Why I think Cliff Burton is Overrated

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

  1. Canadian APII

    Canadian APII Supporting Member

    Feb 3, 2013
    Ottawa Ontario
    I never knew who Cliff Burton was until a few years ago. Admittedly I really like his work and Connie really works at advancing his image. She frequently brings unknown pics and clips of her brother to light. Back to topic here. If he was best we will never know. I find his solo's were unique and his playing style fit in very well with the mix. It wasn't lost or overpowered the other instruments. Part of that was his choice of instrument. The Aria Pro II was a very nasally mid-range instrument. So metallica sonically was drums for the bottom end, bass for the mid-range and guitar for the top end. Many three or four piece bands neglect the mid-range. Most bassists choose a very bassy pickup and they run the risk of getting lost in the mix with the drums. Maybe Cliff could predict the future because on Jason Newsteds first outing with Metallica Lars Ulrich insisted on burying the bass playing. A mid-range bass would have fit better and not have been a threat to Lars. Cliff showed promise to be one of the greats but to be a great I think there needs to be an extensive body of work to compare with others. That is just not there.
    Matthew_84 likes this.
  2. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Uh...... MTV hasn't played music videos in years. ;)
    Jeffrey Bryan and RickyT like this.
  3. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Carolina. Period. Duh. :cool:
  4. Bass Growler

    Bass Growler

    Jul 10, 2015
    Which illustrates my point even more.....:D
    Jeffrey Bryan likes this.
  5. Yorick


    Nov 10, 2006
    Cliff was the best at being Cliff...........
  6. Wolfenstein666


    Dec 19, 2014
    Look at this kid:

    Dude am I the only one that finds this creepy?

    And while I'm here, yeah I love Cliff. He's mainly the reason I started playing bass, but I will say like someone else in the thread said that he brought the instrument into the spotlight for me. Before Cliff I had never even really looked at the bass as anything special until I saw his crazy solo's and stage persona. So yeah, I picked it up because of him. But once bass got it's hooks in me and I started branching out I realized that there are other people much more talented from a technical stand point. Cliff CRUSHED it in Metallica, he was a great fit. If you swapped him and Ellefson out back in 86 they wouldn't have sounded right in each other's band. So I think its a matter of 'does it fit the music' not one of 'could he crush every other bassist at an open mic night' deal.
  7. Cliff was The Man to every kid growing up hearing Metal: Metallica changed the game on all levels in the genre, and no doubt in THAT GENRE, who played like HIM, THEN?
    barach713 and Zodion like this.
  8. BigBobbyBass


    Jan 23, 2015
    He's why I picked up the instrument, and since it wasn't Jaco I guess I suck ass well..pfft..
    Zodion likes this.
  9. barach713


