Just finished re-reading ‘The Dirt’ – the Mötley Crüe bio from some years back – so sharing a road tale involving Vince, his buddy Sixx, Mick and Tom seems appropriate. I was living in a tiny bedsit in South London back in 1991 – working was obviously not a priority – but rock n roll sure as hell was. Part of the weekly schedule was perusing Kerrang! Magazine – which from memory hit the streets each Wednesday. So as per usual, in early August, I headed to the Noizeagant and purchased the Big K, scanning the gig guide over a pint or two. In one of the news columns there was a blurb which stated something like ‘Livewire rockers The Foreskins play a one-off show at the Marquee August 14’.
Duh – I really shoulda put two and two together – cos I knew that in previous years – around the time of the Monsters Of Rock show, bands on the bill had done undercover Marquee gigs – Kiss in 1988, Poison and also Aerosmith (with a guest appearance from Jimmy Page) the year before. There was also the ‘livewire’ reference. Oh well, this was the pre-internet era so information was where you read it – or in my case, if you mis-read it ! Anyway – I think that the following Wednesday’s issue of Kerrang! – in the week leading up to Donington – they broke the newz and announced the ‘unannounced’ secret gig. Oh shit ! It was that very night ! I downed my pint, screamed ‘take me to the heights tonight’ – then jumped a train which would take me to the top – well, Tottenham Court Road station at least. The legendary Marquee was at that time situated at 105 Charing Cross Road, and I quickly made my way to the venue. Thinking back, I saw a slew of bands there during that summer – and although Cobain and his flannelette were about to sit hard rock and metal on it’s ass – there was still some great rock to be had at that time (the fact that Kerrang! ran a two page article on Nirvana in the aforementioned issue – was telling – and a sign of things to come – eg, the death of 80’s metal).
Obviously, with the show sold-out I had to scalp a ticket – and when I got to the venue at around lunchtime there was already a queue to get inside. Motley never played clubs anymore so to see them in a dive with a few hundred capacity was a thrill. Ticket or no ticket, I joined the queue and started chatting to a couple of young kids who’d travelled by bus the night before to get to this secret Crue show. Think they hailed from Nottingham way. I looked through my cash and remember thinking that 50 quid was my absolute top bargaining price – and haggled with a few scalpers over the next couple of hours – before begrudgingly shelling out a whopping 70 pounds for a ticket in. What’s that worth in today’s money ? $300 or $400 maybe ? For some time later, one of my pommie mates would give me shit about it, so it must’ve been a lot of money ! Whatever – life is short, and it was the Crue in a club for f**k sake – their second club gig in ten years – and now I had a ticket ! Rock n roll mission accomplished.
There was an Oi! punk outfit who hailed from London’s East End called The 4-Skins – working class punkers who were around in the early 80’s, and recall hearing a press rumour of legal action against the Crue for using their name. The spelling was obviously different – and the Crue had so many lawsuits against them, I doubt they cared. Many old punks would’ve bought tickets for this mid-August gig, thinking there was a 4-Skins re-union occurring. They of course were unaware they were nabbing tickets to the hottest gig in town – and some no doubt made a hefty profit from hungry Crue-heads. Well, on with the show, going on with the show.
The wait for the doors to open was made easier by swilling warm Tennent’s and chatting with other rock disciples. At some stage I recall a camera crew filed past – interviewing fans as they walked along. The accents were American so I presume they were Crue crew – and someone told me they were filming for a documentary. I think that some of this Charing Cross Road fan footage – along with the Marquee gig itself – was including in the ‘Anarchy In The UK’ video. Once the doors swung open, a horde of punters headed for the stage area, yet I headed upstairs and got a front row view from up there on the balcony – directly in line with Sixx. This was a memorable gig – one which stands out in a lifetime of loud, sweaty rock shows. There was no opening band – and from memory, after a short intro tape, the band just sauntered on stage and belted into their set – a set which was to be savoured: Wild Side, Shout at the Devil, a thumping Primal Scream, Looks That Kill, Red Hot,…. and to hear early Crue cuts like Live Wire and the encore Piece Of Your Action churned out in a small club was very very cool. A take on the Pistols Anarchy in the U.K.was also aired to maximum response. Personally, apart from Motorhead and The Runaways, I am yet to hear anyone do true justice to a Sex Pistols song – though the Crue’s effort on this night was sizzling. At one point in the show, Sixx, sporting black overalls, stage dived into the crowd – and later I recall he gave me the thumbs up during the set. Say what you want about Tommy Lee, the guy is an incredible drummer – the engine room behind this legendary outfit, and he is always great to watch. Every punter in the club that night was drenched in sweat – and it was pure rock n roll energy. This was a warm-up show but the Crue gave their all, and the evening was one of my rock highlights. I did the bus ride to Donington Park three days later and although the Crue rocked – they were not as potent as they were at the mid-week Marquee gig. The smaller stage of a small, sweaty club was where the Motley magic lay for me. With my ears ringing from Mick Mars’ Marshalls, I walked towards the Tube – ending the evening a short while later with a Doner and chips. A decade earlier, Motley Crue had reigned supreme on the Sunset Strip club scene – and it was mind-blowing to see them back in a club after conquering the rock world !