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Lost Band Members: Cliff Burton

Of all the band members that have left Metallica the story of Cliff Burton is undoubtedly the most tragic and touching. Burton joined the band as bassist in 1982 but in 1986 while on tour in Sweden to promote the Master of Puppets album the Metallica tour bus crashed and Burton was killed. Cliff Burton grew up around the San Francisco area and began to play the bass at the age of 13. He performed in a few high school bands before joining Trauma in 1982. Trauma were fairly successful and apparently put on a good show with Burton standing out because of his wild head banging and fantastic bass solos. Metallica saw him perform at the Whisky a Go Go in 1982 and they decided he would make a great replacement for Ron McGovney, although McGovney didnâ??t find this out until later. James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich began to try and persuade Burton to join Metallica but it took some months before he agreed. One of the sticking points was his desire to stay in San Francisco rather than move to Los Angeles where the band was based. Eventually Metallica dropped McGovney from the band and moved to San Francisco to recruit Burton. He slotted into the band immediately and gave them a new dimension. While bass guitar was traditionally considered a supporting role it seems no one had told Cliff that and he played â??lead bassâ? happily stepping up for incredible, intricate solos using effects usually reserved for the guitar and providing quality melodic bass lines. His first recording with Metallica was the Megaforce demo and he also played bass on their first album Kill Em All, second album Ride the Lightning and their third massive hit album Master of Puppets. Burton was a creative character and he racked up a number of song writing credits while with Metallica. His first bass solo appeared on Kill Em All and was entitled (Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth, he used heavy distortion to create an amazing sound. Burton’s influence on the band was important and clear for all to hear on the next two albums as well culminating in his finest instrumental, the brilliant Orion on Master of Puppets, a song which inspired many youngsters to take up the bass instead of the guitar. Metallica really hit the big time with Master of Puppets and the album was hailed as a triumph. It is considered one of the best metal albums ever produced and has sold millions of copies worldwide going platinum six times over the in the US alone. The release sparked a worldwide tour for the band known as the Damage Inc. Tour. On September the 26th of 1986 they played to a packed house in Stockholm, Sweden. This was to be Burtonâ??s last appearance with the band. The bunks on their tour bus were apparently uncomfortable and the band had drawn cards to see who got what bunk, Burton drew the Ace of Spades and chose to sleep in Kirk Hammettâ??s bunk. Towards the end of the night with the bus on its way to Copenhagen and the band sleeping in their bunks it left the road and turned over killing Cliff in the process. The cause of the accident was unclear and it left the rest of the band deeply traumatised and without the likeable, talented bassist who had made himself such an integral part of their success.