    Jan 17, 2016
    @RustyNails first of all im sry for bumping the old thread hope its still not late for me to enlighten you...doesnt mean you will instantly become cliff fan but i hope you will understand an appreciate his work more....he is much more praised for his musicianship and how he contributed to the band than for his playing...he was the only one musically educated in metallica and was the guy everone looked up to...he took up piano courses as a kid and same did with bass later, he progressed quickly and even went to music academy...he was the only one with musical theory knowledge and knew how stuff works...he was really influenced by classical music and it is well showcased in his playing...first stop anesthesia (pulling teeth)..first part of the song(without drums) is directly derived from classical music(you can listen to piano and cello cover and it sounds as if it was written for it), odd timing in it and chord and note choices is from classical music(i have seen people play bach cello suite #1 perfectly and yet classical music 'fans' told him: man it was great but where is the feeling, you play like metronome, add life and expression to it....so yeah what seems off time in rock music is right in classical..also i have listened to luciano pavarotti and zucchero performing va pensiero...zucchero did it normal rock way, then pavarotti kicks in and holds the note and i though he was going to make a mistake but he stopped where i wouldnt normally and it was still in that time measurement even tho it sounded like he will make a mistake for a second..)..second his playing is all about expression and his 'sloppy bashing' really adds life to james machine steady rhythm(what may sound sloppy on its own sits perfectly well in the mix, reminds me of geezer butler, thats how he played on old sabbath stuff even the tone is kinda like cliffs on ride the lightning...some people dont want to sound clean and spot on, but want expression and freedom, steve harris sounds very sloppy on its own too yet people dont complain and his clanky tone sits perfectly with the drums and cuts through guitars)..then his musicianship...his playing on kill em all is pretty simmilar to old disco players, clean high mids precize fingerpicking, thats how he played in trauma, but ride the lightning becomes truly burtonised album..he starts cranking the gain on the tube amps to get grit he starts bashing the strings and playing as if he means it..call of ktulu instrumental is inspired by call of cthulhu novel by hp lovecraft cliff loved reading and there is fuzz wah lead bass stuff in it, bass is emulating 'alien speech and howls and screams', for whom the bell tolls is same name novel from hemingway cliff also read and he wrote the chromatic intro when he was like 14 and just applied it to this, intro to fight fire with fire with harmony is his idea, without him metallica would still sound like kill em all(that was james and lars thrash metallica) etc many stuff in both composing and songwriting, on master of puppets there is intro to damage inc done by multiple bass tracks and volume swells in order to replicate bach komm susser tod for organ, orion has intro on overdriven hammond organ, two bass solos one of which is right after guitar solo and is actually two harmony bass tracks, entire middle section where you have bassline and two harmony guitar layers is written entirely by him for both bass and guitar, kirk took some of his solo lines from cliffs playing, thing that should not be is again lovecraftian lyrics and theme, he taught james and kirk pretty much everything about harmony and how stuff works, when he wouldnt like riff they wouldnt use it, james and kirk said all of this many times, kirk also said his style was much welcomed and that if he was still alive they would keep going in that direction...he is the main reason for why master and ride are one of the best albums in metal in general and for metallica success...etc i can go on for days i probably forgot many other stuff...but to sum up, great composer, innovative player, bringing bass up as an instrument you create music on and not just back it up...as far as im concerned he is not overrated, but when it comes to fact not for people claiming he is bass god and best player ever(thats a subjective thing to say)
    Matthew_84 likes this.
  10. barach713


    Jan 17, 2016
    oh besides, you dont hear guitarists put him down and make fun for his E root note rumbling right?
  11. barach713


    Jan 17, 2016
    and no you are not biased, you are absolutely right, even metallica themselves say it, he was the man behind the success yet he was humble enough not to push it into everyones face
    BillMason and Zodion like this.
  12. wintremute

    wintremute mediocrity at its finest

    Oct 16, 2014
    Endorsing Artist: Langstrom Carrot Farms
    I think Cliff is underrated because so many people can't hear his bass lines.
    31HZ, BillMason and Zodion like this.
  13. MidnightRunner


    Mar 21, 2021
    To be honest I think he is over-praised as a bassist and he is ranked too high on pretty much all Internet lists of "Best/top rock bassists"(he is even at #1 on some of them).
    I think he was a talented musician and maybe the best one in Metallica but as a bassist he is not in the same league with Geddy Lee, John Entwistle, Chris Squire, John Paul Jones, Steve Harris, etc.
    Geri O likes this.
  14. I wouldn’t compare him to virtuoso players but what I like about Cliff is he was really the heart of the band back in those days imo. When I listen to old Metallica tunes especially ones where the bass shines more I really like the classical music influence Cliff brought to that band. I think it really helped shape the sound of some of Metallica’s biggest songs. Here’s an interesting way to look at it. Because I know a lot people don’t like cliff because of his tone, personally there really aren’t many bass players from that era that had good tone by todays standard. But do yourself a favor and watch this and picture what how he might have been looked at if he had the modern gear Rob uses.
    wintremute likes this.
  15. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Experimental-psychedelic-ambient-noise-drone

    Feb 23, 2011
    I think a lot of the naysayers here, including OP, are totally neglecting/ignoring the fact of time and context in general, as in at which point in music history Cliff did what he did and in what genre, and that is not irrelevant, in fact that means everything in this context.

