1984 – 1987: Anthrax’s decline

Their second album, Spreading the Disease (which was originally titled The Diseased), was the beginning of the end but they didn’t realize it at the time. Similarly, Juan Croucier said the same thing about Ratt when they were making their second album. As for Anthrax, the problem of Dan Ilker being fired as the bassist was worsened when they replaced the first album’s singer with Matt Fallon. Scott Ian thought that Matt was the glam metal version of Neil Turbin (a diva). Matt’s versions of the songs were rewritten and re-recorded with Joey Belladonna (who the producer was already aware of by the time that Matt showed the first sign of being an egotist). To put all of this in perspective, Neil left Anthrax in August `84, yet the songs were written by September.

Matt lasted for a month and a half before Joey joined the band to record a Europe-intended EP (as a precursor to the second album). This strategy foreshadowed Jason Newsted’s first record with Metallica in `87. Anthrax’s EP helped them to earn a contract from Island Records (a New York label). Another problem is that the video for Madhouse was deemed tasteless, so MTV banned it. This was in `85. The video’s only exposure in America was a N.Y. club – L’Amour. Tellingly, it became a rock club in the same year that MTV began – `81. The video’s inability to not be screened outside of N.Y. (Anthrax’s home) is the quintessential example within the heavy metal industry of not going beyond your niche market. The video would later have more exposure in the U.K. and the rest of Europe before being a YouTube fixture.

Regardless, the video should’ve been just Dan Spitz as a receptionist and Charlie Benante as an elderly psychiatrist, while the other guitarists are orderlies who take Joey to his cell. To make matters worse, Scott mentioned that they made the mistake of releasing the album without having a tour to tie it in with. It was only in the next year (5 months after the album’s release) that they managed to secure the opening spot of an arena tour, therefore sapping the monetary momentum of their career. Their initial attempt at touring (opening with W.A.S.P. before Black Sabbath) was obliterated as they only played 4 shows out of 60 planned dates. This was during Black Sabbath’s steep commercial decline (Anthrax opened for two of their post-Dio singers).

Scott was relieved that the tour prematurely ended because he’s a not fan of the albums which Black Sabbath did after Mob Rules. He thinks that the post-Dio era was a dirge of the worst kind. Cliff Burton’s death would inspire, much later, the title of Anthrax’s 5th album (Persistence of Time). The specific inspiration was that Anthrax were forced to stay at their hotel for 3 days before they could go home. Throughout those days, the hotel TV channel was constantly playing an Eddie Murphy movie titled 48 Hours. Anthrax briefly considered the possibility of fulfilling their dates in Germany and Spain but the Metallica guys were in emotional tatters. Kirk was the most upset, whereas James was in such an extremely volatile temper that he had to be sedated when he was taken to the hospital.

Upon meeting Anthrax for the first time at the hotel after the accident, his ferocious attitude meant that Frank Bello and Charlie had to calm him down. As for Lars, he wasn’t seen at the hotel because he was attending to legal matters regarding Cliff’s death. After finding out the truth behind his death (a drunken bus driver), Anthrax were too disturbed to continue touring. The only upside in Anthrax performing on the U.K. leg of the tour was that England is the home of heavy metal. They made up for the cancelled gigs in `87 but that time could’ve been spent on making more B-sides. Scott wished that they wrote more songs during the making of Among the Living – an album which had the potential to be more profitable than Master of Puppets.

The U.K. subsidiary of Anthrax’s label were involved in negotiations with IPC Magazines regarding the probabilities of an animated music video for I Am the Law (which is about Judge Dredd). It never happened. As for Anthrax’s reputation within the heavy metal community, Scott also confessed to forcing their audiences to listen to rap (as Anthrax’s pre-show music) regardless of how much that they disapproved of it. This was done so that the crowds could be more open-minded about other forms of music, especially given how most of the guys in Anthrax were interested in writing a rap song. This anecdote is no more different than when Scott talked about the time that Stryper had opened for Anthrax (Stryper were throwing bibles to the audience but the bibles were thrown back to them).

Also ironic is that Anthrax didn’t believe in force-feeding political beliefs onto audiences. From a mainstream point-of-view, Anthrax could’ve been mega popular had Beastie Boys performed on I’m the Man as originally planned. The music video would’ve gained more exposure on MTV, especially if the trio did concerts with Anthrax like Public Enemy would do in the early `90s. This would mean that more people would’ve seen Anthrax as harbingers of the rap metal trend (instead of Beastie Boys, Aerosmith, Faith No More, Rage Against the Machine or even Limp Bizkit).

They also could’ve been more recognizable if they recorded a song for the soundtrack of A Nightmare on Elm Street III: Dream Warriors, as originally offered before Dokken received the opportunity. Charlie was disheartened because he was such a big fan to the extent that he wore a Freddy T-shirt in concerts and incorporated him into the inner sleeve artwork of Anthrax’s second album. He even organized to have Robert Englund dressed as Freddy in the above photo. After listening to Dokken’s Dream Warriors, Scott was disappointed by the riff being a slow version of Ratt’s You’re in Love. After hearing Testament plagiarize Anthrax’s self-titled song for Apocalyptic City, he wrote a song about plagiarism (Out of Sight, Out of Mind).



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