Last week I was listening to the Ki$$ podcast called ‘3 Sides of the Coin’ and they were discussing the merits of the best Motley Crue albums – ranked from best to worst. It got me thinking. I was into Motley as far back as 1983, so I figure I’m no less qualified than the 3 bozos on 3 sides to offer my two cents worth. Enough with the (Au)coin puns. Yet before I delve into it, can I just say that I do listen regularly to the ‘3 Sides’ podcast and, on occasion, it’s quite interesting, particularly when they interview people who have worked with KI$$ over the years – and proceed to geek out on infinitesimal (look it up) details. Yet of the 3 hosts, the only one’s opinion which really carries any validity is the guy from Detroit, Cicchini. He brings an insight to the table that that the other two clearly lack. He doesn’t get into the “I was into Ki$$ before you’ kind of crap, as most Ki$$ fans/drones do, but he was a metal head back in the day and rates stuff like Angel City, Rose Tattoo and Accept. Nuff said.
The other two ? Both a little grating with their smug sense of self as KISS fans who can lay claim to the band in a manner that you, the listener, cannot. The jibes, taunts and digs that these two throw at Cicchini are as flat as the never ending meatloaf gag. Whilst he takes it in his stride, from a listeners point of view, it’s unnecessary cheap shotting that’s a little cringe worthy. As these two fan-boys lack the guy from Detroit’s panache in terms of rock knowledge, and come across as somewhat inferior, they have to try to claw some of that fan-legitimacy back by over fabricating their stories about how many times they’ve seen Cheap Trick, or how when they were 6 Ma or Pa took them to the local hayseed record store on Main Street to buy their copy of Rock n Roll Over. You win. You were into KI$$ before me, you have more merch than me. Boring. Whatever. The Colonel Sanders lookalike has an overinflated opinion of himself and the importance of his teeny weeny role in the KISS world, resting on his laurels that he ‘worked for KI$$’ ie: ran a KI$$ website, and also rates the horrid Crazy Nights album as his favourite album. “Nobody’s gonna change me, cos that’s who I am!” Barf. I only listen to 3 Sides in the vain hope that he one day will reveal the secret herbs and spices recipe! The third Stooge recently dismissed Australia’s great hard rock band Heaven as ‘crap’ and states, “it was only when KI$$ had Farter Pussycat as an opening act did they have a decent double bill.” Friend, guys like Alan and Kelly and Laurie from Heaven were the real deal – and came from a lineage of AC/DC- Rose Tattoo etc. Heaven would have SMOKED that drag queen era of KISS in no uncertain terms. Remove those Ki$$ blinkers and be a little objective if possible. Faster Pussycat? P–lease. Limited musical ability, complete Aerosmith/Hanoi rip offs (both in look and sound) who were around at the right time. I bought the Faster Pussycat LP at the time – and it was OK, yet it’s no Sergeant Peppers or Let It Bleed for Christ sakes! That entire LA sleaze/junkie scene/sound from 86-89 was time limited, and these boofheads with scarfs a flowing, low slung Gibsons, cowboys boots, dyed black hair, ciggies and pouting lips were a dime a dozen. Steven Tyler shoulda copy writ that scarf/mic thing – it was his shtick. They all looked like Johnny Thunders clones without an inch of his authenticity. The guys looked a million bucks. They looked better than their girlfriends. But they cannibalised each other with the sound. Didn’t the drummer from Faster Pussycat get arrested once for one Fed-exing heroin to his own address? Duh. So where was I? Yes, the 3rd bozo on 3 sides loves this kind of low cal late 80s cheese metal, particularly Motley Crue – which brings me back to the subject matter – Motley Crue. I figure I’m just as credentialed as these 3 knuckle heads to give my judgment on Motley’s best albums. In 1983-87, Mr Rockbrat and I devoured US metal /hard rock mags like Circus/Hit Parader/Faces etc. Aussie heavy rock / metal bands like Boss/Heaven/Bengal Tigers etc were way better than anything coming out of the US, but couldn’t get exposure over there. By reading these mags though, invariably, I was exposed to bands like the Crue.
