David Ellefson: Megadeth’s ‘Peace Sells’ Song Was Written In Just ‘A Couple Hours’
The process of writing a song is different for everyone. Sometimes inspiration strikes quickly and everything comes together in a matter of moments, while, other times, musicians will spend years or even over a decade trying to complete just one track. In the case of Megadeth's iconic "Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?," it was only "a couple hours" from start to finish, according to bassist David Ellefson.
In an extensive conversation on the "No Fuckin' Regrets" podcast (audio below), hosted by Machine Head's Robb Flynn, Ellefson reflected on the night the title track to the band's breakout third record came together.
Setting the scene, Ellefson recalled that Dave Mustaine had written the riff while he was equipped with what he believes was a fretless B.C. Rich Eagle bass. At the time, the two were living with Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good engineer and co-producer Karat Faye and the bassist explained, "We were sitting there, and Dave picks the bass up, and he starts noodling. He goes, 'Hey, Junior, come over here and play this.'"
"So we started working on that, trying to get that figured out," Ellefson elaborated (transcription via Blabbermouth), "And we go to rehearsal that night… We went down there, and that song just kind of wrote itself that night. Dave had the riffs, [drummer] Gar [Samuelson] started playing. We sort of put it together. [We had] a few suggestions here and there."
It wasn't long before all that tinkering resulted in a finished product, one that would stand the test of time as one of metal's biggest hits.
"I mean, that song... literally, within a couple of hours [it] was done," Ellefson further recalled, expressing a modicum of uncertainty as he went on, "I don't know if it was that night. It might have been."
Regarding the title, the Megadeth bassist wasn't hazy on the details as to how that surfaced.
"We were sitting there driving, and we had the radio on, and I remember Dave just looks at me and he goes, 'Hey, what do you think about 'Peace Sells… But Who's Buying?' [And I said], 'Cool. It sounds great.' And wheels were turning," he continued. "Dave would just kind of sit there, and wheels were always turning and ideas were coming up. And that became that song. And he wrote the lyrics, I think, pretty quickly; it kind of fell out."
Elsewhere in the podcast, as previously reported, Ellefson also told Flynn the story of the day Mustaine first heard Metallica's debut album, Kill 'Em All, which was recorded after Mustaine was fired from the band in 1983 and featured four songs on which the guitarist had co-write credits. Ellefson likened the experience to seeing an ex with a new partner.
David Ellefson on the "No Fuckin' Regrets" Podcast
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