Cliff Burton was as a person, a musician and someone that was loved and respected by all. our thoughts and feelings about Cliff Burton are our own.
To us, Cliff Burton was one of the most talented musicians that ever lived. He could play the bass like you couldn't believe. Cliff was a major part in making Metallica the band it is today. A lot of the newer fans may not have a lot of knowledge about Cliff Burton, but if they did, they would realize what a force in the band he was. In our opinion there may never be another bassist to match or beat Cliff Burton. He was definitely a ONE-OF-A-KIND!
Clifford Lee Burton was born on February 10, 1962 in San Francisco, CA. His parents were two San Francisco hippies, Jan and Ray Burton. It was from them that Cliff got his image, his hippie ideals, but most of all, his attitude. He liked to chill and hang out. He was really laid back, relaxed and happy. Cliff liked his beer, his pot, etc.
Cliff had his own style. He drove a 1972 VW station wagon, he wore bell-bottoms, read H. P. Lovecraft, studied piano, and even went to junior college. He grew up near San Francisco with Faith No More guitarist, Jim Martin. Burton was a cross between Clint Eastwood and E. F. Hutton... Not saying much, but when he did, people listened.
"We do what we want...... We don't care what anyone else thinks"
---Cliff Burton--- "From Cliff 'em All"
Back in late 1982, it was decided that former bassist Ron McGovney wasn't really pulling his weight in Metallica. He wasn't taking the band seriously, which James and Lars had a real problem with. By that time, Metallica was beginning to go down. Lars and James were having problems with their Lead Guitarist, Dave Mustaine, because of his growing addictions and abuse of alcohol and drugs, and the terrible conflicts that he and James had on stage were becoming more frequent. Also James didn't want to sing anymore because he felt he wasn't doing a good enough job, so he proposed that he play Rhythm Guitar only.
Cliff was discovered in August of 1982. One of Metallica's peer bands up north making the rounds about this time was Trauma. In addition to being a favorite Bay-area club circuit draw, the band was gaining recognition through their one-song demo, featuring "Such a Shame" that eventually was transferred to vinyl on Metal Massacre II. More noteworthy, however, Trauma possessed within its ranks "the most head banging bassist" Lars and James had ever seen - Cliff Burton.
They initially spotted him during a live Trauma show at LA's Troubadour. Lars and James were very impressed by the way he played the bass.
"We heard this wild solo going on and thought, 'I don't see any guitar player up there.' It turned out it was the bass player, Cliff, with a and this mop of hair. He didn't care whether people were there. He was looking down at his bass playing."
--- James Hetfield ---
Metallica set out on a grand pursuit to get Cliff to join the band. Burton presented the LA station band with an ultimatum, 'If Metallica relocated to San Francisco, he would join them.
Metallica, with all their problems, relocated to San Francisco, where they were better received than in LA. Their first jam with Cliff occurred in the house of sound-man Mark Witaker, where their was a studio type setup in his garage. At the time James and Lars were living there, having relocated Metallica to the Bay Area in 1983 to be closer to Cliff. They recorded a 4 track demo and on March 5, 1983, Cliff played for the first time with Metallica at the Stone, in SF. This was the beginning of 3 incredible Metalli-years.
"When a man lies he murders some part of the world.
These are the pale deaths which men miscall their lives.
All this i cannot bear to witness any longer.
Cannot the kingdom of salvation take me home."
--- Cliff Burton: "To Live Is To Die" ---
Cliff lived with his family in San Francisco, and for three and a half years he worked hard to take Metallica to the top. After replacing Ron McGovney in late 1982, Cliff instantly made a name for himself with his classic "wind-mill" style of thrashing on stage, with his hair flying out in all directions, and with his outdated, completely "unfashionable" image. With his hair hanging straight down from him head, he seemed seemed to be always dressed in a pair of bell-bottom jeans and a faded denim jacket. If it was cold, he wore a flannel shirt underneath.
Offstage, he was the ultimate laid-back Californian, a total opposite from his wild, aggressive on-stage attack. His sense of humor was great, as were his bass solos and everything about his stage presence. He was the most visual of all the band on-stage, he would just go wild. Cliff was also responsible for expanding the scope of Metallica's lyrical themes. Along with Kirk, he admired the works of H. P. Lovecraft.
