Archive for Anthrax

My top five formative albums

Posted in Entertainment, Music with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 24, 2013 by Mike

The internet’s full of top-whatever-number greatest albums lists, most of which I disagree with.  I mean, Sgt. Pepper‘s is a great album and all, but it’s not one that would crack my top 10. “Well, yeah,” you might say, “but you listen to mostly heavy metal” (I’m assuming you know me a bit). Sure, but then there are also lists devoted to strictly metal albums, and I have to tell you, I don’t care too much about Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden’s Powerslave.  Again, some awesome songs on both (“Aces High” is on my workout music playlist) and influential to the genre, but they’re not albums that have any distinct resonance with me.

And I suppose that’s why those top-whatever ratings get argued over so often – musical taste is subjective and what blows your skirt up might not even…well, whatever the male equivalent of that previous expression is for me. Those putting together these kinds of lists try to avoid that by looking at the albums’ perceived quality, originality, and influence, and that’s why Sgt. Pepper‘s and Revolver end up being in every top 10 list out there. Meh.

Now, I’m not “meh”-ing The Beatles, so much as I am the nature of these lists. Look, no shit, the Beatles are one of the most, if not the most, influential rock bands ever, and to suggest otherwise illustrates some sort of petty bias against those boys from Liverpool.  It’s ignorant.  If you want to hate on a band, direct it toward the Black-Eyed Peas – they’re the ones ruining music. Usually, though, those lists tend to get those objective qualities meted out in the right order, unless they’re purposely trying to annoy people (Kanye West at number 9, Adele at 17, while Led Zeppelin IV is at 79 – are your editors collectively stupid, Entertainment Weekly?).

But more to the point, while those lists are good for message-board fights and blog posts, the magazine’s/website’s selections shouldn’t mean much to readers. I know I’m not terribly interested in listening to The Beatles’ Rubber Soul or The Clash’s London Calling just because Rolling Stone deemed them top 10 albums, but I can appreciate reading the justification RS writes up. The list sells the magazine, and will be modestly adjusted the next time the next-big-thing hits (though, if you look at RS‘s list, you’d have to go all the way to #17 to find a post-1970’s album : Nirvana’s Nevermind, which, while definitely an “important” album for what it meant for American rock, can it honestly be said that it should be ranked higher than EVERY Led Zeppelin album?).

Rock attained perfection...

“Why do you need new bands? Everyone knows rock attained perfection in 1974. It’s a scientific fact.”

So I’m not interested in message board debates about these kinds of lists. What I’d be more interested in, though, is an individual’s list of his/her top 5 albums that had a lasting impact on his/her musical tastes.  In other words, albums that are responsible for what you listen to today.  I don’t necessarily believe that these are albums made by your favorite artists, otherwise I’d list off 4 Anthrax albums and something by Ian Moore for variety’s sake. Nor do I think it’s as easy as saying, “When I first heard Led Zeppelin/The Beatles/Nirvana/[insert ‘important’ band here] it showed me everything I listened to previously was crap.” Bullshit. If you LIKE a band’s music, then what other bands have done either before or after shouldn’t matter. We’re talking about art and emotional response, not compare/contrast.  Certainly albums by those ‘important’ bands could be on someone’s list, but there’s nothing wrong with declaring “Gypsy Road” has more importance to you than “Penny Lane.”   Illustrating this a bit,  Chuck Klosterman,  in one section of his “holy-crap-why-didn’t-I-write-this-book?” Fargo Rock City, lists out his top-whatever albums and the amount of money it would take for him to never listen to the albums again (apparently there’s not enough money for him to never again  listen to Appetite for Destruction).  His reasoning is both hilarious and intensely personal,  the latter of which makes it such a great read for anyone who grew up listening to hair metal in the 80’s, and anyone else who didn’t but loves reading about music (seriously, he’s exactly one day younger than me; that book might as well be entitled DeSoto Rock City).

