"Master of Puppets"
Metallica - Master of Puppets single cover.jpg
Single by Metallica
from the album Master of Puppets
B-side"Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" (7")
ReleasedJuly 2, 1986
StudioSweet Silence Studios, Copenhagen
GenreThrash metal[1]
Metallica singles chronology
"For Whom The Bell Tolls"
"Master of Puppets"
"Harvester of Sorrow"

"Master of Puppets" is a song by American heavy metal band Metallica, released on July 2, 1986, as the only single from the album of the same name. It was also issued as a promo single in the US by Elektra Records.[2]

The song was recorded during October–December 1985 at Sweet Silence Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark.[3][4]

It is the second and title track of the album, preceded by a shorter, high-speed typical thrash metal track, "Battery", a similar sequencing heard on Metallica's second (Ride the Lightning) and fourth (...And Justice for All) albums. "Master of Puppets" is also notable for its extensive use of downpicking and long instrumental section, beginning at 3:34.

The song was bassist Cliff Burton's favorite song on the album, as he said when the album was released. The song is one of the band's most famous and popular songs, frequently played at concerts.


The song, as lead singer James Hetfield explained, "deals pretty much with drugs. How things get switched around, instead of you controlling what you're taking and doing, it's drugs controlling you."[5]

Live performances

The videos Cliff 'Em All, S&M and S&M2 include live performances of "Master of Puppets" in its entirety. A shortened form appears in Cunning Stunts. Both versions can be seen in the video portions of the Live Shit: Binge & Purge box set.

"Master of Puppets" is the band's most played song, first played on December 31, 1985, at San Francisco's Bill Graham Civic Auditorium for a crowd of 7,000.[6] As of August 1, 2022, the song has been performed 1,718 times.[7] During the band's World Magnetic Tour, additional live performances were filmed in Mexico City; Nîmes, France and Sofia, Bulgaria. These performances were released on video in November 2009 (Mexico and Nîmes) and October 2010 (Sofia).

The French electronic music duo Justice also played a version of this song on their first live album A Cross the Universe, which was released on 24 November 2008. The last song on the live album named "Final" contains a fairly large sample of "Master of Puppets".

Track listing

French 7" single
1."Master of Puppets" (7" Edit)3:27
2."Welcome Home (Sanitarium)"4:06





VH1 ranked the song as the third greatest heavy metal song ever.[8]

In March 2005, Q magazine placed it at number 22 in its 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks list.[9]

Martin Popoff's book The Top 500 Heavy Metal Songs of All Time ranked the song at number 2. Popoff composed the book by requesting that metal fans, musicians, and journalists nominate their favorite heavy metal songs. The author derived the final rankings from a database tallying almost 18,000 votes.

The song also ranked number 1 on a 100 Greatest Riffs poll conducted by Total Guitar magazine.[citation needed]

The readers of Guitar World voted the song as ranking at number 51 among the 100 Greatest Guitar Solos. Lead guitarist Kirk Hammett's solos for "Fade to Black" and "One" ranked significantly higher on the same list.[citation needed]

In 2020, Metal Hammer ranked the song number 1 on its list of the 50 best Metallica songs of all time.[10]

In 2021, it was listed at No. 256 on Rolling Stone's "Top 500 Best Songs of All Time".[11]


Chart performance for "Master of Puppets"
Chart (2022) Peak
Australia (ARIA)[12] 19
Canada (Canadian Hot 100)[13] 32
Czech Republic (Singles Digitál Top 100)[14] 80
Germany (Official German Charts)[15] 100
Global 200 (Billboard)[16] 20
Hungary (Single Top 40)[17] 13
Ireland (IRMA)[18] 24
Lithuania (AGATA)[19] 32
Netherlands (Single Tip)[20] 4
New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[21] 17
Portugal (AFP)[22] 47
Slovakia (Singles Digitál Top 100)[23] 68
Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[24] 69
UK Singles (OCC)[25] 22
UK Rock & Metal (OCC)[26] 1
US Billboard Hot 100[27] 35
US Hot Rock & Alternative Songs (Billboard)[28] 5
US Rock Airplay (Billboard)[29] 41


Certifications for "Master of Puppets"
Region Certification Certified units/sales
Italy (FIMI)[30] Gold 25,000double-dagger
New Zealand (RMNZ)[31] Platinum 20,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[32] Silver 200,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[33] Gold 500,000*

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


A riff from David Bowie's song "Andy Warhol" (at 0'48") is quoted in "Master of Puppets" (at 6'19"). It is an homage made by Cliff Burton and Kirk Hammett to whom Bowie was a huge influence.[34]

Usage in media

"Master of Puppets" is featured in a scene of the 2003 film Old School and is heard as actors Luke Wilson and Will Ferrell play characters who are busy kidnapping people off the street to join their new fraternity.[35] The song is featured in the fourth season finale of the Netflix series Stranger Things, where Eddie Munson is seen playing the track in the Upside Down to attract the Demobats. The band said they were "blown away" by the scene.[36] Like with Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill", which was also featured in the season, the song regained popularity and started charting again following the release of the finale, notably entering the U.S. and U.K. charts for the first time since the song's original 1986 release and peaking at number four in the Netherlands. The song also appears in a trailer for the upcoming game Marvel's Midnight Suns. The song was featured in the opening credits for the film Zombieland: Double Tap.

