis on the performances of the band members as musicians, with many shots of Hetfield, Newsted and Hammett’s hands picking and fretting. The video features the band members in a typical early Metallica fashion: playing (as if in rehearsal) in some sort of warehouse, in tight formation around Ulrich’s drum kit, and dressed in casual street clothes and with long untamed hair.
In the music video, it can be clearly seen that both Hetfield and Hammett are playing ESP guitars; Jason Newsted is on a 5-string Wal bass. It is also clear that Newsted is playing bass with his fingers at the start of the song, but later switches to a pick.
Two of the three versions of the “One” music video appear on 2 of One, a VHS released on July 1, 1990 and both would again be featured on the band’s 2006 music video compilation DVD.