There’s a common misconception that Iron Maiden’s rhythm section uses a lot of triplets. While this isn’t entirely true of their most well-known material, that description does apply to the band’s first three records with Clive Burr.
There’s a lot about early Iron Maiden that feels incongruous (or slightly out of harmony, if you will?) with the way metal is played today, nothing more so than Clive Burr’s swing heavy drumming. Burr was a product of his time. Unlike the ramrod straight playing of the thrash movement that followed in the wake of the “New Wave of British Heavy Metal”, Burr’s drumming still carries on the lineage of British rock drummers drawing from the swing and shuffle of American blues and jazz.
Burr’s comfort zone as a drummer was in triple meter, whether that be the bouncy 12/8 of “Running Free” or the loose 6/8 halftime in the breakdown of “Phantom of the Opera.” Even in spaces where the band is seemingly playing in straight duple meter, like the double time section near the end of “Hallowed Be Thy Name” Burr’s instincts as a drummer, gave all of his rhythms a slight inflection that has more in common with the Bo Diddley beat than heavy metal’s standard 16 note pummeling.
Listen to ”Running Free” … It is uniquely Clive Burr!
Contrarily, when the band straightened out their 8th notes, Burr’s playing became a little less creative. Burr’s go-to pattern in situations like this would be to play full measures worth of 16th notes on the hi-hat while keeping the snare on the backbeat, creating what amounts to a supercharged disco beat.
This pattern is certainly effective, it’s a big part of why “Run to the HIlls” is so invigorating!
”Another Life” showcases Burr’s brilliantly-fast hi-hats!
The bottom line is: Burr’s playing, limitations and all, provided the character Iron Maiden needed in their infancy and was one of the main reasons the band was launched into the stratosphere!
“Sad to hear of your passing. You will always be in my heart, Clive.
“My wife and I respectfully send our condolences to the family and friends of Clive Burr. Thank you, Clive for all you’ve brought to rock’s history. My wife Jackie particularly loved Clive’s drumming and was a huge fan.” – Bill Ward
Sadness overcame my morning when I heard this news. His style was inspiring and the albums he recorded with Iron Maiden are touchstones of my music education. He played with a particular energy which bought edge and excitement to the Iron Maiden classics. I never got to meet him, but I wish did. The best thing for me to do right now is listen to some classic Iron Maiden. Up The Irons! – Dave Lombardo