This story is over 5 years old.

Wasted Life

Wasted Life - Anthrax's Historic Achievements

Before you judge Belladonna for calling some kid a faggot in the 80s, consider the context. Back then, a "Congressional Medal of Faggotry" was awarded to undistinguished servicemen.

The news that Anthrax singer Joey Belladonna was tackled by a security guard at LA’s Club Nokia last weekend, in the middle of “Metal Thrashing Mad”, brought to mind some of the band’s historic achievements.

For me, Anthrax’s definitive work is the I’m the Man EP, because it is the only Anthrax release I still own. Four years before they collaborated with Public Enemy on a rap-metal remake of PE’s “Bring The Noise”, Anthrax released this trailblazing experiment in hip-hop. Though it opens with Sam Kinison’s timeless “OH! OHHH!” scream (liberally sampled throughout) and a metal arrangement of “Hava Nagila”, the rest of “I’m the Man” pairs a Run-DMC beat with Licensed to Ill brags: “I’m on your case, I’m in your face, kick you and your father back in place.” Best of all, the song shows off the band’s comic chops. Each verse sets up an easy rhyme (“Scott plays stickball and likes to skate/ Frank is never on time, he’s always _____”) but, like Gilligan, one member blows it every single time (“Sleeping?”), to sidesplitting effect. Hilariously, drummer Charlie Benante keeps forgetting the beat, and the others scold him.


Anthrax, “I’m The Man”

The EP includes three versions of the song: “I’m the Man (Censored Radio Version)”, “I’m the Man (Def Uncensored Version)” and “I’m The Man – Live (Extremely Def Ill Uncensored Version)”. As you can tell from the parentheses, Anthrax was not for censorship, especially not when it threatened their freedom to abuse posers. “Don’t be a faggot now, that’s the key,” Belladonna told some poser on the next release, State of Euphoria. If this sounds harsh to your modern ears, consider the context. In the 1980s, before the stickball ban and the plague of political correctness, kindergarten teachers still used the word “faggot” to address their students, as did fathers their sons, doctors their patients, and animal lovers their cats. It was a different time: the title of Faith No More’s home video had to be printed “YOU FAT B**TARDS” to get into stores where good Christians shopped, yet federal tax forms still identified some persons as “Oriental”, “humpbacked”, or “swarthy”, and there was a “Congressional Medal of Faggotry” for undistinguished servicemen. It was a time of bewildering contradictions and strange, irrational prejudices.

Also, in their defence, the members of Anthrax had firsthand experience of prejudice. Measured in feet and inches, guitarist Scott Ian is not, technically, a man; but measured by the stature of his musicianship, he stands about 5’9” – a little too tall to hustle children at stickball, but enough to qualify as an adult male of the species. And here he was, God bless him, jumping up to tug on your sleeve and proclaim his manhood in rhyme. Only in America!

A child plays Anthrax on guitar

In between the uncensored and live versions of “I’m the Man” on the EP is Anthrax’s cover of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”. Thoughtfully, Anthrax’s version corrects the dragging beat that made the original song so “heavy”, and the Ozzy vocal that made it so “good”. Closing the EP, live versions of “Caught in a Mosh”, whose lyrics do not concern moshing, and “I Am The Law”, a tribute to Judge Dredd, remind you what the “Big Four” would be without Anthrax: Megadeth, Metallica and Slayer. Nobody likes Megadeth, because of Dave Mustaine’s terrible voice, and Metallica now plays medleys of popular favourites, so it would just be Slayer. Just Slayer.

Come to think of it, Slayer is plenty. The Big Four could be reduced by three with no appreciable loss. I’m sorry, gentlemen, but in this economy, we all have to make sacrifices.

A child scratches “I’m The Man”