Clive Burr, who was the original drummer for the British heavy metal band Iron Maiden, has passed away at the age of 56 from complications from Multiple Sclerosis. His former band members report that the drummer died peacefully in his sleep at home on March 12, 2013.
Burr joined the legendary group in 1979. Iron Maiden was and remains to this day one of the more high profile bands of the New Wave of British Metal during the late 1970s. Burr had lent his drum talents to the first three Iron Maiden albums, which are still regarded by Maiden fans around the world as some of the band’s best musical achievements: the self-titled Iron Maiden debut album, Killers, and The Number of the Beast. Those first two albums also sported the original singer Paul Di’Anno, who was later replaced by the soaring high-pitched vocalist Bruce Dickinson. By the time of The Number of the Beast, the band was on the crest of achieving worldwide success and legendary status as a Heavy Metal unit.
Burr helped give the band a tight bottom end sound, in contrast to the drummer who replaced him, the fast and quick Nicko McBrain. Burr also had speed and agility on the drumkit, but he had a more punky, AC/DC kind of attack to him, and thus the first three Iron Maiden albums, although adventurous in their arrangements and song craft, still have a kind of DIY metal feel to them, a sort of early blueprint stamp of what was to come. On songs like “Wrathchild,” “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “Remember Tomorrow,” “Prowler,” “The Ides of March,” “The Prisoner,” and the sort of Maiden “hits” like “Run to the Hills” and “The Number of the Beast,” Burr displayed a hungry hammer attack, kind of like Deep Purple’s Ian Paice meets Black Sabbath’s original drummer Bill Ward.
Iron Maiden released a statement today via their official website and Facebook page about Burr regarding his passing. Band members who played with him in Maiden only had praise and kind words for Burr when they heard the saddening news. Bass player and one of the founding members of the group, the versatile Steve Harris, said the following:
This is terribly sad news. Clive was a very old friend of all of us. He was a wonderful person and an amazing drummer who made a valuable contribution to Maiden in the early days when we were starting out. This is a sad day for everyone in the band and those around him and our thoughts and condolences are with his partner Mimi and family at this time.
Bruce Dickinson also echoed Harris’ words as well, noting that:
I first met Clive when he was leaving Samson and joining Iron Maiden. He was a great guy and a man who really lived his life to the full. Even during the darkest days of his M.S., Clive never lost his sense of humour or irreverence. This is a terribly sad day and all our thoughts are with Mimi and the family.
Upon leaving Maiden, Burr stayed active and busy, playing in bands such as the French ensemble Trust, briefly stinting in the American group Alcatrazz, did some turns in a group called Gogmagog in which he was reunited with ex-Maiden front man Paul Di’Anno and which had future Iron Maiden axeman Janick Gers among its members, and did some work with Twisted Sister singer Dee Snider in a group called Desperado. Burr was also part of a charity called Clive Aid, which was formed to raise awareness for people stricken with MS. A trust fund had also been set up in Burr’s name when he was diagnosed with the condition, forcing him to spend the last years of his life in a wheelchair. Iron Maiden had performed concerts and was involved in setting up the trust fund as well.
[Photo: Iron Maiden with Clive Burr, bottom left; via official Iron Maiden page.]
Take a moment to pause and remember the great Clive Burr today. Spin a few of those early Maiden records and listen and marvel how alive and strong he sounded on his drum set; his muscularity cut through those records like a laser beam, and helped contribute to the success of one of Heavy Metal’s greatest offerings in Iron Maiden. RIP to one of its high water showmen, who will always have his place and niche in the history of the genre, Clive Burr.