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"Enter Sandman" is a song by American heavy metal band Metallica, featured as the opening track and lead single from their eponymous 1991 album. The song was produced by Bob Rock, and the music was written by Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich, and James Hetfield. Vocalist and guitarist Hetfield wrote the lyrics, which deal with the simplest concept of a child's nightmares.

The single achieved gold certification for more than 500,000 copies shipped in the United States, spurring sales of over 15 million copies for Metallica and propelling Metallica to worldwide popularity. Acclaimed by critics, the song is featured in all of Metallica's live albums and DVDs released after 1991 and has been played live at award ceremonies and benefit concerts.

Writing and recording

"Enter Sandman" was the first song Metallica had written for their 1991 self-titled album, Metallica. Metallica's songwriting method involved lead guitarist Kirk Hammett and bassist Jason Newsted submitting tapes of song ideas and concepts to rhythm guitarist James Hetfield and drummer Lars Ulrich, who then used the material in conjunction with their own ideas to write songs in Ulrich's house in Berkeley, Californiamarker. "Enter Sandman" evolved from a guitar riff that Hammett wrote. Originally, the riff was just two bars in length, but Ulrich suggested that the first bar should be played three times. The song was quickly finished, but Hetfield did not come up with vocal melodies and lyrics for a long time. The song, in fact, was among the album's last to have lyrics, and the lyrics featured in the song are not the original; Hetfield felt that "Enter Sandman" sounded "catchy and kind of commercial" and so to contradict the sound, he wrote lyrics about "destroy[ing] the perfect family; a huge horrible secret in a family" that included references to crib death. For the first time in Metallica's history, however, Ulrich and producer Bob Rock told Hetfield that they felt he could write better lyrics. Nevertheless, according to Ulrich, the song was the "foundation, the guide to the whole record" even before it had lyrics.

An instrumental demo was recorded on September 13, 1990. The album Metallica was mostly recorded in Los Angelesmarker at the One on One Studios, between October 1990 and June 1991, although Ulrich, Hetfield, and Rock also recorded for a week in Vancouvermarker, Canada between April and May 1991. As the first to be produced by Bob Rock, it was recorded differently than previous Metallica albums; Rock suggested that the band members record in the studio while playing together, rather than separately. "Enter Sandman" had what Hetfield described as a "wall of guitars"— three rhythm guitar tracks of the same riff played by himself to create a "wall of sound". According to engineer Randy Staub, close to 50 takes of the drums were recorded because Ulrich did not record the song in its entirety, but rather recorded each section of the song separately. Because it was difficult to get in one take the "intensity" that the band wanted, numerous takes were selected and edited together. Staub mentioned that the producing team spent much time in getting the best sound from each part of the room and used several combinations of 40 to 50 microphones in recording the drums and guitars to simulate the sound of a live concert. The bass guitar sound also gained importance with Rock; as Newsted states, Metallica's sound was previously "very guitar-oriented" and that "when he [Rock] came into the picture, bass frequencies also came into the picture." As the first single, "Enter Sandman" was also the first song to be mixed, a task that took roughly ten days because the band and Bob Rock had to create the sound for the entire album while mixing the song.

Composition

The simpler songs in the album Metallica, including "Enter Sandman", are a departure from the band's previous, more musically complex album ...And Justice for All. Lars Ulrich described "Enter Sandman" as a "one-riff song", in which all of its sections derive from the main riff that Kirk Hammett wrote.

"Enter Sandman" moves at 123 beats per minute for five minutes 32 seconds, running slightly above the average song length of the album. It begins with a clean guitar intro similar to the main riff; an e minor chord on a guitar using the wah-wah pedal is then introduced, followed by heavy use of tom-tom drums. Distortion guitar then build up to the main riff, which starts 56 seconds into the song and utilizes variations of the E/B♭ tritone. P. J. Howorth, in The Wah Wah book, characterized the main riff as "sinister". The song then follows a common structure, playing two iterations of a verse, a pre-chorus, and a chorus. On the chorus and pre-chorus, the song modulates one whole tone, up to F#, and after the second chorus, Hammett plays a guitar solo with the main, pre-chorus, and chorus riffs in the background. Hammett makes use of the wah-wah pedal and a wide range of scales, including e minor pentatonic, b minor, f# minor, e minor, and the E dorian mode. After the solo, the breakdown starts, in which the clean guitar intro and the drums are heard together with Hetfield teaching a child the "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep" bedtime prayer and afterward reciting a variation of the lullaby rhyme "Hush Little Baby" where he is heard saying "Hush little baby don't say a word, and never mind that noise you heard. It's just the beasts under your bed, in your closet, in your head". After building again to a chorus, the song starts to fade out while the band plays the same riffs as the buildup intro in reverse order. Lyrically, the song is about "nightmares and all that come with them", according to Chris True of Allmusic. The title is a reference to the sandman, a character from Western folklore who makes children sleep.

