How Cliff Burton Helped To Form Faith No More
On September 27th 1986 Metal music lost a key player, Cliff Burton.
His lightening quick fingers on the strings helped to solidify the foundations of Metallica in metal history. His unique style and rock 'n' roll persona made him a legend who is justly remembered as a master of his art.
On this unhappy anniversary we thought it appropriate to explain the connections between the man and Faith No More.
Cliff plays an important part in the origins of FNM, he is in their bloodline, and you will find his name mentioned in any story that reaches back to the roots of the band.
Here is the story told in their own words.
In 1975 impressionable thirteen year old school kids Cliff and Mike Bordin became friends. They hung out listening to Black Sabbath and The Sex Pistols. Yet it was in fact this adolescent comradery lead to the pair taking up the instruments that would later define their lives.
Mike Bordin | Modern Drummer 2015
"I was thirteen years old. It was 1975 and I was sitting in my friend Cliff Burton’s bedroom and he said, “Hey man, I’m going to play bass.” And I said, “Okay, I’ll play drums.” It was a total knee-jerk reaction. It was completely unthought-out. And from the moment I started playing it kind of took over for me. It was an obsession, but it was positive. It was something that kept me out of trouble and defined those middle years where I could’ve gone way off the rails and gone the wrong direction."
"Yeah, we’d already been friends for three years or so—at that time that’s like a third of your conscious life! And we just loved music, all kinds of music. A major turning point was when the two of us saw the Sex Pistols at Winterland. Would you have guessed that judging by where Cliff ended up professionally? Maybe you would, but the point is, we were open-minded. We were open to evolution. Evolution is important. You’ve got two choices: you’ve got to roll with it or it’s going to roll right over you."
Mike Bordin | 2015
"We saw dozens and dozens of shows, every one we could, from Sabbath, Kiss (Destroyer Tour), Andres Segovia, The Jam, Tubes, Ramones, Pistols, and everything in between. His wonderful Dad drove us to many of them.."
"I met Cliff the first day of 6th grade, I was maybe 10 or 11. I was the guy with the Black Sabbath t-shirt on, so we became friends. Our friendship was about music, with music, through music. We went to a ton of shows and we loved what was going on in the scene then. One day we were sitting in his room and he said, "I'm gonna start playing bass." And I was like, "OK, I'll play drums." And it was really just an instinct, a reaction. So we learned to play together."
Mike Bordin | The Real Story 1994
"The first time we played together was on [Cliff's back porch]. Cliff's parents had bought him a Rickenbacker bass which I thought was incredibly nice, his parents were the greatest, I had shitty drums, we played 'Jean Genie'. And after that, forget about it! As often as we could, as much time as we could spend. We'd jam at Jeb's barn, that was a big thing. Jeb was an East Bay guy who just liked to play, and even in his Metallica days Cliff would go and jam at Jeb's barn."
"Oh, it was all kinds of weird shit. It was pretty silly, actually. We did a lot of covers, just wimpy shit. But I was with them for a while, for a few years. And that slowly but surely disintegrated. Then I saw Trauma and I thought, "Well, I might as well do that." Didn't have anything better to do."
The two began their musical career together while in high school playing in a band named 'Fry By Night' with Eddie Chacon (who would later find fame as one half of the pop duo Charles and Eddie).
Mike Bordin | 2016
"Fry By Nyte was both Cliff's and my first band and gig ever, before EZ Street. The initial Show was a totally illegal one in an old movie theater, with a truckload of booze out back, and zero permits! Pure mayhem."
At the age of 15, with Cliff on bass and Bordin on drums, they joined the band E-Z Street whose leader and guitarist was Jim Martin and which took it's name from a strip-club in San Mateo .
Mike Bordin | The Real Story 1994
"Cliff and I played together for two years before I heard this guy needed a bassist and drummer for his band. That was Jim Martin's band, EZ Street, and that's how we all met."
Jim Martin | Guitar World 1992
"Our bass player quit, and he told us about Cliff. We started playing with him and he was already really good, way better than any of the rest of us. And he also looked pretty much the same as he did when he was in Metallica: bellbottoms and huge hair. He knew Puffy and got him to join the band. By that time we were writing original stuff, which I still have some tapes of. We had a song called "Retarded Guys" that sounds similar to Nirvana's "Come As You Are." That band was together for over five years, but Puffy didn't last too long, because he talked too much shit. He joined some pop-punk band."