The best example of how cool and unflappable Cliff was happened in the summer of 1985 at their Castle Donnington Festival appearance (August 17, 1985). Having ducked beneath a flying pear which ended up embedding itself in his bass bin, Burton coolly sauntered over to his stack, picked up the pear, took two bites out of it and hurled it back into the crowd.
Cliff was also a fine and inventive soloist, and his clever use of distortion and wah-wah in his "(Anesthesia) -- Pulling Teeth" showpiece made it one of the highlights of the band's live set. More importantly, Cliff was one hell of a nice guy and a much-loved figure in the Metallica camp. He always went out of his way to talk to the band's fans, no matter how tired he was. He was certainly the most unanimously appreciated by the band members as well as by the public.
For a while there it really looked as if 1986 was gonna be Metallica's year. After all, their third LP, Master of Puppets, had literally taken the music world by storm and, in doing so, had made the band virtual mega-stars in the eyes of the metal-doting public. Metallica had finally "made it", and it seemed that nothing could halt their inexorable rise to even greater glory. Then, during the European leg of the group's phenomenally successful Master of Puppets world tour, something went wrong - catastrophically wrong.
Fresh from their triumphant UK tour, Metallica had headed once more for Scandinavia where they'd played three shows at the Olympen in Lund (September 24, 1986), the Skedsmohallen (September 25, 1986) in Oslo and at the Sonahallen in Stockholm (September 26, 1986). It was approaching dawn on Saturday, the 27th of September 1986, and Metallica's two tour buses were on their way to do a fourth show in Copenhagen. The were traveling along a god forsaken road between the Scandinavian cities of Stockholm and Copenhagen. Apart from these vehicles, the route was deserted, there was no one else traveling at that early hour of the morning. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, just before dawn, at about 5:15 am, one of the coaches swerved violently to its right and started careening wildly down the wrong side of the road. It was out of control, and a crash was inevitable. On board were the four band members, along with drum tech Flemming Larsen, guitar assistants John Marshall and Aidan Mullen, and road manager Bobby Schneider.
John Marshall: "We were on a two-lane road. The bus went off to the right, and I think the driver over corrected, cranking the wheel to the left to get us back on the road. The wheel grabbed, and the bus swung completely around. During this time, the tail of the bus was sliding, kind of fishtailing around and bouncing on its wheels. That was right when we all started to wake up. I think I bounced right out of my bunk. The bunks were like trays with foam in them. The foam was held in place by a wooden lip. When the bus started rocking, my back bounced across that lip. Afterwards, I could barely walk, it hurt so bad. The bus eventually slid to the dirt alongside the road. When the wheels caught, the bus rolled over on its side."
The bus's brief but horrific excursion came to a halt some 60 feet further up the tarmac. By this time, though, the vehicle was on its side and lying in a ditch by the side of the road near the small Swedish town of Ljungby.
During the unavoidable confusion that followed, the vast majority of the overturned bus's passengers managed to scramble free of the wreckage. Mullen and Larsen, who'd slept in right-side bunks, were pinned under the rubble for nearly three hours before the fire department jacked up the debris and rescued them. Those that emerged included three of the four members of the band. In truth, the survivors had been extremely lucky, as they'd all some how managed to escape with little more than minor injuries and shock. Lars broke a finger, James only suffered from minor superficial injuries and Kirk's eye was blackened. Kirk, who'd blacked out after being thrown from his bunk, snapped to consciousness and made his way through a side emergency hatch. Bobby Schneider, the tour manager, dislocated his arm, and another crew member had contusions.
Swedish police arriving on the scene of the accident immediately arrested the driver as a matter of routine. They later released him without charging him after further investigation revealed that the cause of the accident was black ice on a nasty bend in the road. This episode was simply a tragic and cruel accident that killed the way Metallica was building.
"We were all sitting out there in 35 degree weather, with me in my socks and underwear before someone gave me a blanket. I remember Kirk and James yelling at the driver. By then, everyone had begun to realize that something was wrong with Cliff. I remember James walking up the road a bit to see if there was ice on the road, because the driver had claimed he'd slid over a sheet of ice. Kirk was crying."