Release and reception

Initially, the song "Holier Than Thou" was slated to be the opening track and first single from Metallica; according to the documentary A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica, producer Bob Rock told Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield that the album has "five or six songs that are going to be classics", not only with fans but also on the radio, and that "the first song that should come out is 'Holier Than Thou'". According to Rock, Ulrich was the only band member who felt, even before recording, that "Enter Sandman" was the ideal song to be the first single. Ulrich has said that there was a "big argument"; however, after explaining his point of view to the rest of the band, "Enter Sandman" eventually became the opening track and first single of the album.

The single was released on July 29, 1991, two weeks before the release of Metallica. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 and sold over 15 million copies worldwide, allowing "Enter Sandman" to become, as Chris True describes it, "one of the most recognizable songs of all time in rock". The single peaked at #16 on the US Hot 100 chart and at #5 on the UK Singles Chart. On September 30, 1991, it became Metallica's second single to achieve gold status in the United States, for shipping more than 500,000 copies. In addition to the nominations received by the album as a whole, the song was nominated for Best Rock Song at the 34th Grammy Awards in 1992, ultimately losing to "The Soul Cages" by Sting.

"Enter Sandman" was acclaimed by critics. Chris True of Allmusic declared it "one of Metallica’s best moments" and a "burst of stadium level metal that, once away from the buildup intro, never lets up". According to him, the song's breakdown "brilliantly utilizes that 'Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep' bedtime prayer in such a way as to add to the scary movie aspect of the song". Steve Huey, in Allmusic review of Metallica, described it as one of the album's best songs, with "crushing, stripped-down grooves". Robert Palmer of Rolling Stone described "Enter Sandman" as "possibly the first metal lullaby" and wrote that the song "tell[s] the tale" of the album's "detail and dynamic, [...] song structures and impact of individual tracks". Sid Smith from the BBC called the song "psycho-dramatic" and noted that the "terse motifs served notice that things were changing" with Metallica's new album. Blender magazine's Tim Grierson says that the lyrics "juxtapose childhood bedtime rituals and nightmarish imagery" and praises the "thick bottom end and propulsive riff".

"Enter Sandman" has received many accolades. Rolling Stone magazine listed it as the 399th song on their "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" list, and VH1 placed it 22nd in their list of the "40 Greatest Metal Songs of All Time", 18th in their list of the "100 Greatest Songs of the '90s" and 88th in their 2003 list of "The 100 Greatest Songs from the Past 25 Years". Blender magazine included the song in their "The Greatest Songs Ever!" series of articles and placed it 65th on their list of "The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born". Q magazine listed it 81st in their list of "The 100 Songs That Changed The World" and 55th in their list of "The 1001 Best Songs Ever". Total Guitar magazine readers chose the song's riff as the fifth greatest ever, while Kerrang! places it fourth on their list of the "100 Greatest Singles of All Time". The Rock and Roll Hall of Famemarker includes it in their list of the "500 Songs That Shaped Rock".In 2009, it was named the 5th greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1.

Music video

Screenshot of the music video in which a child is seen reciting a prayer while being watched by Sandman.
"Enter Sandman" was the first music video from the self-titled album, and only the second ever, to be released by Metallica. It was also the first of six Metallica music videos directed by Wayne Isham. Recorded on July 3, 1991 in Los Angelesmarker, it premiered on July 30, 1991, two weeks before the release of the album. The plot of the music video directly relates to the theme of the song, combining images of a child having nightmares and images of an old man with shots of the band playing the song. The child dreams that he is drowning, falling from the top of a building, being chased by a truck and finally falling from a mountain while escaping the truck. During the part of the song in which the child recites a prayer, he is being watched by the old man. Throughout the video, the picture flickers continuously. The music video won Best Hard Rock Video at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards and was nominated for Best Cinematography and Best Editing. Andrew Blackie of PopMatters has said the video's "narrative suits the sludgy riffs and James Hetfield’s twisted lullaby lyric".

