Q #1,905: Which Big Four band went on hiatus in 2002 due to injury?
It was April 3rd, 2002, when business was no longer good for Megadeth. Dave Mustaine announced that he had suffered an injury rendering him unable to play guitar, resulting in his officially dissolving the band. Earlier in the year, Mustaine was hospitalized for the treatment and removal of a kidney stone, which lead to a relapse of this drug addiction due to his receiving pain medication. Because of this, he checked himself into a rehab center. While at rehab, Mustaine fell asleep with his arm over the back of a chair. The result? Radial neuropathy. While that sounds like a b-side to a Carcass album, its colloquial terminology is far less endearing; “Saturday night palsy,” brought Megadeth to its knees, and nearly brought an end to a thrash metal icon.
The particular “Saturday night” brand of Mustaine’s radial neuropathy involves compressing the radial nerve at the spiral groove. The radial nerve extends the length of the arm, and damage can include but is not limited to numbness, and the inability to voluntarily straighten or extend the fingers or thumb. Again, this all sounds like a list of great song titles, but it’s fairly easy to develop this particular brand of guitarists’ nightmare fuel. While it is stated that heavy medication or intoxication can lend itself to the trauma, simply sleeping with your head on your arm can also inflict radial nerve palsy. This is why you don’t go on WebMD while expecting to maintain a healthy blood pressure.
Feeling that his career might be over, Mustaine decided that it was better to not leave fans hoping for the best by leaving them with the worst. The most recent album at the time was ‘The World Needs a Hero’ which many outlets described as a Megadeth return to form, and it was also what I consider to be the best Mega line-up next to the classic ‘Rust in Peace’ line-up (with drummer Jimmy DeGrasso and Al Pitrelli, above).
Prior to Mustaine’s injury, Megadeth had seen the departure of drummer Nick Menza, followed shortly by the legendary lead guitarist Marty Friedman. This alone could’ve been seen as a justifiable end to Megadeth by a great many die hard fans. In fact, this lineup is always the go-to suggestion every time Megadeth cycles a member or two. If this had been the end of Megadeth, they would’ve still been going out on a relatively high note. Watch the live DVD ‘Rude Awakening‘ and hopefully you’ll understand.
After a year of physical therapy, electroshock treatment, and a bit of luck, Dave Mustaine strapped on his guitar playing boots and got back in the game. He even took guitar lessons, something that he had never done prior, to speed along recovery. Mustaine began working on a solo record with a phenomenal group of session musicians including former Zappa drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, and country music session extraordinaire Jimmie Lee Sloas. Word would eventually make its way back to Megadeth’s European record label EMI, and the solo album became a Megadeth album via contractual fulfillment. Imagine if Megadeth went out without owing anyone any albums, would ‘The System Has Failed’ have been a Dave Mustaine release? Would people have treated it more or less harshly as a result? At the very least, this contractual obligation helped to launch the beginning of a revolving door of Mega members, and another pile of albums.
Would this later set of chapters in the Megadeth story have been better omitted? Could the “Big Four” shows have still happened if Mustaine had never rebooted Megadeth? What if Dave never regained the use of his arm, but continued to sing while bringing in a second guitarist? At least Dave isn’t fronting AC/DC’s remaining rescheduled tour dates, right?
For me, ‘Rude Awakening’ is the last time Megadeth had, “the vibe.” Tweet-fight me (@JohanssonShreds) about it!