Hard Features

What the Death of Deth Means to Me

It was the summer of 1990. I was a soon-to-be junior in college and working in a restaurant, bussing tables, doing dishes, waiting on tables, cashiering – – I did anything but cook. A co-worker, a punk reject who quit school between 8th and 9th grade, came in to work with a casette version of Rust in Peace. “Listen to this.” Remember, this is 1990. Thrash metal was on the verge of going mainstream. Slayer’s South of Heaven was out and The Clash of the Titans tour was in full-swing: an unknown band called Alice in Chains, Anthrax, Megadeth, and Slayer. My friend repeated, “Listen to this. They’re Megadeth and they’re cool. Come to the Clash with me. It’ll be cool.” This from a punk who thought Lemmy was a vocalist. I declined his invitation to see the Clash of the Titans show, but I said I would put in his casette on my way home from work.

I still remember that car ride home. Even though I was dog-tired from working 10 hours, I remember my head bobbing back and forth. When I pulled into my parent’s driveway, I didn’t want to get out of the car. I put the car in Reverse and just drove, wanting to hear more. I turned up the treble and the bass to their highest level and I knew my life was changed. First, the opening riff of track 1 echoed through my 86 Buick Century T-Type. Okay, I thought. This is a tight band. Mustaine’s vocals came in and wow, I could understand him. Then the guitar solo. Then I noticed the drummer was in-synch with the bass in a way that I hadn’t heard before. I had found my second favorite band, though I never reached the fanaticism that defined my love of And Justice for All. I liked “Lucretia,” I liked “Hangar 18” and, most of all, I liked the tight bass groove of David Ellefson and Nick Menza in “Dawn Patrol.” There wasn’t a song on that CD that I couldn’t listen to again and again. Fast-forward to summer 1998. I am writing freelance music reviews and I get a contact at Capitol Records, Megadeth’s label. I’m asked if I want to interview David Ellefson on the phone as press for their upcoming gig in Cedar Rapids.

The phone call comes in to my job. Our grandmotherly-ish receptionist pages me and says, “Someone by the name of David Ellefson is on line 1 for you.” She had no idea to whom she had spoken to and her sons didn’t believe her when she told them she had talked to David in Megadeth. I remember bits and pieces of that interview. I remember talking about how the lyrics on “I Thought I Knew it All” had inspired me during a 3 year job search during my senior year of college and 2 years post- college. I can still recite them: “Somewhere there’s a reason/Why things go like they do/Somewhere there’s a reason/Why some things just fall through/ We don’t always see them/ For what they really are/ But I know there’s a reason/ Just can’t see it from this far.” I remember asking if they’d play “Paranoid” in concert. I had been spinning Hidden Treasures daily, adoring every moment of their version, including Mustaine shouting, “Nick! Nick!” at the end of the track. I remember that he was late calling me and that he apologized for being tardy.

I remember their concert. Monster Magnet (whose singer no-showed the gig ) and Sevendust opened. I interviewed Lajon before the show and had a beer with him. I remember Mustaine acting pissed when no one sang along to “God Save the Queen” which they did as an encore. All of these things and other memories I can’t put into words have surrounded this band in my mind. Millions of fans have listened (and liked) this band. Each probably has a different individual moment where the band captured their heart and when they knew that this band was making a difference in their life.

Even though The World Needs a Hero didn’t sell well, and Mustaine had declared that if Hero didn’t sell well, he was going to end Megadeth, I thought they were on the right trail. I enjoyed several of the songs, including “1000 Times Goodbye,” the agonizing tale of a break up, climaxing with Mustaine stating, “You know what? You SUCK!” I was shocked to hear that Mustaine had decided to leave Megadeth – – however, I’m pleased that the remaining members didn’t decide to carry on the name as a three piece instrumental until Mustaine returned, though that might have returned the band to its Peace-era thrash metal. I read on today (4/8/02) that Kirk Hammett (Metallica’s guitarist) was stating openly that David Ellefson was not joining Metallica as bassist. When I interviewed Ellefson, we had talked briefly about a Megadeth/Metallica joint project. While no specific details were given, it would seem natural that these two bands, who have gone separate paths, would cross paths. A local DJ joked that Megadeth was ending because Mustaine had tried out for bass in Metallica and Hetfield had said, “No way man, we fired your ass years ago.” At this point, it’s clear as mud whether we’ll ever hear something from Mustaine’s guitar. News reports I read stated that it would take at least a year of physical therapy to be able to play guitar again. I wish Mustaine and his fellow Deth brothers the best of luck. I hope we do hear from Mustaine’s guitar again.

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