You can all thank an old Navy buddy of mine, Mr. John Shelton, for reminding me that today is the birthday of one of the greatest bass players who ever took the stage, Mr. Clifford Lee Burton.
One viewing of the video of Anesthesia -Pulling Teeth and you’ll begin to understand.
Clifford Lee Burton was born February 10, 1962 in Castro Valley, CA. He discovered music as a youngster, immersing himself in blues, classical, country, jazz and one of his favorites, Mozart. When Cliff was six years old he learned to play the piano, picking up the bass guitar as a teenager and taking bass lessons from 1978 thru 1980. In college, he studied musical theory and his knowledge of musical theory became a huge influence on the first three Metallica albums.
Pre-Metallica Cliff spent time in several San Francisco area bands including EZ~Street with future members of Faith No More, Jim Martin and Mike Bordin.
In 1982 Cliff traveled to Los Angeles with his first major band, Trauma, to play at the Whiskey A-Go-Go. In attendance that night were James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich. After witnessing what James Hetfield described ad “this amazing shredding,” he and Lars went looking for the amazing guitar player for their band only to learn later that they had in fact heard Cliff’s bass.
Cliff agreed to join Metallica when at Cliff’s insistence, Metallica agreed to move their base of operation to San Francisco.
His first recording with the band was a demo for Megaforce Records. Soon followed by the first of three metal masterpieces, Kill ‘Em All, Ride the Lightning, and Master of Puppets.
The tragic death of Cliff Burton is still one of the saddest moments in music history, not just heavy metal music history.
During the European leg of the Damage Inc. tour in support of Master of Puppets, the band complained that the sleeping cubicles on their tour bus were unsatisfactory and uncomfortable. To decide who was getting the pick of the bunks, Kirk Hammett and Burton drew cards. On the evening of September 26, 1986, Burton had won the game with an Ace of Spades, earning dibs. Cliff pointed at Hammett and exclaimed “I want your bunk!” To which Hammett replied “Fine, take my bunk, its probably better anyway”. He was asleep when at several minutes before 7 am (on the 27th), according to the driver, the bus ran over a patch of black ice, skidded off of the road (the E4, 2 miles north of Llungby), and flipped onto the grass in Llungby Municipality, near Dorarp in rural southern Sweden. Burton was thrown through the window of the bus, which fell on top of him, crushing him to death.
In honor of the immense talent and enduring influence of the late, great Cliff Burton I’ve included Anesthesia -Pulling Teeth and a few other Cliff Burton gems for your enjoyment.