Why I think Cliff Burton is Overrated

Discussion in 'Bassists [BG]' started by RustyNails, Jul 26, 2015.

  1. RustyNails


    Jul 22, 2015
    Las Vegas
    I'll probably get alot of flak for this post, but I feel like it must be said.

    My guitarist friend and I have this argument every few months. He thinks Cliff is one of the greatest to ever live and looks at him like a god I'm just like, no.

    Mostly I just dislike his tone and his solos. Unless you enjoy a wall of indiscernible fuzz, I can't see how anybody could like his tone. Every time I hear a Cliff Burton bass solo I wonder to myself if he has any sense of time or musicality whatsoever. His playing just sounds really sloppy to me. Especially on Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth) on Kill Em All. The first time I heard it I thought it was a joke, like an outtake or something. It starts off with "Bass solo take one..." And I'm just thinking to myself. Maybe take 2 or 3 would have been better. Put that at the end of the album as a secret track or something, but I don't think it belongs in the heart of the album. The timing is off and it seems to be played really sloppily like he was just messing around while the others were tuning and somebody said, "Hey, press record. This will be hilarious." And somehow it made it to the final cut of the album. It sounds to me more like a 12 year old who is learning to play bass trying to cover a decent bass solo and just doesn't have the skill to do it.

    The solos are bad (again, my opinion) and the stuff he plays normally along to the regular songs isn't that complicated, which I know simple can be good too, but people are calling him one of the greatest bass players of all time and I just don't see it.
    I think a lot of it has to do with his death. Rock stars seem to automatically gain more respect than maybe they deserved had they not died tragically.

    Again, these are just my opinions, and I think it might open up an interesting dialogue among us here since I'm sure there are varying opinions on the subject. So have at it...
    J_Bass, thabassmon, joebar and 7 others like this.
  2. JollySpudd

    JollySpudd Guest

    Jul 17, 2013
    No real experience in closely listening to Burton except cursory exposure back in the day. A lot of people do "sanctify" a player as "great" once they're dead, and they're welcome to their emotional opinion.

    -- A friend of mine used to throw that phrase around often "(fill in the blank) is the greatest (fill in the blank) ever!!!!" - After awhile of rolling with it, I talked with him about how many other players have lived and died in a variety of different genres of music - classical, to world wide in other countries and cultures, to jazz, rock, folk, etc..

    His problem was two-fold - a) he was mistaking "his favorite" with "the greatest ever...." and b) he was limiting this taste of his to only one genre, like rock.

    He'd mostly say it about rock or blues guitarists as the greatest ever, so I'd show him other players in other styles, and got him to realize that his preference was personal and not universal and it stopped him from considering other players who were also great.

    It's a foolish argument. Unfortunately, some people, even when faced with factual truth, won't relent, standing by their error as if doing so is some form of integrity - "I said it and I'm stickin' to it." -- Knock yerself out.

    So, I'd tell him, that's cool if he's your favorite, I can appreciate that. You've probably already tried to play him other bassists that are better - but typically, if a person sincerely *thinks* that someone is "the best ever" - they don't have the insight to hear the difference in other players that they aren't accustomed to. They have a blinding bias and will only change their minds if, they themselves, "discover" someone they like better. Then you'll ague with them about that :laugh:

    Truth be told, no person on the planet is qualified, with enough musical insight and experience to ever judge who that absolute best of any player ever is. Maybe the best Metal player or best interpreter of Beethoven violin concerti - but not the best ever, anywhere, everywhere, for all time. That's taste and opinion. So even if you're throwing out another bassist as "the best ever" to counter and prove him wrong - it's still a battle of favorites.
    31HZ likes this.
  3. Bass Growler

    Bass Growler

    Jul 10, 2015
    I used to think the same about Cliff, despite being a Metallica fan, but I actually came to really like his style and sound.
    Especially after listening to the Bass only clips on YT, it makes totally sense to me now how his sound and style worked
    in Metallica's guitar and drums heavy music.

    There's a lot of midrange, not a lot of treble, and a cool overdrive that lets him sit in the mix very well.
    It's just too bad they didn't turn him up higher in the mix, but that wasn't his fault.

    He also had a great sense of harmony, listen to the chorus of No Remorse where he basically plays a harmony over the guitar line, but then
    an octave lower, instead of doubling the guitars. That sounds great and fits the song a lot better.

    As for the sloppiness, well.....listen to Jimi Hendrix, he's considdered the "greatest" guitar player ever! Don't mean s#!t.
    rational baze and Zodion like this.
  4. pacojas

    pacojas "FYYA BUN"

    Oct 11, 2009
    Cliff Burton is still the best!!! :mad: why i ought-ta poke yer eyes out, ya stooge!
  5. Kim Jong Funk

    Kim Jong Funk

    Jun 15, 2014
    Arguing with anyone about who the "best" player is is like trying to argue with someone about the best kind of BBQ. Memphis, KC, Texas, Carolina... I could tell you which one I like the most, but you can't say one is objectively better than the other. If someone tells me that Fieldy from Korn is the best bassist, I would agree that he is indeed the best bassist...for Korn. You can argue some aspects all day long -- Steve Vai is better technically than Jimmy Page, but is he a better guitarist? I can clearly tell you which one I'd rather listen to (Page).
    BMGecko and fretter like this.
  6. I hear what your saying, might even agree with your talking points but define 'over rated.' If 8 out of 10 people hold the opinion that a thing is 'good' but you don't for a variety of reasons, can the thing truly be called 'over rated?'
  7. there's no accounting for taste
  8. Kim Jong Funk

    Kim Jong Funk

    Jun 15, 2014
    Exactly. Same goes for underrated. I think Robert DeLeo from Stone Temple Pilots is terribly underrated, but again, that's totally subjective.

