Archive for July, 2013

Cliff Burton

When a man lies, he murders some part of the world. These are the pale deaths which men miscall their lives. All this I cannot bear to witness any longer. Cannot the Kingdom of Salvation take me home?’

As some of you may be aware the title of my blog ‘thefrayedendsofsanity’ comes from a song on Metallica’s ‘…And Justice for All’ album. The album is also notable for being the last songwriting credit of the bands late and great original bassist Cliff Burton. I have been thinking about Cliff’s playing of late as I have been listening to and playing bass more often than I have been in a long, long time. Cliff was one of those unique bass players that could combine intricate rhythms with complex melodic structure and in the process help redefine and shape the way in which the bass could be played. There is a school of thought that the bass is not that interesting an instrument or that no one really notices the bass player but people should remember that Paul McCartney, Sting, Phil Lynott, Flea, Geddy Lee, Charles Mingus, Les Claypool and Jah Wobble ( to name but a few) were and are songwriters that primarily use the bass to create their songs. I suppose my point is the instrument can be innovative. Burton was one of these innovators. Listen to Pulling Teeth off ‘Kill ‘Em All’ and you can hear the influence of Bach but that influence is mixed with distortion and wah which are used to create a maelstrom of a solo that is both technical and moving. By no means was he just a soloist his work on the rest of the album also locked down the guitar riffs with his irresistible deep groove. His use of arpeggios, fills and runs highlighted that he was a major talent with the chops to back it all up.

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Metallica’s follow-up album has Burton credited with six song writing co-credits. His precision on Fight Fire with Fire, the instantly recognisable intro to For Whom The Bells Toll and his subtlety on Fade To Black saw him develop his ideas and the style that he had showcased on the bands debut. Listening to The Call of Ktulu now I am blown away by his virtuosity and the sounds he gets out of bass guitar as they are like nothing I have ever heard. By the bands third album Master of Puppets they had hit their stride, Burton has three songwriting credits:the masterpiece that is Master of Puppets, the blistering Damage Inc and, in my opinion Burton’s greatest work, Orion. Orion is a beautiful song with movements that include baroque influences, an unforgettable mid-section and one of the most melodic and beautiful bass solos I have ever heard. The future, it seemed, was wide open but unfortunately Cliff died in a horrible accident in 1986 at the age of 24. Listening to his work again I have realised just how much he has influenced,and continues to influence, my playing but most of all I love getting lost in the worlds he created.