Seven years ago today the fucking crazy bastard known as Nathan Gale snuck into the Damageplan show at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio and killed four people, including Damageplan and Pantera guitar legend “Dimebag” Darrell. Gale was a paranoid schizophrenic and supposed Pantera fan, but for whatever twisted reason decided it was a good idea to try to kill his idols. He shot Darrell four times in the head with a 9mm handgun and then also killed Damageplan head of security Jeff “Mayhem” Thompson, Alrosa Villa employee Erin Halk, and audience member Nathan Bray (who was trying to help Dime.) Officer James Niggemeyer maneuvered through the back door to get behind Gale and shoot him in the face with a 12 gauge, killing Gale and avoiding further injury to Gales’ hostage, Damageplan drum tech John “Kat” Brooks, who had by then sustained three gunshot wounds.
I remember exactly where I was that next morning when a friend called me up and told me to look on CNN. I had just gotten in to work and was turning on my computer. I told my friend he must be mistaken about who it was (he wasn’t a metal fan) but once I got online the shocking truth rocked me back in my chair and left me feeling disoriented. I couldn’t believe something like that could actually happen, it just seemed so unreal. The world lost an amazing talent and personality that day, and every year since on December 8th I play almost exclusively Pantera/Damageplan in honor of Dime. I say almost exclusively because December 8th is truly a bad day for music, as today is also the 31st anniversary of the killing of John Lennon. So I listen to Beatles/Lennon music too.
I had initially planned to write up “Cowboys from Hell” today but decided that was too narrow a scope for the occasion. As most Pantera fans know there were really two eras of the band: The pre and post “Cowboys” eras. The first three Pantera albums featured Terry Glaze on vocals and were much more in the hair metal vein. Their fourth album, “Power Metal” featured their new singer, Phil Anselmo. They would not entirely shed the glam sound until “Cowboys” but “Power Metal” started the transformation.
Back in the late 80s while I was in high school my first job when I was 15 was working as a bagger at a Kroger grocery store in Ann Arbor, Michigan. There I met this guy that was a few years older than me, was a metal head, and he was from Texas. He kept going on and on about some friends of his back home in Texas who had a band and how great they were. Lots of people have bands that never become anything, and I’ve met many people who talk a lot of crap to sound cool, so I didn’t really pay much attention.
Eventually the guy told me that his friends were coming to town to do a show at some bar (I think it was probably in Detroit, but it may have been Ann Arbor) and he wanted me to go with him. He said it would be cool and he’d introduce me to his friends. As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, the band was called Pantera. To my eternal remorse, I declined to go to the show. I was like “what kind of name is Pantera??” I looked it up and found out it was Spanish for Panther. That did not sound nearly as impressive as Metallica, Megadeth or Slayer. Panther. I figured that would probably be pretty awful so I made up an excuse not to go, much to my eventual chagrin. It was like finding out at your reunion that the prom queen had a crush on you in high school but you made fun of her because you were too metal to realize what you could have had.
So a couple years later in the summer of 1990 (the summer after high school) I saw “Cowboys from Hell” in the record store and recognized the name as being that of the band I could have seen. I looked it over and decided to give it a try to see if it was any good. I don’t need to tell you that it was. The early 90s were a bit of a rough time for me and “Cowboys” (along with Voivod’s “Nothingface”) really helped me get through that period with my sanity mostly intact. I have very strong memories associated with that album.
“Cowboys” and “Vulgar” would end up being my favorite Pantera albums, but they are all classics. I sort of figured Pantera would get back together eventually, but obviously that won’t happen now. Nathan Gale made sure of it. I regret that I missed my chance to meet the band. I think it’s terrible that Phil never got to make up with Dime. I’m sad for all the music we won’t ever hear now. But at least we have a bunch of music to remember him by.
Here’s a Black Tooth Grin raised to you Dime. R.I.P.