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Enter Sandman

Metallica

About “Enter Sandman”

The lead single from Metallica’s commercially successful self-titled album, “Enter Sandman” was certified platinum, selling over 1 million copies. The song was Metallica’s biggest radio hit and it’s considered their signature song.

The song follows the theme of childhood fear, in nightmares, with the eponymous Sandman symbolizing the sleep that he dreads. However, the Sandman of European folklore actually represents the bringer of good dreams.

In 2007, drummer Lars Ulrich told Uncut:

‘Enter Sandman’ was the first thing we came up with when we sat down for the songwriting process in July 1990. The 10-minute, 12-tempo-changes side of Metallica had run its course. We wanted to streamline and simplify things. We wrote the song in a day or two. All the bits of ‘Enter Sandman’ are derived from the main riff.

Meanwhile, James Hetfield told Uncut:

I wanted more of the mental thing where this kid gets manipulated by what adults say. You know when you wake up with that shit in your eye? That’s supposedly been put in there by the sandman to make you dream. So the guy in the song tells this little kid that and he kinda freaks. He can’t sleep after that and it works the opposite way. Instead of a soothing thing, the table’s turned.

Twenty years after the song’s release, producer Bob Rock shared the original concept of the song’s lyrics with Music Radar:

At first, based on the music and the riff, the band and their management thought it could be the first single. Then they heard James’ lyrics and realized the song was about crib death. That didn’t go over well. I sat down with James and talked to him about his words. I told him, ‘What you have is great, but it can be better. Does it have to be so literal?’ Not that I was thinking about the single; I just wanted him to make the song great. It was a process, him learning to say what he wanted but in a more poetic and open sort of way. He rewrote some lyrics and it was all there… the first single.

  • What did Lars Ulrich say about the song?

    Metallica:

    Lars Ulrich told Uncut: “‘Enter Sandman’ was the first thing we came up with when we sat down for the songwriting process in July 1990. The 10-minute, 12-tempo-changes side of Metallica had run its course. We wanted to streamline and simplify things. We wrote the song in a day or two. All the bits of ‘Enter Sandman’ are derived from the main riff.

  • What did James Hetfield say about the song?

    Metallica:

    James Hetfield told Uncut: I wanted more of the mental thing where this kid gets manipulated by what adults say. You know when you wake up with that shit in your eye? That’s supposedly been put in there by the sandman to make you dream. So the guy in the song tells this little kid that and he kinda freaks. He can’t sleep after that and it works the opposite way. Instead of a soothing thing, the table’s turned.

  • What did Kirk Hammett say about the song?

    It was very specific. I have a very specific memory. It was about two or three o'clock in the morning. I had just been listening to Louder Than Love, the Soundgarden album. It was when Soundgarden [were] still somewhat underground and [were] on an independent label. I just love that album; it’s a great Soundgarden album. And I heard that album, I was inspired, I picked up my guitar and out came that riff. I knew it was a cool riff for sure. You kind of get an idea that a riff is cool because when you play it, if it’s a cool riff, you can just instantly groove on it.

    Kirk Hammet, Loudwire