Cliff Burton Remembered by Anthrax’s Frank Bello
Today marks the 25th anniversary of Metallica bassist Cliff Burton’s death. He is still fondly remembered by those who knew him, one of whom is Anthrax bassist Frank Bello (pictured left). When Revolver interviewed him for a feature about Anthrax’s Worship Music, which will be included in our November/December issue, we asked him about Burton and what kind of an impact he had on Bello, since Anthrax were on tour with Metallica the night that band’s bus skidded off the road, killing Burton. The band went on to dedicate their 1987 masterpiece, Among the Living, to Burton. Here is what Bello had to say.
“We had our bass-player pact. I watched Cliff every night, because he was so amazing, he was so innovative. And I genuinely liked talking to the man. He was a great hang. Put it this way, Anthrax was opening for Metallica back in Europe on that tour. And after that show, we’d usually be hungry. So you go in catering and you get a bite. You see James or you see Kirk or you see Cliff or Lars just hanging out after the show. I say this with a lump in my throat.
“The last thing I remember with Cliff, every night, after catering—it freaks me out a little bit, I still have his face in my head—the last thing we said to each other every night: ‘Hey, maybe I’ll see you later.’ He goes, ‘Maybe I will.’ We did that that night, and as he’s getting up from the table, because his bus was going, I say, ‘Hey, maybe I’ll see you tomorrow.’ He goes, ‘Yeah, maybe I will.’ And then he left. And that was the last thing he ever said to me. I still have his face. God rest his soul. I love him. That’s the last thing he said to me. That’s the last vision I have. ‘Maybe I will.’ With a joking passion, but man, that’s the last thing I have of him. God rest his soul. You know the history after that.
“It was just a really tough time. Nobody ever sees something like that coming. It was so rough. I remember getting to the hotel after that and everybody crying. It was so surreal. So sad. Only the good die young.
“Cliff had a lot more to give. Not only as a songwriter but as a bass player. Every time I watch [Metallica’s 1987 home video] Cliff ’Em All, it makes me want to play because it’s surreal. You think back, What would it have been like if Cliff was around? And I do. Because I’m a bass-player fan. He was one of my favorite bass players to watch because I thought he was so innovative. I was always watching what he was doing next. Man, with that wah pedal. And I would ask him, just to pick his head a little, what he used. What his influences were. It was great to pick his head as a bass player. So knowing Cliff was amazing. I’m glad I had that time. I really am. I’m very lucky.
“This metal community is really small, and he was one of us. I’ll go home and listen to Metallica tonight, Ride the Lightning, and celebrate with a glass of wine. His bass tone alone and what he did for that music was so good. I’m lucky to have been around him.”