This month’s Classic Albums Column focuses on Megadeth‘s second full length album Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying?. Mars Attacks Podcast episode 51 features comments from Chris Poland,Glen Drover,Doro Pesch, Gene Hoglan, Jon Schaffer,Alan Tecchio, Dave Reffett, author Martin Popoff, Mitch Lafon fromBravewords, Mark Strigl from Talking Metal,Anirudd “Andrew” Bansal from Metal Assault,and Aaron from Iron City Rocks. As we established with the previous podcast we also discuss why this album was selected. You will find the podcast at the bottom of this post.
Remember that you can go here index page to find out further details on everyone involved in the column.
Here is a Q&A with founding member of Megadeth David Ellefson. The questions obviously focus on Peace Sells.
When writing/recording the material that ended up on Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? was it apparent to you or anyone else in the band how important this album would be for Megadeth and for metal?
We didn’t think about in those terms but as we did a quick three week tour just prior to recording the album we could certainly tell that “Peace Sells..” Was going to be a hit. Beyond that, we worked really hard touring that album for 18 months around the world in the USA, Japan, Europe and finally ending with a show in Hawaii. It was epic and was so cool to do that at such a young age.
At what point does the album’s importance become apparent to you?
Once the video for “Peace Sells.” hit MTV we knew we had something special going. You could tell by watching it that it wasn’t your typical high gloss, overly produced film-type of video but rather a real raw and edgy clip and that was something really unique on MTV in those days. After that people outside of just Thrash metal took notice of who we were.
The opening bassline of the title track is arguably your most recognizable part, who came up with that intro? When recording the track did you ever think that people would identify you with it 25 years later?
Dave wrote the song and it quickly came together in our rehearsal room as a four piece. I remember adding the high harmony vocal to the outro chorus and everyone looking at me like ‘wow, he can actually sing like that!’. It was from my training listening to Michael Anthony’s vocal lines in Van Halen as a teenager.
The bass line and end guitar riff are essentially the same part and starting the tune with the bass riff was unique as most metal tunes start with a guitar riff or the entire band. Dave was always calling me to the forefront of the songs rather than just being a background bass player and I think that really set us apart from a lot of the other metal going on in those days. We had a really powerful front line to the band with two very different guitar players and an aggressive bassist in me.
How much pressure was placed on the band to deliver the album?
Initially it was recorded for Combat Records, our label at the time. We were more insistent on getting it done than anyone because we had completed the “Killing Is My Business” a few months prior and we knew we had to get the next album done to get back on tour. Plus, we were hoping that a major label would pick us up.
Once Capitol Records got involved to pick up our contract and be our new major label we couldn’t wait to get going. By that time the album was recorded and mixed and then they brought in Paul Lani to do a re-mix to give it a bit more polished sound. He was the one that muted the band during the “Peace Sells.” chorus, which really helped make it sound more like a radio hit. He also muted the bass on the beginning outro riff for “Wake Up Dead” and that added a nice dynamic to build the ending of the song.
A lot of emphasis is always placed on you and Dave Mustaine regarding this album, that said, could this album of been recorded with anyone else but Chris Poland and Gar Samuelson?
After having recorded our debut album and then doing the pre-production tour for “Peace Sells.” in early ’86 we had really tightened up as a band. It was the four of us that had that magic sound for that record. There isn’t another album in our catalog that sounds quite like it!
Given what they did on the Megadeth albums does it surprise you that Gar and Chris never had any commercial success after the band?
It’s very difficult to ever have ANY success in this business and usually lighting doesn’t strike twice if you get one shot at it. The simple fact is that even though the Megadeth fans will always check out other things we each may do they really just want us in THIS band.
How has your gear evolved from when this album was recorded?
Pretty much everything is different. I was using BC Rich basses back then. I used two of them to record that album. The one was the fighter jet graphic Mockingbird which is now in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. It had Alembic P/J pickups and active preamp. The other was a red Mockingbird that had two Dimarzio P-bass pickups with the standard active circuitry from BC Rich. They both had Badass bridges.
