Anyone remember the 1985 movie Vision Quest? There’s a cool scene in that movie where a shaggy haired Matthew Modine prepares for his big high school wrestling match against Brian Shute. As he warms up, getting psyched for the match, the great song Lunatic Fringe by Red Rider is playing. “Lunatic fringe… I know you’re out there.” (Here’s a link to the scene.) Why do I mention this? Because it’s a good movie and you should see it, and also because the term “lunatic fringe” makes me think of Dave Mustaine and the formation of Megadeth. Mustaine must have been on the lunatic fringe after Metallica left him for dead and moved on without him. The brooding, seething Mustaine focused his anger and resentment into the formation of his own band, Megadeth. His intent was to be badder, faster, and better than Metallica.
Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good! came out in ’85 on Combat Records. The sound quality of the album pretty much sucks, and Mustaine’s vocals leave plenty to be desired. However, the album showcases plenty of complex, twisted, and inventive guitar playing. My favorite riff is the sinewy main riff of the album’s title track. Megadeth defied convention with their ferociously fast playing and unorthodox compositions. My favorite song on the album is probably Rattlehead. Cool lyric; “Your head is pounding with pain! You shake loose parts of your brain!” This is an angry album, and a window into the dark mind of Dave Mustaine; a man on the lunatic fringe.
I have the original cassette version of Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good! (catalog number MXT 8015). It contains the song These Boots, a comically offensive take on an old song written by Lee Hazlewood (and made famous by Nancy Sinatra). Later versions of Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good! have this song deleted from the track list due to legal wrangles with Hazlewood. For example, my Combat CD version of Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good! doesn’t have These Boots.
In 2002 Megadeth released a remixed and remastered version of Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good! on Loud Records. The sound quality of this release was a bit better than the original, although not drastically so. Most notably, Mustaine’s vocals were boosted in the mix (which was not a great idea, it only served to further expose Mustaine’s vocal shortcomings on the record). They brought back These Boots, but censored the sh*t out of it by putting beeps over the offensive language, rendering the song absolutely useless and unlistenable. (They should have just left These Boots off the album entirely if they couldn’t use the original version.) Megadeth also “updated” the album cover. The new artwork was representative of what the band had originally intended for the cover back in 1985. (Mustaine said he was mortified when Combat Records shipped the album with the cheap-ass cover photo you see above.) But the best thing about the 2002 Loud Records version of Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good! is the extensive liner notes. The notes feature comments written about each song by Dave Mustaine and bassist Dave Ellefson. Some real cool info there. For example, Dave Mustaine says Megadeth was given only $8,000 by Combat Records to record the album, and they blew half of it on dope.
Killing Is My Business… And Business Is Good! is a toxic thrash cocktail concocted from equal parts technical wizardry, chemically induced instability, and the spirit of vengeance. So crank it up, and as the man says “Rattle your god-damn head!“. My score: B+