Watch A Rare Full Metallica Concert With Cliff Burton In 1983
via T-Rock / Youtube
If you are a fan of Metallica’s early days, then you’ll probably get a kick out of seeing rare footage of one of their concerts for their first major tour in 1983, made more precious by the presence of arguably their best bassist, the late Cliff Burton.
The old footage, which was incomplete due to technical problems during the first 15 minutes, shows the relatively younger members of Metallica as they rock hard in front of an audience at The Metro in Chicago, Illinois.
James Hetfield and his “power” metal band were on a tour to promote their debut album, Kill ‘Em All, and has dates that spread around 32 cross-country dates. The tour was also in support of British metal band and co-headliner Raven.
Apart from Cliff Burton, who only started his tenure as bassist early that year, the tour also notably featured the newly hired guitarist Kirk Hammett, who replaced founding member Dave Mustaine shortly after the latter was kicked out.
The band played most, if not all, of the songs from their debut album, with one exception: the demo “When Hell Freezes Over”, which would later become “The Call of Ktulu” from their sophomore record Ride the Lightning.
Burton’s ‘lead bass’ in “Anesthesia” blew Hetfield away
Born on February 10, 1962, in Castro Valley, California, Cliff became the second bassist for Metallica, but within the short period that he played for the iconic band proved that he was so much more than that. He was the visionary who helped shape the band’s early sound that elevated them to iconic status.
Burton caught the attention of Metallica founders Hetfield and Ulrich when he performed with his then-band Trauma at the Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles in 1982.
In what Hetfield described later as “this amazing shredding”, the show introduced them to a Burton ‘lead bass’ staple since high school, “(Anesthesia) – Pulling Teeth”, which amazed the duo so much that they included it in their debut album.
The impressed rockers invited Burton to join Metallica as a replacement for their departing bassist, Ron McGovney. Burton accepted the offer on the condition that Metallica would relocate from Los Angeles to his hometown, the San Francisco Bay Area. Eager to have Burton on board, Metallica agreed to the move.
Burton would play his first gig with Metallica at the nightclub The Stone in March 1983. This club coincidentally held the concert for their Kill ‘Em All tour on September 3 later that year.
Cliff Burton’s Metallica
Burton’s debut recording with Metallica was the Megaforce Demo, notable for featuring both Dave Mustaine and Cliff Burton playing together, a unique occurrence in Metallica’s history.
He made significant contributions to Metallica’s initial three studio albums, namely Kill ‘Em All, Ride the Lightning, and Master of Puppets, the last of which firmly established the band’s place in rock music history after becoming one of the most influential metal albums ever made.
View this post on Instagram
Their second album, Ride the Lightning, demonstrated the band’s evolving musical prowess, with Burton’s songwriting abilities emerging. He received credit for six of the album’s eight songs. Burton’s unique playing style and use of effects were prominently featured on tracks like the chromatic intro to “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and the lead bass in “The Call of Ktulu”.
The increased musicianship displayed on Ride the Lightning drew the attention of major record labels, leading to Metallica signing with Elektra. They began work on their third album, Master of Puppets, widely regarded as a landmark in both thrash and metal music.
— Agnes (@AgaAgnes1991) May 2, 2020
Burton’s contributions were prominent on several tracks, notably the instrumental “Orion”, showcasing once again his lead bass style. The album also contained Burton’s personal favorite Metallica song, “Master of Puppets”.
In 2015, the influence of Master of Puppets became even more pronounced after becoming the first metal recording to be selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
This album marked the band’s commercial breakthrough but sadly became Burton’s final work with Metallica.
Metallica losing their ace bassist
During the European leg of the Damage Inc. tour in support of Master of Puppets, the band had complained that the sleeping cubicles on their tour bus were unsatisfactory and uncomfortable.
Guitarist Kirk Hammett had a friendly dispute with Burton about who was getting the pick of the bunks, so as a solution they drew cards. On the evening of September 26, 1986, Burton had won the game with an Ace of Spades.
View this post on Instagram
He was asleep when sometime before 7 am (on the 27th), according to the driver, the band’s tour bus ran over a patch of black ice, skidded off of the road, and flipped onto the grass in Ljungby Municipality, near Dörarp in rural southern Sweden. Burton was thrown through the window of the bus, which fell on top of him, causing his death.
Burton’s body was cremated, and his ashes were scattered on the Maxwell Ranch. At the ceremony, the instrumental “Orion” from the Master of Puppets was played. Burton hadn’t played the song live, and Metallica did not perform it until June 3, 2006, at the Rock Am Ring Festival, Nurburgring, DEU (when they performed the album in its entirety to mark the 20th anniversary of its release).
Until then, only sections of the song had been used as part of their performance. During the 1990s, Burton’s successor, Jason Newsted, would often use the bass line as part of a medley.
A short career, an eternal legacy
After Burton’s death, Metallica released the tribute documentary Cliff ’em All, a video retrospective of Burton’s time in the band. It is a collection of live performance footage shot by fans, some professional filming and TV shots that were never used, and some personal photos.
Metallica’s first album of original material after Burton’s death, …And Justice for All, contained Burton’s last writing credit, the mostly instrumental track “To Live Is to Die”. Metallica sometimes plays the middle part of this song at a slower tempo as a tribute to Cliff Burton.
The most well-known non-Metallica tribute to Burton is the song “In My Darkest Hour” by contemporary thrash metal band Megadeth. According to former Metallica guitarist and Megadeth leader Dave Mustaine, after hearing of Burton’s death, he sat down and wrote the music for the song in one sitting.
The lyrics, however, are unrelated to Burton’s death. Mustaine was quoted as saying the song was inspired by Burton’s passing. He claimed that neither Hetfield nor Ulrich had informed him of Burton’s death and he only found out when Metallica’s manager called him.
View this post on Instagram
Another influential thrash metal act, Anthrax, dedicated their Among the Living album to Burton, as did Metal Church with The Dark.
On January 14, 2009, it was announced that Cliff Burton would be posthumously inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, with the rest of Metallica. During the ceremony, the induction was accepted by Cliff’s father, Ray Burton, who shared the stage with the band and mentioned that Cliff’s mother was actually Metallica’s biggest fan.