Megadeth - So Far, So Good... So What!
On January 19, 1988, "Megadeth" released their third album "So Far, So Good ... So What!"
The name of the album was a sort of statement of intent by Dave Mustaine, meant to make it clear that the band did not give the relative success of the album "Peace Sells... but Who's Buying?" From 1986, to change them. He noted that it was precisely this relative success that drove him to take the band in more extreme directions on this album.
But, to fulfill his vision, Dave had to fire half of his lineup before recording the album. Guitarist Chris Poland and drummer Gar Samuelson were kicked out of the band, due to drug addiction issues, forcing Dave Mustaine and David Ellefson to look for their replacements. Chuck Behler who was Samuelson's drum technician - was given the role of drummer. For the position of guitarist Dave initially chose Jay Reynolds who was then part of the band "Malice", however, Reynolds was replaced shortly after, failing to "deliver the goods". Reynolds was just not at the level demanded from "Megadeth" guitarist. He had to invite his music teacher Jeff Young to the studio to help him learn the solo roles. Eventually, Reynolds was dismissed and his teacher Jeff Young got the role in his place.
This album marked a turning point as opposed to the two previous albums, in which Dave Mustaine was the sole writer. Here, for the first time, half of the songs were written in collaboration with bassist David Ellefson who proved that he is capable of contributing his talent to the creative process.
The album opens up "big", "rich" and "bombastic", with the instrumental section "Into the Lungs of Hell", to the sounds of trumpets, brass instruments, and rolling drums played by a synthesizer. This intro gives a feeling that we are on the verge of an epic musical piece, usually preserved for prog and/or for concept albums. Without a doubt, this is an amazing opening that creates a crazy build-up for what comes next.
The second track "Set the World Afire" is the first song Dave wrote after being fired from "Metallica". He did so on his way by bus from New York to Los Angeles, a four-day trip in which he had enough time to think, ponder and write. For more about Dave's dismissal Read here: "Dave Mustaine Fired From Metallica". Dave claims he wrote the lyrics on a cupcake wrapper, after being inspired by a newspaper headline referring to the nuclear arms race noting: "The arsenal of Megadeath can not be rid". At first, he intended to call the song "Megadeth" as it appeared in the title, but eventually, he kept the name for his band. It is interesting to note that the first seconds of the song include a symphony from the song "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire" performed by the jazz band "The Ink Spots" back in 1941.
The third track "Anarchy in the U.K" is a cover version of the iconic song by the "Sex Pistols", with only slightly different lyrics. At this point, it can already be said that the inclusion of a cover song on a Megadeth album has already become a tradition, after the first two albums included one such song. The recording of the song also features "Sex Pistols" guitarist, Steve Jones, whom Dave specifically invited to play the solo. Dave said Jones came to the studio riding a motorcycle and with a broken hand, but nonetheless, he did his job excellently. As for the payment for his participation in the song, Jones asked Dave for a payment of $ 100 and in addition some time with a prostitute, in advance, and before the recording. Dave who did not know if Jones was serious or not, told him that he did not intend to invite a prostitute to the studio and offered him a thousand dollars so that he could do whatever he want with them. It is interesting to note that this song was an integral part of the band's setlist for years, but after Dave become more religious he stopped performing it in Megadeth's shows.
"Mary Jane" which ends the first side of the vinyl tells the story of a witch named Mary Jane who was buried alive by her father near Loon Lake Cemetery in Minnesota. The song opens with the words of Dave inviting her to rise from the dead, when later he says that anyone who will dare to disturb her peace of death will be haunted by him.
The number in the title of the song "502" opening the second side of the album, is the "drunk driving code" of the Los Angeles Police Department. It really sounds to us like a track that could serve as a crazy soundtrack to a car chase, especially when more or less in the middle of the song the sounds of the police sirens are heard.
"In My Darkest Hour" was written by Dave Mustaine as soon as he received the news of the tragic death of Cliff Burton - "Metallica" bass player. Mustaine who was Burton's best friend, testified that as soon as he heard about the tragic death he drove to downtown Los Angeles, bought heroin, cried for the death of his friend, and out of tears composed the song "In My Darkest Hour". Although Burton was the inspiration for this masterpiece song, its lyrics don’t really refer to him. They talk about staying true to your friends and being there for them in their most difficult times. Dave later noted that the lyrics of the song also refer to his ex-girlfriend Diana who was the inspiration for writing more of Megadeth's songs such as "Tornado of Souls" and "Trust". The first time the band performed the song in a concert Cliff Burton's parents were present in crowd and Dave said he was really overwhelmed with emotions.
"Liar" was written by Dave about the band's former guitarist Chris Poland, who according to Dave, sold his guitars to buy heroin.
The concluding track "Hook in Mouth" points an accusing finger at the censorship organization "Parents Music Resource Center" or PMRC for short, led by Tipper Gore, who according to Dave Mustaine, violates American freedom of expression.
The album was produced by Paul Lani, but Mustaine did not get along with him and so German producer and technician Michael Wagener, who worked with "Accept" and "Metallica", replaced him. But even that did not satisfy Dave who later said the album's production was not good enough.
"So Far, So Good ... So What!" In our opinion, did not receive the respect it deserves, and all this is not really related to the quality of the album. Fate wanted that this album was released between two masterpieces "Peace Sells... but Who's Buying?" From 1986 and "Rust In Peace" from 1990. This did put So Far, So Good ... So What!" in the shadow of these two giants. But make no mistake, despite the raw sound and the complex and dark atmosphere this album is without a doubt a classic in itself. Despite the difficult circumstances that surrounded it, this album was very successful in sales and sold about 400,000 copies in the first month of its release, when it eventually gained platinum status. It crowned Dave Mustaine as a Metal God and a master of riff writing, as he will prove yet again in the band's next albums.