"Peace Sells"
Peace Sells.jpeg
Single by Megadeth
from the album Peace Sells... but Who's Buying?
ReleasedNovember 1986
RecordedFebruary–March 1986
GenreThrash metal[1]
Songwriter(s)Dave Mustaine
  • Dave Mustaine
  • Randy Burns
Megadeth singles chronology
"Wake Up Dead"
"Peace Sells"
"Anarchy in the U.K."
Music video
"Peace Sells" on YouTube

"Peace Sells" is a song by American thrash metal band Megadeth from their 1986 album Peace Sells... but Who's Buying?, written by Dave Mustaine. The song was released as the band's second ever single in November 1986. "Peace Sells" was the groups breakthrough hit, and is regarded as one of the best songs in the history of heavy metal Since 1985, the song has since been a constant at Megadeth concerts. According to David Ellefson, it became quickly apparent when playing the song live prior to recording the album that "Peace Sells" would be a hit.[2][3] In 2006, VH1 ranked "Peace Sells" at number 11 on their list of the "40 Greatest Metal Songs" of all time.[4]

The song is also known for the distinctive bass intro played by Ellefson. The video for the track became an MTV mainstay[5] and the bassline was used as introduction to MTV News.[6] However, Mustaine proclaimed that they received no royalties because the song was excluded shortly before MTV would have to pay them for its use.[7]



"Peace Sells" reflects band frontman Dave Mustaine's political and social beliefs.[10] The title of the song was taken from a magazine Mustaine saw, which said "Peace sells, but nobody's buying it".[11] The lyrics are a disapproval of the American way and convey Mustaine's wish for a new social structure.[12] Band drummer Gar Samuelson encouraged Mustaine to write more political lyrics in his songs, which in turn helped the song be a success.[13] The lyrics for the song were written on the wall of the bands rehearsal space, due to Mustaine not having a pen or paper to write with.[14] The song dispels stereotypes of metal fans that were pushed by the media throughout the 80's.[15]

“I wrote it because I was tired of people mocking metal in general and mocking people who are metal fans,” Mustaine told Rolling Stone. “It was hard for me to watch the way we were stereotyped on TV, just as dumbasses. For the most part, I think that a lot of musicians are very intelligent and very talented. It's a bummer the way people had been stereotyped.”

— Dave Mustaine.[14]


The bass intro for "Peace Sells" was written by Mustaine.[2][11] Ellefson had a BC Rich Eagle bass that he had removed the frets from. When Mustaine saw it, he grabbed the bass and almost immediately wrote the intro.[14] Later that day, the two met up with Samuelson and guitarist Chris Poland, where the song would be fully fleshed out. The original version spanned over eight minutes, and was written in only a few hours.[14][16] Samuelson suggested that the song be shortened, saying "This song's too good to draw it out like that. We've gotta make this song short and sweet."[11]

The second half of the song bumps up the tempo and speeds through to the end.[17] It has more guitar solos from Poland, and features Ellefson adding a high harmony to Mustaines main vocal refrain.[2]

Music video

A music video was produced for the song, which was the band's first ever (Wake Up Dead, the lead single, only got a video after its UK release).[18] The video was directed by artist Robert Longo and edited by artist Gretchen Bender.[19] The video includes a dramatic pause in the middle of the song. The interstitial features a teenage boy, wearing a Slayer T-shirt, watching a montage of live Megadeth performances and war footage on his living room television set. The boy's father, states "What is this garbage you're watching? I want to watch the news!," and changes the television channel to a news station using the remote control. His son, replying with "This is the news!," changes it back to the Megadeth performance using the TV set's channel knob.[20] This part of the video was parodied by comedian Brian Posehn in his Metal by Numbers video. The beginning of the video also showed the explosion of the original low-cost skull used on the cover of the previous album, Killing is My Business... and Business is Good!.

The video is recognized as one of the main reasons the band broke into the mainstream.[20]

“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.”

— David Ellefson, November, 2011.[2]

Due to the flashing images near the end, the video was banned in the UK.[21]

Live performance

On July 14, 1999, Samuelson died of liver failure at age 41 in Orange City, Florida.[22] Eleven days later, during Megadeth's performance at Woodstock 1999, Mustaine dedicated "Peace Sells" to Samuelson's memory.



