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Hallowed Be Thy Name

Clive Burr has died, after a 12-year battle with Multiple Sclerosis. He died peacefully in his sleep. He was 56.


Clive was the drummer on the first three Iron Maiden albums, Iron Maiden, Killers, and The Number Of The Beast. The last of these was the first to feature new singer Bruce Dickinson, the first to break the band into the UK singles charts. The first to bring them to my attention.

The 70s have been famously referred to as The Decade That Taste Forgot. Given how much of my record collection dates from that era I've always felt that was a trifle unfair, although watching recent reruns of Top Of The Pops '76 has caused me to think, no, actually pop music was a wasteland back then. So much of it was stuff that your parents could safely listen to from their armchair. But Glam Rock was there to inject a bit of fun and colour, Disco was making waves, Reggae had arrived on these shores, and Punk was just around the corner. For all the cruelty of that epithet, the tail end of the 70s would offer a surprisingly rich tapestry of music for a young boy to grow up with. And woven into that tapestry were the occasional moments when proper hard rock managed to get into the charts. AC/DC, Motorhead, Saxon, UFO, Thin Lizzy, Gillan, Whitesnake, Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Kiss all made appearances and were absorbed into the mix. Not that I set them apart in any way. I wasn't critical back then, I didn't differentiate. It was all just music. But with the teen years bearing down fast, "just music" wasn't going to be enough for much longer. Something, someday, was going to go *click*.

Iron Maiden arrived just at the right time. I was 14, and the 7" single of The Number Of The Beast was the first record I bought in the knowledge that by doing so I was in some way defining myself, both in my own eyes and those of my peers. They had the energy of punk, but they had a musicality that rejected the anarchy of punk for the power of heavy metal and the grandeur of progressive rock, both of which in 1982 I had yet to discover. Iron Maiden filled needs I hadn't known I had.

But the timing was important in another way too. 1982 would be the year I first took up the drums.

They're not the reason I took up the drums; no one band is. I was always a musician looking for a home, and when I finally got the chance to sit behind a friend's kit I knew I'd found it. But they played a big part in how I wanted to play drums, and Clive Burr's drum parts are some of the first I sat down and tried to copy. My first lesson in making the left hand independent from the right was probably the pushed-off-beat snare in the verse of Number Of The Beast.

Burr was replaced in 1983 by Nicko McBrain, who is still their drummer 30 years later. Bruce Dickinson is quoted on Wikipedia as saying that, while Nicko is the technically superior drummer, Burr might be the best drummer the band ever had because of his feel. Listening back to those albums now it's easy to agree. There's a straightforward naivete in his style, but there's no lack of competence and certainly not of intensity. Which is kind of how I feel about the music in general, in fact. The intros to tracks like "Killers" and "Murders In The Rue Morgue" have an atmospheric tension about them that I'd quite forgotten.

I haven't played these albums in over two decades. My love affair with Maiden ended around 1987 with the Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son album. Elements of their style that were falling into place on the first three albums had become rules carved in stone. They were trying to broaden their sound with a more progressive approach, but something about it wasn't working for me. They'd already become my gateway to other bands, many of whom had influenced Maiden to begin with, and I no longer needed them. Drums had likewise become a gateway, notably leading me to Rush, their drummer Neil Peart, and their second live album "Exit... Stage Left." If I were to pick an album that was the most formative for me and still a favourite, that'd be the one. No question.

But Maiden and Clive Burr were there at the beginning and they were important stepping stones. And it's been thrilling to listen to those old albums again and remember just how vibrant and alive they sounded then and still do. So I'll raise a glass to Clive and leave you with a few memories. Maybe not the most obvious ones, but that's just me.

The Killers album was surely his finest hour. Here's "Ghengis Khan", a short instrumental that shows him at his most frenetic, but also shows the band's ear for melody and how they could change moods and paint pictures with sounds.


And from the same album, "Prodigal Son". It's something a little gentler than you'd expect from Iron Maiden, and it's an unusual avenue they never really explored further. Coming back to it now I hear a spaghetti western influence in the music that had never occurred to me before.


And finally, "Hallowed Be Thy Name" from Number Of The Beast. A mini epic and a Maiden classic, the final track on his final album with the band is a reflection on a life that has come to an end. What better track to say goodbye.


RIP Clive.

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