"I had a very clear idea of where I wanted to go with my guitar playing on …And Justice for All,” recalls Kirk Hammett. “Unfortunately we didn’t have enough time for me to fully execute my ideas.
“We worked on basic tracks for six or seven months, and then I only had eight or nine days to record all my leads because we were heading out on the Monsters of Rock tour [with Van Halen, Scorpions, Dokken and Kingdom Come]. To get that done, I had to do incredibly long, grueling days—like 20 hours at a pop—and it took so much out of me. As soon as I finished one solo, I had to do the next one. There was no time to breathe, as the whole vibe was to do it the best you could and keep moving. It was a pretty frustrating experience, to be honest.”
Despite these frustrations, Hammett was immediately pleased with most of his work on “One,” which featured three very different solos.
“The first solo and the last solo were completely worked out in advance because I had been playing them for months,” recalls Hammett. “So in those cases it was just a matter of fitting in tonewise. I elected to use a clean sound in the intro solo, which was the first time we used that kind of sound. I dialed it up on an ADA preamp and, once we found the right sound, it just flowed.
"For the final solo, I used my conventional lead sound of the time. That one flowed quickly, too—once I worked out the intro right-hand tapping technique, a process I really enjoyed. I wanted a high energy intro that would be different from anything I had done in the past. So I got those two solos done quickly and was pleased with them. But the middle one just wasn’t happening.”
Ultimately, Hammett was so displeased with the results of his second solo that he returned to the studio in the midst of the Monsters of Rock tour—spending a day at New York’s Hit Factory with producer Ed Stasium. “I redid the entire second half of the second solo and worked to make it all fit in,” Hammett recalls. “It was better, though I was never totally satisfied with it. I guess I did a good enough job, though.”
Apparently so. The song would soon become Metallica’s first legitimate radio and MTV hit, its solos firmly established as Hammett signature licks.