Metallica - Turn the Page

analyzed by Kim Anna Bachmann

The song “Turn the Page” was originally released in 1973 by the singer and songwriter Bob Seger. Metallica covered the original song in 1998. When listening two both versions of the song one can clearly hear that they have a lot in common. The only thing Metallica changed when covering the song was to put the typical heavy note to the song itself in order to make it sound like their song. The song was one track of the album “Garage Inc.”. The album is said to be one of Metallica´s greatest albums, even though it took the band only three weeks to record it. The album itself mostly contains songs which were covered by Metallica, which is why the song “Turn the Page” can be found on this particular album.
As soon as we get to the analysis of the song it is very important to have some background knowledge about the lyrics and about what Bob Seger was trying to tell us with the song. It is not very common that the lyrics of a song are told as a story of the music video, but in this case a connection between the lyrics and the told story can be drawn. The lyrics basically deal with the life on the road, which musicians live when being on tour. Bob Seger tries to portray how hard and difficult a musician´s life can be and that it is not all about “Sex, Drugs and Rock´ n Roll” as the majority of society thinks. Therefore Bob Seger tries to underline the negative sides of a musician´s life when being on tour. A connection can be drawn between the life of a touring musician and between the life of a stripper and prostitute. The prostitute as well as the musician sells himself/herself in order to earn money. After doing so they both have the feeling of emptiness and loneliness. The musician as well as the stripper and prostitute is socially isolated, due to the insecurity of society when it comes to dealing with such professions.[1]

The Director of the Music Video Jonas Akerlund

Jonas Akerlund was born in Stockholm, Sweden in 1965. After being a member of the Swedish black metal band Bathory, Akerlund started to work as a director for music videos. Today he is a well known and internationally awarded director of music videos and commercials. He also works as a photographer and has come up with some short films, too. He has directed music videos for Madonna, Lady Gaga, Rammstein, Robbie Williams and many more.

General Information on the Music Video

The music video for the song “Turn the Page” was released in 1999. There are three existing versions of the music video itself, which is first of all due to the great amount of nude, sexual and violent scenes, which had to be censored and secondly to the short cutting of the video in order to make it playable on music television. Official music television channels are forbidden to show some of the scenes of the music video because of the violence and sex they contain. Therefore there are two censored versions of the music video and the original. Some critics state that the censored versions of the music video are not able to convey the meaning, which was Akerlund is trying to convey. This is because the violent and sexual scenes are the ones which shock you.
The story of the music video has been extended to a fourteen minutes long short film by Jonas Akerlund, which seems to be a short documentary at first sight. Out of the fourteen minutes long short film Akerlund made another short film, which is three minutes long. The three minute version of the film was made for the art exhibition “3´”, which took place in the Schirn in Frankfurt in the year 2004. One might think that some meaning must get lost when cutting down a short film from a fourteen minute long version to a three minute long version, but that is not the case at all. Akerlund managed to cut the film very short, without it losing anything. The message comes across either way. It is very interesting to see how a piece of art, such as the short film, can be turned into a music video. It is not very common that art and music videos are so closely connected to one another such as in this case, but Akerlund did a great job in showing what all a music video can offer. [2]
Carol Vernallis states that a music video has to fulfill several demands. It must present the star and reflect on the music by not pushing the central factor, the song itself, aside. The music video “Turn the Page” is a narrative music video, because it tells a story. Such as most narrative music videos the storyline plays in the past and a tragic storyline is presented. In this case a prostitute´s life with her daughter is introduced and the viewer gets the chance to see what their daily life looks like. The storyline and the lyrics do not have to do anything with each other, but the lyrics can serve the storyline, just as shown in this music video directed by Akerlund. The lyrics perfectly fit the storyline. Thus the lyrics and the story, shown in the music video, are closely connected to each other. Most of the narrative music videos do not give the viewer the chance to put the characters and the events in relation to one another, but this music video has such a clear and structured story line the story and the characters are closely connected to each other so that this is not an issue.[3]

Analysis of the Music Video

The music video is a documentary style video, which basically shows the life a mother and her daughter. In the beginning of the video, the middle and in the end, short interview sections with the mother are inserted. The video does not exactly show whose questions the actress Ginger Lynn Allen is answering, but it could be that she is at an inquiry at court, because someone tries to take away the custody for her eight year old daughter named Sandra. The rest of the video shows the life of Sandra, her kitten and her mother. The music video in general can be structured as the following:
I. Interview 1
II. The morning in the Motel, Sandra gets up and dresses herself with her mother´s clothes
III. Mother and daughter go to a restaurant
IV. Doing the laundry in a coin laundry
V. Mother tries to call someone from a callbox on the street
VI. Mother and daughter drive to the strip club
VII. The mother does her strip show on stage while her daughter plays backstage
VIII. Mother and daughter have dinner in the motel room
IX. Interview 2
X. Mother goes on the street to find a suitor
XI. Mother drives back to the motel with the suitor and prostitutes herself while her daughter sleeps
XII. Interview 3

After giving the short structure as an overview I will now work out two images from the video. I will first compare the image of the mother to the image of the daughter and then a comparison between the daytime and the nighttime will be worked out.