So these kinds of thoughts have led me to think about my top 5 formative albums – these albums are my best guess as to why I have the taste in music I do. These are not my top 5 of all time – that’s a different thing and I’m pretty sure none of the following would be on that list. But these albums can probably be blamed for the presets on my car stereo…


Pyromania is the first rock album that I remember owning. Think about all the singles off this album – songs that are now staples/classics of 80’s rock: “Foolin'”; “Photograph” (can you hear that one guitar note that begins the song and NOT listen to the rest?); “Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)”; “Too Late for Love”; and, of course, “Rock of Ages”.  In 6th grade some friends and I auditioned for a talent show doing an air guitar rendition of “Rock of Ages” (the school had a loose definition of “talent”, I guess). Every other group of kids auditioning “performed” Van Halen’s “Jump” – we were the only ones to get in (we had practiced our moves/lip-synching quite a bit, admittedly). This album was a gateway album to A LOT of late 80’s hair bands for me. Motley Crue, Warrant, Skid Row, Cinderella, Tesla, Extreme, hell, even the Sleeze Beez (/shudder) – I bought all those albums and memorized their lyrics because Def Leppard’s album showed me how awesome rock was.

Hooked on Classics

I’m not all about the metal these days (Sirius Pops is one of my presets), and I probably owe my taste in classical music at least in part to this damn album (Looney Tunes cartoons deserve some credit as well). I don’t know how well it holds up today, as the disco rhythm that’s tacked on to the classical music makes it sound a bit cheesy, but I know I couldn’t wait for it to get to the William Tell Overture (i.e., the “Lone Ranger” theme). You know what? Screw that – this album’s still great.

I'm the Man

I would love to be able to say that Among the Living is what turned me onto my favorite band. I can’t. Instead, I first heard Anthrax in my friend Mike’s garage when someone put on the I’m the Man EP.  I was laughing all damn night. One, the title song’s hilarious, and illustrates a sense of humor that really no other metal band cared to exhibit at the time (Metallica/Slayer/Megadeth: SERIOUS AND ANGRY – they wore all black.  Anthrax band members wore Jams on stage). Two, holy crap, “Caught in a Mosh” is fast and live (and recorded in Dallas!). Three, they wrote a song about a comic book character (Judge Dredd) and Danny Spitz’s guitar had the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on it.  Then, come to find out, the band members were reading the same books I was (Stephen King’s The Stand, “Apt Pupil”, and Misery all inspired songs).  I have to say that the “I’m the Man” lyrics “They cut their crack, they offer joints, We don’t do drugs, do you get our meaning? [POINT]” also drew my attention/appreciation [side note: years later Scott Ian would say that he had tried marijuana and had an allergic reaction to it.  I don’t know…then there was Charlie Benante’s point about buying toys rather than drugs]. It was the perfect storm of music and personality, and if it was Pyromania that led me to more hair metal, it was I’m the Man that opened up Metallica, Megadeth, Testament, etc. to me, which would later lead to Pantera and Machine Head and so on.


I remember when my parents forced this album on me and my brothers – they were playing the cassette constantly: when they picked us up from school; when we went to the store; when we were being driven to a  friend’s house; when we took vacations.  All the time – at least that’s how I remember it.  But the album grew on me, more so than on my brothers, I think, for whatever reason. Paul Simon is a hell of a musician (my Dad holds the not-so-uncommon opinion that Art Garfunkel was lucky to have known Simon), and the songs on this record are surprisingly catchy, especially for a 15 year old kid who was into rock and metal exclusively. Then there was the song/video for “You Can Call Me Al” – Chevy Chase was still a bankable star at that time and the interaction between Simon and Chase was fun to watch. My favorite song ended up being “I Know What I Know“, though. The use of South African musicians/music also demonstrated a social conscience as apartheid was still in effect (many felt, though, that Simon had broken a boycott toward S. Africa by doing so). So maybe I attribute to this album the reminder that good music is good music, no matter the genre. I ended up buying the CD, and was still listening to it right up until 2000 when it disappeared along with my stereo when my car was broken into out in Phoenix. Maybe the album had the same effect on the thief.  : /

