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To Live is to Die: The Life and Death of "Metallica"'s Cliff Burton Paperback – 1 May 2009

4.8 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Jawbone; Original edition (1 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 190600224X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906002244
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 550,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Joel McIver writes for Total Guitar, Metal Hammer and many other music magazines and is the author of 12 books to date. The best-known of these is Justice For All: The Truth About Metallica (2004), which has sold over 30,000 copies in eight languages. He makes regular appearances on radio and TV.


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Written by Joel McIver and published in 2009, this is the very first biography of the late Metallica bass guitarist, Cliff Burton (there's a chapter about the life and death of the musician in another one of McIver's books, "Justice for All: The Truth About Metallica", but there's more information about him in this book). It covers pretty much everything you would want to know about Cliff Burton, ranging from his birth and childhood to his music career (particularly with Metallica) and his tragic death in 1986.

The book starts with a foreword by the band's lead guitarist Kirk Hammett; then there's a picture section for Cliff Burton; a locations map of San Francisco and the surrounding areas; an introduction from Joel McIver; then there are fifteen chapters about the bass guitarist, ranging from his birth (10th February 1962) and childhood, to his music career (particularly as the bass guitarist for Metallica) which was tragically cut short when he was killed in a bus accident in Sweden on the 27th of September 1986 at the age of 24 years; the aftermath of Cliff's death; Metallica from 1986 to 2009 (the year this book was published; and his legacy. There are also a couple more short chapters of "In Others' Words" from other musicians including Alex Webster, the bass guitarist for the American death metal band Cannibal Corpse; a "who's who" list of people linked with the bass guitarist including his parents Jan and Ray Burton; a musical terms section; a Cliff Burton discography including the three Metallica albums he was involved in (Kill 'Em All, Ride the Lightning, and Master of Puppets); and the index and acknowledgements sections.

I read this book with great pleasure as I have been a fan of Metallica since 2004.
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Format: Paperback
3 1/2 stars. Firstly, the good...

This book has quite a lot of interesting material, as the author has conducted new interviews with the likes of Harald Oimoen, Fred Cotton, Brian Slagel and John Marshall (=friends/'insiders'), producer Flemming Rasmussen, fellow bass player Dave Ellefson and most importantly, Burton's girlfriend at the time of his death, Corinne Lynn. McIver has also interviewed Metallica's Kirk Hammett who provided the foreword as well. So no question that there are many fascinating insights into Cliff Burton's character and musicianship. Not surprisingly, no one seems to have anything bad to say about him which makes the cynic in me quip, "c'mon, he must have had at least some weaknesses!" But hey, it isn't hard to believe that he was one of the good guys.

One of the positive things about "To Live Is To Die" when compared with McIver's Metallica biography ("And Justice For All - The Truth About Metallica") is that here he keeps his opinions (i.e. his 'truths') more to himself which shows that he has grown as a writer/person(?). So luckily, this book doesn't have that 'a disappointed fan whining' thing that would not have suited it at all. It has a more philosophical approach, shall we say.

Sadly, though, there are some negative aspects as well. A lot of the quotes - inevitably - are all too familiar at least to those who have read the author's Metallica book, and unfortunately the tautology, if you will, doesn't stop there; simply too much repetition in this book! Yes, there is no doubt that Burton taught Hetfield (and Ulrich) music theory, but does it have to be repeated like 10 times? (I'm glad, however, that this time McIver gives credit to James and Lars for being the primary songwriters - Cliff's big influence notwithstanding).
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I'm not a big Metallica fan but I do like their first three albums and I played some bass in my youth so was always interested in Cliff's story. This is a great account of a musical innovator that works on two levels. For the Metallica fans it is a good history of the early years of the band. For bass players there are lots of details and antidotes you probably won't find in other books. You'll want to watch the Cliff'em All DVD whilst reading this to recall his best moments.
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This book is a very interesting book, doing a solid job on taking us through the his life, what his personality was, his attititude towards many things, all in all, very insightful. The interviews given from people close to Cliff such as family and band members was also very well presented, there is certainly no lack of effort put in. Especially helpful was the emphasis on his bass playing, perhaps tedious for anyone completely not interested in him as a bass player, (but then, this is the wrong book for you anyway). If however you are interested in the musician side of the man an well as him as a person, a very good book for what is otherwise, for fans anyway, an uncovered subject; Cliff Burton; RIP.
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Format: Paperback
If you are into Metallica, and particularly if you were at the time of the infamous bus accident (yes, i am that old), this goes some way to answering the 'Oh no, how did that happen?' type questions that were instictively raised but never seemed resolved at the time. It also gives a real flavour of the man himself which is nice, plus real insight into what a seriously good musician he was and how much influence he had on the band. The tips on checking out early Cliff performances on Utube was a great idea and something i'd not come across in a book before. Many interesting nuggets of info are included, but for me, one in particular made the books purchase worthwhile - hopefully this isn't considered a spoiler - well stop reading now if you're worried. Towards the end of 'Orion' there's a pretty standard Hammet solo, then a haunting harmony solo section takes over, well that was Cliff on the bass! Written at short notice too. It's a beautiful piece of music that i had always assumed was played on 6-string guitar, i guess the change of tone should have been a clue. Might not mean much to the casual non-musician reader, but when i checked that bit out on vinyl, i was stunned.

In short - a very revealing, interesting and enjoyable read.
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