Friday, September 27, 2013

Cliff Burton Aria Bass w/ modification at the "Metallica Museum"

Here is an interesting find thanks to various sleuths at As you can see it "was the last bass he played" on 9/26/86. This was on display as part of the Metallica Museum which displayed several other Metallica items as well. This, though, has to be the most interesting piece there!
It's one of Cliff Burton's Aria Pro II Black n Gold basses but with a pickup modification. The new pickup appears to be a PJ Marx of some kind, perhaps a humbucker. It looks like the PJ Marx is somehow installed on or inside of the original MB pickup. I would think it would be extremely difficult to route the pickup inside the casing of one of those epoxied MB pickups. If only there was a picture inside the control cavity on this bass. Anybody got any ideas on this mod?

Here is Cliff with this bass during what looks like a relaxed soundcheck for one of his final gigs (note John Marshall with the acoustic guitar, used for "Fade to Black"). 

For reference, here are some more pictures of PJ Marx pickups:

After searching for information on PJ Marx pickups it seems they are most closely associated with Brad Gillis of Night Ranger and Ozzy Osbourne fame. This blog has some interesting information about Brad Gillis' PJ Marx pickup. 

If you have any ideas or info about this mod, please comment! 

Also, in honor of this anniversary of Cliff's untimely passing, here is an audio recording of a show from Newcastle, England 9/19/86. James gets pretty loaded during this show!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Robert Trujillo with Cliff Burton Tribute Black 'n' Gold

During Metallica's Orion Festival appearance in Detroit, they played "Kill 'Em All" from start to finish. For "Anesthesia" and "Whiplash" Robert Trujillo played the Cliff Burton Black 'n' Gold model. While admittedly not the best performance, it's still pretty cool to see him playing it. It seemed there might have been some technical difficulties with his distortion as well. I hope he gets another crack at playing it a little more cleanly next time (and with a pro-shot video hopefully)!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

New Aria SB model: SB-1000ST

Well, hot on the heels of the SB Black 'n' Gold Cliff Burton Tribute, Aria Guitars have come out with a slightly more budget minded Super Bass. This one is called the SB-1000ST. This is a departure from the SB line in a couple very important ways. First, gone are are the MB model pickups. In their place are MusicMan style pickups. Second, the neck-through design has given way to set neck construction. However, the body and headstock have maintained the classic SB look. The chrome hardware is branded "Aria Pro II", just like the new IGB-50 Rose models.

Other specs include: alder body, three piece maple neck, rosewood fretboard with 24 frets, 34" scale, AMMB pickups, with volume, tone, and pickup balance controls.

So far, only black and white finishes are listed on the Aria website.  Check the Aria site for a few more high res pics. The initial price is 136,500 Yen but the street price will likely be lower. 

Custom & Unknown Arias: Part 5 - Wariawick?

Recently I came across this strange Aria, or "Wariawick", as I like to call it. At first I thought it was just an Aria Integra neck bolted on to a Warwick style body. Wrong! As you can see, this is a neckthrough bass!

The headstock bears the "AP" or Aria Custom shop logo, so this must have been a one-off or a run of very limited instruments.  Actually, I just noticed it doesn't have the AP logo! It has the "I" logo, which was found on some late 80s Integras. It also features Bartolini pickups and Gotoh hardware. 

Has anyone seen other Wariawicks? 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Aria Releases Official Cliff Burton Signature Black 'n' Gold Bass

At long last, an official Aria Pro II Cliff Burton Signature Bass.

Although Aria Guitars have produced other "unofficial" Cliff Burton models (SB-1000CB, SB-CB), this is the first official signature that has both Metallica's and the Burton family's blessing. Of course it is a Re-Issue of the Black 'n' Gold I, which was made from around 1982-1987. It looks pretty good from the first batch of pictures! Aria has really tried to pay attention to the details this time around. Although my one little nitpick (so far): the knobs are not the original SB style. They look like the bevel top knobs used on current SB Re-Issues. Again, not a big thing, just something I noticed. However, they did get the "Aria Pro II" logo on the tuners, which is a pretty cool detail (for geeks like me at least).

As I wrote regarding my own Cliff Burton Tribute SB-1000, the first attempts made by Aria, while cool, didn't really look like the basses Cliff actually played. Those early attempts had all black hardware and SB-1000 electronics which the Black 'n' Gold did not have. This new signature does have the correct look (except for the knobs!), even down to the RotoSound strings with the red silk wrap. It appears the original SB style "quick hook bridge" is back, which was a big part of the original SB, in my opinion. This is a welcome addition and hopefully they put the original style bridges on the other SB Re-Issues as well. The "Cliff Burton" signature on the back of the headstock is a nice touch, too. It's also something that appears to make Cliff's dad, Ray, happy, which is cool. Who wouldn't want their late son remembered?

As far as the technical specs (see Metallica link below), the nut width is 40mm according so I will need to measure my Black 'n' Gold the next time I have access for a comparison! The pickup is listed as a MB-V while the original was listed as MB-II. Personally, I don't care what they call it as long as it sounds like an SB. The real test will of course be if has the SB tone! So, if anyone has the chance to go to NAMM (Zuma?!) give us a review, please!

I'm sure this will not be a cheap bass, but it's cool to see something like this and hopefully I'll be able to try one out one of these days!

Also, for comparison, here is one of Cliff's actual Black 'n' Gold basses that was on auction in 2008. Final price: $17,187.50! Let's hope the Re-Issue isn't that much! I haven't seen any pricing information yet, but if you are able to attend NAMM in Southern California this year (Friday, January 25 at noon), you can get a first hand look and meet Ray Burton, Cliff's father.

I'm sure there will be plenty of cynics out there who just decry this as another Metallica money grab, but in other news, water is wet...If Fender can make Jaco and SRV re-issues, then why not this?

More information and pictures can be found at Metallica's website. I'm still awaiting a link to Aria's site about this. I will update when it becomes available.

Update: More information and pictures from Aria Guitar's website.

Apparently this will be a limited edition of 250 instruments at a price of 588,000 Yen. However the street price looks to be 499,000 Yen.

Famous Arias: Part 2 - Cliff Burton's Black 'n' Gold I

Some time ago, I blogged about Cliff's SB-1000 surfacing in my first - and to date only - installment of "Famous Arias". Well, recently it came to my attention that one of Cliff's Black 'n' Gold I basses was auctioned off back in 2008. The serial number is 4123392 which indicates it was made in 1984. I believe these later Black n Golds were more similar (maybe identical, aside from the bridge) to the SB Elite models - which had a more narrow width at the nut (40mm) and a slighter smaller body.

Here is the original auction link from Julien's Live auctions.

Unfortunately there is only 1 picture, but from that picture I believe the bass in question to be the bass pictured below because of the apparent chip on the upper left corner of the headstock. In the auction photo, it looks like someone took a marker and blacked it out, but it is clearly less shiny than the rest of the finish. I'm not sure why anyone would try to touch up something that could be used in the authentication of the bass... It looks like someone messed with the intonation, too, but I digress...

I am pretty sure the 2008 auctioned bass is the one that ended up at the Rock in Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. Hard to be sure from the angle, but the upper left hand corner of the headstock does look a little less shiny and the missing volume knob and the ugly replacement "speed" type of knob are exactly the same as the auction from 2008. If I could only see the saddle placement on the bridge...