For amps, I had these two 4×12 cabinets made by a manufacturer in down town Los Angeles known as Decuir. They had some generic bass speakers in them. I used an Ashley pre-amp and AB Systems power amps that were part of a PA system I owned back in Minnesota a few years earlier. I picked those components out and put them in a rack to build a bass rig for myself and brought it out to LA with me when I moved out there in 1983 after I graduated high school.
Not too long after we went on tour for that album in late ’86 or early ’87 I switched over to Jackson Concert basses and Hartke 4×10 cabinets with GK 800RB heads. I use a similar setup now with a new line of Jackson basses and the latest Hartke LH1000 amps and their HyDrive 810 cabinets.
What is the biggest compliment you’ve received concerning this album?
I think that so many people regard it as this seminal album, one that has such an impact on their lives. That’s always cool to hear and of course I’m always appreciative of the compliments on playing the “Peace Sells.” opening bass line!
Does the album’s impact of the album effect the band when going in and recording a new album?
I think you tend to draw on all of your experiences when recording a new album. All of those albums help you get to where you are now.
One thing that has always interested me about Megadeth is you never hear band members come out and say our new album is “our best album since Peace Sells” or “it sounds like Peace Sells Vs. Rust In Peace). How important is it to the band to make sure each album stands out on its own?
To us those couple of fan favorite albums like “Peace Sells.” and “Rust In Peace” are just albums we did during those periods and are just part of our overall work. It’s like trying to pick our your favorite children.you can’t do it because they are all part of your family. We put the same intensity into every album we do and it’s every once in a while one will rise up as the crème’ de le crème’ for the fans. For that, we are truly appreciative!
Here are comments sent in by others regarding the album.
Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal – Great album! Love what Poland and Ellefson did on that album…
Greg Prato – I’m not the biggest “prog metal” fan, but Megadeth is about as close to the style that I can say I honestly enjoy. Dave Mustaine is one of metal’s greatest guitarists, and I don’t judge a “great guitarist” by how fast he/she can solo. I mean the amount of great riffs, their influence on other guitarists, etc., and Mustaine certainly fits the bill. I first heard ‘Peace Sells’ in late ’86, and it blew me away – especially all of side one. I still sometimes wonder what Metallica would have been like if they kept their short-lived Hetfield-Mustaine-Burton-Ulrich line-up intact.
Dan Lorenzo – Do you want to know why I have a ton of respect for Dave Mustaine? Because he’s a survivor. Imagine the horror of being kicked out of a band that is about to take off big-time. Lesser men would fold and never be heard from again. One time, Jason McMaster told me he thought Megadeth were Metallica-lite. I don’t see it that way at all. Dave was a VERY important ingredient in the first Metallica album, and I love the first Megadeth cd. When I first heard the opening track, “Wake Up Dead” off “Peace Sells” I knew Dave could be in for the long hall. I LOVE Wake Up Dead. Peace Sells scared the shit out of everybody in HADES. Why? Because we were pulling up to LaMour in Brooklyn to open up for Megadeth as they were doing their soundcheck. My God, they sounded JUST like the record. We felt better when we realized they were filming a video for “Peace Sells” and it WAS their record. Dave could be intimidating, but he was always cool with us…even wearing the ugly red HADES shirt I gave him after the show. I loved their cover of “I Ain’t Superstitious” as well.
Jon Leon – I remember when I was given this as a gift on cassette. From the sound of the capitol records beeps came a riff that to this day defines what thrash IS to me. Wake up Dead is just a perfect thrash metal song. Along with Slayers Angel of Death and Metallicas Battery-it was one of the 3 1986 anthems that opened 3 amazing releases. This album features the 2 MVP members of Megadeth-Chris Poland and Gar Samuelson(RIP) Chris Poland has always had an amazing Jazz/metal fusion band called OHM that plays in L.A. often and I recommend seeking them out. This album is the best Megadeth and one of thrashes all time must owns.
