Kerrang: How did the death of original bassist Cliff Burton in the tour bus crash of 1986 affect you?
James: Well I was supposed to be sleeping on that side of the bus too, right underneath cliff, so it could have been both of us. But I have what ifs, I donĺt dwell on that. I still think about him quite often.
James Hetfield June 2006 after playing the full version of Orion Live in Germany at the end of the song he says "God Bless Cliff Burton"
Piphaz: can you feel the spirit of ol┤Cliff here in sweden? I can.
James Hetfield: Yeah, the spirit of Cliff lives in our hearts and is alive and well wherever we go.
Sonny: How has Cliff's death affected you?
Het: It all made us realize how important the Metallica family is. How you can go at any fucking moment. There is a saying from some movie, "Live each day as your last because some day you will be right." Cliff is still around. I've got his ring right here. (James shows us Cliff's skull ring on his wallet chain) It doesn't fucking fit my finger anymore. He is still with us and he's digging it.
Kurt LODER: Metallica was working, but something was lacking in the band's lineup. And while watching another group at the famous Whiskey one night, they discovered what it was-bassist Cliff Burton.
HETFIELD: So we saw this mop going, and, you know, he had this wah going, and fingers and hair were flying. And we just thought that was so cool, so unique. We had to have the guy.
ULRICH: He really had been studying music, at a college up in San Francisco. And really started introducing James and me to things like harmonies, and melodies, and stuff like that.
MetalEdgeMagazine August 1996, Vol,41 No.3:
Will you be traveling by plane again?
Kirk: Yeah, probably. That bus accident...it still to this day freaks me out.
Do you have flashbacks?
Kirk: I think about Cliff every single day. It's really strange. It's something that pops into my head every day and I'm constantly reminded of it because he played such a large part in our lives.
What do you think he'd think of the band now, and the success?
Kirk: Cliff loved melody a lot and I think he'd approve.
Lars: I think Cliff would dig on the success because knowing in our heart of hearts this is something that has come to us not something we went out and sought. He'd dig that. Weather he'd be able to get off on the simplicity of things like "Enter Sandman," I can't answer. he was the one of the band that was pulling in the more abstract direction musically. It's hard to speculate but i think he'd dig what's going on.
If Cliff was still around how would the band be different?
Kirk: Yeah. He was much more adamant about his opinions and ideas. He had a different opinion on everything. He'd probably be very popular because he was wearing bell bottoms and flannels before anyone, he was definitely before his time. It would definitely be different. Jason has a different vibe.
Are you in contact with any of Cliff's family members?
Kirk: Yeah, I talk to his father from time to time, we hang out. His dad's a great person. We have very similar views on politics, we lean to the left and connect in that way.
"He was a wild, hippie-ish, acid-taking, bell-bottom-wearing guy. He meant business, and you couldn't fuck around with him. I wanted to get that respect that he had. We gave him shit about his bell-bottoms everyday. He didn't care. 'This is what I wear. Fuck you." He loved music. He was really intellectual but very to the point. He taught me a lot about attitude." ĚJames Hetfield
"I remember this guy lit my couch on fire a couple of times." ĚJames Hetfield
"I saw the bus lying right on him. I saw his legs sticking out. I freaked. The bus driver, I recall, was trying to yank the blanket out from under him to use for other people. I just went, 'Don't fucking do that!' I already wanted to kill the guy. I don't know if he was drunk or if he hit some ice. All I knew was, he was driving and Cliff wasn't alive anymore." ĚJames Hetfield
"Knowing Cliff's attitude, he'd kick our butts if we quit." ĚJames Hetfield
When we did get together Cliff definitely taught me a lot of stuff. A lot of the classical training he had rubbed off on me, there's no doubt. I got into it and dug it. JAMES HETFIELD, MAY 1990
"Cliff's taken classes in school on music theory, things like mixing harmonies together. he took a junior college course. " ĚJames Hetfield
"Cliff used to carry this acoustic tuned to C# around. We don't know how the fuck he got it or why the hell he had it, but he used to play these weird melodies on it that kinda got us into the "Ktulu" vibe. He wrote a lot of our stuff on that guitar".James Hetfield
"People probably thought, 'Oh, they're not going to do the heavy lyrics now because of what happened.' Man, those lyrics mean a lot more to me now." ĚJames Hetfield
"When it got to the part where the first Pharaoh's son is taken and the fog rolls in, Cliff said, "Look...creeping death." And I was like, "Whoa, dude, write it down! Sheer poetry!".James Hetfield
"We heard this wild solo going on and thought, 'I don't see any guitar player up there.' It turned out it was the bass player, Cliff, with a wah wah pedal and this mop of hair. He didn't care whether people were there. He was looking down at his bass playing." ĚJames Hetfield
"He definitely deserves all that we've got" ĚJames Hetfield
"Lars Would Talk His Way Into Their Pants. Kirk Had A Babyface That Was Appealing To The Girls. And Cliff-He Had A Big Dick. Word Got Around About That, I Guess." James Hetfield-Playboy April 2001.
