Watch Cliff Burton Jam ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ in His Pre-Metallica Band
The late Cliff Burton's songwriting contributions to Metallica sometimes seem under-appreciated. But before the early Metallica bassist tragically died in a 1986 tour bus crash, Burton infused Metallica's arrangements with a musical flair all his own.
That much is unmistakable in a video of Burton competing in a 1981 "Battle of the Bands" with one of his pre-Metallica groups, Agents of Misfortune. In the clip, the musician performs the opening riff from Metallica's Ride the Lightning single "For Whom the Bell Tolls" three years before it emerged on record. Agents of Misfortune included guitarist Jim Martin, who would go on to join Faith No More through the early '90s.
See the video near the bottom of this post.
The Battle of the Bands was put on by the Hayward Area Recreation Department in the act's hometown of Hayward, California, as Guitar World recalled. At the time, Agents of Misfortune were anchored by drummer Dave Donato. They played a freewheeling style of metallic rock led by Martin's guitar.
Burton's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" riff emerges clearly toward the end of one section. If you listen closely, you can even hear shades of what would become Faith No More's 1990 hit, "Epic." Burton would join Metallica in 1982, playing on Kill 'Em All (1983) as well as Ride the Lightning (1984) and Master of Puppets (1986).
"I sure miss Cliff," Martin said in 2012. "We could do any song and twist it up horribly. I think if there were an opportunity to collaborate [now], we would write something new. Put Dave in there on the drum kit and create something Cliff's mother would call, 'Fucked-Up Weirdos.'"
Spot Burton's "For Whom the Bell Tolls" riff at 11:27 below.