Rocks Off just acquired a four-string electric bass guitar, in the hopes that we can find some time to learn to actually use it. Our younger brother had let it collect dust in his room at home while he did big-kid stuff like start a business and get a girlfriend. After spending hours listening to Metallica for the past two months, Rocks Off decided we wanted to try our hand at bass guitar for the fourth time in our life, because of the late Cliff Burton.
Today marks 25 years since the bus crash that killed Metallica's second bassist, the Misfits-loving Burton. Only 24 years old when the band's bus crashed and fell on him while they were on tour in Sweden, Burton was known for his menacing command of the bass, and his evil grin onstage that was off-set by his trademark bell-bottom jeans and ever-present Misfits tee and tattoo. His wispy moustache made him look older than he actually was.
Trying to learn to play bass like Burton is like trying to drive like Dale Earnhardt, or fly like Chuck Yeager. It's cute and noble, but we know that our fat sausage fingers have other plans. They seem to look up at us saying "Dude, let's just stick to writing about music and not making it."
But even still, we keep at it, watching and listening to isolated Burton tracks on YouTube, and crying onto the fat strings for the Dark Lord to send some magick into our brain and fingers to be able to play "For Whom the Bell Tolls" in our underwear on our futon.
We wonder what, 25 years after his death, Burton would think of a guy, , playing air bass at the gym to "Leper Messiah" and hoping to one day replicate his own work.
Man, say what you want to about the band's direction since September 27, 1986, but we all know that Burton infected metal with his own brand of playing. He used his instrument for all purposes other than what it was manufactured for, and played like it was a lead guitar. A few weeks back when we did a piece on the band's Metallica album, a commenter added: "Cliff Burton was the gasoline on the fire. Justice and the "Black Album" were both great (for the most part) and showed progression, but they just flat lost it after that."
When the band was inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, Burton's dad helped accept the award with the band, which has now had two bass players since his son's death. Somewhere the younger Burton's spirit was sitting on the stage, with his legs dangling off the side, jean jacket and all, drinking a cold one, poking fun at how old Lars and James were looking.
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Here is a great collection of some of Burton's best solos from the band's 1987 video collection, Cliff 'Em All, which was released in tribute to the bassist.