– Best bassline in Metal. This and “So Far…” define Megadeth for me.
Metal Mike – I sharpened my guitar skills to this record. I must say that Megadeth is probably the band that had the most influence on how I write songs and structure guitar riffs. I love early Megadeth stuff. It’s absolutely amazing. Obviously, there is nothing like Mustaine when he is lit up and pissed off.
Erik Kluiber – Possibly the greatest album of all time.
Phil Rind – The last record I liked by Megadeth. Killing is my Business is my fave.
Ricky Armellino – Mustane was such a crucial vocalist for me growing up, you don’t even know. I’m only managing to pull off these vaguely on key speaking grunt vocals and I’m looking over at my copy of “Sells” and I’m all like, “I know I can, Dave. I just know it.”
Mitts – Classic record. This was the point where Dave Mustaine started to write actual songs, instead of trying to prove that Megadeth could play faster than Metallica.
James J. LaRue – This being pre-Marty, I didn’t really get into it. I got to know the title track since it would become a concert staple for them, but Marty’s exotic sounding leads against Dave’s mechanical rhythm is the foil that gave Megadeth their appeal for me. So I’ll always see Rust in Peace (non remastered version) as their “classic”, and it’s the one that got me into them. I love Megadeth, one of my all-time favorites, but I only listen to Marty-era stuff.
Scott Middleton – Light years better than the shoddy production of Killing is My Business…Peace Sells is a true speed metal classic. Wake Up Dead is easily one of their best songs to date and Peace Sells was probably the first Political themed song/album for thrash metal, and really proved that metal could be technical or “thinking man’s music” when it wanted to be
Jaye Schwarzer – This is what your band sounds like when you are still pissed off about being kicked out of your old band and you start railing huge amounts of cocaine. I had never heard songs played so fucking fast while being equally as melodic. Riffs!!
JL – You have to take into account that the albums that I like most by the band are Countdown to Extinction and Youthanasia, but this album was the one that got me into the band. What would have happened if Metallica would have never gotten rid of Mustaine? Would they be infinitely bigger than they are today? I try to focus on the fact that we have been able enjoy a lot of good pieces of music due to the decisions that were made.
Chris Shrum – Some of the best classic Megadeth ever, you can still listen to regularly and never get tired of it!
– I am a huge Megadeth fan, and this album is one of the main reasons why. Dave Mustaine gives us all a lesson in pissed-off genius musicianship, and “Good Mourning/Black Friday” still gives me goosebumps to this day.
Sean Bryant – This was one of those albums that I got into after Metallica. Megadeth was just so fucking raw at this point. Mustaine wasn’t getting all whiny and shit but was washing you with some gritty, no holds barred, fuck you metal. Most of the albums that followed fell off my radar as it seemed that polish started to come about. I like it raw!!
Will Carroll – I loved this album the second “Wake Up Dead” started. Every song rules. Even the cover tune “I Aint Superstitious” delivers. This album gives ANY…ANY Metallica album a run for its money.
Steve Smyth – One of my alltime classic favorites, and 2nd favorite lineup of the band as well! Chris Poland is amazing on this album, and the title track, The Conjuring, Devil’s Island, Good Mourning are standout faves of mine
Chad Bowar – In thrash annals, Peace Sells… captured Megadeth in their prime; a tight, well-oiled machine. Their second album blasted off with “Wake Up Dead,” and includes Megadeth classics like the title track and “Devil’s Island.” The 1986 lineup of Dave Mustaine, Chris Poland, David Ellefson and Gar Samuelson was a strong one, although struggles with drugs made the recording of this album rather difficult.
The band recently released a 25th anniversary remastered edition of the album, which also includes a previously unreleased concert from 1987. Megadeth plays songs from their first two releases, and it’s a very solid set, especially for those who prefer the band’s early material. Superfans and those with some extra cash might want to skip the 2 CD version and go with the deluxe box set.
