In September of 1986 the metal world lost Cliff Burton, then bassist for Metallica. Cliff was a true visionary and talent and the progression from the debut album ‘Kill ‘Em All’ to the follow up records ‘Ride The Lightning’ and ‘Master Of Puppets’ showed the bands growth. It has been widely documented how integral Cliff Burton’s influence on the songs and other band members as musicians was during his brief time in Metallica; he truly was an anomaly.
Conversely, Lars Ulrich has been perceived in quite the opposite way by fans and critics alike. Besides the varied public opinion the controversial Metallica “stickman” has achieved throughout Metallica’s career in regards to haircuts, ‘Enter Sandman’ and Napster, there are millions of loyal Lars Ulrich fans. Metallica continues to be one of the most important and successful bands of our time, if not ever. Hardly anyone will refute this, even though some say, “Metallica have not put out a good record since And Justice For All..’ Just look at the song credits Mr. Ulrich possesses on all albums and it would be hard to believe naysayers would continue to ramble on and on. The public sentiment towards him varies and in some cases has been more negative than positive.
Opinions aside, the loss of Cliff on a cold night in Sweden almost thirty years ago is one of the worst if not the worst possible situation a band could ever face. The band makeup is very much a family environment where the amount of time that is required to spend touring and recording most likely eclipses the time spent with blood relatives. The close-quarters living and constant travel is very intense and either brings the band closer or drives them apart. Throw in a tragedy and especially involving a young man (Cliff was 24 at the time of his death) and rebuilding that family environment and chemistry is extremely difficult; most likely things will never be the same.
The impact on the fans of an integral member leaving (let alone passing away) while in the band, is equally tragic. Bands and their fans in some cases are very tight group of people. Like sports heroes, musicians are celebrated for their accomplishments.
Well, what happens if one of those members is considered to be a better musician, or more integral to the group? Its a hard situation to think of but in Metallica’s case, Lars’s drumming ability in recent years has been a much debated topic.
A t-shirt printed from a classic picture of Cliff Burton and the words “It Should have Been Lars” printed on it, insinuates that the creator thinks that Lars should have been killed in the bus accident all those years ago, not Cliff. Has this been taken too far? Check out the shirt over at ETSY, and thanks to MetalSucks for the tip on the story.