Budgie singer / bassist Burke Shelley dies age 71

Burke Shelley
(Image credit: Fin Costello/Redferns/Getty Images)

Budgie singer / bassist Burke Shelley passed away on 10 January at the age of 72. News of his death was confirmed by daughter Ela; "It is with great sadness that I announce the death of my father, John Burke Shelley," she wrote on Facebook. "He passed away this evening in his sleep at Heath Hospital in Cardiff, his birth town. He was 71 years old. Please respect the family during this time. With love, His four children: Ela, Osian, Dimitri and Nathaniel."

Two years ago, Shelley revealed that he was suffering from aortic aneurysm — a swelling of the main artery supplying blood to the body. The musician also suffered from Stickler syndrome – a genetic disorder that can cause serious problems with vision, hearing and joints. Sadly, Shelley's health issues would prevent Budgie from touring after 2010 but he continued to write and perform music when possible. 

Shelley formed Budgie in Cardiff, Wales, during 1967 with Tony Bourge on guitar and drummer Ray Phillips. Despite numerous lineup changes in later years, with Shelley remaining the only constant member, this founding trio is regarded as the classic Budgie lineup, responsible for 1971's self-titled debut album, 1972's Squawk and 1973's Never Turn Your Back On A Friend. 

Though they remained a cult act, Budgie's catalogue stands as testament to a seminal rock band. Their status was boosted Stateside when numerous younger rock and metal bands began to cover their songs.

Metallica famously covered Budgie songs Crash Course In Brain Surgery and Breadfan, while Iron Maiden tracked I Can't See My Feelings as a b-side and Megadeth (Dave Mustaine and Lars Ulrich originally bonded over a love of the Welsh band) recorded a version of Melt The Ice Away in recent years. 

Soundgarden also covered Budgie's Homicidal Suicidal and further back in the 1970s, Van Halen would cover the song In For The Kill at early shows. 

Despite the metal patronage, Budgie's sound was as much in the progressive realm of Rush as it was Black Sabbath, the metal godfathers Budgie actually predated. 

"They remained underdogs in the scene even if they’re there right in the beginning of the creation of hard rock/heavy metal music," wrote Opeth's Mikael Åkerfeldt in tribute.." 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."

We've collected some of our favourite Budgie covers by Metallica, Soundgarden, Megadeth, Iron Maiden and Van Halen below. 


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