The box set includes 5 CDs: the original album, the 1987 concert, Dave Mustaine mixes for the 2004 reissue, Randy Burns mixes and the album and concert in high resolution audio. It also comes with 3 LPs, a book, photos and replicas of vintage Megadeth memorabilia. It will set you back nearly 130 bucks, but for hardcore fans it’s well worth it. For thrash fans, Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? is mandatory.
Bat – I bought Peace Sells on Vinyl when I was about 14, I thought it was amazing, loved Black Friday and used to bring it to the disco in my local community center and ask the DJ to play it, he played it once! A great album.
Etan Rosenbloom – I personally prefer Rust in Peace, but 25 years on, Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? still stands out among all the other thrash albums from the mid-’80s. Mustaine’s songwriting was so diverse compared to that of his contemporaries, and his distinctive vocal style – a combination of snide growls, roared melodies and spoken asides – grants the charisma that allow his politically-charged lyrics to shine. Thrash metal wasn’t all partying and high tops, and Peace Sells epitomizes the more thoughtful wing of ’80s thrash.
Shawn Duncan – Love this Album! The band sounds killer on this. Peace Sells, Bad Omen, Waking Up Dead, Good morning/Black Friday…The whole thing kicks ass! Always liked Megadeth especially the first 3 records!
Grover XIII – I tend to prefer Rust In Peace for my quick Megadeth fix, but Peace Sells is an undisputed classic. The bassline on the title track is usually enough to give me a half-boner.
Tim Ripper Owens – Wow..What a record!! I did plenty of these tracks growing up in the local scene here in Akron, Ohio!! I did Peace sells, Devils Island, Wake up dead…maybe more!! This is just a great cd, and a classic!! Love the Cd, Love the guys!!
Doug Gibson – I was always partial to Metallica over Megadeth, but “Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying” is a classic that’s held up well over the years. “Peace Sells” and “Wake Up Dead” are timeless thrash classics, while “The Conjuring” and “Devil’s Island” are good cuts too. Anyone growing up in the MTV era likely had the Peace Sells intro bass line ingrained in their heads as I do.
Alex – It is my honor to talk about this album, as it is exactly as old as me. That’s right, aside from ‘Master of Puppets’ and ‘Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?’, my dad also forgot to pull out. Guess a lot of metal shit was born that year…
The thing I don’t understand about Megadeth’s 80s album titles is: Why did Dave (almost said ‘they’ for a second, hehe) use every punctuation mark in the goddamn universe? Why not call it ‘Peace Sells’? Why call it ‘Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying?’
If he feels witty about it, why not go all the way and name it ‘Peace sells… But who’s buying? Huh? Who is it dude? Tell me. Tell me GOD DAMMIT CAUSE I WANT TO KNOW!!!’ — At least that way I would have been mildly amused by it.
But let’s not nitpick the title too much, after all, it doesn’t matter. Instead, I’m gonna nitpick the songs.
I’m just gonna talk about the title track… First of all, can we really call it ‘the title track’? Correct me if I’m wrong, but the song is called ‘Peace Sells,’ that’s it. Why have common sense about the song, but write a long ass title for the album?
I really like the song, I just think the lyrics are a bit on the pretentious side…
“What do you mean I don’t believe in God? I talk to him everyday” seems like something a maniac would write on a wall before going on a killing spree in a school. I am not suggesting Dave is crazy, but there’s something about people who claim they ‘talk’ to God 1 on 1 that doesn’t sit well with me.
“What do you mean I ain’t kind? I’m just not your kind” — See what he did there? He used the other meaning of kind and flipped the question around, ha ha ha, classic!
I could go on and on about Dave’s lyrics, but I’d just waste both my time and yours. Instead I’m gonna be serious for a second and say that this is a very decent album, and in spite of my lame jokes, I actually really like the title track. I just don’t think it’s anywhere near what Metallica released that year, and yes, I totally went for the obvious Metallica comparison.
