By Ann Sulaiman
On Tuesday, March 12th 2013, metalheads throughout the world expressed their condolences on the news that Clive Burr, the original drummer for Iron Maiden, lost his lengthy battle with multiple sclerosis and passed away in his sleep.
Although, I didn’t know much (if anything) about him until word of his death spread online; and to be frank, it didn’t register with me the same way as the death of Type O Negative‘s Pete Steele or Ronnie James Dio did back in 2010.
However seeing how mainstream press, from Yahoo! News to The Guardian, didn’t give more than a very brief obituary on Clive Burr (which look suspiciously similar to one another), I decided to do some digging of my own.
Here’s what I found:
Iron Maiden fans (who are heralded as being a loyal part of the international metal scene) remember Clive Burr for his work on the band’s first three albums; all of which hold a legacy as being part of Iron Maiden‘s most stellar material.
A friend told me that while current drummer Nicko McBraino has more of a jazz style to his sound, Clive Burr was more of a heavy metal drummer – which fitted the earlier, rough quality of the first records.
Band line-ups are frequently subject to changes for a variety of reasons, from personal issues – such as that infamous rift between Metallica‘s Lars Ulrich and Megadeth founder Dave Mustaine, to simply a lack of passion.
But in Burr’s case, the reason for his departure wasn’t precisely clear.
Especially as it came in 1982, following the release of ‘Number of the Beast’; the album which saw a key progression in Iron Maiden‘s sound from its raw, filthier punk and hard rock leanings towards the galloping, high-end notes that have become their signature today.
Burr even held credit for co-authoring a song from that album, ‘Gangland’; one of Iron Maiden‘s meatier songs from their back catalogue.
In an exclusive interview with the French edition of Rock Hard magazine, Burr had this to say:
”The decision [for my dismissal] was probably made by the band, or… Steve Harris, [as] it’s always been his band right from the start, and, you know, I never came over one day saying, ‘That’s it, I’ve had enough, I quit.’ I simply accepted the decision as it was.”
Clive Burr soon moved on to, temporarily, play for bands like Gogmagog, Elixir and Desperado with Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider; even having a small side project of his own, entitled ‘Clive Burr’s Escape’. Although none of these ventures led to much success, most likely due to poor management and bad record company choices (as can sadly happen with the fickle nature of the music industry).
Then in 2001 Burr’s luck changed for the worst, when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS).
MS would not only make it difficult for Burr to play the drums again, but would also ironically reunite him with Iron Maiden. On hearing that the illness had crippled Burr for life and put him in risk of homelessness (with treatment costs making it difficult for him to keep up with house payments), the band soon set up the Clive Burr MS Trust Fund, to help their former colleague as well as other MS sufferers.
By January 2007, the charity had raised a total of £235,000 which was more than enough to help Burr pay for his basic needs and the necessary treatment for his condition. It also covered the mounting debt on his house, where he recently died peacefully.
While he was still alive, and later after the diagnosis of MS, Clive Burr made a few rare, public appearances with Iron Maiden in 2002, during three charity concerts held for him at the Brixton Academy. Owing to the special cause behind them, metalheads from all over England travelled great distances to show their support.
Noted by both fan (and the band) to be a good person who never lost his sense of humour, you get a glimpse of the kinship between Burr and his former bandmates in the video clip below. Before his confinement to a wheelchair, Burr stands onstage, where he throws drumsticks to the crowd, showing his gratitude to his friends with a hug:
Being as young as I am, physically and as a metalhead, there’s always so much history for me to learn about as well as listen to.
So if you need me, I’m going to listen to some early Iron Maiden.
Ann Sulaiman is Birmingham Review’s resident metal head, and author of Me(n)tal Meltdown.
Read more from Ann Sulaiman athttp://metalmelt.wordpress.com