by Jorge Patacas
September 27, 1986 was a tragic day in the history of metal. As part of their “Damage Inc.” tour, in support of the “Master of Puppets” album, Metallica was travelling from Stockholm, Sweden to Copenhagen, Denmark when suddenly the tour bus skidded off the road in Dörarp, a small locality in Ljungby municipality in Sweden. The bass player Cliff Burton was thrown violently through the window of the bus, which then fell on top of him and he died instantly. On October 3, 2006, a memorial stone was unveiled near the scene of the fatal crash and this year, on May 14th, a museum dedicated to his memory was opened in Lagan, the second largest locality in Ljungby. RISE! was able to see the exact location where the accident happened as well as seeing the memorial stone, but also pay a visit to the museum which was turning two months at the time. There we did this interview with the guide Lukas, who told us the story behind the museum and more!
RISE! – How did you come up with the idea of starting this museum and what’s the purpose of it?
Lukas: The purpose from the beginning was to make a gathering place for the fans. All the amazing fans that make the journey out to the memorial stone to have a place to meet with other fans and show their inspiration for Cliff. We started to think about the museum around the year 2018. It was the local historian Krister Ljungberg who started the project together with the fans, of course.
R!: – Did you get any funding or support for the project or were you raising funds on your own?
L: We sought funds through the municipality and different culture funds, but we really had to thank the fans for this museum, specially Mexitallica, the fan club from Mexico. They have been very supportive in our work, also by gifting the drum set that Alfredo (Lerux, fan from Mexico) has given us. That’s truly amazing.
R!: – You’re also in charge of preserving the memorial stone, right?
L: Yes, we manage the stone, make sure everything looks tidy and in time we also collect the stuff we think would make the exhibition. So we both take care of the stone and also after a while take things from the stone and put them on display in the museum.
R!: – How many times you go to take care of the stone and collect the stuff?
L: We go once or twice every week to take care of the stone, but the work with collecting artifact, that’s not as often.
R!: – Who contributed with the stuff we see in the exhibition today?
L: Fans and as I told you, the guys from Mexico. We have artwork given to us by Manuel Pino, the artist who made the memorial stone, and we also have a replica of the memorial stone from Dörarp. I don’t want to leave anyone out, but yes, it was mostly fans that gave us these items.
R!: – The museum has been opened for two months now and people from many different countries are coming here, but how was the opening ceremony? How would you sum up that day?
L: The author Joel McIver was here during the opening. He has written a book about Cliff and Metallica, a very good book, recommended. He was here to talk about Cliff and then, as I said before, we had Alfredo all the way from Mexico, who gifted us the drum set. He played the drums himself with a buddy of his, and they performed “Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth)”, so that was really awesome! We also had a cover band here, Metaholica, who played outside of the museum. We also had a bus tour that went out to the stone itself and we took some pictures and talked about the story of the incident. So a bunch of stuff happened during the opening.
R!: – Is Cliff’s family following the development of the museum? Are they involved in any way or are they going to contribute with something?
L: We’re in contact with the Burton family and they have given us their blessing. Thumbs up and pat on the back. They know of our work and there is no ill will between us and them, and for us that feels great, you know? To have them with us, and also Metallica themselves. However, about new things to the exhibition, I can’t really say. I’ll just say that we have been in contact and we’re friends (laughs).
R!: – For people who are willing to travel here, what can they expect? What things can they find in the museum?
L: We have a few artworks about Cliff made by Manuel Pino, a bunch of photographs and texts describing who was Cliff, how was his upbringing, how did he end up in the band Trauma, his way into Metallica, the accident itself, witness statements from the rescue personal who was on the scene. Then a bit of the aftermath, what happened after the accident, how Metallica chose to honor Cliff, how the memorial stone and the museum came to be and a bunch of artifacts on display, which the drum set is the one people talk most about.
R!: – Why do you think Cliff’s life and legacy is so important to so many people around the world?
L: We found a letter by the stone once. It was from a young girl and in this letter she confessed that Cliff was one of the reasons why she could endure living. She had a rough time with mental health issues and she saw Cliff as a role model. This letter was left out this year, so it was a girl in her teens. It’s inspiring to see that Cliff can still mean so much to so many people who newly discovered him. It’s truly amazing and I think it’s because the way he performed on stage was authentic, he never got the feeling that he was untouchable or on top of the world, he was true to himself on stage. I think that’s what inspires people about Cliff.
R!: – What are your expectations for the future of the museum?
L: Hopefully this museum will become a part of the people’s journey to the stone. They may be do it anually or just once or twice in their lives, but the museum is meant to complement the memorial stone itself and as I said before, to be a gathering place for fans and to show appreciation for Cliff. It’s honouring when people say “we just found this museum by the road, we didn’t know this was here”, it’s always funny to hear people coming here and just being amazed at the museum, always thanking us for the work we do. That’s truly humbling, man. It’s amazing!