Cliff was only with Metallica less than four years, but the true-blue hard-core Met fans will always have something to say about Cliff.
I'm no exception.
I remember racing out of the stadium in Largo MD after the Metallica/Ozzy Osbourne concert in 1986 and finding a non-descript tour bus parked at the top of the loading dock ramp. A few minutes after a few dozen fans swarmed the bus' door, the door kicked open and both James and Cliff poked their heads out to meet the fans.
While the reaction was nothing like the high-pitched shrieking normally heard at any early live appearance by The Beatles, everyone there was just thrilled to see two of the band members acknowledge, let alone give a little face time to all of us teenage metalheads.
James then stuck his paw out and, like metal shavings to an electromagnet, a dozen hands reached up and out to meet his. Cliff then stepped forward toward the stair well and, with seemingly nothing in the bus to obstruct or brace him, did the same thing.
I grabbed his hand in a full-clasp handshake while others around had to be content with touching the outside of his hand, the wrist or the faded jean jacket wrapped around his arm.
My guess is the handshake lasted all of 30 seconds -- it seemed to last minutes while in the midst of it. After 23 years, I still remember the firm handshake with the strong (Cliff played bass with his fingers, not with a guitar pick) yet soft palm.
And then, it was over and both James and Cliff had to surrender their hands back into the bus. We all had places to go that night.
A few months later, I heard then read in Rolling Stone about the bus accident in Sweden that resulted in the death of Cliff Burton. It was the first time I could recall knowing someone who died. I kept up as much as I could with how the band and its fans were dealing with the loss and the certainty that the band would replace its bass player.
To this day, I cannot listen to the bass with distortion intro to "Damage Inc." and not think of Cliff -- someone I "met" for all of 30 seconds but who helped me start an interesting spiritual journey that would culminate with the passing of one of my grandmothers, one of my aunts and my mother during the 90's.
His biography is still a work in progress, apparently, and this is one of the few interviews with him available on-line.
With tonight's theme of choice, I offer one again. There is an audio version of the song from one of the concerts with a long bass solo intro by Cliff.
Below is the studio version of the song with a pretty-well synched set of Anime clips.
Metallica - Damage Inc. - video powered by Metacafe