Monday, March 18, 2013

Silenced Timekeeper

Sadly, death comes again...

Clive Burr.   

Like the honored Raider from my previous post, the name is one most people simply don't know.  But to Iron Maiden fans around the world, the loss is heartfelt and, sadly, expected.   

Forming in 1975, various incarnations of the future heavy metal super-band bumbled through the pub scene of England.  By 1978, the line-up was getting more solid.  1979 found Clive Burr behind the set. While not as technical as other drummers of the era, Burr had skills where they needed to be including rock-solid time keeping and the ability to lay down drum grooves that parallel guitar work. He even dabbled a bit with song-writing.  

With a now intact band coupled with outstanding song-writing, EPs and albums followed.   Bigger album sales and bigger tours soon followed.  

But all was not bliss.  By the time the Beast On the Road Tour had finished in 1982, Clive knew his time with Maiden was finished.  The writing was on the wall.  The band dismissed him as a result of tour problems and personal issues (centered around the loss of his father).  

Like so many other musicians, he simply found work in other bands once his personal issues had settled. With his resume showing three Iron Maiden albums, offers were plenty.  As the years ticked by, he was in at least six other bands.  While the bands never saw stardom, one can be sure the timekeeper was solid.  They should be. They need to be.  

In the beginning, the tingling in his fingers probably didn't bother him. That is just how the human body can be sometimes, right?  But, to a drummer, training his (or her) entire body to be the instrument, tingles are not welcome when they are so severe the sticks can no longer be held properly.  A medical visit explained it all....

An auto-immune disease, the sheath around a nerve fiber is destroyed by lesions.  With this protective layer gone, electrical signals that should travel down the nerve are, in a sense, short-circuited.  Over time, symptoms get more involved. Tingles become numbness.  Numbness might lead to weakness.  Cognitive function might lessen while speech becomes slurred and balance is lost.  Coordination is gone.  Many end up in wheelchairs - too weak to walk or too uncoordinated to manage.

A drummer who can't coordinate feet and hands into a solid beat? A drummer who can't hold a stick?  Pure hell, I would imagine.  

Despite his dismissal from Iron Maiden decades previous, tensions between Burr and the band had long since passed (if indeed, there were ever any at all). With medical bills mounting from treatments, the band launched a series of fundraising concerts.  Appropriately enough, the shows, entitled "Clive Aid",  (a play-on-words with "Live Aid"), brought in piles of money. He kept his house.  Computers and special furniture made his days less torturous. 

Sadly, with no cure for Multiple Sclerosis on the horizon, Clive Burr died a few days ago.

Speaking as a drumming hack who still can't do a double-stroke roll, the drumming legacy of Burr is impressive.  

When one suggests early "Iron Maiden" and "drumming" in the same sentence, thoughts invariable drift to "Run to the Hills" as the defining song. The thundering drum beat in the beginning works for some, I suppose.  

I say no.

From a percussion standpoint, Genghis Khan stands alone.  An instrumental, this song simply would not be the same with any other drummer.

That said, "Hallowed Be Thy Name" is the better song by far.  Lyrically.  Musically.  Completely.  There is no doubt that this is the Iron Maiden masterpiece of the Clive Burr era.  

His death is tragic.  It goes beyond the loss of a premier musician. It is also tragic in the sense that a man who had complete control over his entire body (as dictated by the needs of drumming) died unable to walk or even feed himself. Frustratingly, despite millions of dollars in research, a cure eludes us. 

Clive Burr. Dead at the age of 56.

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