Back in the very early 80s, Cliff Burton wasn't the original Metallica bassist, Anvil were seen as the next big thing by many, Slayer were still playing mostly covers and young Dave Mustaine hadn't met David Ellefson or been ousted from his place as lead guitarist and co-songwriter in the group that would go on to be one of the most popular acts in the world.
Since all those years ago, Burton died tragically, Anvil toiled in near obscurity compared to other bands they inspired, Slayer have become the standard bearers for keeping up the intensity and quality level of hard edged music and the two Davids formed Megadeth and eventually split apart after many albums, tours and lineup changes. How Mustaine is still alive after all his self abuse is some kind of miracle. In an industry where drug extremes are par for the course, this man horrified even those who thought they'd seen it all.
As a boy Dave grew into an angry adolescent and found his musical destiny in the sounds from England, especially Judas Priest and Motorhead. His playing style was so called shredding before that term became a cliché of modern music and after forming his earliest groups, Dave joined the nascent Metallica. His alcoholism and violence, which he elaborates on here and in "Some Kind Of Monster", led to the other members deciding to give him the boot and in a revenge filled state of mind, he dreamt up the basis of what would become Megadeth.
Minnesota born and raised bassist Ellefson moved out to California to attend music school, but his encounter with Mustaine put an end to that path in his life. The two linked up with guitarist Chris Poland and drummer Gar Samuelson to record some of the greatest high velocity music to come out of the US and established a reputation as a phenomenal live act.
Eventually chemical dependency issues reared their heads and the lineup began to change. So many times, that Mustaine would be the sole founding member in the 21st century. Mustaine once remarked that Ellefson played music with a lot of love and that he himself played with a lot of hate. The source of his anger is described in this must see episode of "Behind The Music" as coming from the late patriarch of the Mustaine clan, who was an alcoholic and not "Leave It To Beaver" dad material.
The naiveté of Dave thinking it was great to develop a heroin habit so early in his career eventually turned nightmarish as he entered rehab many times and lapsed back into his dependency again and again. Well meant advice from their tour mate and early fan Alice Cooper wasn't heeded when it should have been and the toll drugs have taken on Megadeth is immense. Poland was gone after the second album and Samuelson eventually died from complications of his many years of heroin abuse.
My love of their music is inextricably linked with sobering knowledge about the consequences of what living on the edge will reap on those who think, even briefly, that they are bulletproof. Or are too high to care. This episode, along with the Motley Crue story, needs to scare straight any aspiring musician who should be living the dream of what art can be at it's best. Not turning into a walking, talking poster boy representing the "after" in before and after photos for the "Just Say No" campaign.
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