Metallica, King Diamond, Motorhead pay respect to Budgie’s Burke Shelley

Burke Shelley
(Image credit: Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Metallica, Motorhead, King Diamond, Opeth and more have paid tribute to Budgie’s Burke Shelley, who passed away on January 10, aged 71. 

News of the vocalist/bassist’s death was confirmed on the Budgie fan page on Facebook by his daughter, Ela Shelley, who wrote, "It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my father, John Burke Shelley. He passed away this evening in his sleep at Heath Hospital in Cardiff, his birth town."

Lars Ulrich, Metallica’s drummer, was one of the first musicians to salute Shelley’s life  and legacy: Metallica’s decision to cover Budgie’s Breadfan and Crash Course In Brain Surgery played a major part in introducing Budgie to a new generation of rock and metal fans.

Ulrich wrote on Instagram Stories: “Thank you Burke for everything you did for heavy music and much next level appreciation for co-writing and creating two songs that Metallica were honored to record over the years, Breadfan and Crash Course In Brain Surgery.”

“Sad news that one of my true heroes, Burke Shelley, has left us,” King Diamond posted. “I had the extreme pleasure to meet in person, Burke Shelley and Tony Bourge of Budgie, in Copenhagen Denmark, December 1975 during the “Bandolier” tour. They gave me after the show a promo postcard of theirs which I asked them to sign, and which is still one of my most prized music related possessions. Budgie has always played on my stereo, and that’s not going to change.”

“Sad to hear of the passing of Burke Shelley,” wrote Motorhead guitarist Phil Campbell. “I played support to them as far back as Persian Risk days. They were pioneers and produced some of the heaviest riffing you could imagine. Thoughts are with his family. RIP welsh hero.”

Shellac’s Steve Albini, who’s produced Nirvana, Page & Plant, Pixies and more, wrote on Twitter: “Requiescat Burke Shelley of the great heavy band Budgie. All their songs were weird and cool and they remained a genuine inspiration through punk and everything after.”

Opeth’s Mikael Åkerfeldt posted a lengthy tribute to Shelly on Facebook: “I almost choked on my coffee this morning when I read that one of my idols, the great Burke Shelley of Budgie had passed away. What a terrible loss! Most people know Budgie as the band that Metallica covered (Breadfan, Crash course in brain surgery) ages ago. They remained underdogs in the scene even if they’re there right in the beginning of the creation of hard rock/heavy metal music. I think Burke was one of those guys who was quite uncomfortable with the heavy metal tag, but it’s undeniable that they were instrumental in bringing it to the masses. I stumbled upon them in the 80’s. A friend of mine (thank you Stefan!) played me Bandoiler from 1975. It wasn’t the heavy side of their music that sucked me in, but rather the gentle side. Songs like Slipaway are beautiful. And the majestic Napoleon Bona-Part 1 & 2 showcased dynamics that a lot of their peers simply didn’t have. Since then I have rather impressive Budgie section. Their softer side remains my favorite part of their music. Everything in my heart, You and I, Make me happy, Young is a world and so on. Burke had a jazzy quality to his voice as well as the ability to scream like the best of them. I think he was a big fan of Paul McCartney, or at least that’s what I hear. We recorded 2 albums at the Rockfield studio in Monmouth/Wales, which was kind of the go-to studio for Budgie. I remember waiting for them to drop by, but they never did. Why would they? Childish dreams on my behalf. So I've never met them unfortunately. I did however manage to see them live twice, and they’re fantastic! Thank you Burke, for all your fantastic music! And our sincere condolences to the Shelley family as well as to the remaining band members, past and present.”

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Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.