September 27th marked the 25th anniversary of Cliff Burton’s death.
I knew Cliff for three years and in those three years became good friends with him and Kirk, bonds that have lasted and stood the test of time. We were the three musketeers when we were together and we got to spend a lot of time together back in those days. We were all coming up at the same time and reveling in our bands, the music, the scene and the lifestyle. We fucking loved Metal!
This is one of the many fine memories I have of Cliff. Add your favorite beverage and enjoy.
I was in London in March of 1984 doing promo for our first album Fistful Of Metal. Metallica was also in London because they were supposed to do a tour with The Rods and Exciter in the UK but the tour was cancelled. They were in the middle of making Ride The Lightning in Denmark but they couldn’t go back to the studio because it had been booked during the time they were supposed to be on tour. Music For Nations got an apartment for them to stay in and I ended up staying there with them.
As you can imagine things were very crazy. Too much alcohol. Too much everything. We were partying non-stop and having the time of our lives. A bunch of 20 year old kids in London living the dream.One day Cliff and I were going to a store so Cliff could buy a Walkman. We were in the tube station and two policemen approached us and asked us if we had drugs. We said no, big surprise. Truth is, we didn’t. They kept telling us that we should just tell them what we have and things would be easier for us. We kept telling them that we didn’t have anything. I guess they didn’t believe us being the long haired freaks that we were because they arrested us and took us to the police station. They took all of our clothes and put us in separate cells. These weren’t cells with bars, they had solid doors with a little window that they could slide open from the outside. I was sitting in a six by six concrete room with no windows in my underwear for five hours with no communication with anyone. At some point I heard Cliff’s voice and I started banging on the door screaming at them to tell me what was going on. A cop opened the window in the door and told me “they were taking my mate back to the flat so they could search it.” Apparently they had found Cliff’s cold medicine pills in his coat and they assumed it was illegal drugs. I guess they hadn’t heard of Sudafed yet in England. They sent the pills to a lab to be tested because they didn’t believe Cliff when he told them that it was just cold medicine. So now they were taking him back to the apartment and I got really nervous because I knew he had weed back there. If they found the weed we were fucked. All I could think of was that movie Midnight Express where the guy gets busted in Turkey for smuggling and sent to Turkish prison and nobody ever sees him for years and he bites the guys tongue out and kisses boobies through glass. Randy Quaid is in it. He gets stabbed in the ass.
Anyway, I imagined we would get sent away without a word and I’d never be heard from again. It’s easy to get irrational when you’ve never been arrested for anything and you’re sitting in a cold concrete cell in a foreign country in your underwear for five hours with no clue as to what is going on.
Another two hours or so passed and the cell door opened and a cop was handing me my clothes and telling me I was to go to the Captain’s office. Were we on a one way train to ass stabbing?
I got dressed and followed this cop to the Captain’s office. To my surprise, Cliff was already there lounging in a chair with a huge Cheshire cat grin. I figured we were OK but I still had no idea what happened and how they didn’t find the weed back at the flat.
The Captain started to apologize to us and tell us how “sorry he was for the mistake and us being falsely accused and that the cold medicine really was cold medicine etc etc.” I freaked.
I started screaming at him, gesturing wildly I’m sure with my hands (things got a bit hazy at this point as I was so agitated). I remember telling the Captain that “I could give a fuck for his apology” and “how dare they do what they did to us” and “just because we have long hair doesn’t mean we’re fucking criminals” and a whole bunch of other rhetoric. The Captain said “I would think the police in NYC would have done the same thing” and I screamed at him that “the police in NYC have better things to do than arrest two innocent people just because they have long hair and suspect that they have drugs.” I was livid. I was too angry to realize that I was screaming at a British police Captain who could very easily throw me back in a cell. Cliff was looking at me like I was insane and he hit me in the leg a couple of times trying to get me to shut the fuck up. Finally I stopped and they let us leave. The Captains final words “I’m sorry you feel that way ringing in my angry ears.”
As soon as we were outside I asked Cliff what the hell happened back at the flat. He told me that they (Cliff and six cops) walked into the flat and Kirk was in the living room playing guitar. The cops proceeded to search the flat for an hour to no avail. They couldn’t find anything. I asked Cliff where the weed was hidden, like he had some super secret hidey hole to stash his shit. He started laughing and asked me where would be the first place I would look if I was a cop searching a flat looking for drugs. I told him I would look under the mattress of his bed.
The weed was under his mattress and the cops never looked there!! I couldn’t believe it. The Metal Gods were looking down on Cliff and I that day.
Needless to say we were very happy about our freedom. We boozed it up all night and I think Cliff, Kirk and I ended up wrestling in the hedges on some unsuspecting Brits lawn in the wee hours of the morning.
Cliff never got his Walkman.
RIP my brother.