Unfortunately, however, there had been one fatality in the accident. The deceased individual turned out to be one of the group. Cliff was sleeping on the top level of the right rear bunk in the bus when the bus started to roll and he was thrown out of the bus window. The bunks had toppled like match sticks, teetering into one another and collapsing into what resembled a pile of kindling.He was crushed by the bus in the accident and died immediately on contact. So, tragically, in the short space of those few dreadful seconds on that lonely Swedish road, Metallica's dreamlike existence was suddenly transformed into a hellish nightmare. Their 24 year-old bass player, Cliff Burton, was dead.
"I saw the bus lying right on him. I saw his legs sticking out. I freaked. The bus driver, I recall, was trying to yank the blanket out from under him to use for other people. I just went, 'Don't fucking do that!' I already wanted to kill the guy. I don't know if he was drunk or if he hit some ice. All I knew was, he was driving and Cliff wasn't alive anymore."
"I just recall our tour manager Bobby saying, 'Okay, let's get the band together and take them back to the hotel.' The only thing I could think was, 'The band? No way! There ain't no band. The band is not "the band" right now. It's just three guys."
--- James Hetfield – 1993
The dazed group dealt with their anxiety in the manner they were most familiar with: drinking. James broke two hotel windows and screamed, venting his rage. Kirk and his guitar tech, John Marshall, were so shaken that they left the light on in their room that night. On September 29th, James, Lars and Kirk returned to the United States.
"I wasn't too angry in the beginning. I was obviously grieving, but the anger started setting in when I realized that it's not new that people in rock-n-roll die, but usually it's self-inflicted in terms of excessive drink or drug abuse. He had nothing to do with it. It's so useless. Completely useless."
--- Lars Ulrich - January 1987
The gap left by Cliff's death widely spread across the pages of tributes run by the music press the week after the tragedy. In Kerrang!, for example, advertisements were taken by friends and fans alike; a bleak, black double-page spread ran messages from the Zazulas ("The Ultimate Musician, The Ultimate Headbanger, The Ultimate Loss, A Friend Forever"), and Anthrax ("Bell-Bottoms Rule!! Laugh it up, We Miss You"), while Music For Nations also took out a page ad which simply read: "Cliff Burton 1962 - 1986." The pain ran deep.
Gen Howards remembers: "When the Puppets tour had finished, I waited 'til the band went to the European tour and then I went on vacation to Cornualles. We all were very happy on what was happening, 'specially, that Metallica was becoming one of the most popular metal bands. We all had worked a lot in this, and then before our eyes everything was was going ok, and the future hadn't seemed better. Then a Wednesday morning, I take a "Sounds" volume, I opened it, and I almost shocked. It was a really beat. . . incredibly painful. . ."
Cliff Burton's memorial service was held October 7, 1986. His family and friends remembered him as a "world class local boy" with a love for Johann Sebastian Bach, Mexican food and his hometown. His parents said he was "an appreciative and thoughtful son. Because of his performing, he'd sleep all day and stay up all night and never wake us up. Once, a little boy came up to the door, early in the morning and wanted Cliff to sign his shirt. So Cliff staggered to the door and said 'Sure, of course I'll sign it.'" Connie, his sister, said, "I once called him up and said 'How do you like being a rock star?', and he was furious. He asked me never to refer to him that way again." At the conclusion of his memorial service "Orion" from the band's 'Master of Puppets' album, was played. The elaborate instrumental made a fitting tribute for the young bassist, since, as James Hetfield recalled, Burton was Metallica's most educated musician and "Orion" was largely his composition. Cliff's ashes were spread at various points around the bay area, including the Maxwell Ranch House area.
"The only person who was able to figure out a time and write it on a piece of paper was Cliff. He had an immense knowledge of timing, musical harmonies and music theory in general."
---Kirk - 1987
"Cliff was so completely honest to himself and the people around him. He hated all this being-put-on-a-pedestal bullshit."
---Lars Ulrich - 1986
He was a great and very special talent.....Cliff's solos were absolutely brilliant."
---Jason Newsted - 1988
"He was a wild, hippie-ish, acid-taking, bell-bottom-wearing guy. He meant business, and you couldn't fuck around with him. I wanted to get that respect that he had. We gave him shit about his bell-bottoms everyday. He didn't care.
"This is what I wear. Fuck you." He loved music. He was really intellectual but very to the point. He taught me a lot about attitude."
---James Hetfield - 1993
"To this day, I think of him every day."
---Kirk Hammett - 1988
Though he is gone, his memory lives on and his music will be with us forever.