Thirty years ago tomorrow, September 27, 1986, the metal world lost one of its brightest stars. While on tour in support of their magnum opus Master of Puppets, Metallica were involved in a tragic bus accident that claimed the life of their 24-year-old bass prodigy Cliff Burton.
Burton was asleep in a top bunk near the open escape hatch when the drive of the tour bus lost control on an icy road, causing the bus to flip over. The bassist was ejected through the hatch and crushed by the rolling vehicle. It was a tragic end to a brief but stellar career for a man that many consider to be the greatest metal bassist of all time and the unquestionable heart and soul of one of metal’s most beloved bands.
So, to commemorate this somber anniversary, this week’s Massive Metal Monday is dedicated to the memory and legacy of the immortal Cliff Burton. Here is the master performing his signature song live in 1983. This is “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth).”
Metallica: Back to the Front A Fully Authorized Visual History of the Master of Puppets Album and Tour Hardcover
By Matt Taylor
Foreword by James Hetfield
Afterword by Ray Burton
Publisher: Insight Editions with Moonrise Media
Released date: September 13, 2016
In 1986, Metallica went from local San Francisco Bay Area garage band to support act for part of the U.S. leg of Ozzy Osbourne’s Ultimate Sin tour, as well as headliner of their own European tour. The four very young men “” singer/guitarist James Hetfield, drummer Lars Ulrich, lead guitarist Kirk Hammett, and bassist Cliff Burton “” had only been playing together for three short years, but in that time, they released their first three albums, all of which eventually went on to be regarded as some of the greatest in all hard rock and heavy metal. It was their third album, though, Master Of Puppets, which put them on the map and skyrocketed them to fame. But, with success and popularity also came a devastating blow when they lost Burton when he was killed in an accident after the band’s tour bus skidded off the road in Sweden. The respected bassist, who had been like a big brother to his younger bandmates, was only 24 years old.
Another band might have fallen apart and never gotten past such a heartbreak, especially if they were that young and just starting out. But the unyielding musicians in Metallica knew no other life but the road and no other destiny than with music, so with the blessing of Burton’s parents, they persevered. They continued to create. They went on pounding out aggression all across the land on every stage they hit, until they became not only the kings of thrash metal, but one of the top rock acts of all time… and they’re still on top today. Although a lot has been written and documented about the band over the last 30-plus years, including those early days, there’s never been any personal memoirs. And while the members of Metallica have always spoke highly of Burton throughout the years and have tearfully relayed the events that occurred on the early morning of September 27, 1986 when they saw their brother killed in front of them as they and their devoted crew stood injured and freezing on a Swedish highway, they’ve managed to keep some details about that time private. Now, the surviving members have joined with Insight Editions, in association with Moonrise Media, for Metallica: Back To The Front: A Fully Authorized Visual History Of The Master Of Puppets Album and Tour, written and compiled by Matt Taylor.
This past week marked the thirtieth anniversary of the release of Metallica‘s seminal third album Master of Puppets. It is considered by many to be the apex of the band’s career. I personally feel that that honor goes to their second album Ride The Lightning, but to each his own.
However, there is no disputing that Master of Puppets is the most critically acclaimed entry in the Metallica discography. It would be the final album to feature the man who many felt was the heart and soul of the band, bassist and songwriter Cliff Burton.
I found myself the other day trying to explain to my kids the immense impact that Metallica had on the metal underground when they first burst onto the scene in 1982. That’s right kids; Metallica was an underground (and cutting edge) band once upon a time. Their debut album Kill ‘Em All did exactly as it’s title promised. It was a manifesto… a declaration… Metallica were about to take over the world and indeed kill ’em all.
For the next eight years, through endless touring, tragedy and triumph, and four albums that would become the very pillars upon which modern metal is built, Metallica would rule at the forefront of the metal underground. There is no way to describe to someone who wasn’t there the amount of reverence that we metalheads held for this band during those years. And then came the black album and Metallica was no longer the metal world’s underground darlings. But that’s a story for another Thursday.
Here is the shot heard ’round the world, “Hit The Lights” the opening track of Metallica’s landmark debut album Kill ‘Em All.
For my first Thrashback Thursday post on Geeks Of Doom, I am going back to where it all started for me. My friend Tony had told me “There is this new band called Metallica that you have to hear… they’re amazing!” So off I trekked on my bicycle to my local record store and bought 1984’s Ride the Lightning on vinyl.
When I got home and dropped the needle on the first song, I was met by this beautiful little acoustic guitar part. I remember thinking “Well, this is nice and all, but…” and then it happened. When “Fight Fire with Fire” kicked into full swing, my life was very literally changed forever. Say what you will about their later output, those first four Metallica albums will always be the pillars of thrash to me. So here with the opening track of Ride the Lightning is Metallica live in Canada in 1986 on the Master of Puppets tour. You can check it out below.