He lived with his family in San Francisco, and for three and a half years he worked hard to take Metallica to the top. After replacing Ron McGovney in late 1982, Cliff instantly made a name for himself with his classic "wind-mill" style of thrashing on stage, with his hair flying out in all directions, and with his outdated, completely "unfashionable" image. With his hair hanging straight down from his head, he seemed eternally clad in a pair of bell-bottom jeans and a faded denim jacket. If it was cold, he wore a flannel shirt underneath.
Offstage, he was the ultimate laid-back Californian, a total opposite from his wild, aggressive onstage attack. His sense of humor was great, as were his bass solos and everything about his stage presence. He was the most visual of all the band onstage, he would just go wild. The best example of how cool and unflappable Cliff was happened in the summer of 1985 at their Castle Donnington Festival appearance (August 17, 1985). Having ducked beneath a flying pear which ended up embedding itself in his bass bin, Burton coolly sauntered over to his stack, picked up the pear, took two bites out of it and hurled it back into the crowd.
For a while there it really looked as if 1986 was gonna be Metallica's year. After all, their third LP,Master of Puppets, had literally taken the music world by storm and, in doing so, had made the band virtual mega-stars in the eyes of the metal-doting public. Metallica had finally "made it", and it seemed that nothing could halt their inexorable rise to even greater glory. Then, during the European leg of the group's phenomenally successful "Damage Inc." world tour, something went wrong - catastrophically wrong. Cliff Was Killed In A Bus Crash On Sept. 27th 1986.
The gap left by Cliff's death yawned across the pages of tributes run by the music press the week after the tragedy. In Kerrang!, for example, advertisements were taken by friends and fans alike; a bleak, black double-page spread ran messages from the Zazulas ("The Ultimate Musician, The Ultimate Headbanger, The Ultimate Loss, A Friend Forever"), and Anthrax ("Bell-Bottoms Rule!! Laugh it up, We Miss You"), while Music For Nations also took out a page ad which simply read: "Cliff Burton 1962 - 1986." The pain ran deep.
His family and friends remembered him as a "world class local boy" with a love for Johann Sebastian Bach, Mexican food and his hometown. His parents said he was "an appreciative and thoughtful son. Because of his performing, he'd sleep all day and stay up all night and never wake us up. Once, a little boy came up to the door, early in the morning and wanted Cliff to sign his shirt. So Cliff staggered to the door - and said "Sure, of course I'll sign it."
"I once called him up and said 'How do you like being a rock star?', and he was furious. He asked me never to refer to him that way again." Connie - His sister
At the conclusion of his memorial service (October 7, 1986), "Orion," from the band's Master of Puppets album was played. The elaborate instrumental made a fitting tribute for the young bassist, since, as James Hetfield recalled, Cliff was Metallica's most educated musician and "Orion" was largely his composition.
Cliff was also responsible for expanding the scope of Metallica's lyrical themes. he Introduced The Rest Of The Band To the works of H.P. Lovecraft.
Cliff was in his prime, a fine bassist in one of the world's most popular heavy metal bands. Cliff possessed a truly great talent, and there is no doubt in my mind that he was the foremost bassist in his particular genre of music. Musically, his presence was felt in his aggressive playing, either doubling the guitar lines or adding syncopated counterlines. Maintaining a heavy, relentless bottom-end pulse as a component of the rhythm section as well as a strong intuitive sense of embellishment in melodic fills, Cliff represented the ultimate thrash bassist. He was the perfect foil for the energetic and propulsive drum bombast of Lars and the pulverizing crunch-chording of James and Kirk.
Cliff was also a fine and inventive soloist, and his clever use of distortion and wah-wah in his "(Anesthesia) - Pulling Teeth" showpiece made it one of the highlights of the band's live set. More importantly, Cliff was one hell of a nice guy and a much-loved figure in the Metallica camp. He always went out of his way to talk to the band's fans- no matter how tired he was. He was certainly the most unanimously appreciated by the band members as well as by the public. Cliff was also voted the best bassist in San Fransisco in 1982 and he probably still is the best S.F's ever seen. The Music World Lost A Great Musician When Cliff Died.