Ride The Lightning

Album: Ride The Lightning (1984)


  • This is about someone convicted of murder and being sent to the electric chair, even though he didn't commit the crime. The lyrics are what is going through the person's mind. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Nick - Paramus, NJ
  • The lyrics at the end, "Wakened by the horrid scream, freed from the frightening dream" imply that everything in the song was just a dream. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    James - Raytown, MO
  • The song title came from Stephen King's book The Stand, which guitarist Kirk Hammett was reading at the time. He recalled to Rolling Stone: "There was this one passage where this guy was on death row said he was waiting to 'ride the lightning.' I remember thinking, 'Wow, what a great song title.' I told James (Hetfield, vocals), and it ended up being a song and the album title."

Comments: 57

  • Bruce Gallagher from Columbus Ohio In my opinion “Enter Sandman” is Metallica’s signature song.
  • Not Your FanOf course that's exactly what you would expect a plagiarist to say ! What did you think he was gonna saying that Dave gave him lots of ideas for future songs if he hadn't already written them and recorded them . What a sad group of boys they are oh well they got their game and money . Dave did it on his own with the help of his new band but the whole world knows your sucky character flaws now hell you made a movie about that even.
  • Lebowski from HellsinkiJust to get right. I think nobody can argue about who wrote the solo after this interview with Kirk:

    "Ride the Lightning" is also partially credited to your predecessor, Dave Mustaine. Were you conscious about constructing the solo in a way that really distinguished yourself from him?

    He had nothing to do with any of the guitar solos on Ride the Lightning. That was more of the situation with Kill 'Em All. For that record, I was the new guy on the block. I thought, Okay I'll start the solos the way Dave did, and then I'll go somewhere else. His approach and my approach are completely different when it comes to solos. For me, Ride the Lightning was the first time I had a blank slate to come up with guitar solos. And I had a f--king field day.
  • Red from Mia, FlI remember hearing it for the very first time as an 8 year old locked in my room one Saturday morning off from school and with only the second Metallica tape I could get my hands on at the time. With no idea what I was about to hear. I played the freshly opened cassette tape, number one: Fight Fire With Fire: I begin hearing this 30 second intro with some acoustic guitar / 19th century sound? Huh, nothing like this on Kill em All?? then BAM they start jamming WOW already this is so fresh MAN I love this S..T! Then 2nd song title track plays...Time literally stood still, I don't know how much of the 3rd track For Whom The bell tolls i got into, a few seconds maybe..I rewound the cassette over and over maybe 10-15 times. I don't remember ever doing this much in my life but Ill never forget that time. Looking back now nearly 30 years later, its as if I saw Burton's true vision in RTL for Metallica coming thru my speakers for the first time. I totally got it! Only Creeping Death, Master of Puppets and Disposable Heroes had a similar effect on me. MOP the Album is a masterpiece
  • Zachary from Bristol, Ctgreat song
  • Chuck from Lisle, IlThe song has a resemblance to a twilight zone episode called "Shadow Play". I'm not sure how James or Lars could have gotten a hold of it though
  • Badtuco from Hel, FinlandI wonder if someone still claims that Dave is singing on this demo.. after this: http://www.megadeth.com/scorpion_archive.php?scorpion_id=25

    "10.31.2005 - Mustaine sang with Metallica?

    Dear ScorpioN,

    I heard that Dave was singing in Metallica instead of James on at least one gig in the bands very early days. A book on Metallica 'Fuel and Fire' confirms that, but I couldn't get hold of any recordings that would make it clear to me.

    Thanks for your answer.

    The reason why you can't find any recordings to confirm this, is because the book on Metallica is incorrect. Mr. Mustaine has answered this question before, so I will tell it to you straight from the horses mouth. He never sang lead on any Metallica songs, his voice can only be heard on backing vocals."
  • Badtuco from Hel, FinlandNo. Dave did not write this song. Let me repeat. He wrote one riff. "James wasn't much of a guitar player during the recording". Come on. Ride the Lightning is not Flight of the Bumblebee. There is nothing complex in Ride the Lightning. "The demo actually was made before Dave was fired". Actually no. The only demo with Dave and Cliff was in March 83 (KUSF demo aka Megaforce demo aka Whiplash / No Remorse demo). Ride the Lightning Demo was recorded in September 83. So Dave was not in the band. No he don't claim that it's his song because he wrote just ONE riff.

    See http://www.metallicaworld.co.uk/demos.htm and http://demos.metpage.org/
  • Russell from Niagara Falls, OnDave Mustaine DID write this song, if not most of it. James wasn't much of a guitar player during the recording of this song, so you can assume he wouldn't have come up with such complex riffs (and the solo). For those of you who say Dave does not tap: he does. The demo actually was made before Dave was fired, the date matches that fact and everything, and you can quite easily tell his screaming guitar tone during the solo. He even claims the song as his, for those who said that he hasn't.
  • Erwin from Rochester, Ny-HAMMETT: I was still using the black Flying V, but on “Fade to Black” I used the neck pickup on my guitar to get that warm sound. I played through a wah-wah pedal all the way in the “up” position. We doubled the first solo, but it was harder to double the second solo in the middle because it was slow and there was a lot of space in it. Later I realized that I harmonized it in a weird way—in minor thirds, major thirds and fifths. For the extended solo at the end, I wasn’t sure what to play. We had been in Denmark for five or six months, and I was getting really homesick. We were also having problems with our management. Since it was a somber song, and we were all bummed out anyway, I thought of very depressing things while I did the solo, and it really helped. I played some arpeggios over the G-A-B progression, but we didn’t double track that solo. When that was finished, I went back and did the clean guitar parts behind the verse. James played an arpeggiated figure while I arpeggiated three-note chords. We ended up getting a very Dire Straits–type sound.
  • Erwin from Rochester, NyJoshua that's not Dave in the Demo it's James and it's a fact man. Confusion solved.
  • Erwin from Rochester, NyBen, from Chinatown you are clueless. I've been a Metallica fan since the Justice tour. . I have everything on them, young Megadeth fans are clueless and spread their myths around and everyone believes them. Fact: Kirk wrote the solo. He talks about it and dave would tell you the same thing, second.. and here is the big one and it's a fact whether people like it or not (JAMES is the one singing in the RTL demo, NOT Dave. It's a fact, not only did Lars confirm this you can also hear characteristics in his young voice (very easy to pick out when you're a hard core fan. It only sounds like Dave because it's a young James, but it is James none the less.and that is Kirk playing in the Demo to the solo he wrote.. Dave was long gone by the time that Demo was recorded. Just look at the date of the recording lol Dave was gone. If you still think Dave was in the demo and wrote/played the solo then you're simply an idiot. M/
  • Badtuco from Hel, FinlandDave Mustaine did not write the solo. The reason why Dave is credited is the fact that there is ONE riff in that song that is Dave's. It's the "spider riff" as he calls it. And hey, we are talking about Dave Mustaine here. So, show me ONE interview where he says he wrote the solo. You can't because he didn't. Here is what Kirk says about the solo http://www.planetradiocity.com/musicreporter/interview.php?interviewid=102

    "Hammett cites the solos on ‘Creeping Death’ and ‘Ride The Lightning’ as the ones that changed Metallica’s sound. “When the other guys (Hetfield, Burton, Ulrich) heard the solos on ‘Creeping Death’ and ‘Ride the Lightning’ (both on 1984's Ride the Lightning), it was a different aspect of soloing than they were used to. Dave Mustaine (original lead guitarist) played fast all the time. I play melodically, and I play parts, different sections that make the solo as hooky as possible. Although I've always been very flashy; I admit it,” he says."
  • Joshua from Lynwood, CaIf Kirk wrote the solo why is there a demo of this song, with the same solo basically, while Dave was still in the Band? My guess is Dave wrote most of it. You can even hear the difference between this and other Kirk solo's.
  • Bruno from São José, BrazilNolan, Orange County, CA: "...during the solo Kirk begins with tapping, which Dave Mustaine NEVER does..."

    Go listen to Devils Island, Blackmail The Universe, Victory, Looking Down The Cross, etc...
  • Andrew from Knoxville, TnSecond or third best on the album, first being "Fade to Black".

    Still think it's a song criticizing the death penalty ("Who made you God to say/I'll take your life from you?"). Could also be a "response" to Iron Maiden's "Hallowed Be Thy Name" (My personal favorite from The Number of the Beast), since they both have a similar theme.
  • Chris from Weston, United Kingdomfirstly i disagree with it being a crime he didnt commit 'theres someone else controlling me' i thinks more likely to refer to schizophrenia or just anger. Which brings me to my question do people think this song is sympathetic to those on death row- maybe an anti death penalty meaning? what makes me wonder this is the fact that the st anger project was alot about them saying that they were sympathetic to those in jail. opinions?
  • Bryant from Compton, Caalright mustaine does use harmonic minor and also yes he does tap Nolan, Orange County, CA listen to devil's island (thats not poland doin it either thats mustaine)
  • Mike from Denver, Coone of Metallica's finest. but nothing beats the master of puppets album. that whole album is a masterpiece.
  • Brett from Charlottetown, Peto joe, coldwater. I pretty sure that the credit is given for the lyrics, arrangements, and the main riff to a song. like kirk for sandman and jason for my friend of misery. James has stated many time that he alone had handled the lyrics for every metallica excluding the st.anger album.
  • Chris from Warden, WaI don't think he actually woke up from a dream "freed from the frightening dream." I think it was actually him dying and being released from his horrid life.
  • Ryan 'tallica Freak from Barnsley, United KingdomOn the song "Ride the Lightning" the scream in the background at minute 4:50 is Lars!!!!

    Couldn't believe it when i first know about it.. thought go Lars, what a kickass guy, brilliant drummer
  • Joe from Coldwater, OhPeople get very confused about the actual musicians of the first two Metallica albums! Metallica has always given credit for each songs LYRICS on every album fold out. That would explain how even in the later albums Jason and Kirk would be left out of the credits, because they had nothing to do with the lyrics, however created their bass and guitar progressions , this was because James and Lars predominately took the lyrical role! Dave mustaine helped wright the lyrics for the first two albums! In Kill em' all, Hammett used what Mustaine had laid down already and applied his own style to it. ALL SONGS ON RIDE were musically ( as in guitar playing ) arranged and written by hammett and hammett alone! Dave mustaine didn't even wright the rythym or fills in any of the RIDE songs. That solo belongs to Kirk and Kirk alone! As does every solo by metallica EVER. I got back stage passes to a show in 90, and those were my first questions. Thank you!
  • Brendan from Columbus, Ohumm in response to Nolan from OC cali... umm Dave does tap, i take it your not a big deth fan, off their first album the song "last rites/loved to deth"... it has a piano intro, but live he would tap the piano part, for one example, heres another off their album the system has failed from 04' the song called "something that im not" he has a tapping part at the end of a solo then continues to sing while tapping. then for one last one, the intro of "burnt ice" off their latest cd United Abominations...
  • Nolan from Orange County, CaIn response to Ben, Chinatown, Hong Kong.

    Just from your statement, I HIGHLY doubt you play guitar, or play ANY instruments. I've learned all of Metallica's songs and quite a few Megadeth songs on guitar. That includes the solos. Dave Mustaine has more of an atonal scale technique and mixes it with very fast pentatonic licks. Kirk Hammett on the other hand uses almost completely pentatonic licks, but mixes in Harmonic, Melodic, Aeolian, and Dorian scale progressions here and there. FYI, Atonal scales are scales that don't rely on you actually hitting the right notes. Kerry King plays with that style as well. It sounds for good shredding, but it has virtually no musical value. Kirk Hammett, on the other hand, writes exclusively pentatonic licks into ALL of his solos. In Ride The Lightening, during the solo Kirk begins with tapping, which Dave Mustaine NEVER does, and plays nonstop pentatonics (all of the licks he uses in Ride The Lightening are used in virtually every other song on the album) until he reaches the harmony, which is a play on an Aeolian scale. Kirk wrote the solo, although I definitely know that Mustaine wrote the riffs and etc. The only song I know of that Mustaine wrote the solo for that Kirk had to learn was The Four Horsemen. The intro lick to that solo is an atonal scale, and if you listen to Megadeth's version of the song known as Mechanixx, you will hear the exact same solo.

    P.S. Kirk is the one with the melodic ideas, Mustaine is the one with the kick ass shredding.
  • Danielle from Titusville, Flcleaver metaphor,lighting, electric chair, genius!
    great song to work out to! makes you eager to keep up with the music! Metallica for life!
  • Rg from San Diego, Cathe rest of the songs on this album are good but 'Fight Fire With Fire' is a musical masterpiece
  • Jordan from Calgary, CanadaLove the guitar riff on this song
  • Deco from Sligo, IrelandThis song is also about a person committing a crime to which the person was not aware they had done. Like multiple personalities..."Guilty as charged but damn it it aint right there's someone else controlling me"
  • Evan from Otway, OhPersonally this is my second favorite title track in the unofficial "trilogy". It's got an awesome, unappreciated solo, and a catchy chorus. Rock on
  • Jeremy from Lafayette, LaI love the fact how Metallica can be really hard, yet melodic. Ride the Lightning is very precise when it comes down to timing, and notes, which are the building blocks of music itself. And wow, I could NOT have been more artsy-fartsy than that.
  • Dallas from Viking, Canadai just cant get into this song
  • Michael from Greenwood, Ini dont think this song gets enough props as it should, this is a great song
  • Josh from Brisbane, AustraliaBy the way, Ben, you say that Mustaine wrote the song, but and Hammett didn't play the solo at all.
    Earlier I saw a video back from the Master of Puppets tour (in the 80's, obviously with Hammett playing), and the band played Ride the Lightning on the side. It was actually Hammett that played the solo, and it sounded exactly like the one from the album - thus I believe that Hammett actually wrote the solo (if not he did learn it pretty well)!
  • Josh from Brisbane, AustraliaThis has what i see as one of the best 'tallica guiter solos. Great song!
  • Kyle from Gravenhurst, Canadathis song sounds like its about an "ego death" experience on psychedelics such as lsd
  • Mark from Ann Arbor, MiSomebody give that man down there (Panther, from houston) a medal. He called that whole thing
  • Sid from Mumbai, Indiathe only good thing mustaine ever did for metallica
  • Jorge from Codoba, South Americamy mistake "kirk hammet" not james
  • Jorge from Codoba, South Americabilly ross you are one huge dumbass (go fall of a cliff...NOW!)this was sung by James back in the day when the band started, he was still a teen thats why his voice sounds alittle higher rather than deep from the black album, which i can tell is the only one you listened to
  • Billy Ross from Hagerstown, Mdjust a question: whos singing on this? cuz it doesnt sound like james and it doesnt really sound like dave
  • Chris from Hamilton, CanadaKirk Hammett was taught by famous guitarist Joe Satriani who plays a heavy funk style of music. Satriani also taught the very famous guitarist (one of my favs) STeve Vai. Kirk and Dave do play similarly as they both do tend to scale up and down the guitar in solos.
  • Ashley from Moncton, CanadaI love this song so much it's not even funny. The best part is where he screams "Oh please God help me" That part captures the whole song well. Metallica aren't lyrical geniuses, but they have some pretty deep, strong lyrics.
  • Ben from Chinatown, Hong Kongbecause the solo doesn't repeat any common licks/ideas that kirk hammett does in almost all of his other solos*
  • Ben from Chinatown, Hong Kongdave mustaine wrote this song with metallica and did the solo. Even look in the song credits. And u can obviously tell kirk hammett didn't do the solo, because the doesn't repeat any of his common licks that kirk does in almost all of his other solos. The solo also seems to have much more melodic ideas, while kirk's solos have less melodic ideas and more kickass shredding
  • Nameless from Seattle, WaI LOVE this song! The title is clever :)Especially the ending: "wakened by horrid scream. Freed from this frightening dream!"
  • Dee from Indianapolis, InYes.....this song rocks!!! Old Metallica, so much better then post 90's Metallica. Don't get me wrong, I still listen to newer stuff, but give me the Kill Em' All, Master of Puppets & Ride the Lightning days any day of the week.
  • Greatwall from Nanjing, Chinanice band,nice song
  • Phil from Niagara Falls, Canadai agree with micheal, their songs have great lyrics and meaning
  • Michael from Zurich, SwitzerlandIn my opinion, the guys from Metallica ARE lyrical geniuses. The lyrics of their first songs may be not that great, but there is an enormous development during the years. One example I'm thinking about is Master of puppets. Writing a song from a drug's point of view certainly requires poetic skills.
  • Charlie from Thomaston, Ctthis has a great, underrated guiatar solo. the solo is so passionate you can really feel this guys pain in this guiatr solo, listen to the solo again and pay attension. its definitely one of my favorite solos.
  • Chris from Melbourne, Australiai think that this song has one of the best and most energetic intros ever. shame about the rest of the song :P
  • Charlie from Thomaston, Dcthis is my favorite metallica song although its not the most famous song the album cover became one of there most popular t shirts
  • Tim from Leuven, Belgiumfight fire with fire is better
  • Brian from Mayfield Heights, Ohjust because their lyrics arent obtuse and vague doesnt mean they arent poets. They still write some of the best lyrics out there.
  • Panther from Houston, TxMetallica songs in general aren't really all that difficult to figure out. Musically talented they may be, but poets or lyrical geniuses they are not. However many metaphors they might use, the point is always rather blunt with few specific references.
  • Fred from Myrtle Beach, SdAh yes exactly finaly an employ who knows something about Metallica I Thank Thee
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