Kirk's thoughts on Cliff
"When I first joined the band, I remember thinking how weird Cliff was. I had actually seen Cliff before in a band called Easy Street with Jim Martin (who joined and left Faith No More). Cliff's amp blew up during that show, so he just sat in front of his amp and headbanged." - Kirk Hammett
"To this day, I think about him every day." ĚKirk Hammett, '88
"He was always against looking too posey, he was always into just looking natural." ĚKirk Hammett
"Cliff had a way of commandeering the tape player in any vehicle.".Kirk Hammett
"The only person who was able to figure out a time and write it on a piece of paper was Cliff. He had an immense knowledge of timing, musical harmonies and music theory in general." ĚKirk Hammett
"I had seen Cliff in this band called Easy Street when I was like 16 years old at a club called International Cafe in San Francisco...It always stuck out in my mind. This guy with wild, wild red hair flying all over the place and a Rickenbacker and a real distinct bass style and I thought to myself, 'This guy is fucking wild!'".Kirk Hammett
"We used to sleep four to a room. I had to share a bed with Lars, he used to take all the blankets. I would never sleep with Cliff, because he had really pointy elbows. Really bony. Actually no one snores much. We drool a lot.".Kirk Hammett
"I remember him really loving the way Ed King of Lynyrd Skynyrd played guitar. He'd always ask me to show him Skynyrd licks, and then he'd end up saying, 'Man that's tricky, that's really tricky.".Kirk Hammett
"Such a huge void was created after Cliff died - a really big hole that only he could fill.".Kirk Hammett
"In Denmark while recording Master of Puppets, we hung out a lot. We'd go out and play poker for 8 hours straight after being up for 24 hours. We'd find a seafood restaurant that was open, eat raw oysters and drink beer, scream at the natives while we were drunk...that's some of my best memories of him." ĚKirk Hammett
"Right after the accident happened, we individually decided that, the best way to get rid of all our frustrations, would be to hit the road and get all the anxiety and frustrations out on stage, where they should go. They should go toward a positive thing like that. We were very traumatized, and felt a lot of emotional distraught over the situtation." ... "The worst thing we could do is just sit in our room and sulk over the matter and wallow in our pity. The more you think about it, the deeper you sink. We each thought individually, we have to keep on going, we have to work because it wouldn't be fair to Cliff to just stop. Also if he were alive for some reason or another and like y'know he couldn't play bass, he wouldn't tell us to stop. Thats the way he would've felt. He would've wanted us to go on." ... "If we had hung it up, Cliff would've been so pissed off."- Kirk Hammett Feb. 1987 Aardshock Festival
"Cliff Was A Very Smart Guy, A Reader, Very Eloquent. I Just Dont Understand Why He Went, And Not One Of Us."-Kirk Hammett Playboy April 2001.