I’d give this album a 5 out of 5 star rating if this was a proper review, or if I had any credibility as a music journalist. But it’s not, and I don’t, so let’s just say that it’s a Megadeth classic…. But who’s buying the 1432 remastered editions?
Jason Bittner – “peace sells………hands down the BEST Megadeth record in my opinion! the riffs, the playing, the attitude, you can tell Mustaine had a Metallica monkey on his back. from start to finish this CD kicks major ass, and I used to play along to it all the time………many many years later when I actually “made it” I played some of these tunes with David Ellefson when we did some clinics together – very cool and very fun. Gar was a master drummer – a jazz cat in a metal band…….he was a beast!! RIP
Jessie Sanchez – Growing up in the “mtv generation” i had no idea mtv news was using the intro to peace sells for all their segments. I had been a Megadeth fan before but had never heard “peace sells” back then. My first Megadeth album was “Countdown to Extinction” and i was immediately hooked after the first riff hit my ear drums, I found myself buying all their albums soon after. After finally getting a chance to check out “Peace Sells but whose buying?” i was blown away, the opening track, “Wake up Dead” had a 16 year old hormone pumped Jessie running up the walls with inspiration. “Peace Sells but who whose buying?” was one of the first albums to influence me to pick up the bass in the first place. every black friday i still paint the devil on the wall
Scott Thompson– A bass line, one of the most iconic albums of 1986 is most remembered not for the brilliant guitar work but for a bass line. Dave Ellefson’s classic opening to Peace Sells has been pumped into millions of metal fans heads never to be forgotten, and as the opening for MTV’s news segments it has been infused into millions of non metal fans as well.
So there’s one bit of irony. Then there’s the fact that at 69 bpm, Peace Sells (the best known track) is the slowest overall track on the album. An album from a band with a reputation for being the most uncompromisingly thrashiest band around. Yet it sounds like a freight train hell bent on destruction. There lies a second ironic twist. And yet in that irony lies the brilliance of Megadeth which finally blooms with this album and would explode with the followup “Rust”.
A mere thrash band would just go for speed. Megadeth was no mere thrash band. They brought elements previously taboo in thrash. Gar and Chris brought in jazz and bop. Combined with the hard rock and classic metal elements from Dave squared and you get the light and shade that influenced so many bands that came after including future lineups of Megadeth. Yes, some of this was present in Killing, but here was an album with a better budget that allowed that vision to be fully formed.
Seven tracks (I’m not counting the cover tune) of pure rage and substance fueled metal. In the words of someone I can’t remember “All killer, no filler”. Perfectly sequenced on vinyl with a heavy on the mids sonic signature shamelessly copied ever after, Peace Sells continues to be quite simply one of Mustaine’s finest hours.
Perhaps it isn’t put any better than in Dave’s own words from “My Last Words” final track on the disc, “Feel a might unsteady, but still I have to play”.
Jorge Salan – I love this band, especially Youthinasia. This is one of those special albums that catched you during a certain period of time, a certain period of your life, around thirteen years of age. And I can’t say for sure it’s their “best album”, but due to the age you start listening to the album, it becomes something special to you. Especially the second track on the album Train Of Consequence which to me is just a huge song.
Jose Izquierdo – An absolute gem! What this band does is very special, you hear the guitar parts which are very thrash, but what they do on bass and drums is extraordinary, and puts the band at another level. Given what we do in this band, Peace Sells, and Rust In Peace go beyond being simple albums. They become essential lessons of what needs to be played in this band.
David G. Alvarez – To me this album is a reference point for not only for thrash, but all of metal. Regardless of how many years have gone by, this album still sounds relevant. I love the original mixes of this album, although they didn’t do much to alter the sounds with the remixes, there is something special with the sound on the original mix of the album.
Victor Valera – They put out Killing Is My Business, and you could see certain things with the band, but they put Peace Sells out, and it was a statement, here we are, and get ready for what’s about to come your way.
Remember that you can go here index page to find out further details on everyone involved in the column.
The podcast portion can be streamed or downloaded from here: