History might lead you to believe that James Hetfield and all of his Metallica bandmates had a religious experience the first time they heard “Enter Sandman” played back to them.
Surely Hetfield knew in his bones that Sandman would go on to change the history of metal and rock music as soon as he heard it for the first time, right?
Interestingly enough, Hetfield had the complete opposite reaction…
In fact, he actually didn’t think the song was very good at all. Recalling the creation process to Masterclass.com, Hetfield said “I didn’t think that “Enter Sandman” was such a great song.”
Perhaps it was the ferocious speed at which the song was written compared to their earlier work in the 80’s- Lars Ulrich once said that “we wrote the song in a day or two. All the bits of “Enter Sandman” are derived from the main riff.”
Regardless, though, Hetfield was clearly not inspired by what his bandmates were putting down – of all the songs on The Black Album, James put off penning lyrics to the track until the very last possible minute.
Upon hearing his original tardy pass at lyrics, Lars Ulrich and The Black Album producer, Bob Rock, thought that they, well, kind of sucked.
Lars would later recall when he had to confront Hetfield about it, saying he told him: “No disrespect, you’ve written great lyrics over the years, but maybe the subject matter and the vibe in these doesn’t fit the mood of the music…It was very uncomfortable as we’d always prided ourselves in keeping our noses out of telling each other what to play individually.”
Hetfield at first did not take well to the critique, once telling Guitar World: “That pissed me off so much! I was like, ‘Fuck you! I’m the writer here!’ But that was the first challenge from someone else and it made me work harder.”
In the end, though, being pushed by his peers actually helped light a fire under James that inspired him to completely reimagine what the song was about, pushing him to pen many of the now iconic lyrics like “Off to never neverland.”
Even with his renewed energy for the song, he still didn’t love it enough to push for it to be the first single from The Black Album. “Holier Than Though” was set to be the opening track and lead single until Lars Ulrich put his foot down and insisted that “Enter Sandman” was THE one.
Clearly, Lars’ instincts were right, as the album remains one of the biggest-selling albums of all time, and Enter Sandman just passed 1 billion streams on Spotify.