Licensed to Ill

Any rap I’ve ever listened to can be attributed to this album.  Yes, I agree, it’s an extraordinary shame that I trace my appreciation for a musical genre that was created by urban blacks back to three Jews from New York, but, damn, this album is extraordinarily fun and stands the test of time.  Just try NOT listening to “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” or “Paul Revere“. Of course, it’s got “You’ve Got to Fight, etc..”, which I’ve always considered more rock than anything else, but above all this album was accessible (it didn’t hurt that Slayer’s Kerry King made an appearance). This album led me to, among others, Run-DMC and, later, Ice-T’s O.G. Original Gangster (no kidding!), along with Del the Funky Homosapien, Jurassic-5, and, of course, Eminem. Rap/Hip-hop’s never been a genre I’ve listened to consistently, but it was Licensed to Ill that opened that door.

Then there was the time I almost met Anthrax…

Posted in Entertainment with tags , , , , , on August 6, 2010 by Mike

Yeah, I know, “almost” meeting a band seems kind of pathetic.  But here’s the story…

These are the guys I almost had a beer with

Anthrax has been my favorite band, oh, since I was 15.  I’m not going to try to explain why, as I think someone trying to explain why a band connects with him or her is ultimately a tedious exercise, but suffice to say I think I saw/heard a lot of my personality through their music.  They had a fuckin’ sense of humor about themselves, and I appreciated that.  They read comics and Stephen King, as I did, and their guitarist at the time, Danny Spitz, used a guitar emblazoned with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – the original Eastman and Laird depictions, not the bastardized children’s cartoon versions.  Fuckin’ cool, IMO…

I had this poster up in my, I didn't date in high school, why?

Anyway, I lived through the ups and downs of the band over the next twenty plus years, even going so far as joining the Anthrax Fan Club sometime after turning 30 (don’t judge – I’m loyal to a fault).  The website, as fan club sites are wont to do, posted updates about the goings-on of the members, and it was here that I learned that their drummer, Charlie Benante, collected action figures, just like me.  Yeah, sure, he was the drummer of one of the legendary “Big Four” metal bands, but I used this as evidence against my wife’s claims that she had “married a geek.”

Early in my collecting career I was only buying the Lord of the Rings figures that came out with the Peter Jackson films (today…eh, it’s best I don’t get into that right now).  I still have most of them in their original boxes, unopened – largely because I have no place to display them – but I do have the “Fellowship” figures displayed in my classroom.  So that meant I had another set of the Fellowship still in their boxes.

The Fellowship of the Ring figures. I sent my duplicates of Aragorn and Frodo to Charlie.

OK, back to Anthrax.  One day a message comes up on the website that Charlie was looking for a couple figures for his LotR collection, namely a Frodo and an Aragorn.  He joked around a bit about how he knew it was geeky (damn you, Charlie!), but it was better than wasting his money on drugs (the band has always had a reputation for NOT doing drugs).  He then asked if anyone out there had those figures and offered Anthrax “swag” in exchange for them.

Damn right I was on that.

I emailed the guy who was running the website (“Brent”, I think)  that I had the figures, and almost immediately (maybe a day later), Charlie is emailing me about what I’d want for the figures.  Now, I was thinking a set of signed drumsticks (though I don’t have a drum set nor any real musical inclination), but then I emailed my twin about an idea I had – I wondered if I could get the chance to meet Charlie/have a beer with him next time they went on tour and came to Dallas?  I didn’t want to push it – I had visions of Charlie suddenly thinking he had some sort of weirdo emailing him – but my brother encouraged me to go ahead and ask – all Charlie could really do is laugh and say “nice try – how about a pair of signed drumsticks?”  So I emailed my idea, telling him how I’d like to buy him a beer.  He had posted a message a few weeks before, a “Blast-Beat”, talking about how important it was to stay in touch with your musical roots, and I’m pretty sure I mentioned that Anthrax was part of my “roots.”