    In his time and his genre what he did what pretty groundbreaking.

    He can rightfully be credited for opening a lot of peoples eyes to what role the bass in a metal band could play, and he inspired thousand if not millions of future bass players, and some of the other metal bass players that some of you mention as examples of better metal bassists partially has Cliff to thank for that they become what they did, they might not even ever had picked up a bass to begin with if it weren't for Cliff and what he did.

    It's like ridiculing Thomas Edison for inventing the electric light bulb and his other work with electricity, because it's pretty amateur level engineering compared to today's technology, like for instance super computers, when in reality his work can take partially credit for propelling modern engineering and technology forward.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2021
    blue4 and DrMole like this.
  16. MidnightRunner


    Mar 21, 2021
    And guys Geezer Butler and Steve Harris, who played the bass in metal before Cliff, didn't open people's eyes to what the role of bass in metal can be? They didn't break any new ground with their bass playing, only Cliff did it?
  17. NoiseNinja

    NoiseNinja Experimental-psychedelic-ambient-noise-drone

    Feb 23, 2011
    Where do you see me writing that?

    That's you saying so, I nowhere claim that no one else matters.

    Calm down bro.

    It isn't like I have, or in any way even could have, stolen any of the credit neither of those definitely deserves too, even if I had claimed so.

    Cliff did approach playing bass differently than both Geezer and Steve though.

    Giving someone credit where credit is due doesn't mean that you steal it from someone else. :rolleyes:
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2021
    wintremute and BillMason like this.
  18. BillMason


    Mar 6, 2007
    The best bass players in my opinion are open minded about the role of the bass because they bring something in from outside the bass echo chamber. They realize that there’s a lot more to the bass role than just meeting the bass drum at the right time.

    McCartney and Jamerson started on piano, and Geezer Butler started on guitar. What they, all three, brought was a sense of melody to their bass playing, and in the case of Jamerson and McCartney, they both had a truly staggering understanding of harmony and rhythm nearly unmatched in the pop world - and those who’ve matched it for the most part had similar backgrounds.

    If you listen to traditional salsa, the bass is *not* emphasizing beats 2 & 4, and it can be dizzying trying to figure out what they’re doing rhythmically unless you slow it down and listen with a metronome.

    Cliff was innovative - I hate to say anyone is “the best” because it’s meaningless, so I can’t say he was the best. There are a lot of bass players that I like a lot. But Cliff definitely was not content to mimic the guitar parts, and definitely brought an understanding of song structure, seeing the bass as just one voice amongst several, but an equal contributor with the guitars and drums and vocals. He really did make Metallica what they were, which was much more than just really fast guitar riffs and double-kick drum parts. Orion, Call of Chtulu, Sanitarium, Battery, Thing That Should Not Be, For Whom The Bell Tolls - all are awesome examples of one of the best metal bass players ever, and there’s a heap of stuff to learn from him.

    FWIW, I too found Anesthesia embarrassing when I first heard it - but it was 1985 and what the hell did I know as a 15 year old just three years in to my bass career? Not much. But eventually I became older than Cliff and I still didn’t know nearly as much as him, and wasn’t nearly as good of a musician. Now I know enough to know better then I used to know.

    You don’t have to like him or his music, but if you say he is overrated, then you’re clearly not talking from a base of knowledge of understanding to have a credible opinion.
    wintremute, DrMole and Nephilymbass like this.
  19. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB Staff Member Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Spencerport, New York
    Take a listen to Tim Hansen from Mercyful Fate. Amazing player and a killer tone from the same time period as Cliff with Metallica.
  20. I didn’t say no one had good tone back then. I said there weren’t many bass players that did
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jun 18, 2021

Share This Page