Remembering Cliff Burton, The Talented Metallica Bass Player

The Metallica bass player tragically passed away on this day in 1986 aged only 24

Remembering Cliff Burton, The Talented Metallica Bass Player

The legendary Bass player Cliff Burton was born Clifford Lee Burton on February 10th, 1962 in Castro Valley, California. Unlike what many people may think, his earliest musical influences came from classical music, he took piano lessons during his early years and his interest in Rock music begun around that period. Influenced by bass players such as Lemmy Kilmister, Rush’s Geddy Lee, Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler and Jazz bassist Stanley Clarke, he began playing bass guitar when he was 13. Cliff joined several bands until he settled with Metallica in 1982. With the departure of Metallica’s first bass player Ron McGovney, Burton was asked to join the band after James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich saw him performing with his band Trauma at the Whiskey A-Go-Go in Los Angeles. Burton’s unique bass sound together with his creativity and songwriting talent, made Burton a desirable member for Metallica who was just starting up. Cliff  was the one who came in with the idea for the name of the band’s first album “Kill’Em All” released in 1983. The album was a big success in the Heavy Metal circuit and gave Metallica their first taste of success. The unusual instrumental bass track composed by Burton “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth) (that made many people at the time thinking it was actually an electric guitar composition due to the use of effects, such as a wah-wah pedal, not commonly used by bass guitarists),  is the moment where Burton creates his distinctive sound which he continued to develop on Metallica’s second album “Ride The Lightning”, an album that brought Metallica’s music to the masses and made them worldwide famous. Cliff is credited as composer on 6 of the 8 tracks in the album, most notably in “For Whom The Bells Toll” and the instrumental “The Call of Ktulu”. During that period Metallica was signed to their first major label, Elektra Records and began working on their third album “Master Of Puppets”, though Burton is credited as composer in only 3 of the tracks, his bass magnifies immensely all the songs throughout the album, specially “Orion” and the title track “Master Of Puppets”. The album was released in 1986 and Metallica went on tour to promote it, during the European leg of the tour n Dörarp,Sweden while driving to Germany for a concert on September 29, the band complained that the sleeping cubicles on their tour bus were unsatisfactory and uncomfortable To decide who received pick of the bunks, Kirk Hammett and Burton drew cards. On the evening of September 26, 1986, Burton won the game with an ace of spades, thereby getting the first choice of bunk, he pointed at Hammett and exclaimed, “I want your bunk!” . Burton was sleeping shortly before 7 am on September 27 when, according to the driver, the bus skidded off the road and flipped onto the grass. Burton was thrown through the window of the bus, which fell on top of him, resulting in his death. He was only 24 and was one of the most promising Rock musicians and bass players of his generation. His death shattered Metallica and Metal fans. Approximately 2 years later, in 1988, the band released their 4th album with new bass player Jason Newsteed, “…And Justice For All” that is controversial for it’s low bass mix, almost inaudible in comparison to their previous albums. Cliff Burton is credited with a song on the album “To Live Is to Die” that includes the lyrics “cannot the Kingdom of Salvation take me home”, those words are written on Burton’s memorial stone. Despite his short career, Burton left a strong legacy in music, he is often regarded as one of the irreplaceable Metallica core members, the music he made with the band it’s also often regarded as being their best and most creative period. In 2017 it was revealed that Burton’s parents had been “quietly” donating his posthumous royalty payments to a scholarship fund for music students at his alma mater Castro Valley High School. In 2009 Cliff Burton was inducted to The Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame together with Metallica, his father Ray Burton accepted the honor on his behalf.

 Watch this footage of Cliff Burton performing his famous solos of “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth) live with Metallica between 1983-1986

Listen to some of the best Metallica songs with Cliff Burton (including  live versions of “Anesthesia”, “For Whom The Bells Toll” and “The Call Of Ktulu”) compiled by Pop Expresso on Spotify

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