30 things you might not know about Master Of Puppets

On March 3, 1986 everything changed for Metallica. This was the day Master Of Puppets was released, the record that transformed the band from being cult thrash heroes into a major metal force – easily the most important band of their generation in the genre.

The third Metallica album, not only is it rightly regarded as an all time metal classic, but some still believe this to be the finest album the band have ever created. It was the first album Metallica put out in America on a major label, Elektra (they were still signed to Music For Nations in the UK and Europe), and was to the be last to feature Cliff Burton, the bassist tragically dying during the band’s subsequent tour.

It’s hard to overestimate how important this album was not just for Metallica, but for metal in general. Now as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Master Of Puppets, here are 30 facts about it, to amaze, delight and perhaps confound you.

1) The laughter at the end of the song Master Of Puppets is actually the band themselves chuckling, with an added echo effect.

2) The album cover was painted by Don Brautigam, based on a concept developed by the band with manager Peter Mensch. He was also responsible for the cover of the Stephen King novel The Stand in 1980.

3) Dave Mustaine has claimed Leper Messiah is based on a song of his called The Hills Ran Red. This has been denied by Metallica.

4) The album was recorded at Sweet Silence Studios in Denmark from September 3 to December 27, 1985. Some sources claim the recording started on September 2, bit most agree it was the next day.

5) Welcome Home (Sanitarium) was inspired by the Ken Kesey novel One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

6) The album was mixed in two weeks by Michael Wagener at Amigo Studios in Los Angeles, with both Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield present throughout. Wagener recalls Ulrich complained how loud the guitar was in the mix, while Hetfield felt the drums were too dominant. Cliff Burton was only there once at this stage, when the intro to Orion was done.

7) While Rush’s Geddy Lee was never actually asked to produce Master Of Puppets, he has said that there were talks between him and Ulrich about the possibility. But circumstances conspired against this.

8) The album’s highest chart position was in Finland, where it got to number seven, the only country in which it made the top 10.

9) Anthrax sampled the title track on I’m The Man. And Master Of Puppets was included in the movie The Big Short.

10) The Thing That Should Not Be was inspired by the 1936 H.P. Lovecraft tale The Shadow Over Innsmouth. This was the only Lovecraft story to be published in book form during the horror master’s lifetime.

11) Battery was the first song performed by the band with Robert Trujillo during his audition. This was at his request.

12) Hetfield had the notes for the bass part played by Burton in the middle or Orion tattooed onto his left arm.

13) The bridge section the band recorded on the demo version of Disposable Heroes was eventually taken out and used on Battery.

14) Leper Messiah provides a direct connection between Metallica and David Bowie. The latter mentions a leper messiah in the lyrics for Ziggy Stardust.

15) While recording Master Of Puppets, the band took time out to play one gig. This was the Metal Hammer festival on September 14 at Frielichtbune Lorely, where they played Disposable Heroes live for the first time.

16) The band recorded a song called Only Thing in demo form for the album. But this was eventually split into two songs: Welcome Home (Sanitarium) and Orion.

17) Master Of Puppets debuted in the US charts at number 128 on March 29, 1986. It had an unbroken run of 72 weeks in the Top 200, peaking at number 29.

18) Among many accolades, Master Of Puppets went platinum in Argentina, selling over 60,000 copies.

19) Copies of the second pressing of the album carried a sticker mocking the PMRC, who were demanding stickers on all albums warning of explicit lyrics. Metallica’s sticker said: ‘The only track you probably won’t want to play is Damage Inc., due to multiple use of the infamous ‘F’ word. Otherwise there aren’t any ‘shits’, ‘fucks’, ‘pisses’, ‘c**ts’, mutherfuckers’ or ‘cocksuckers’ anywhere on this record’.

20) On November 24, 2008, the original artwork for Master Of Puppets was sold at auction for $28,000, at Christie’s in Rockefeller Plaza, New York.

21) Hetfield and Hammett flew back to America on December 23, 1985 from Denmark, leaving Ulrich on his own with producer Rasmussen to finish inserting the final overdubs ready for the mixing stage. Burton had gone home earlier, after recording his parts for the album.

22) At the time of writing, Master Of Puppets is the song Metallica have played most often in their career. The band have done it live 1474 times.

23) Lars Ulrich actually had drum lessons at the time the album was recorded. These came from Flemming Runsdorf of Danish band Artillery.

24) Metallica didn’t play Orion live until their Escape From The Studio tour in 2006. On that tour they played the whole of Master Of Puppets to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its release.

25) DJ Shadow sampled Orion for his track The Number Song in 1996.

26) The bass part played by Burton during the intro to Damage Inc. was inspired by the classical piece Come, Sweet Death by Bach.

27) While recording the album, the band stayed at the Scandinavia Hotel in Copenhagen. Hetfield and Ulrich shared one room, while Burton and Hammett were in another one.

28) Although fluent in English, Rasmussen would talk to Ulrich only on his native Danish during the recording sessions. This was to ensure nobody else from the band knew what they were talking about!

29) Master Of Puppets was released on March 3, 1986. On this date, the Australia Act came into force, changing the relationship between Australia and Britain.

30) The subsequent Damage Inc. Tour began on March 27, 1986 at the Kansas Coliseum and ended on February 13, 1987 in Gothenburg. In all, the band played 142 shows, only taking a break when Cliff Burton died on September 27, 1986.

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Malcolm Dome

Malcolm Dome had an illustrious and celebrated career which stretched back to working for Record Mirror magazine in the late 70s and Metal Fury in the early 80s before joining Kerrang! at its launch in 1981. His first book, Encyclopedia Metallica, published in 1981, may have been the inspiration for the name of a certain band formed that same year. Dome is also credited with inventing the term "thrash metal" while writing about the Anthrax song Metal Thrashing Mad in 1984. With the launch of Classic Rock magazine in 1998 he became involved with that title, sister magazine Metal Hammer, and was a contributor to Prog magazine since its inception in 2009. He died in 2021