Metallica may be more about multi-platinum albums than Top 10 hit songs, but it was on August 10, 1991 that that they entered the UK singles chart with what became one of their signature tracks.
The band had made three Top 30 single appearances in Britain before, including Top 20 entries with “Harvester Of Sorrow” in 1988 and “One” the following year. But after “Enter Sandman” was lined up as the flagship release from their self-titled Vertigo album of 1991, the song blasted its way into the bestsellers.
On that chart, Bryan Adams was still in the early stages of a run at No.1 with “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” that would seem to go on forever. He stood at the summit for the fifth of what would be 16 weeks at the summit, a sequence that lasted all the way until the end of October. On this particular chart, he was holding Extreme’s “More Than Words” at No.2 as Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy” climbed 12-3. The Shamen’s “Move Any Mountain” was static at No. 4…and then there was Metallica.
‘Out came that riff’
In a 2017 interview, Metallica’s Kirk Hammett revealed at least part of the inspiration for the song. “It was about two or three o’clock in the morning. I had just been listening to Louder Than Love, the Soundgarden album,” he said. “It was when Soundgarden [was] still somewhat underground and [was] 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.”
“Enter Sandman” was soon attracting covers by a wide range of artists, all the way from the Mighty Mighty Bosstones to Pat Boone. The Metallica original took its bow that week at what would be its peak position of No.5, also going Top 10 in such countries as Germany and Australia.
It served as the perfect appetizer for the Metallica album, which would debut at the top of the UK chart two weeks later. It hit No.1 in the US, Australia and elsewhere, and went on to sell an incredible 30 million copies worldwide. On the UK singles bestsellers, Metallica would reach No.5 again in 1996 with “Until It Sleeps,” but they’ve never been higher.
Buy or stream “Enter Sandman” on Metallica.