The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Loyalty Is Demonstrated By Time, Not Just By Actions …

Over the past 9 months, we’ve heard a lot from companies talking about loyalty.

Whether that’s loyalty to their staff, loyalty to their shareholders or loyalty to their values and commitments.

Sadly, in a lot of cases, this has been nothing more than a PR statement.

Something that looks good and makes the C-Suite feel good, without having to actually be good.

Of course there have been the exceptions, but in many cases, that’s all there is.

Now I am not naive.

I know in a commercial organisation, tough decisions need to be made every day … but the reality is, in many cases, it’s not that tough for them. Or it shouldn’t be given how often they do it. Though I do find it surprising how many companies are OK with letting people go but don’t like it when their employees let their employer go. Funny how they see that as an act of betrayal.

But that’s by-the-by, because this is about what real loyalty means and it revolves around Metallica.

So when the band started, there were 4 members.

James Hetfield
Lars Ulrich
Kirk Hammett
Cliff Burton

On September 27th, 1986, the band were in their coach travelling through a rural part of Sweden. They were there as part of their tour supporting their ‘Master of Puppets’ album.

It was a long and gruelling tour and sleep was in short reply. The band members had been complaining the sleeping arrangements on their bus were unsatisfactory so to decide who received the pick of the bunks, Hammett and Burton played cards.

Burton won and said to Hammett he wanted his bunk … leaving Kirk to sleep up front near the driver.

Around 7am, the bus flipped over onto the grass in Kronoberg County.

Cliff Burton was thrown through the window of the bus, which then fell on top of him, killing him instantly.

While there is debate on whether the accident was the result of black ice or the driver sleeping at the wheel, the reality is Burton – a much loved, highly talented musician – was dead.

So where’s the loyalty?

Well it’s true the band decided to continue rather than split up – like some other bands who had suffered the loss of a member.

And it’s true the bassist chosen to replace Cliff, Jason Newsted, faced a lot of tension from a band still grieving for the loss of their friend.

However, it’s the connection the band maintained with Cliff’s father – and the support Cliff’s father gave to the band – that is something to celebrate.

From the moment Cliff died, his Dad – Ray Burton – encouraged the band to continue.

Despite being in unbelievable grief, he was adamant the best way he could honour his son was having the band go on.

To play the music he helped create.

To let his name, talent and spirit continue even though he is no longer here.

And while the band probably didn’t need that endorsement to make their decision, they treasured it.

But more than that, they treasured Ray Burton.

In their mind, he was a part of the band because he had fathered the guy who helped father the band.

It was a mutual love … based on respect, compassion and a love of Cliff.

I know that sounds like the sort of cliched ‘bro’ statement you would hear from a band or brand in a desperate attempt for a PR headline, but in Metallica’s case, it’s true.

Demonstrated and proven by the duration this relationship has been celebrated, nurtured and expressed.

What’s wonderful is they always managed to do it in a way that was respectful yet positive.

Whether that’s having Ray join the band on stage to be conducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of fame, or just having him come to whichever band gig he chooses.

And then celebrating his attendance on stage.

But Ray also plays a big part in keeping this relationship healthy.

Because while he loves the acknowledgement the band and the fans give his beloved son, he also wants to ensure the memory of Cliff doesn’t overshadow or become a burden to his replacement. Or the band.

He loves the music and wants that to be the focus.

And that gives the band the freedom to keep moving forward.

Which, of course, makes them love and support him more.

Which is maybe why their loyalty is so strong and positive.

Because where many [read: companies] believe loyalty is about compliance regardless of situation, Metallica and Ray see it as being founded on openness, honesty and positivity.

They can’t change what has happened.
They can’t live in the past.
But they can celebrate where something they created is going.

Sadly, Ray died recently, aged 94.

The band’s loyalty to him still lives.

23 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Is this your legacy? Turning Metallica into as big sentimentalists as you?

Comment by Bazza

It does make me like them as people though. Because I hate their music.

Comment by Bazza

Ha … maybe.

If I can get them to support Nottingham Forest then you know it’s worked.

Comment by Rob

If you manage that then you should be labelled a weapon of mass destruction.

Comment by Bazza

That’s a beautiful story. Respect being shown from all sides in ways where everyone seems to want the other to feel good about the situation they are in. How rare and how well done.

Comment by George

Yes. That’s definitely the thing that is so wonderful about it. It’s being respectful without being sentimental. I know most people do this when they have lost a significant person in their life, but for a band – and for a band that has introduced new members – it’s quite special. Especially the way it’s all been done with respect and reverence to Cliff and his dad but with everyone seeing progress as the best way to honour them all. Amazing.

Comment by Rob

And I like the title of the post. It’s a good way to define and describe loyalty.

Comment by George

But it could also define and describe stalking.

Comment by Bazza

It is a great way to look at it. I like how they continued to move forward but seemingly took Cliff and Ray with them rather than get left behind because of them. All parties look great people for the way they did that.

Comment by Pete

Yes. Absolutely. And I love they have maintained and celebrated this bond since the earliest days, because that was more important to them than any image the media – or their career advisors – wanted them to convey.

Comment by Rob

What brands can learn from bands 2.0?

Comment by Pete

Hahahaha … maybe.

In these days where consultants talk about ‘first best customer’ and ‘lifetime customer value’, the reality is if you need a process to help you work out how to do things, anything you do is not going to be authentic in the slightest.

Metallica have their faults, but they know who they are and have stayed true to their values which has allowed them to keep moving forward – including doing things many of their core fans didn’t like – but still have everyone stick with them, without resorting to nostalgia.

Comment by Rob

You should get them or their managers to write a business book that takes down all the consultant practices and processes for brand management.

Comment by Pete

thats a good fucking idea especially the chapter on dealing with groupies.

Comment by andy@cynic

Corporate toad.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Thank you for keeping me real Billy.

Comment by Rob

How to turn a terrible event into a celebration of humanity.

Comment by Lee Hill

Nothing reveals who you are like adversity.

Comment by DH

youve fucking just robbed me of my hatred for metal. you prick.

Comment by andy@cynic

Rob. Happiness vampire.

Comment by DH


Comment by Bazza

when did metal become so fucking nice. i hate the music but now im harking for ozzy to bite some heads off more doves or whatever shit he did.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by DH

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