Tragedies of 1986


Let us start first with the more minor tragedy. I put this down as a tragedy because the implications it would have a year later and further down the line. In April of said year, police raided the home of Dead Kennedys’ singer/songwriter Jello Biafra on the advice of the PMRC, who was trying to flex their muscles. In the June, he was charged with “distributing harmful material to minors,” for the 1985 “Frankenchrist” album. The PMRC’s complaint was not over the cover or lyrics of any of the songs, instead it was over the inner sleeve which depicted the H.R. Giger poster, “Penis Landscape.” I agree with Mr Biafra that his arrest was politically motivated. That the police and PMRC went after him because it was a small record label who could not afford a big legal battle. I think what they were trying to do was to convict Biafra so they could set a legal precedent in order to go after more established metal bands.

What the trial did do was to spark a major debate about free speech and First Amendment rights. Since the trial went on to 1987, you will have to wait until I get to touring that year before I get around to telling the verdict but the repercussions of the trial were still felt even then. Unfortunately, Biafra’s trial would lead to the disbanding of the Dead Kennedys.

An even more minor tragedy, I don’t call it one but at the time, a lot of teenage heavy metal girls did, was the incarceration of Motley Crue singer, Vince Neil. He served 15 days of a 30 day sentence for his drunk driving accident which took the life of Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle. To this day, the debate of whether or not Vince’s sentence was too lenient carries on.


Motley Crue

The major tragedy of 1986, by leaps and bounds, was the tragic death of Metallica bassist Cliff Burton. He was killed on September 27 while Metallica was on their European tour. Cliff was sleeping on the tour bus when the bus skidded off the road and fell over onto its side. As a result, Cliff was thrown through an open window and the bus fell on top of him, crushing him to death. Controversy still surrounds this very tragic event. The driver says he hit black ice and lost control but singer/guitarist James Hetfield was convinced that the driver was drunk or had fallen asleep at the wheel. Some of the forensic evidence from the investigation of the accident backs this up. Still, no criminal charges were ever brought against the driver.


Cliff Burton

Like with 9-11 and other tragic events, I can still remember where I was when I first heard the news. It was my second week at Queen Mary College in London and I was in the college bar when the news was broadcast by a guy named Tim Williams who was a big Metallica fan and an even bigger Iron Maiden one. That week, we metalheads at the college held a vigil for Cliff.

This song was played at Cliff’s funeral:


Rest in Peace Cliff Burton.

Next post: Moving to a new country



































5 Responses to “Tragedies of 1986”

  1. The Burton and Razzle thing sucked big time. Hanoi never recovered and Newsted became the whipping boy for Lars and James

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Not afraid to say I cried when I learned about Cliff. We were lucky to meet Metallica backstage on Saturday 20 September after their Birmingham Odean show in the UK. I got to speak to Cliff and shake his hand, and he signed my tour programme and autograph book. A really down to earth and gracious guy. One week later… we heard the news, and it was so unreal and shocking.
    Another rock tragedy of 1986 was the death of Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott in January. Never saw Lizzy live but always loved their music.

    Liked by 1 person

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