“It 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.”
— James Hetfield
Master of Puppets is the second and title track of the album Master of Puppets. The song was written by James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, and Cliff Burton. Often recognized as a thrash metal masterpiece, “Master of Puppets”, although not as well known as “One” or “Enter Sandman”, is still a fan favorite, known for its heavy guitar part and its maniacal laughter.
Keeping the theme of powerlessness and manipulation in the album, “Master of Puppets” is about drugs and the effect of it on you. Some examples in the song are: “You’re dedicated to how I’m killing you”, referring to drug addiction and how the person can’t stop taking the drug, or “I’m your source of self-destruction”, meaning that one kills himself by taking drugs. Death also plays a big role in the song, as it does in the rest of the songs on the album.
“Master of Puppets” ranked #51 in Guitar World’s 100 Greatest Guitar Solos.
The first solo of “Master of Puppets” is played by James, even though he is the rhythm guitarist and vocalist, while Kirk Hammett, the lead guitarist, plays the rhythm during the first solo. However, during the two harmonic solos, James plays the lower harmony while Kirk plays the higher harmony. This can easily be detected when listening to a live version of “Master of Puppets”, as James’ guitar is playing in the left speaker and Kirk’s guitar is playing in the right speaker.
“A lot of people think I came into my own on that song. It had everything to do with buying our first Mesa/Boogie Mark II-C heads. Boogie made those heads for a short time in the mid-Eighties, but nothing they’ve made has since captured that particular sound. They were really unique. The sound of the entire Master of Puppets album is pretty much some combination of the Boogie and Marshall.” -Kirk Hammett
Master of Puppets has a mistake in the solo, and Kirk Hammett liked it.
Master of Puppets has a riff after the solo that was inspired by (maybe) Andy Warhol, by the late David Bowie.
The studio recording is played slightly lower than the rest of the album, at A435.