Here’s where it got very fucking cool – Charlie agreed.  He even said he’d get me and a couple guys into the show in exchange for mailing the figures to him.  I don’t recall that I asked for “backstage access” or anything like that, but Charlie agreed to get us in the door. I emailed my brother with the news and was the fuckin’ man for the next few months: “Your dedication to being a geek has finally paid off!”

Later that year Anthrax came through Dallas on a small club tour.  I had emailed Charlie a few times between when I sent the figures his way and the concert date – I’m not going to exaggerate things, it was largely me asking some questions about the band and his experiences with him giving some quick replies, though I did get a longer, more passionate email from him after I asked him about the Great White concert that ended up killing 100 fans because of the pyrotechnics the band used in the small club.  He was pissed at the carelessness shown.  But the emails were few because I didn’t want to be “that guy”, though I have to admit it was pretty cool to have Charlie’s email address.

I’ll also admit I was nervous about the arrangements – who knew if the band would communicate with the club to get us in?  I was going on faith, I suppose.  And if I wasn’t “on the list” then what did I do but hand over a couple figures worth about $20 total for nothing.  We got to the club and waited in line for a bit, shooting the shit with a couple other guys there.

Then the doors opened, and I went up to the woman taking the money and told her I should be on the list.  She looked at me like I was full of shit, and then walked away for a bit to where I couldn’t see her and came back with a piece of paper in her hands.  “What’s your name?” she asked.  I told her and she scanned down the paper and said, “Yep, go on in”, with what seemed to me a bit of resentment in her voice.  The guys behind us called us back and said they had to hear how I accomplished that, so I quickly told the story of the Lord of the Rings figures – they were impressed.

The show started off with some local band who tried to get the crowd going but couldn’t overcome the apathy.  They closed with Metallica’s “Seek and Destroy”, though, so they left the stage on a high-note.  I seem to recall a second band being scheduled to come on before Anthrax, but there was apparently  some cluster in the scheduling and were no -shows.  Anthrax came on with their fairly standard “Blues Brothers” music moving into “Among the Living” and the show was on.  By the way, “Among the Living” kicks ass – you need to listen to it again:

Anthrax puts on a damn good show, no matter the size of the venue.  Frank Bello, the bassist, has a presence on stage that’ll make you think he’s playing for you individually the whole damn show.  John Bush, the singer at the time, knew how to work the crowd, too.  So after  about an hour and half/two hours of moshing and head-thrashing later, the place cleared out and the lights came on, and the techs started disassembling the stage.

The band members moved immediately to their bus and we’re left there hanging out, drinking the last of our beers, and I’m wondering if I’m supposed to go back and hang outside the bus and wait.  I should also mention this: Dimebag Darrell made an appearance after the show and I saw him getting on board the bus with Anthrax.  We decide to go outside with some other fans and see what happens, but after about five minutes of that, my brother turns to me and says, “You know what, we got in for free to a fuckin’ Anthrax show – that’s good enough for me.  We’re 32 and don’t need to be waiting outside a tour bus.”  I agreed and we walked back to the car, got in, and left.

Yeah, a bit anticlimactic, to be sure.  But there’s a bit more.

On my drive back home from Dallas I texted Charlie’s email address thanking him for the tix and such.  Charlie texted back saying sorry he missed us, telling me that he did have somebody look for us after the show, but apparently the meet-up just didn’t happen.  Again, though, how much can I complain?

My brother and I and a couple other guys have pit tickets to the upcoming “American Carnage” tour featuring Slayer, Megadeth, and, yep, Anthrax.   I’m tempted to pull out Charlie’s email address (one I’m not sure he still uses) and see if he might be willing to have that beer.

Anthrax is part of my “roots”, you know.