Friday, February 23, 2007

Comment - "One" by Metallica

It was pretty late in the night. You know how life in an Engineering College can be. And I was sitting with a friend in front of a computer - and doing nothing in particular - when the video came on.

Rock has had several moments of pure magic - and I am sure will continue to create these moments -for,I believe, this is what rock music - or hell - any music should be about. It might be about headbanging in front of 3000W speakers, and it might be about an anger - or "the rage against the machine" - or even about a certain madness - a desire to get blown off your head. Maybe. But I like to believe that for me, a listener - nothing more, it is about the moments - when something grabs me by the scruff of my neck - and tells me "Listen.".

A few of you might agree with me. In any case - as I began saying - rock music abounds in such moments - when you first watch Slash walk out of the church and rip off that god of a solo, when David Gilmour launches in to the final 3 minutes of comfortably numb, when you first hear Bono sing "One", or hear Rush play "Tom Sawyer"...when Knopfler belts out that solo at the end of "Tunnel of Love" - there are several - but these are the ones that come readily to mind.

But what makes me recall that particular night of the very very many nights spent in front of a computer or in an auditorium brimming with life - or liberating in its still emptiness - listening and watching - was something special even amongst times that are all special.

"One"starts off with the sounds of helicopter rotors and of a missile approaching its target with a dreadful drawn-out whine and eventually exploding. As the sounds of the blast fade away - James Hetfield's guitar starts off - clean and crisp. From then on - One shapes into one of Metallica's greatest creations - and that is saying something. It is perhaps also fitting that this was the first video made by Metallica - introducing it to a world that was waiting to discover it. Perhaps the from the very first time the view of three long haired men playing their guitars around the drummer- in an austere warehouse - with an overhead window providing the only light - aired, the bands rise to "Metalligreatness"(quoting Joe Berlinger) could never have been in doubt. In the preface to the Bantam Books collection of all of Sherlock Holmes' stories - the author remarks that the "Hound of the Baskervilles" is a detective story that people who know nothing of detective stories have read - Metallica is "the Hound.." of rock music.

"One" attempts to tell a story of a young man - who goes to the War and returns alive - or does he?

In the very first few seconds of the song - we hear a child asking "What IS democracy?" - and hear his father answer that "For democracy any man would give his only begotten son".

Soon we learn that the Boy has grown up and been sent to war - to protect democracy ostensibly - and has been injured (Metallica thinks it was a landmine). He returns home as a man who had had both his arms and his legs blown off - his senses been damaged to an extent that we hear him say in a voice that begs.... "How can you tell whats a dream and whats real - when you cant even tell when you are awake and when you are asleep?" He has his meals from a pressurized container via a plastic tube. We hear him whisper desperately "Hear me!". He calls himself a "piece of meat that keeps on living" hear him calling to his mother screaming "help me - I cant wake up!" Of course there are voices that try to convince us that "the armour - the wonder of the 20th century!" and that "Death has a Dignity all its own" but they only serve to underline the yelping voice and the utter indignity - something a human being must never be subject to - and the hopeless futility of it all. He - in the end - uses morse code - to signal "SOS - kill me".

And at this point you are convinced of the utter uselessness of War. The reaction is the only kind that is genuine - it is visceral - the video is like a punch to your stomach that makes your indignation rise like bile. Anything that can reduce a human being to saying - "Inside me I am screaming nobody pays any attention- if i had arms I could kill myself - if I had legs I could run away - if I had a voice I could be some kind of company to myself..I appeal for help but nobody will help me..I ve just got to do something ..I dont see how I can go on like this" - .. is.. evil - pure and simple - there can be no justification to it. In this world of ours where the "righteous" justify waging war against the "unrighteous" - it is important to know that any War leaves in its wake ... something inhuman... that negates all justification.

Metallica make a point in the song - and scenes from this video will live with me for life. Of course the song in itself is a masterpiece.You could hear it for Hetfield's vocals and guitars, the amazing lead that Hammet plays halfway through the song and of course Lars Ulrich's famous double bass.

If you haven't watch the video of "One" yet - I suggest you do something to change that.


Ojas said...

But what makes me recall that particular night of the very very many nights spent in front of a computer or in an auditorium brimming with life - or liberating in its still emptiness - listening and watching - was something special even amongst times that are all special.

Brilliant post, and a brilliant song too! Ah, those days...

Sujan Dhar said...

oju..coming from you..thats something..thank you

Hari said...

Well done.. very well done..

I wouldn't want to admit it.. But I regret not carrying enough snaps of those days.. Yes, it does make reminscence sweeter and more intense, but I don't know if thats a good thing..

Ch@ry said...

great post. i'm not much into metal, but this has always been my metallica favourite.

but quite frankly, i'm more than a little surprised... you saw the video only now?? have you checked out youtube properly? tons of nice music videos. is also ok, but it's currently being redesigned.

Sujan Dhar said...

@ hari

thanks brother..the snaps thing is so true..:)..and it probably is a good thing..

Sujan Dhar said...

@ chary
thanks is a link from yours that i visit quite often..they do have pretty good stuff

actually the time I am talking about was in BITS - second year in Nark's room..:)..its been a while

Suman said...

Your post makes me think that we have really missed something. Next time get it for us to listen.