E-Z Street indeed didn't last very long and due to a mutual dislike between Bordin and Jim, but it was the beginning of a friendship between Cliff and Jim that would endure. The two became inseparable and continued to play music together for the next few years. They both attended Chabot College in Hayward which is where they formed their second band, Agents of Misfortune. This band entered Hayward Battle of the Bands contest in 1981 and their performance was recorded on video. It shows Cliff playing parts of what would soon be two Metallica songs: 'Pulling Teeth' and 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'.
Jim Martin | Kerrang! 1990
"We played together for about five years. We would play at a place in Berkeley, called the International Cafe. It was run by these two Greek guys. We were all like 15-16 years old, and all our friends were too. They served us all beer."
"We played copy songs and some original stuff. We played a couple Rolling Stones songs, Zepplin shit, some Black Sabbath stuff. We wrote our own stuff as well"
Jim Martin | Classic Rock 2005
"We had this property that my folks bought, I think it was in 1969. It's up in the Coastal Mountain Range, in California. And it's well off the beaten path. So you can go up there, and you won't see anybody for the duration of your stay. Guys run some cattle up that way and stuff, but generally, you never see anybody. So pretty much, anything goes. That's where we did most of our exploratory music projects. And we recorded them on the spot as they happened. It's tapes and stuff of just whatever was coming right off the top. So, we did quite a few of them, and it was a good experience. A lot of material came out of it that you might be familiar with - 'Woodpecker From Mars' has a section in there. A Metallica song would be 'For Whom the Bell Tolls'."
Jim Martin | The Real Story 1994
"I got laid off from a job, so ended up just Jamming with Cliff and Dave and drinking liquor; we never played for anyone much, we just did it for ourselves, for total fun. Then! started painting houses for money, but all of that stuff was to support my musical and drinking habits. Me, Dave and Cliff finally did a show together, in the Bay Area at a Battle Of The Bands thing, it was right around the time when Motley Crue were happening so the trend was huge hair, spandex, eyeliner, all that crap. So all the bands had that shit and there was us; three fuckin' slobs playing this rock music. They gave us 12 minutes to play a few songs and we just played the same one for 12 minutes. We threw things into a huge, vicious turmoil. We'd make recordings of jams like that, and to make up a set we'd just take various portions of jams and use 'em, it was a beautiful thing. A lot of my ideas came from, and still come from, those jam sessions. If I wanna write music these days, I'll go over and jam with Dave, record the whole thing and pick out certain riffs. I think Cliff did the same thing, he'd pick out sections he liked for his songs. There's some Metallica songs that were born from those jam sessions, such as 'For Whom The Bell Tolls' and obviously Faith No More songs such as 'Surprise! You're Dead'."
After playing together briefly under the name Vicious Hatred the two would go their separate ways, Cliff would join the metal outfit Trauma and eventually Metallica in 1982.
Jim Martin | Guitar World 1992
"I told him not to join. I said, "Fuck those guys, they suck." I just thought they were stupid. When Hetfield called up Cliff and said that they wanted him to join, I went with him to see Metallica play with Bitch at the Stone in San Francisco. Cliff was saying, "Geez, this is kind of weird. These guys want to talk to me about joining their band, and their bass player's still here." Then we were standing outside and Metallica's roadies got busted for stealing beer from the club. Cliff was like, "I don't know about these guys." It was pretty funny—especially in retrospect."
Two years later and Bill Gould, Roddy Bottum and Mike Bordin were looking for a guitarist to replace Mark Bowen. It would be Cliff who suggested Jim for the job. Their first show together was under the name 'The Chicken Fuckers' which would feature Bill on vocals and Cliff on bass.
Mike Bordin | Classic Rock 2006
"I was with Billy Gould eating at a Mexican restaurant in the East Bay, and lo and behold, there's Cliff. He goes. 'Y'know. you've got to get Jim in your band, because Jim is working a regular job, it's fucking killing him. You know he can do what you want him to do."
Bill Gould | The Real Story 1994
"Jim and Mike Bordin never really liked each other, apparently. The way it was put to me was through Bordin - 'There's this guy Cliff knows. He's an asshole, he's always been an asshole. I was in a band with him and I quit because he was such an asshole. But he can play guitar'."
