In just three years in Metallica, Cliff Burton took part in three albums. He’s featured as a co-writer in 10 out of 26 songs recorded, plus one post-mortem (To Live Is To Die).
Not to mention Cliff’s uncountable profound impact on Metallica musicianship. He taught James and Kirk harmonies and made them appreciate melody.
Now we know pretty much all Cliff Burton’s riffs and songwriting contributions. But there’s a few ambiguous cases. Such as Fade to Black. We know that James wrote the arpeggios and the middle part (and likely the heavy “chorus” too), and Kirk came up with the melody under his final solo.
But what’s left for Cliff? Was he credited for figuring out the harmony to Kirk’s melody? Because that’s what may have happened in Ride the Lightning the song. Dave Mustaine claims the intro is (!) Lars’s, and Hammett says Cliff wrote the intro harmony.
The Call of Ktulu is another weird one. It’s built on Mustaine’s progressions (intro and main part), and the repeating bridge is (likely) Hetfield’s. So, only one riff’s authorship remains uncertain, the harmonized bridge near the end, plus the very outro where it slows down.
Those could belong to Cliff, but that’s never been clarified. What he had been specifically credited for in the album’s booklet was “leading bass” on TheCall of Ktulu. Metallica never counted arrangements and solos never counted royalty-wise, and Cliff’s bass solo laid over Mustaine’s licks.
Or maybe that was so stunning and innovative that Lars decided to make an exception? Although, he didn’t make one for Kirk’s blasting solo in the title track, which defined it more that the riffs. And doing a harmony to a melody is a full-blown arrangement too! Metallica songwriting credits are such a mess…
Don’t let me start on To Live Is To Die. It was not fully built on Cliff’s sketches. At least one riff, the chuggy bridge, can be traced back to 1982, thus it’s James’s. People believe that the interlude is Cliff’s. But it can be as well James’s, since the arpeggio may have come first, and his riff tapes back it up.
Hetfield once may have mentioned Cliff had written the heavy main riff – the last part we would think of! – but cannot find the interview (help?).
Anyway, below is the list of all the Cliff Burton’s composing contribution in Metallica. Click on each for the info and bonus materials.