Year Publication Country Accolade Rank
2018 Billboard United Kingdom The 15 Best Megadeth Songs: Critic’s Picks[23] 1
2021 Return of Rock United States Peace Sells.. But Who’s Buying Songs Ranked[24] 2
2022 Louder Sound United States The Top 20 Best Megadeth Songs Ranked[25] 4


Region Certification Certified units/sales
United States (RIAA)[26] Gold 500,000double-dagger

double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


Production and performance credits are adapted from the album liner notes.[27]



2004 remix and remaster

See also


  1. ^ "You Say It's Your Birthday: David Ellefson of Megadeth". MTV. 1997-11-11. Retrieved 2021-11-13.
  2. ^ a b c d "Classic Albums – Megadeth – Peace Sells…But Who's Buying". Mars Attacks Radio. November 2011. Retrieved 14 December 2022.
  3. ^ "Interview with Dave Ellefson – Founding member of Megadeth". The Pogg. Retrieved November 6, 2012.
  4. ^ "VH1 40 Greatest Metal Songs". VH1. May 1–4, 2006. Archived from the original on November 18, 2007. Retrieved 2017-01-25.
  5. ^ Ellefson & McIver 2013, p. 61.
  6. ^ Ellefson 2013, p. 58.
  7. ^ Mustaine, Dave (2010). Mustaine: A Life in Metal. New York City, USA: HarperCollins. p. 346. ISBN 978-0-00-732410-1.
  8. ^ Pett, Sukey (March 1987). "Peace, Love, And Megadeth". Spin (12): 14. Retrieved July 6, 2014.
  9. ^ Moore 2009, p. 102.
  10. ^ Leland, John (March 1987). "Megadeth: Peace Sells (Capitol)". Spin. 2: 34. Retrieved January 16, 2014.
  11. ^ a b c "10 THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT MEGADETH'S 'PEACE SELLS... BUT WHO'S BUYING?'". Revolver Mag. 19 September 2018. Retrieved 14 December 2022.
  12. ^ Kajzer 2010, p. 164.
  13. ^ "Peace Sells . . . But Who's Buying?". Billboard. 14 August 2004. Retrieved 14 December 2022.
  14. ^ a b c d Everley, Dave (20 September 2022). "The Story Behind The Song: Megadeth's Peace Sells". Louder Sound. Metal Hammer. Retrieved 14 December 2022.
  15. ^ "Peace Sells… But Who's Buying? MEGADETH". Metal Motivation Mondays. Retrieved 14 December 2022.
  16. ^ DiVita, Joe (16 January 2021). "David Ellefson: Megadeth's 'Peace Sells' Song Was Written In Just 'A Couple Hours'". Loudwire. Retrieved 14 December 2022.
  17. ^ Carlos. "Megadeth Peace Sells – Retro Review – Commentary". Metal Mofos. Retrieved 14 December 2022.
  18. ^ "Megadeth History (1986)". Megadeth.com. Archived from the original on September 6, 2013. Retrieved April 27, 2014.
  19. ^ "Megadeth: Peace Sells". IMDb. Retrieved 14 December 2022.
  20. ^ a b Reuter, Jerome (26 January 2020). "THE SOPHOMORE SUPREMACY OF PEACE SELLS: BUT WHO'S BUYING? (1986)". Diabolique Magazine. Retrieved 14 December 2022.
  21. ^ Erel, Gorkem (19 November 2020). "MEGADETH EXPLAINS WHY 'PEACE SELLS' MUSIC VIDEO BANNED IN UK". Metal Castle. Retrieved 14 December 2022.
  22. ^ MTV News staff (July 23, 1999). "Original Megadeth Drummer Samuelson Dead At 41". MTV. Retrieved July 16, 2014.
  23. ^ Titus, Christina. "The 15 Best Megadeth Songs: Critic's Picks". Billboard. Retrieved 29 August 2022.
  24. ^ "Peace Sells.. But Who's Buying Songs Ranked". Return of Rock. 8 October 2021. Retrieved 14 December 2022.
  25. ^ Stewart-Panko, Kevin. "The top 20 best Megadeth songs ranked". Louder Sound. Retrieved 29 August 2022.
  26. ^ "American single certifications – Megadeth – Peace Sells". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved August 24, 2022.
  27. ^ Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? liner notes (2004 reissue). Capitol Records. 2004. pp. 4–12.