Jim Martin | Guitar World 1992
"Well, around 1982-1983, I was playing in a whole bunch of bands. A lot of guys get the ridiculous, pointless idea that they can only play in one band. I would play with anybody, as long as I was playing gigs. All I wanted to do at that point was to go out and torture people. I was gigging a few nights a week, and practising every day. One day I visited Cliff, and Puffy and Bill were there. They said we should get together to jam. I said, "Screw the jam. Why don't we play a gig?" So, Bill said, "We have a gig in two days. Come play with us." We went out and played as the Chicken Fuckers, and Bill drew a picture on the front of Puffy's bass drum of a chicken with a human dick shoved in its mouth. That was the start of the whole ugly thing. I started playing with Roddy and Chuck, along with those other two guys, and it all went downhill from there."
Bill Gould | The Real Story 1994
"So just to fuck around, me, Puffy, Cliff and Jim got this one-off band together called The Chickenfuckers. We got as drunk and wasted as we could and opened for 45 Grave at the Mabuhay Gardens in San Francisco. I was singing and smoked two joints, Putty's kick drum had a picture of a chicken with a dick down it's throat and a pentagram, which was how 'seriously' we took things. Jim said he wanted to play with us, and it was really weird at first. He was coming from Michael Schenker and all that shit, everything I completely detested. Hating isn't even the word, I had based my whole life against it. It was almost a religious thing. He wanted to play guitar solos but we beat him down all the time, forbidding him to do anything of the sort. Things, of course, relaxed as we got to know him better and better. Half the battle of a band is trusting each other, and that started to develop."
Cliff would continue to take a healthy interest in Faith No More's development over the next few years often giving them advice which would ultimately lead to deep connections between members of FNM and Metallica.
Bill Gould | Bass Guitar Magazine 2015
“We’d go down the street and visit Cliff, who was recording in Denmark at the time. That was a huge deal to us. In our early days he’d give us a lot of advice. For example, we fired our first managers because Cliff said they were thieves, ha ha! He was the one with the experience, and that was really crucial in 1982, ’83. We were playing really weird music in San Francisco and we couldn’t find any bands to play with. We knew we had something really cool going on, but we didn’t really have a way of getting it out there. It wasn’t like there was a crowd of people who knew we were out there: we were outsiders. I remember Puffy was talking to Cliff at a party and he asked us, ‘How’s it going with you guys?’ and we were like, ‘We don’t even have a manager, we don’t have a record deal, we don’t have anything’ and he was like ‘You’re on step five – you should just think about step one!’ That was very sobering advice, actually. It really made a huge difference: after that we were like, ‘Let’s just work with what we have’. And things did work out for us after that.”
In 1986 Cliff was tragically killed in a road accident. A very sad day for music. Jim would show devotion to his lost friend by wearing a tribute to Cliff shirt in 1989's video for 'Epic'. Likewise Puffy wore the very same shirt in the Ozzy Osbourne video for 'I Don't Wanna Stop'.
Steffan Chirazi was introduced to Faith No More by Cliff. Recently moved to the Bay Area the young journalist met Jim and attended a FNM show in 1986 with Cliff and this began a 30 year love affair with the music. Steffan wrote reviews and articles for publications such as Sounds, Kerrang and RIP which helped FNM reach a wider audience and he of course penned their only official biography in 1994 'The Real Story'.
Steffan | The Real Story 1994 "I Remember the first time I saw Faith No More. It was August 1986, before the band went in to record the 'Introduce Yourself LP. I was fresh in town, having spent a month travelling from Britain to New York to SF, and Cliff was making sure I met people, made friends and got out. He took me along to The Stone, a famous San Francisco rock'n'roll club on Broadway, where his pal Jim Martin was playing a gig. Faith No More were a blur, a twisted out aural trip, something I wasn't immediately ready to take in. Special? Of course. Captivating? Without a doubt. Martin looked like a weirdo, red glasses, shortish fuzzy hair, this freak on the drums like Animal from the Muppets, and that singer. Immediately I could sense that the singer was volatile, a hit-or-miss. I told Burton he seemed like a 'liability'. We both agreed. Afterwards Burton, Martin and I went and ate some Mexican food two doors down the street. I wouldn't touch the Chile Verde; it was green food and I wasn't into that. Martin yelled repeatedly 'EAT THE GREEN EAT THE GREEN EAT THE GREEN!' and intimidated as I was, I wouldn't do it, I wouldn't buckle under to the booming voice of the weirdo in those glasses, i remember him driving a beaten up Ford Pinto, cars that were famous for their potentially lethal gas tank positioning; it was in the back of the car. One rear-end whack and your ride could go up in flames. Jim Martin would purposely drive his over rough terrain wasteland, laughing maniacally. He once made a girlfriend of mine cry doing this."
