R.I.P. Mr. Clive Burr

It has taken a few days for me to be ready to write this…

Clive Burr, the former drummer for the heavy metal band Iron Maiden, died on March 12, 2013, at the far-too-young age of 56. He had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2001, and reportedly passed quietly in his sleep.

Clive Burr, 1957 - 2013
Clive Burr, 1957 – 2013

It is always sad to hear of someone dying, especially from a debilitating disease, and when they are far too young, but this one hits home especially hard for me.

As a young man, my dreams of the future were built solely around being a professional drummer, touring the world, and playing concerts in front of thousands of people each night. Just like my first real role model in life, Mr. Clive Burr.

I don’t remember the first time I heard Iron Maiden’s music, so I don’t remember my first reaction to hearing his playing. I just remember loving his drumming and admiring his technique and style, as if I had always known about him. He always came up with such innovative beats, and his fills were always just exactly what the song needed. He had chops that went on forever, and his hands were so damned fast… Show me one drummer covering Run to the Hills or Children of the Damned, playing it correctly, the whole way through…

I love listening to the first three Iron Maiden albums (the only ones on which he played) in a row, to witness his incredible growth from one to the next. Starting with their debut album, Iron Maiden, he had such a raw, punkish style of playing, but he was still fluid beyond what most drummers at the time were playing for that kind of music. Then, on Killers, bringing subtlety and finesse to songs like the title track, while still beating away on songs like Wrathchild. Finally, for The Number of the Beast, the band’s break-through album, his power was never more present than on Prisoner, his beats never more fluid than on Hallowed Be Thy Name, and then throw in the off-beat for the title track

Our band covered many, many, Iron Maiden songs, and I remember always giving each one extra time, trying to get his beats and fills as perfect as my overplayed cassette, crappy stereo system, and novice ears and drumming could manage. I also remember getting help once, during a very odd “meeting”…

At the time, I was working full-time delivering pizza, while the band continued learning new songs and trying to play as many gigs as possible. I don’t remember the exact song, but I was having trouble figuring out how Clive did this one bit. And one night, as I lay quietly sleeping in my bed, I had a “visit”…

In my dream, the door bell rang. When I opened the door, there stood the Clive Burr, with my pizza in his hand! Stunned, I said to him, “What are you doing delivering pizza?” And in true dream-fashion, that question never got answered, but I did then ask about that one bit. He kindly sat the pizza down, climbed aboard my drum kit, and showed me how it was done. The next morning I awoke, shocked, ran to my drums, and sure enough, was able to play it!

To say the least, Clive was a drum hero. He was a drummer in a heavy metal band that influenced 100s of 1000s of drummers around the world. When he left the band, my heart sank, fearing I would never hear more from him, that I had heard all the Clive Burr drumming I would ever hear.

And that’s pretty much true. I’ve managed to track down recordings from other bands that Clive played in, both before and after Maiden, but it just isn’t the same. Any band, as a unit, has a unique sound, that cannot be reproduced elsewhere. It’s built over time, and comprised of the chemistry of its members; removing a single player and putting them anywhere else, just isn’t going to be the same.

And so, I play, and play, and play, the same three Iron Maiden albums, still learning, still hearing new pieces, still wishing I could play even a little bit more like him.

Clive, good sir, you will be missed, but I thank you for all the great music you helped give the world, and wish you all the best on your next journey! You will always have a drum riser, kit set-up, ready to play, in my heart and in my dreams…

…think I’ll be listening to Iron Maiden all day today… maybe even all week…

Raising a pint to Clive,

A few notices, unfortunately mostly repetitive:

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