    Looking at some of the women my friends have ended up with, I have to agree with you there.
    joebar likes this.
  9. Agree about Bob. Great player.
    Kim Jong Funk likes this.
  10. blue4


    Feb 3, 2013
    St. Louis area
    I'm not sure how interesting the dialogue will be. Myself, I like him a lot, I consider Pulling Teeth to be far more listenable than 95% of bass solos I hear. He's a classic player and an integral part of the history of one of the most popular and influential metal bands of all time. I don't think being dead inflates his reputation, I think it's the only reason laypeople remember the bass player. IMO.
  11. Bass Growler

    Bass Growler

    Jul 10, 2015
    I agree, remember that during that time, in the early 80's, metal was basically inventing itself.
    So having a bassplayer who could play and sound like that was a huge deal for any band.
    And it still is, if I want to listen to the next dull, generic bassplayer all I have to do is turn on the radio or MTV.
    gebass6, AaronMB and Jeffrey Bryan like this.
  12. Zodion


    Aug 9, 2014
    New York
    One word. ORION. That is all. If you haven't heard Orion by Metallica (one of my favorite songs) then you are seriously missing out. Not only was cliff a good bassist but he basically taught James and kirk musically because cliff was classically trained. The intro to fight fire with fire? Cliff wrote that from inspiration of classical composers. The intro to damage inc. Was inspired by Bach.

    His style and writing is what made the first 3 albums considered the best.

    (I may be biased because I'm a Metallica fan boy. I even have a huge poster from Orion fest that I went to)
  13. He's a decent player, no doubt that people see him as the best and always will, but to many he just isn't impressive. It's the same with flea, so many people think he's the best but to many including me he is overrated.
    Az_Rocker76 likes this.
  14. Big old field of rhubarb.

    Fieldy knits boss sweaters.
  15. AciDBatH666

    AciDBatH666 Supporting Member

    Feb 13, 2008
    Lafayette, LA
    I used to think he was awesome. Then I heard his solo tracks and changed my mind. Then i played seriously with a band and realized how well his chops sit in the mix. I figured with as fast and pinpoint the guitars were, the bass HAD to mimic that. But he was loose with his style and it worked. Same with Steve Harris. I never realized how sloppy his tracks were until I heard them isolated. It made me not be afraid to go in with some clank in my mix and to be more loose with how I fit in the mix as a whole. Orion is one of those things that once you hear it, you love the simplicity of it and the way it works as a whole.
    Same with Call of Cthulu. If you sit and listen he's doing a ton of distorted wah stuff that you have to listen for.
    I don't think he's Victor Wooten, but he's definitely made his mark in the metal genre and it's well deserved imo.
  16. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Experimental-psychedelic-ambient-noise-drone

    Feb 23, 2011
    All I hear OP say is b.l.a, b.l.a, b.l.a.

    My point being: If you are not open minded, sure all music will be noise to you.

    Cliff got soul, he was not a mindless metronome, he got the edge metal requires!
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2015
    barach713 likes this.
  17. Jeffrey Bryan

    Jeffrey Bryan

    Jan 28, 2008
    Treading outside the box often stirs up this ruckus in the first place. If anyone can do it better then he/she should! You can argue that a fuzz & solo's do not belong on bass guitar, but hearing Stanley speak these words a few years ago opened up my mind forever:

    I don't buy the whole death = fame stuff. It was after Cliff died that Metallica chose a different path to walk with their music, which is why "The Cliff era" will always be connected with the old style of Metallica. Don't get me wrong I agree that Cliff wasn't the most TIGHT bassplayer, but remember that the show, stage presence, looks and personality all come into play into defining someone as "the best". You can be the best bassplayer in the world (in theory/speed/compositions) but you're not gonna make it without the show & looks element that need to fit the picture.
    31HZ and BillMason like this.
  18. Bass Growler

    Bass Growler

    Jul 10, 2015
    Jeffrey Bryan, that was so-lid!
    31HZ and Jeffrey Bryan like this.
  19. BoogieZK


    Sep 28, 2008
    Toulouse, France
    Your Guitarist says he's the greatest because like the Manowar bass player, he played bass like a guitar. Lot of distortion, guitar like solos and guitar like bass riffs.

    I think Cliff burton was a really good guitar player, but as a bass player? He's good, he had ideas but nothing near THE greatest bass player.

    I think Peter Steele wich was the composer of every song he played and sang, need to be much more respected than Cliff.
    As Marco Mendoza, David Ellefson, Justin Chancellor, Justin Meldal-Johnsen, John Entwhistle, James lomenzo... etc etc are way better IMO.
    Dr Gero likes this.
  20. Jeffrey Bryan

    Jeffrey Bryan

    Jan 28, 2008
    I understand what you're trying to say but music has no rules. The bass guitar wasn't meant to be played with two fingers or a pick, so all the "bass players" you think are better are doing it "wrong" as well by that definition.

    People are often tricked into a mindset of "this is what it's supposed to be" (also see: "genres") and whenever someone goes beyond you either have a big flop or a huge success for being rebellious/original/unique. I can get restless thinking about what uncharted possibilities are still out there (using different instruments for different puroses / FX / band set-ups) but without the time and budget they would, unfortunately, be impossible to realize.
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2015
    BillMason and HaphAsSard like this.
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