Lars' thoughts on Cliff
"Cliff was so completely honest to himself and the people around him. He hated all this being-put-on-a-pedestal bullshit." ĚLars Ulrich
Cliff's death never really got to me too bad until about two or three nights into that tour. We were sitting in the bar at the hotel and got really wrecked. We'd never really done anything Keith Moonish, but we went and tore this bathroom to pieces and kind of got it out of our system that night. From then on it kind of got the physical side of the pain out of our system. LARS ULRICH, FEBRUARY 1993
"We always miss Cliff, but he is kind of on the record. (...And Justice for all) The song 'To live is to die' is really based on a number of riffs that Cliff wrote a couple of years ago. It's kind of cool to have something written by Cliff on the new album." ĚLars Ulrich
I'm not sure Ron was the kind of guy to make the commitment and take the kind of chances that you do to make it a fulltime thing in the band. He had his little job, his little house and stuff and I'm not sure he was ready to go for it and I think we could all sense that. So when we saw this guy Cliff with a band called Trauma at a San Francisco Bay Area night then it really became apparent we should try and get him in the band. LARS ULRICH, FEBRUARY 1993
"I know Cliff, more than anyone else in the band, he would have been the first guy to give us a kick in the ass, and wouldn't want us to sit around. It's what he would have wanted us to do." ĚLars Ulrich
The main difference between Jason's and Cliff's writing is that Jason tends to write a lot more with the guitar in mind, whereas Cliff's stuff was always like really weird and off-the-wall. If anything, I think that Jason's stuff is a lot closer to James' and my song writing than Cliff's shit ever was. LARS ULRICH, SEPTEMBER 1988
"I wasn't too angry in the beginning. I was obviously grieving, but the anger started setting in when I realized that it's not new that people in rock-n-roll die, but usually it's self-inflicted in terms of excessive drink or drug abuse. He had nothing to do with it. It's so useless. Completely useless." ĚLars Ulrich
I guess the bass guitar has always been this weird instrument in the band, it's always been overlooked because with Cliff...he was always off on Planet 9. I mean, there were always times when me and James would try and get Cliff to adapt his bass playing a little differently, but Cliff was Cliff and he just done it in his own way and that was that. With Jason I guess we misfired on '...Justice...', but this time around I didn't want to make the same mistake again, so very early on we steered the bass more towards the drum kit and shield away from the guitar a little. LARS ULRICH, AUGUST 1991
"It Was Too Unreal To Just Deal With It. I Remember Being At The Hospital And A Doctor Coming In To The Room That I Was Staying In And Telling Us Our Bass Player had died. We Couldnt Grasp It, It Was Too Hard, It Was Too Unreal" .Lars Ulrich, From MTV Rockumentary 1992
"Today we think about him a lot and talk about him, even joke about him. I often think, now much more than ever, how much of a character and personality Cliff actually was. He was just one in five billion people on this earth, and we will never, ever, even be tempted to come up with anyone like him.".Lars Ulrich
"We were writing Master of Puppets and driving around in his green Volkswagen to photo sessions. Cliff would just pound this Misfits stuff, drum on the dashboard, and make everybody fucking nuts. And Cliff wasn't the best driver to begin with.".Lars Ulrich
Cliff was responsible for a lot of the things that happened between 'Kill 'Em All' and 'Ride The Lightning'. I think the biggest maturity or change or growth was between 'Kill 'Em All' and 'Ride The Lightning', and most of that was down to the fact that all the songs on 'Kill 'Em All' were written before Cliff and Kirk were in the band. So when Cliff and Kirk joined, especially Cliff, Cliff really exposed me and James to a whole new musical horizon of harmonies and melodies, just a whole new kind of thing, and obviously that's something that greatly influenced our song writing abilities on 'Master Of Puppets' and '...And Justice for All'. It's something thats still with us, so from that point of view I'd obviously say 'yes' (to the notion that Cliff's influence on the band is still strong). On the '...Justice...' album there were still some bits left over from some of Cliff's old tapes and stuff, so I mean, Cliff was with us really up through '...Justice...'. On this album ('Metallica') there aren't any specific, direct things that I can think of, but the whole way that me and James write songs together, I mean, that was shaped when Cliff was in the band, and was very much shaped around Cliff's musical input; the way he really taught us about harmonies and melodies and that kind of stuff. I mean, I don't want to sound corny, but his vibe is always with us, and he was certainly a big part of the whole way that we got our chops together in the early days, about our attitudes and our musical vibe and our everything. He was a great part of the way Metallica has turned out, even after he is no longer with us. LARS ULRICH, FEBRUARY 1992
Click Here To Here Lars Talking About S&M And How Cliff Would Of Loved To Do That. Click
Jason's thoughts on Cliff
"'Blackened' is probably my favorite song on justice. I just like the grooves. It's got a good feel. 'Orion' and 'For Whom The Bell Tolls' are my favorite old songs.".Jason Newsted
Q: How was your transition when you replaced Cliff Burton?. What was the response from the fans like?
