As I said in a previous post, I have been trying to read more this year. Less ‘doom-scrolling’ through infinite social media feeds, more feeding my mind with other people’s insights and experiences.
I recently finished reading Frank Bello’s autobiography Fathers, Brothers, and Sons: Surving anguish, abandonment, and Anthrax, co-written by Joel McIver and with a foreword by Gene Simmons of Kiss.
Frank Bello, for those who don’t know, is the bass guitarist in one of the so-called ‘Big Four’ American thrash bands from the 1980s, Anthrax. He’s also an actor, and now an author. I’ve been in the same room as him on at least three, if not four, occasions.
Born in New York into a family of five, Bello grew up in difficult circumstances after his father walked out on his wife and children. He was eventually brought up with family, moving in with his uncle Charlie Benante, who was only a few years older than him and who became like a brother to him; Charlie Benante is the drummer in Anthrax.
The book follows a chronological jaunt threw Bello’s life, from his discovery of music and especially Kiss, through to learning bass guitar and replacing original Anthrax bassist Dan Lilker (who went on to form Nuclear Assault—whom I saw supporting Slayer on their South of Heaven tour at the Edinburgh Playhouse in September 1988).
Two pivotal moments in Bello’s life, which he covers with raw honesty, were the sudden death of Metallica bassist and songwriter Cliff Burton (who died in a tour bus accident in Sweden on 27 September 1986) and the murder of Bello’s younger brother Anthony.
I’d often wondered what the final song “Pieces” on the 1998 Anthrax album Volume 8: The Threat is Real was about. Now I know, and that it is Frank Bello singing this heartfelt song to his deceased brother:
Who’s to tell me, I have to let it go
I need to say this, have to let you know
I will be here waiting for our souls to meet
I will be here waiting for your call to me
Anthony, I know you’re home“Pieces” by Anthrax
Right beside me, all alone
Anthony, I have so much to say
In my heart, you will always remain
I’ll never be alone
In 2004, Bello needed a break from Anthrax and joined another of my favourite bands, Helmet. “I needed time to clear my head,” he writes. He rejoined Anthrax the following year and has been with them ever since.
The book is written in a very chatty style. I expect it was largely dictated to co-writer Joel McIver who then wrote it down, in places verbatim.
What is interesting to me as an Anthrax fan are some of the insights. Although, to be honest, there aren’t too many of those. The book is rather light on juicy details about the inner goings on of one of America’s biggest metal bands. If you’re looking for the Anthrax equivalent of Metallica’s Some Kind of Monster rockumentary, then you will be sorely disappointed.
What is also interesting is how Dan Nelson, the lead singer who replaced Joey Belladonna after his second stint in the band, has been airbrushed from Anthrax’s official history. He wasn’t mentioned at all during the series of YouTube videos that Anthrax put out to celebrate their 40th anniversary last year. And he’s not mentioned at all in this book, either.
Overall, Frank Bello’s message is summed up on the final page: life is short, grasp that moment, and “whoever you are, you can do this”!