Megadeth mascot Vic Rattlehead has gone on to become one of metal's more iconic figureheads, but he had relatively humble beginnings.

As band co-founders Dave Mustaine and David Ellefson recently recalled in conversation with Metal Hammer, Vic's first album artwork appearance — on the cover of Megadeth's 1985 debut LP, Killing Is My Business ... and Business Is Good!, was a source of deep embarrassment for both of them, as well as an early lesson in how badly the best intentions can go awry in the music business.

"The inspiration for Vic came from a little model of the ‘Speak No Evil, See No Evil, Hear No Evil’ monkeys that my mom had. I thought it would be cool to translate that to metal," said Mustaine, who drew up the original sketch and asked a friend named Peyton Tuttle to create a painting, which the band then used on its first T-shirts. When Megadeth signed with Combat Records for the Killing Is My Business album, plans called for the label to use that image as the basis for the record cover.

Unfortunately, as Mustaine and Ellefson discovered when they opened their first box of albums, things didn't turn out the way they were supposed to. "It was a plastic skull with tinfoil and ketchup. It was s---,” recalled Mustaine ruefully. "I told David, ‘In this business, you have to eat s---, smile and ask for more.'"

Not that the duo let their displeasure go entirely unnoticed. "Dave was immediately on the phone to Combat, asking, ‘What the f--- is this?,'" said Ellefson. "We were mortified. That artwork was supposed to be the DNA of everything Megadeth was about. But it did do one thing – it made us realize that it was truly us against the world."

But not even a silly album cover was enough to keep Megadeth — and Vic Rattlehead — from going on to enjoy greater success. And in 2002, when Killing Is My Business received the deluxe remaster treatment, the artwork got a face-lift too. As you can see below, no plastic skulls, tinfoil or ketchup were involved.

Loud Records
Loud Records

See Megadeth and Other Rockers in the Top 100 Albums of the '90s

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Worst Snubs

More From Ultimate Classic Rock