25 Things You Might Not Know About Metallica's 'Master Of Puppets'

By Dave Basner

March 2, 2018

On March 3, 1986, Metallica released their third studio album, Master of Puppets. To celebrate the record's 32nd anniversary, here are 25 things you might not know about it: 

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1. James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich started writing Master of Puppets in the middle of 1985 with the goal of penning an album that would impress both critics and fans. They worked together in a garage in El Cerrito, California, then invited Cliff Burton and Kirk Hammett in for rehearsals. 

2. The band already knew the album would be called Master of Puppets when they started writing it. 

3. James and Lars started each song with guitar riffs that they would work on until the music sounded right. They'd next think of a song title and a topic then James would come up with lyrics to match the title.

4. Master of Puppets was the first Metallica album not to feature songwriting contributions from Dave Mustaine, though Mustaine claims he co-wrote "Leper Messiah." The band has denied it but did admit to a section of the track incorporating Dave's ideas. 

5. The band recorded the album in Lars' native Denmark because they felt the studios there had better acoustics. 

6. Rush singer Geddy Lee was approached to produce the album but due to schedule conflicts, he wasn't able to. 

7. Kirk Hammett worked with guitarist Joe Satriani to learn how to record more efficiently. 

8. Even though they liked to party, as they were recording the album, they stayed dry. 

9. Metallica designed the album cover with manager Peter Mensch. It shows a white crosses in a cemetery, each with a string attached to it being manipulated by hands in the sky. Don Brautigam painted it and in 2008, the original sold for $28,000.

10. On the cover, the band featured a sticker that mocked the Parental Advisory labels placed on albums. Their sticker read, "The only track you probably won't want to play is 'Damage, Inc.' due to the multiple use of the infamous 'F' word. Otherwise, there aren't any 's**ts,' 'f**ks,' 'pisses,' 'c**ts,' 'motherf***ers,' or 'c***s***ers' anywhere on this record."

11. Fans and experts are split over the meaning of the opening track, "Battery." Some think the song is about anger and the title refers to "assault and battery" while others think it is about an artillery battery. Still others think the title is a reference to Battery Street in San Francisco where there are a bunch of clubs where Metallica played when they were starting out. 

12. The title track deals with drugs. Hetfield explained it's about "how things get switched around, instead of you controlling what you're taking and doing, it's drugs controlling you." Essentially, drugs are the master and the user is the puppet.

13. While playing the final solo on "Master of Puppets," Kirk pulled the top string off the fretboard of his guitar to make that really high sound. 

14. At the end of "Master of Puppets," you can hear a backwards recording of the band's guitars and the guys' echoed laughter. 

15. "The Thing That Should Not Be" was inspired by the H.P. Lovecraft story The Shadow Over Innsmouth

16. "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" is based on the Ken Kesey novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and describes the thoughts of a wrongfully caged mental institution patient.

17. The demo version of "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" had different lyrics, no chorus, and halfway through the track, the song ends and the bass interlude of "Orion" begins.

18. As the title implies, "Disposable Heroes" is about a country's disregard for their troops, who are heroes. It is an anti-war song. Kirk wanted "Disposable Heroes" to sound like the music he'd heard in war films.

19. The term "Disposable Heroes" comes from the book Fahrenheit 451

20. "Leper Messiah" is about Christian televangelists who con people into giving them money and then they keep it for themselves. Many interpret it to be about religion not delivering what it promises rather just controlling followers, like a master of puppets.

21. In his 1972 song "Ziggy Stardust," David Bowie mentions a "leper Messiah." 

22. James has the notes for the bass part in the middle of "Orion" tattooed on his left arm. The album was the last to feature Cliff, who died in a tour bus accident while on the road promoting the record. "Orion" shows off just some of Burton's massive talent.

23. "Damage, Inc." is about senseless violence at an unspecified target.

24. Soon after it was released in 1986, the album spent 72 weeks on the Billboard 200. 

25. Master of Puppets gave the band their first gold certification. It sold 300,000 copies in its first three weeks out, even though it saw very little airplay and there were no music videos off of it. The album has has since gone six times platinum for sales over six-million copies. 

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