"Bass solo, take one."

"(Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth" is a 4:14 minute long bass solo by Metallica's bass player Cliff Burton. It can be found on Kill 'em All, the band's first album. Possibly one of the first bass solos in which the bass player used heavy distortion and a wah wah pedal (both of which are usually associated with the electric guitar rather than the bass). The distortion is on throughout the entire solo, although the wah is only applied at certain points -- the "screaming" effect in the beginning of the solo (which is indeed why it has its name; rumour has it that it's painful to have your teeth pulled) is produced by striking two strings simultaneously at high tones while stomping the wah pedal to its open position.

Other strange techniques Burton uses in the solo includes tremolo picking, tapping (playing by pressing the fingers down on the fingerboard rather than traditional plucking), lots of string bending and harmonics. Near the end of the tune, Burton even includes his twist on the popular pick slide guitar technique; although being a fingerstyle player, he performs it by slashing his fingernails down the strings rather than the traditional way of scraping a pick down the string. When performing it live, Burton usually appeared as if he drifted into another world; standing on stage in deep concentration, staring at his bass with his head banging.

Widely regarded as a masterpiece because of the wide variety of difficult techniques employed as well as the high speed and complexity of the piece (and of course, the innovation of using a bass as a lead instrument in heavy metal, a role which is usually reserved strictly for the guitar), this track earned Mr. Burton a reputation for being to the bass what Jimi Hendrix was to the guitar -- indeed, he is widely considered one of the top three heavy metal bass players of the 80's, along with Iron Maiden's Steve Harris and Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister. He always played the solo differently live, incorporating new, freshly improvised elements into it at every Metallica performance until his untimely death in 1986. A bootleg recording of the very last time he played it (during the Metallica concert in Stockholm, the evening before he was killed in a bus crash as the band headed for Copenhagen) has been sighted on P2P networks and FTP sites around the 'Net.

Like many bass solos, Pulling Teeth is a solo in the true sense of the word, most of it being played only on the bass. A sequence towards the end has Lars Ulrich join in on drums. The album version of the solo is a favourite for seasoned heavy metal bass players to learn when they decide they need a track to show off their skills with -- memorizing the whole thing takes Zen-like concentration.

Well, yes, I know that it's properly spelled "Anaesthesia", guess Metallica should learn how to spell, shouldn't they?


  • http://www.ogregod.com/files/anesthesia.txt (includes tablature)
  • spending too much time listening to the damn thing