One of Megadeth's most popular songs, this deals with disillusion, Cold War politics, and military combat - all recurring themes in Megadeth songs.
Thomas - Syracuse, NY
Frontman Dave Mustaine recalled the writing of this song to Rolling Stone: "I was homeless at the time, and I was living in a rehearsal place in Vernon, California. I was seeing a girl, Diana - there were a lot of songs I wrote about her. I actually wrote the lyrics to that song on the wall, in that building. I didn't have any paper in the studio, but I had a Sharpie, so I just wrote on the wall. Whoever inherited our rehearsal room after I moved out, saw the original lyrics to 'Peace Sells' on the wall. They probably painted right over it and didn't even know it."
Mustaine also penned the opening bassline, which became famous for being used as the theme for MTV News. He told Rolling Stone that he never received any royalties for their usage of it. Said Mustaine: "They didn't give me a penny. They cut it off right before they'd have to pay me, which was very clever. I don't think anybody with a conscience at MTV did that - it was probably somebody in their legal department."
According to former Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland, Dave Mustaine originally conceived this as an 8-minute piece before drummer and close friend Gar Samuelson talked him out of it. Poland told Xtreme Metal Radio: "I think originally it was eight minutes long, and Gar said, 'You know what? This is too good a song to drag it out like this. Let's shorten the arrangement, cut it down to size and make it a single.'
Dave said, 'Yeah, let's do that.' I honestly think Dave respected Gar's opinion on stuff – he was the only guy in the band Dave wouldn't mess with. He totally respected Gar, and thank God he did, If Gar hadn't talked Dave into shortening the song."
Speaking with former RIP magazine editor Lonn Friend at the January 2015 NAMM show in Anaheim, California, David Ellefson detailed the influence former Van Halen bassist and backing vocalist had on this song. "When we were writing 'Peace Sells', we were in the band room, writing 'Peace Sells', and at the end, [sings] 'Peace sells, but who's…', I immediately go, [sings higher] 'Peace sells, but who's buying.' I immediately go for that… I call it the 'Michael Anthony harmony,'" he said.
Ellefson added: "Anytime I'm on a bandstand and there's a vocal, I'm, like, 'I'll take the Michael Anthony part.' So he's, like, defined in my book as a… basically, he's an instrumentation."
Since the bass line in so popular, many novice musicians try to play it when they start learning the instrument. That's not a good idea, according to Dave Ellefson. "It's a really tricky bass line," he said in his Songfacts interview
. "When people tell me that they just learned how to play the bass and this is the first line they're trying to learn, I'm like, 'You might want to learn something a little bit easier.' That's a very tricky song to play."