Steffan Chirazi | FNM Followers 2015 "I'd seen Cliff in the offices in London and I said 'I've gotta get out of here, England is gonna grind me down'. I moved to the Bay Area and Cliff said 'Here's my number I'll try an introduce you to some friends of mine'. True to form Cliff did exactly that, several times we'd hang out in the city and the first person he introduced me to was Jim Martin, Cliff had said 'You really got to see his band I think you will like them'. I think what I liked about them when I first saw them, and it's a distant memory so I'm dragging on instincts here...the thing that really hit me the most was they were so utterly unique compared to anything that I had heard, and I was a big Killing Joke fan. I grew up listening to Ian Dury and The Specials so I had a fairly wide musical palette, it wasn't total metal tunnel vision at that time. But FNM were unlike anything I'd heard and visually they were pretty arresting, they looked on the verge of chaos at all times which was very appealing. You know suddenly there are these haunting keyboards in and amidst all this chaos, I can't really describe it, it was like wow, this is really magnetic. I looked at cliff and said you're not wrong." In 2011 Metallica celebrated their 30th anniversary with a group of shows at The Filmore in San Francisco. During the festivities they took time to remember Cliff with members of the band, Mike Bordin, Jim Martin and Steffan Chirazi all sharing stories.
In 2013 at Namm the Aria Pro II Cliff Burton signature bass was released and Mike B. had the honour of speaking about his friend.
Mike Bordin | Noisey 2016 'It's a tough subject with anybody that knew him, as his father once said to me a long time ago when I said to him, "It's been 20 years and I still don't think I'm over it." He told me, "You're never going to get over it." But one thing I gotta say is that there's a club in this world, and there's only two members, and the name of the club is "Drummers who've played with Cliff Burton, Jason Newstead and Robert Trujillo". There's only two members in this whole world, and that's me and Lars.'
Supervisors in Alameda County named Cliff's birthday, February 10th, Cliff Burton Day. In 2017 an intimate and heartfelt gathering took place at the Castro Valley School of Music, during which long-time friends, former band members, and fans shared their stories and memories. Puffy attended the gathering to represent the Burton family explaining that Cliff's father Ray couldn't be there but that he wanted to thank everyone from the bottom of his heart. Mike went on to talk about his late friend. "He was a great guy. In death sometime people get larger than life, sometimes not rightfully so, it's not that way with Cliff. He was a great guy. He was a smart guy. He had compassion. And in death, he can still be even more revered than he is now. He's a legend now. Those of us that knew him will never get over it."
On September 6th and 8th, Metallica accompanied by the San Francisco Symphony played the first ever shows at the new Chase Center in San Francisco. The S+M 2 concerts celebrated the 20th anniversary of their 1999 S+M album. The Night Between, was the unofficial after show party held at The Chapel in San Francisco. Mike B was in attendance and took part in a Q and A with Ray Burton, Cliff Burton's father, in which Puffy recalled memories of his childhood best friend. The event was in benefit of The All Within My Hands Foundation, founded by Metallica in 2017 and dedicated to creating sustainable communities by supporting workforce education, the fight against hunger, and other critical local services.
Cliff has been gone for over thirty years now, however his legend lives on through the music of those he inspired and the friends who miss him deeply. Rest In Power!
Sadly Cliff's dad Ray passed away on Wednesday January 15th 2020. Mike shared a tribute to his friend on Faith No More's social media.
R.I.P. to The Great Ray Burton. Hard to put into words My gratitude to Him for all of His kindness and His incredible character. What a huge gift to have had that in My life for 45 years. Truly one of a kind. — Mike Bordin
Thanks to Mike Bordin for correcting us on few things.