Metallica have been in the news lately, from all the Mariano Rivera tributes to an Apollo Theatre live performance to the release of their new 3D IMAX film Through The Never. But today marks a dark day in the metal pioneers’ storied past: the 27th anniversary of the death of original bassist Cliff Burton.
On the night of Sept. 26, 1986, Metallica were traveling between tour dates in Sweden when Burton and guitarist Kirk Hammett drew cards to decide who would get to choose a bunk. The bassist drew the Ace of Spades, and chose the bunk Hammett had been occupying. “I said fine, take my bunk,” the guitarist recalled in VH1′s ‘Behind the Music.’ “I’ll sleep up front; it’s probably better anyway.”
…Shortly before 7 a.m., the band members were awakened abruptly when the bus began to careen from side to side. The driver later told authorities that he lost control of the bus after hitting a patch of black ice. The bus left the road and flipped over on its side, and Burton — who had been asleep in the preferred top bunk — was thrown through the window. As the bus came down, it landed on top of the 24-year-old musician.
Burton was the lone casualty, but he left a far reaching legacy, and was posthumously inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 2009.
“Cliff will never be forgotten not only because he quite literally changed the world with his playing but for the fact that he was one of us,” says Boston’s Keith Bennett of PanzerBastard. “The same records, the same life and mindset. Kill Em All was the Never Mind The Bollocks of heavy metal.”
Bennett adds: “There were pockets of disenfranchised metal kids everywhere who took that record as a call to arms to get off your ass and start your own band. And hearing ‘Anesthesia’ for the first time simultaneously made you want to try and learn it and sell your gear cuz you’d never be able to come close. The world will NEVER see his likes again…”
Check out nearly 10 minutes of Cliff Burton bass solos up top, then experience “(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth” below.