The late Cliff Burton‘s songwriting contribution to Metallica sometimes seems understated. But before that early Metallica bassist tragically died in a 1986 tour bus accidentBurton brought a musical flair of his own to Metallica’s arrangements.
That much is unmistakable in a video of Burton competing in a 1981 “Battle of the Bands” with one of his pre-Metallica groups, the Agents of Misfortune. In the clip, the musician performs the opening riff from Metallica’s RID the lightning single”For whom the bell tolls” three years before it appeared on record. Agents of Misfortune included guitarist Jim Martinwho would continue to be involved Believe no more through the early 90s.
Watch the video at the bottom of this post.
Battle of the Bands was initiated by the Hayward Area Recreation Department in the law’s hometown of Hayward, California, which Guitar world recalled. At the time, Agents of Misfortune was 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 prominently towards the end of an episode. 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 and continue playing Kill them all (1983) as well RID the lightning (1984) and Master of Puppets (1986).
“I sure miss Cliff,” Martin said in 2012. “We could do any song and screw it up horribly. I think if there was an opportunity to collaborate [now], we wanted to write something new. Put Dave in there on the drum kit and create what Cliff’s mother would call, ‘Fucked-Up Weirdos’.”
Check out Burton’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” riff at 11:27 below.