"We wanted people to know we weren't going to let success get to our heads," Dave Mustaine said on Headbangers Ball in 1988, explaining the origin of the title of Megadeth's third studio album, So Far, So Good... So What! And indeed, at the time the band was coming off the breakthrough success of their major-label debut, 1986's Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?, which established Megadeth as the premiere thrash act of the day—maybe not quite as well-known as Mustaine's previous band, the then-rapidly ascending Metallica, but certainly faster, heavier and more aggressive and instrumentally complex in their approach. And with So Far, So Good... So What!, Mustaine was aiming to push his young band even further toward the genre's extremes, from the horn and wind-instrument elements that adorn leadoff track "Into the Lungs of Hell," to the speed-punk cover of the Sex Pistols' "Anarchy in the U.K.," the epic, atmospheric doom-thrash of "In My Darkest Hour" to the pummeling, neck-snapping assault of "502," "Liar" and the PMRC-skewering "Hook in Mouth," which featured one of the singer's wittiest and most incisive lyrics.
Which is not to say that all was peachy in the Megadeth camp at the time. Just prior to recording So Far, So Good... So What! the band, anchored by Mustaine and stalwart bassist David Ellefson, shed half its lineup, with guitarist Chris Poland and drummer Gar Samuelson dismissed due to drug addictions that were rapidly spiraling out of control. In their places came Samuelson's former drum tech, Chuck Behler, and guitarist Jeff Young, who, in an interesting twist, had been the guitar teacher for Mustaine's initial choice, Malice's Jay Reynolds. Young and Behler, for their part, wouldn't survive in the band much beyond the recording and touring of the So Far, So Good... So What! album. Furthermore, over the years Mustaine has expressed displeasure with the record's production and mixing work.
And yet, for all the turmoil surrounding Megadeth at the time, So Far, So Good... So What!, released on January 19th, 1988, proved a major success. The record sold roughly 400,000 copies in its first month of release and eventually went platinum, while also solidifying Mustaine's status as one of metal's most ferocious riff-crafters and sharpest lyricists. These days, the album doesn't often get the recognition it deserves (a fate not helped by its placement in the Megadeth catalog between what are arguably two of heavy metal's most legendary recordings, Peace Sells... But Who's Buying? and 1990's Rust in Peace) but it is without doubt a classic in its own right. With that in mind, here are five things you may not know about So Far, So Good... So What!
1) The second song on So Far, So Good... So What! is also the first song Mustaine ever wrote for Megadeth.
After being kicked out of Metallica in 1983, Mustaine was sent packing back to L.A. via a four-day bus ride. With plenty of time on his hands, he used some of it to write: "The first song that I wrote on my way back from New York was written on the back of a cupcake wrapper, if you can believe that," he recalled in a 2009 interview. That song was, at the time, titled "Megadeth." Soon after, of course, Megadeth became the name of Mustaine's new band, and the lyrics were later repurposed for "Set the World Afire." Which hasn't stopped some hardcore fans from referring to the So Far, So Good... So What! tune by another, somewhat less ominous name, as Mustaine joked at the end of the interview. Mimicking the response of in-the-know fans when Megadeth plays "Set the World Afire" live, he yelled, "That's the cupcake song! Yeeeaah!"
2) Ex-Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones requested an unusual form of payment for his guest spot on the album.
When it came time to record their version of the Sex Pistols' classic "Anarchy in the U.K.," Megadeth extended an invitation to former Pistols guitarist Steve Jones to contribute a solo to the tune. Jones accepted the invitation, and showed up to the studio on his motorcycle — and with a broken arm. Things only got weirder from there. According to Mustaine, when he suggested they begin recording, Jones informed him he would require payment upfront. Specifically, "a hundred dollars and some suction." As he recounts in his 2010 autobiography, Mustaine: A Heavy Metal Memoir, the singer responded incredulously, "How about I give you a thousand dollars and you can go get some suction yourself, because I ain't calling anybody to come down here and blow you."
Mustaine went on to say he didn't know if Jones was kidding or not with his demand, but at the end of the day it didn't much matter: The request was dropped, and Jones laid down his part, broken arm and all.
3) The first time Megadeth performed "In My Darkest Hour" onstage, Mustaine was overcome with emotion.
"In My Darkest Hour" is arguably the most well-known and beloved song from So Far, So Good... So What!, and its genesis by this point in time has become well-established Megadeth lore. Mustaine initially wrote the brooding, menacing track after being informed that his friend and former bandmate in Metallica, Cliff Burton, had been killed in a bus crash. After receiving the news, he recalled to the A.V. Club, "I started crying, and I went straight to Los Angeles downtown and bought heroin, and I wrote the song 'In My Darkest Hour' in one sitting."
This story has led to a longstanding belief that the song's lyrics were about Burton, though over the years Mustaine has debunked this theory, stating that lines like "In my hour of need/No, you're not there," were actually about his former girlfriend, Diana, the same woman at the center of other 'Deth tracks like "Tornado of Souls" and "Trust." That said, there is also another, lesser-known Burton connection to "In My Darkest Hour." As Mustaine revealed to Rolling Stone, the first time he ever performed the song live, "Cliff's mom and dad were at our show." Which led to an outpouring of emotion on the singer's part. "I could do it in the studio and in rehearsal, but with them there, I could not get through it. You don't even know where those feelings come from," Mustaine continued. "I didn't really have a chance to say goodbye. But I'll see him in heaven. That's the cool thing. At least I believe that."
4) During the sessions for the album Mustaine's behavior made a Go-Go get gone-gone.
Megadeth's drug intake in their early years is the stuff of legend. But amongst the various substance-related hijinks that went on — Mustaine penned the So Far, So Good... So What! track "Liar" about former guitarist Chris Poland, who he claimed was selling his guitars for heroin money — drug use also led to the singer losing out on a potential date. As he recounted to Guitar World in 2004, during the So Far, So Good... So What! sessions, "someone had arranged for [Go-Go's singer] Belinda Carlisle to come down to the studio. I was so looking forward to meeting her because I thought she was a really hot chick." Just as she walked into the room, however, Mustaine "lit up a big fat joint. I opened my mouth to say hello and this puff of marijuana smoke came out." Carlisle's reaction? "She did a 180 and zipped right out of there."
5) Despite the success of So Far, So Good... So What!, the lineup that recorded the album lasted less than a year.
So Far, So Good… So What! raised Megadeth's profile considerably; among other things, the band toured behind it as part the massive 1988 European Monsters of Rock festival, which also included Iron Maiden and Guns N' Roses. But the lineup that recorded the album would splinter soon after. First to go was Chuck Behler, who, after being "too roasted to play" a show in Nottingham, England, was replaced that night by his drum tech, Nick Menza. Things soon came to a head for guitarist Jeff Young as well, after Mustaine, as he recounted in his autobiography, found out that he had called the aforementioned Diana and "told her that he fantasized about having sex with her while he was screwing his girlfriend." Years later, however, Mustaine and Young reunited to work on a remix of So Far, So Good... So What! and "hugged, apologized, laughed at our own depravity and the general insanity of the whole experience." But, he added, "at the time ... it was brutal. We wanted to kill each other, and we very nearly did."