Jason: It was a very difficult transition and most of the response from the fans was positive. But it was about a five year test I would say.
Q:Is Burton a better Bass Player in your opinion???
Jason: Better than who? I would say for the most part that Cliff Burton is one of the top five electric bassists in electric music that will ever live.
Q: People are always comparing you to Cliff - does this bother you? Why so or why not?
Jason: No, it does not bother me..because he was taller and cooler.
"He was a great and very special talent.....Cliff's solos were absolutely brilliant." ĚJason Newsted
"He is the Hendrix of bass for his ground breaking style" ĚJason Newsted
"Cliff Had Alot Of Very Loyal Fans, Including Me" Jason Newsted
"There was a huge shadow there. I'd always looked up to him so much" ĚJason Newsted, on replacing Cliff
"I Remember When They Came To Phoenix One Time, I Went To The Show. I Bought A T-Shirt.....Wore It All The Time And Stood Up There In Front Of Cliff And Was Just Blown Away By The Way He Played. I Mean He Was Just Naturally Gifted, A Creative Genius. Thats What His Mother Told Me" .Jason Newsted, From A Year And A Half....
"I went to see Metallica when they came to Phoenix. It freaked me out. I stood in front of Cliff in total awe of the way he played."
"I Remember Tears Hitting The Newspaper, Killed In Sweden Metallica Bassist Cliff Burton Or Whatever, and I Just Yelled....Just lost it" .Jason Newsted, From Behind The Music With Metallica 1998
The first few years it was hard for Metallica to open up and let me into their lives. Cliff was such a big influence on all of their lives. As for his musical abilities, he showed James harmonies, melodies, things about theory that James never knew. He was like a big brother/teacher. I didn't even know him, but now I hang out with some of his friends who are now my friends. As a person he didn't really say a lot, but when the serious shit was going down and he did say something, everyone else would just shut up. His words had weight. For him to be taken away from them, and for some new guy to try to fill his shoes over on the right hand side of the stage, was really tough. It was hard for them to open up to another guy. I tried to deal with it and just try to be me, without worrying how Cliff did things. Little by little it's worked out. Over the past year and a half it's become really cool. I really feel like a huge part of Metallica now. We've become real friends. JASON NEWSTED, NOVEMBER 1991
"Cliff Burton Was My God. I Mean, No one Before Him and No One Since Him Has Played Like That. People Have Copied Him But Nobody Ever Had His Feel Or His Prowess. Jason Newsted Playboy April 2001.
Playboy. Had You Seen Metallica While Cliff Was Alive?
Jason-Yes, In Phoenix With Wasp, Shortly Before Master Of Puppets Came Out. Front Row Right In Front Of Cliff Burton, Worshiping. Drooling. Banging Madly. Fourteen Bucks For A Shirt, Which Was All The Money In The World At The Time. We Only Went To See Metallica. As Soon As Metallica Was Done, We Walked Out. They Just Crushed It, And We Knew Everything They Did By Heart.
Playboy. How Did You Hear He'd Died?
Jason-A Friend Woke Me Up At Six In The Morning. He Said, "You've Got To Get The Paper, Dude." I Remember Tears Hitting The Paper And Watching Them Soak Into The Print. We(Flotsam And Jetsam) Wore Black Armbands When We Played Our Next Gigs.
Metal Edge: Joining Metallica and trying to fill Cliff Burton's shoes had to be intimidating.
Jason-Nobody could ever do it.