Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying? is the second studio album by American thrash metal band Megadeth, released on September 19, 1986 by Capitol Records. The project was originally handled by Combat Records, resulting in the original mix of the album being co-produced by Randy Burns. Capitol Records then bought the rights to the album and hired another producer named Paul Lani to mix it himself. The recording of the album was difficult for the band, because of the ongoing drug issues the members had at the time. Drummer Gar Samuelson and guitarist Chris Poland were fired shortly after the album’s promotional tour for drug abuse making it the last Megadeth album for Samuelson before his death and the last for Poland until he reappeared as a session musician on The System Has Failed. The title track, noted for its politically conscious lyrics, was released as the album’s lead single. The album’s cover art, featuring the band’s mascot Vic Rattlehead in front of a desolated United Nations Headquarters, was created by Ed Repka.
Peace Sells… but Who’s Buying? is often regarded as a thrash metal classic and as an album that gave prominence to extreme metal. It has been featured in several publications’ best album lists, including Robert Dimery’s 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and Martin Popoff’s Top 500 Heavy Metal Albums of All Time. The album has been reissued several times over the years. In 2004, the album was remixed and remastered by Megadeth frontman Dave Mustaine, with extensive liner notes detailing the album’s background. In 2011, the three different versions were reissued as part of the album’s 25th anniversary celebration. All of them with the exception of the 2004 mixes feature new remastering.
All songs written and composed by Dave Mustaine, except “I Ain’t Superstitious” by Willie Dixon. TRACK LIST:
1. “Wake Up Dead“
2. “The Conjuring“
3. “Peace Sells“
4. “Devils Island“
5. “Good Mourning/Black Friday“
6. “Bad Omen“
7. “I Ain’t Superstitious“
8. “My Last Words“
“Wake Up Dead” features lyrics which describe a man who has been cheating on his wife or girlfriend and is sneaking into his house, knowing that if his wife finds out about his other lover, she will kill him.Mustaine said that “Wake up Dead” was written about him cheating on a girl with whom he was living. He stayed with her because he was homeless at the time and needed a place to stay. Unfortunately, he was in love with another girl and thought the one he lived with would be mad because he was cheating on her. He had to leave her because he thought she had intentions to kill him. “The Conjuring”, according to author Bob Larson, simulates a Satanic ceremony, and makes references about being the devil’s advocate and his salesman. Mustaine explained the song is about black magic and contains instructions for hexes.However, because the subject matter appears incompatible to his conversion to Christianity, the song had not been played live since 2001, until June 12, 2018 when Megadeth performed “The Conjuring” live for the first time in 17 years at the Home Monitoring Aréna in Plzeň, Czech Republic.
“Peace Sells” reflects Mustaine’s political and social beliefs.The lyrics are a disapproval of the American way and convey Mustaine’s wish for a new social structure.Ellefson has stated that during the tour prior to recording the album, the band could tell then that the song was going to be a hit. The video for the title track became an MTV mainstay and the opening bass line was used as introduction to MTV News. However, Mustaine proclaimed that they received no royalties because the song was excluded shortly before MTV would have to pay them for its use.”Devils Island” is a reference to a former French penal colony off the coast of French Guiana. The lyrics detail the thoughts of a condemned prisoner awaiting execution. He is spared by God, but must spend the rest of his life on the island.
“Good Mourning/Black Friday” is a two-piece song, which begins with an instrumental section called “Good Mourning”.Lyrically, Mustaine has described “Black Friday” as being about “a homicidal madman who goes on a killing spree”. With an excessive use of gory language and violent imagery, the song chronicles the acts of a serial killer. It was inspired by Dijon Carruthers, who was briefly the band’s drummer prior to the hiring of Gar Samuelson. According to Mustaine, Carruthers was hanging out with people who were practicing occultism, and they inspired him to write songs based on spiritual themes.
“Bad Omen” explores the theme of occultism.Mustaine described “Bad Omen” like “two happy campers who have stumbled onto a Satanic orgy in the middle of the woods” and then “they see these fools waiting around for Satan’s blessing”.Asked whether the band members really believe in the subject matters they write, Mustaine responded: “We’re aware of the subjects we write about—witchcraft, Satanic sacrifices and the like—but we’re not condoning them. “I Ain’t Superstitious” was written by Willie Dixon and originally recorded by Howlin’ Wolf in 1961. However, Megadeth’s version is vastly different from the original. “My Last Words” is about a game of Russian roulette and the fear one goes through when playing the game.Despite being one of the lesser known tracks on the record, music journalist Martin Popoff said that the song was an example of the band’s “fast thrashers” and an evidence why Megadeth were dubbed as the “fearless speed progenitors”.
Megadeth got into a brawl after their record label’s launch party for Peace Sells
As Classic Rock recounted in 2017, the night of the Peace Sells launch party did not go so well. Megadeth’s label had rented out a Hollywood bar, where the band members got fucked up in typical fashion. At the end of the night, two limos were dispatched — one for Mustaine and Ellefson and their girlfriends, and the other for Poland and Samuelson and their respective significant others. Unfortunately, the women ended up leaving early and taking one of the cars together, which left the other vehicle for the band members to share. “So the four of us pile into one of these limos, and almost right away we get into an argument,” Mustaine recalled. “I end up kicking Chris Poland in the face. That kind of gives you an idea of what you would have seen back then.”
It was a sign of things to come. By the end of the Pease Sells tour, tensions had reached a boiling point, and Poland and Samuelson were ousted from the band. (The drummer would die of liver failure in 1999 at age 41.) “There were a lot of very erratic performances,” Ellefson said, looking back at the shows. “You could tell the ones where we were drinking and the ones where we were on heroin. Because we survived it, we can look back on it with amusement. But when you’re in it, it’s brutal. And it ultimately ripped that lineup apart.”
Megadeth put the speed in speed metal when making Peace Sells
Megadeth was made up of “four functioning heroin addicts in the band,” Mustaine admitted to MSN in 2011. “We would roll up to the studio and one of the band members would be slouched in the doorway waiting for us to take him to the methadone clinic or downtown, as the case may be.”
But heroin wasn’t their only poison. While making Peace Sells, the band would sometimes pull 18-hour days in the studio and on those occasions, they turned to speed to give them an extra boost. “When things got to the point where we were kind of fading, [producer Randy Burns] would just give us a little speed and we’d do another five hours,” then-Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland told music journalist Joel Gausten in 2016. “That’s how we did it on that little tiny budget we had, which I think was like $26,000 or something. It wasn’t like we were passed out on chairs or anything — we were working our asses off.”