Mother versus Daughter

The mother seems to be unhappy throughout the whole music video. There are very little moments in which one could think that she is doing fine but most of the time one can see that she always has got something on her mind. In the first part of the interview the mother states that she has always wanted to be an entertainer and that she is one now. This first interview gives me the impression that she is happy with what she does. The viewer is not aware of her profession as a stripper and prostitute and probably expects her to be a musician or an actress. But throughout the video one realizes in which kind of entertainment business she works.[4] In the second interview she shows that she does not do her job because she wants to entertain people, but because she needs the money in order to raise her daughter. In this part of the video one can see how desperate she is about her situation. The façade she kept up during the first interview seems to fall apart. In the last interview section she tries to build up the façade again by saying that she is proud of who she is and that she does not regret anything she has done up till now, because all the choices she has made have made her become the woman she is today. It is up to everyone to decide if he or she wants to believe her or not. In my point of view she is just saying that she is proud of the choices she has made in order to not fall apart in an emotional way. It is quite common that people who have a lot of problems are afraid of admitting the problems they have to themselves. I think that this is exactly what Ginger Lynn Allen, who is playing the mother in the video, does. In the back of her mind she realizes how bad the situation is in which she is in, but she also knows that she would burst into tears if she would admit it to herself. The short film supports my way of thinking because it shows how unhappy she is. In one interview, which is shown within the short film she even says that she wants her daughter to live a better life than she does. By saying this she admits that the life she and her daughter are living is not a good one. When watching the video as well as the short film carefully one can notice that she always tries to underline what is positive about their life, but in the end she always comes back to the point where she has to admit to herself that she is unhappy, due to the life she and her daughter live on the road.
The eight year old daughter Sandra is not as unhappy as her mother is. Her mother is her role model, which can be seen in several scenes in which she tries to dress up like her mom. But not like her mother, Sandra is dreaming of becoming a hairdresser in the future. That shows that she does not want to work in the same business as her mother does. She loves spending as much time with her mother as she can and she is not sad about the fact that she does not go to school anymore. In the short film Sandra mentions that she got the kitten from her mother because she is not able to make any friends. They travel from one city to another and stay at different motels. That makes it impossible for an eight year old girl to find friends. Sandra is a very naïve girl, which is not negative because she is only eight years old. She does not seem to realize how difficult the situation, in which her mother and she are in, is. She admires her mother and loves her with all of her heart, which shows that her mother is doing the best she can for her child.
Sandra is very naive and free. Her mother on the other hand is not only mentally unstable, but also unhappy with their situation. When comparing the image of the mother and of the daughter to one another, one can see that they are the total opposite of each other.[5]

Daytime versus Nighttime

After the first interview we get to see what a regular morning for Sandra and her mother looks like. In the short film we get to know that Sandra likes the mornings best not only because she can cuddle up on the mother, but also because the mornings are so quiet. Watching the daytime scenes one gets the impression that Sandra and her mother are living a regular life. One could think that they are on vacation when they are in the motel or that they have a regular day off when they are in the restaurant and the coin laundry. The day seems to be a regular day, which mother and daughter spend together. But even during the daytime the mother seems to have something in her mind, which makes her unhappy. She does not seem to be relaxed and always has some kind of worry speaking in her facial expressions. It might be that she is thinking about the happenings of the upcoming night and the things she will have to do again.
In the evening Sandra and her mother drive to a strip club in which her mother has to do a show. As soon as they enter the club the images of the music video get darker, which underlines the feelings I had when watching the video. Sandra has to wait backstage, while her mother is doing her dirty and naughty show in front of total strangers. After the show the two of them head back to the motel where they have something for dinner. As soon as Sandra sleeps her mother gets ready for the next job. She dresses up in very tight and saucy clothing in order to go onto the street and find a suitor for the night. As soon as she has found a suitor she drives back to the motel with him where they have sex while Sandra sleeps in a little bed next door. The suitor abuses her and does not show any respect to her. After the suitor has left the mother seems to be in some kind of coma and her daughter comes in order to comfort her.
The daytime is portrayed as very nice and harmonious. The mother and the daughter spend some time together and seem to have a good time. The nighttime is the complete opposite. In the early night they drive to the strip club where the mother has to do her show. This happens in the evening and not in the night because that is not bad at all compared to what is going to happen later that night. What is happening later in the night when the mother prostitutes herself is as disturbing as a nightmare can be.


The music video for the song “Turn the Page” by Metallica, directed by Jonas Akerlund is a great video, which carries a lot of meaning. He does not show how hard a musician´s life on the road is, but displays how hard a mother´s and a daughter´s life on the road can be. The video makes clear that anyone who does not have a constant place to live has to face problems that others don´t. The life on the road is not easy for anyone, no matter who it is. But for a mother who has to take care of her child by herself and has to make enough money in order to raise her daughter the life on the road can be the worst thing that breaks not only her heart, but also her soul.

Link for the uncensored version of the music video:


Keazor Henry/ Wübbena, Thorsten, Video Thrills the Radio Star: Musikvideos, Geschichte, Themen, Analyse, Bielefeld 2005.
Vernallis, Carol, Experiencing Music Videos: Aesthetics and Cultural Context, New York 2004.

[1] Comp. Keazor, Henry/Wübbena Thorsten, Video Thrills the Radio Star, 2005, p. 325.
[2] Comp. Keazor, Henry/Wübbena Thorsten, Video Thrills the Radio Star, 2005, p. 323.
[3] Vernallis, Carol, Experiencing Music Videos, 2004, p. 4-12.
[4] Comp. Keazor, Henry/Wübbena Thorsten, Video Thrills the Radio Star, 2005, p. 324.
[5] Comp. Keazor, Henry/Wübbena Thorsten, Video Thrills the Radio Star, 2005, p. 324.