See also


  1. ^ Cush, Andy (November 3, 2016). "Metallica's Lars Ulrich Thinks He Might Get Too Old to Perform "Master of Puppets"". Spin. Retrieved October 19, 2019.
  2. ^ "Metallica - Master Of Puppets". Discogs.
  3. ^ Gulla, Bob (2009). Guitar Gods: The 25 Players who Made Rock History. ABC-CLIO. p. 103. ISBN 9780313358067.
  4. ^ Brannigan, Paul; Winwood, Ian (2011). Birth School Metallica Death. Vol. 1. Da Capo Press. p. 195. ISBN 9780306821868.
  5. ^ Hetfield, James (1988). "Interview with Metallica, from Vol. 6, No.8" (Interview). Interviewed by Pushead. Thrasher Magazine. Archived from the original on January 5, 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  6. ^ Brannigan, Paul; Winwood, Ian (2011). Birth School Metallica Death. Vol. 1. Da Capo Press. pp. 199–200. ISBN 9780306821868.
  7. ^ "Metallica Tour Statistics | setlist.fm". setlist.fm.
  8. ^ "VH1 40 Greatest Metal Songs". VH1. Archived from the original on November 18, 2007. Retrieved 2008-01-30.
  9. ^ "Rocklist.net...Q Magazine Lists."
  10. ^ "The 50 best Metallica songs of all time". Louder Sound. Metal Hammer. July 29, 2020. Retrieved January 20, 2022.
  11. ^ "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 2021-09-15. Retrieved 2022-07-18.
  12. ^ "Metallica – Master of Puppets". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  13. ^ "Metallica Chart History (Canadian Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved July 19, 2022.
  14. ^ "ČNS IFPI" (in Czech). Hitparáda – Digital Top 100 Oficiální. IFPI Czech Republic. Note: Change the chart to CZ – SINGLES DIGITAL – TOP 100 and insert 202229 into search. Retrieved July 25, 2022.
  15. ^ "Metallica – Master of Puppets" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  16. ^ "Metallica Chart History (Global 200)". Billboard. Retrieved July 19, 2022.
  17. ^ "Archívum – Slágerlisták – MAHASZ" (in Hungarian). Single (track) Top 40 lista. Magyar Hanglemezkiadók Szövetsége. Retrieved July 21, 2022.
  18. ^ "Official Irish Singles Chart Top 50". Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  19. ^ "2022 28-os savaitės klausomiausi (Top 100)" (in Lithuanian). AGATA. July 15, 2022. Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  20. ^ "Dutch Single Tip 16/07/2022". dutchcharts.nl (in Dutch). Retrieved July 16, 2022.
  21. ^ "NZ Top 40 Singles Chart". Recorded Music NZ. July 18, 2022. Retrieved July 16, 2022.
  22. ^ "Metallica – Master of Puppets". AFP Top 100 Singles. Retrieved August 1, 2022.
  23. ^ "ČNS IFPI". IFPI ČR. Note: Select SK SINGLES DIGITAL TOP 100 and insert 202229 into search. Retrieved July 25, 2022.
  24. ^ "Veckolista Singlar, vecka 28". Sverigetopplistan. Retrieved July 29, 2022.
  25. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 15, 2022.
  26. ^ "Official Rock & Metal Singles Chart Top 40". Official Charts Company. Retrieved July 9, 2022.
  27. ^ "Metallica Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard. Retrieved July 19, 2022.
  28. ^ "Metallica Chart History (Hot Rock & Alternative Songs)". Billboard. Retrieved July 19, 2022.
  29. ^ "Metallica Chart History (Rock Airplay)". Billboard. Retrieved July 20, 2022.
  30. ^ "Italian single certifications – Metallica – Master of Puppets" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved September 30, 2019. Select "2019" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Master of Puppets" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli" under "Sezione".
  31. ^ "New Zealand single certifications – Metallica – Master of Puppets". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved July 16, 2022.
  32. ^ "British single certifications – Metallica – Master of Puppets". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved June 26, 2020.
  33. ^ "American single certifications – Metallica – Master of Puppets". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved July 14, 2022.
  34. ^ To Live is to Die, the life and death of Metallica’s Cliff Burton, by Joel McIver, second edition, Jawbone Press, 2016, p.265.
  35. ^ Metal Hammer (July 3, 2022). "This Will Ferrell comedy used Master Of Puppets nearly 20 years before Stranger Things". Louder. Retrieved July 9, 2022.
  36. ^ Calvario, Liz (July 6, 2022). "Metallica 'blown away' by 'Master of Puppets' scene in 'Stranger Things'". NBC News. Retrieved July 7, 2022.