During a conversation with Louder Sound, Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich and guitarist Kirk Hammett talked about the band’s late bassist Cliff Burton, focusing on his musical contributions to the group’s sound.
“‘Anesthesia‘ was a bass solo disguised as a song, instead of it just being called ‘Bass Solo.’ It was like what Geezer Butler did in Black Sabbath – he just gave it a clever, cool title.”
Kirk chimed in:
“I remember him recording his bass solo separately from anyone or anything. He was upstairs in this big empty room, standing there alone, just him and his bass amp.
“I watched him play while they were getting his sound right downstairs in the control room. After 15 or 20 minutes, he got the sound right and then he looked at me and said: ‘Get away from me, man – I’m about to do this.’
“And then he took a hit off a joint, bent over and drank a beer, and I hightailed it out of there.”
What was Cliff’s influence on the band musically?
“Cliff came from a different musical background. He didn’t know who Diamond Head were, he didn’t know who the Tygers of Pan Tang were.
“He would sit there and listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Eagles and Yes and Simon & Garfunkel. I knew who Simon & Garfunkel were, but I’d never heard them – or if I had, I turned it off as quick as I could.
“Cliff wasn’t really part of the songwriting on [Metallica’s 1983 debut album] ‘Kill ‘Em All’ – when he joined, all the songs were basically the way they were. But his influence and contribution is pretty significant on the stuff on [1984’s] ‘Ride the Lightning.'”
Kirk: “Cliff had studied music. He was at a more musical level than I was. There were concepts I didn’t understand, which he knew and explained to me – relative scales and whatnot.”
Lars: “He understood words like ‘harmonies’ and ‘arpeggios.’ We couldn’t even spell them.”