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METALLICA Bassist Cliff Burton Dies In Tour Bus Accident Aged 24
September 27th, 1986

Cliff Burton

Cliff Burton died in a tour bus accident on September 27th, 1986 at the age of 24. Burton was the bassist for San Francisco, California-based heavy metal band Metallica.

A September 26th, 1986 appearance at the Solnahallen Arena in Stockholm, Sweden proved to be the man’s final performance, Metallica in the midst of touring Europe as part of the Damage Inc. Tour in support of March 1986 affair Master Of Puppets. Given that the sleeping cubicles on the tour bus were uncomfortable, members drew cards to determine which bunks they would occupy. Burton won via the ace of spades, choosing to sleep in guitarist Kirk Hammett’s bunk.

Shortly prior to 7am on the morning of the 27th, the tour skidded off of the road on the European route E4, 12 miles north of Ljungby; overturning several times, the bus flipped onto the grass in Kronoberg County. Burton’s body was thrown through the window of the bus, the bus subsequently falling on top of him – causing his death. Lars Ulrich (drums), James Hetfield (vocals / guitars), and Kirk Hammett sustained no serious injuries.

Cremated, Burton’s ashes were scattered at the Maxwell Ranch. The instrumental track ‘Orion’, lifted from Master Of Puppets, was played at the ceremony. Taken from the future Metallica composition ‘To Live Is To Die’, the lyrics “… cannot the Kingdom of Salvation take me home” are written on Burton’s memorial stone. Flotsam And Jetsam bassist Jason Newsted filled the role shortly following Burton’s passing, occupying said position until 2001. Fourth studio long-player … And Justice For All (August 1988) included the tribute ‘To Live Is To Die’, which included lyrics and bass parts from unused recordings – the bass parts re-recorded by Newsted.

Metallica were inducted into the Rock And Roll Of Fame on April 4th, 2009, Burton achieving a posthumous induction.

Clifford Lee Burton was born on February 10th, 1962 in Castro Valley, California, the youngest of three children.

His father Ray introduced him to classical music at a tender age, after which he began undertaking piano lessons. Playing Little League baseball for the Castro Valley House team, Cliff attended the following schools throughout his years as a pupil; Marshall Elementary school, Earl Warren Junior High, and subsequently Castro Valley High.

From September 1978 to January 1980, Cliff was taught bass by teacher Steve Doherty, learning in disciplines ranging from classical to jazz.

While attending Castro Valley High, Burton formed inaugural outfit EZ-Street, adopting the moniker from a topless bar situated in the Bay Area. Fellow members of the EZ-Street band included future Faith No More guitarist Jim Martin as well as Faith No More and Ozzy Osbourne drummer Mike Bordin. Burton and Martin formed a second band after enrolling as students at Chabot College in Hayward, California. Named Agents Of Misfortune, the ensemble entered the Hayward Area Recreation Department’s Battle Of The Bands contest in 1981. A video-taped audition shows Burton playing parts of what would become early Metallica tracks: signature bass solo ‘(Anasthesia) Pulling Teeth’ and the intro to ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’.

Burton became a member of Trauma during 1982, recording the track ‘Such A Shame’ with Trauma which appeared on the second Metal Massacre compilation. Trauma performed at the Whisky A Go Go in Los Angeles that year, with Metallica vocalist / guitarist and drummer Lars Ulrich in attendance. Impressed by what later became ‘(Anasthesia) Pulling Teeth’, the two sought what they thought was a guitarist. Learning that what they had heard was a bass solo by Burton, the pair opted to recruit Burton for Metallica. Burton was asked to replace the departed Ron McGovney; Burton agreed, on the condition that Metallica relocated from Los Angeles to San Francisco – the four-stringer was not enthused with the prospect of moving to Los Angeles. Metallica moved to El Cerrito, situated across the bay from San Francisco.

Recorded prior to Burton’s entry into the ranks, the No Life ’Til Leather demo tape came to the attention of Megaforce Records owner Jon Zazula, who signed Metallica. July 1983 debut full-length studio album Kill ’Em All featured the aforementioned signature bass solo ‘(Anasthesia) Pulling Teeth’, the effort laid down in Rochester, New York with Paul Curcio. Metallica wished to name the Kill ’Em All platter Metal Up Your Ass, although the record company disliked the title and insisted that it be changed. Burton made the remark “We should just kill ’em all, man,” to the rest of Metallica, which was the inspiration for the revised title.

July 1984 effort Ride The Lightning – recorded at Sweet Silence Studios in Copenhagen, Denmark with producer Flemming Rasmussen – marked a broadness in musical style by comparison to its predecessors, with Burton receiving songwriting credits on six of its eight tracks. A September 1984 Metallica concert was attended by Elektra Records A&R Michael Alago and Q-Prime management co-founder Cliff Burnstein, who signed the band to both Elektra Records and the Q-Prime roster.

Third studio record Master Of Puppets arrived in March 1986, the second Metallica opus to be recorded at Sweet Silence and the last to feature Burton. The record is considered among several to be the thrashers’ strongest release, initially reaching position 29 on the Billboard 200.

Cliff Burton was survived by parents Ray and Jan as well as sister Connie, and predeceased by brother Scott. Sixteen-year-old brother Scott died on May 19th, 1975 as the result of a brain aneurysm.

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