Angry men are hilarious. Angry women are too, but angry men have a certain comic abandon. Think John Cleese in angry mode, threatening to punch a plant pot.
In 1988 something was winding up Dave Mustaine. Winding him up to the point of apoplexy. His volcanic fury finally got the better of him in the line: ‘Agh, you . . . you, you fucking liar.’
You all know Dave Mustaine. Ex-Metallica, didn’t quite see eye to eye with Lars Ulrich, but then he was a good ten inches taller. He didn’t see eye to eye with James Hetfield either and it’s possible to say he didn’t see eye to eye with anyone at that period in his life.
But as I say, angry men are hilarious. Dave Mustaine was also fascinating. Not one to hold back, his interviews were never short of a few take home thoughts. In Penelope Spheeris’s The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: the Metal Years he says: “It’s not the size of your pencil that matters, it’s how you write your name.”
I gave him the benefit of the doubt when I bought Peace Sells . . . But Who’s Buying? Not bad, some good crunchers. I thought Megadeth were the best of the ‘big four.’ There were more than four back then, but the intervening years would wittle down the number of emerging thrash hopefuls. Mustaine had the songwriting skills. He knew how to combine the blistering heat of thrash with the craft of songwriting.
The irony is he probably wasn’t aware of it at the time. He was, by his own admission, a fan of the booze and friend of the chemicals. Being off his head probably gave him the neural clarity necessary to write the way he did. Megadeth weren’t a monotone noise, they actually knew a bit about musical composition. Or rather, Dave Mustaine did. The others, with the possible exception of Dave Ellefson, were only there to do as he commanded.
When So Far, So Good . . . So What! was released Kerrang suspected Mustaine was mad. They asked a psychologist if he was a psychopath; a question based on Mustaine’s habit of using album titles with two parts: Peace Sells/Killing is My Business/So Far, So Good . . . But Who’s Buying/And Business is Good/So What. The science was shaky, but So Far, So Good was anything but.
The album literally started with a bang and went uphill from there. Along the way The Sex Pistols were hijacked and someone called Mary Jane frightened him. He set the world afire in more metaphorical ways than one and went for a drive. But if Mustaine was angry he created for himself a number of vents and outlets in the form of In My Darkest Hour, Hook In Mouth and Liar.
Darkest Hour was written in response to the death of Cliff Burton and Mustaine receiving the news second hand. Hook In Mouth was a spitting, blood-boiled rant at Tipper Gore and the rest of her hideous cronies at the PMRC. Liar was an unfettered broadside at a former band member. Why get all purple-prosed and flamboyant when the line ‘you fucking liar’ says all you want to say? A friend of mine found it hilarious. I found it hilarious. But in the mirth we understood what he meant.
Thirty-five minutes of beligerence. Half an hour of malcontent. Some might think So Far. So Good . . . So What! would be unlistenable, but the time flew past.
I looked forward to the next album. By the time Rust in Peace was released Mustaine was clean and sober, shaved and full of beans. The bile was gone, the spleen back in one piece, the liver on the way to a full recovery. I won’t mention the music! It’s not for me to instruct a man to remain in a state of permanent anger and collapse in order to create extraordinary rock songs.
Mustaine has sold fifty million albums. He’s a born again Christian. He doesn’t release albums with two part titles. He probably isn’t angry anymore, which for him, at least, might just be a good thing.