Appearances and covers

"Enter Sandman" has been played in almost every Metallica live performance since its release. The band released live versions of the song in the videos Live Shit: Binge & Purge, Cunning Stunts, and S&M where the band played with the San Francisco Symphony led by maestro Michael Kamen. The song is discussed in the videos A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica and Classic Albums: Metallica - The Black Album, and its video is available in The Videos 1989-2004. Metallica has played the song live at awards ceremonies and benefit concerts, such as the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards, the 1992 Grammy Awards, the The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, and Live Earth. Following its UK terrestrial broadcast of Live Earth, the BBC received 413 complaints and apologized to Metallica fans for cutting the band's set before "Enter Sandman".

On tours after the release of their album Load, Metallica staged accidents at indoor shows while playing the song. Among other stunts, a light tower would come crushing down with electrical wires sparking, and a crew member would run onto the stage on fire; such scenes can be seen in the live video Cunning Stunts. On June 6, 2004, at Download Festival, in England the song was performed with Joey Jordison of Slipknot playing the drums replacing Ulrich after he suffered a medical emergency. Enter Sandman is also the MMA entrance theme for mixed martial artist Brock Lesnar.

"Enter Sandman" has been covered by many artists, including acts as diverse as Sum 41, Motörhead, Apocalyptica, Richard Cheese, Reel Big Fish, Tropikal Forever, Die Krupps, Björn Again and Pat Boone. Motörhead's cover of the song was nominated for Best Metal Performance at the 42nd Grammy Awards in 2000 but lost to Black Sabbath's "Iron Man". The song was also covered on the album Metallic Assault: A Tribute to Metallica, and is notable for featuring Robert Trujillo playing bass on the track several years before he became a member of Metallica. The song is popular as entrance music in sports - most notably for New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. It is also played before all Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim home games, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights Football Team, the Iowa Hawkeyes Football Team, the Virginia Tech Hokies Football Team, and the Wisconsin Badgers Men's Hockey Team. It is also a playable song in the video games Rock Band and Guitar Hero: Metallica.

This song was also the entrance theme song for The Sandman in Extreme Championship Wrestling.

The song was referenced to in the first episode of Criminal Minds.

The song made headlines during the 2003 invasion of Iraq after it became known that uncooperative prisoners were exposed to the song for extended periods by American interrogators. According to United States Psychological Operations, the intention was to "break a prisoner's resistance [... by] playing music that was culturally offensive to them".

The song is currently played during the ride up the first hill on the roller coaster "X2" at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California.

Bradford Bulls, who play rugby league in the European Super League, play an instrumental Enter Sandman as the team leave the dugout and come onto the field.

Tom Leykis opened his radio program The Tom Leykis Show for 14 years with Enter Sandman.

Enter Sandman was mentioned in the 2001 film Josie and the Pussycats by the thought to be dead boy band Du Jour. The band landed their plane in the middle of a Metallica concert and one member was saved by remembering the lyrics to Enter Sandman.

Enter Sandman is also the entrance song for the New York Yankee's relieve pitcher Mariano Rivera.

Honors

Enter Sandman featured in Triple J's "Hottest 100 Of All Time" at number 31, placed between "All Along the Watchtower" by Jimi Hendrix (30th) and "Blue Monday" by New Order (32nd).

Personnel



Formats and track listing

US single
  1. "Enter Sandman" (Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich)
  2. "Stone Cold Crazy" (Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon, Roger Taylor)


UK 12" single
  1. "Enter Sandman" (Hammett, Hetfield, Ulrich)
  2. "Stone Cold Crazy" (Mercury, May, Deacon, Taylor)
  3. "Holier Than Thou" (Work in Progress) (Hetfield, Ulrich)
  4. "Enter Sandman" (Demo) (Hammett, Hetfield, Ulrich)


UK single
  1. "Enter Sandman" (Hammett, Hetfield, Ulrich)
  2. "Stone Cold Crazy" (Mercury, May, Deacon, Taylor)
  3. "Enter Sandman" (Demo) (Hammett, Hetfield, Ulrich)


Chart positions



Chart (1991) Peak

position
Norwegian Singles Chart 1
Canadian Singles Chart 1
UK Singles Chart 5
Australian ARIA Singles Chart 10
Swiss Singles Chart 11
Swedish Singles Chart 14
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 16
U.S. Billboard Mainstream Rock Tracks 10
Chart (2006) Peak

position
U.S. Billboard Hot Digital Songs 55


Notes and references

External links




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