Let me just state up front that from 83-90 I dug Motley Crue – big time. Let me do a ‘3 sides’ and show you just how credentialed I am to comment on the Motleys. I forked over my hard earned for the Helter skelter picture disc, I had a white ‘Girls Girls Girls’ t shirt that I wore to death, (which I bought from Gooses T Shirts at Brookvale. There used to be a shopfront to the factory outlet, where they would let members of the public come in and buy t shirts off the rack for $3.99 or something. I got t -shirts by Anthrax, Motley, Metallica and others I now forget). As history as shown, those first two Motley albums are landmark albums. Timeline though folks. If a kid of 15 hears that nowadays – what’s he gonna think ? Not much probably, as it’s all been done – but in 1981, 82 and 83 – these two albums were THE shit. Let’s take a look at ‘Too Fast For Love’. As a teenager, Live Wire kicked ass like nothing else. So many great tunes on this album – Come On and Dance. Public Enemy #1, Too Fast for Love” Piece of Your Action”. The band were young, hungry, and had a look and sound that edged them ahead of their peers. Vince Neil, dressed in red leather and blonde hair screams and hits notes he can no longer hit – he was a great visual contrast to the dyed blue/black haired other three. Fire, blood spitting, as a teenager I soaked it all up. Yet looking back through mature eyes, the band were musically limited, and some of the tunes on the album sound a little underdone- Starry Eyes, On With The Show, Merry Go Round, Take Me To the Top. The band stole heavily from many of its influences/peers in terms of look and sound – including KI$$, Alice Cooper, Johnny Thunders / Dolls, Sweet, even LA peers like Blackie Lawless and the much maligned Lizzie Grey had their ideas/images/themes/music ripped. Johnny Thunders shoulda somehow copyrit his pioneering NY Dolls rock star look, cos EVERYBODY from Nikki Sixxcheeseburgers onwards copied it. Yet as a teenager – I lacked the discerning perception that comes with age to know all this – it simply kicked ass! It rules!
So, let’s look at the second album. I picked up ‘Shout At The Devil’ on cassette and thought it was the beez kneez. Great look, great songs. Again, I was a teenager though, and Motley made fast-food heavy metal for teens – and most shrewd adults had the common sense to see it for what it was. ‘Shout’ though, did have some great tunes and I have some fond memories of this record. How could you not ? I think this was the best look that Motley had too. The single, “Looks That Kill” was ultra-cool – and I must have played the video clip to death. Badass. The album’s title and the band’s use of a pentagram brought the band a great deal of controversy upon its 1983 release, as Christian and conservative groups claimed the
band was encouraging their listeners to worship Satan. The Devil sells records, the kids lapped it up. The oldest trick in the book. Parents will hate it – kids will love it. Nikki Sixxcheeseburgers at least did his homework with this one. Reviews at the time said, “The whole point of bands like Motley Crue is to provide cheap thrills to jaded teens, and that’s where the album ultimately disappoints. One reviewers said, “a distressingly mild-mannered distillation of Kiss and Aerosmith clichés”. The reviewer here was slightly off the mark as this album IS rebellion for disaffected kids in the suburbs in white bread America in 83 – and I loved it. “Looks That Kill”, (I still dig that riff), “Too Young to Fall in Love” , “Bastard”, “Red Hot”, “Knock ‘Em Dead, Kid”, “Ten Seconds to Love”. With the exception of ‘Danger’ this album is pretty consistent top to bottom. I used to lay awake for hours listening to this cassette over and over on my Walkman. If you wanna see the band in all its glory from 83, go watch the band’s performance at the US Festival 83. I had the demos from this album and there were great songs like ‘Black Widow’, Running Wild In The Night and I Will Survive that sounded great and coulda made the album. This then, is probably the second best Motley album.
Which brings me to 1985. I rode my bike 15 kms to the store to buy Theatre of Pain, only to get home, and like others, was somewhat disappointed when I threw it on the turntable. This was NOT metal, it was glam. The production was way slick, the new look was pink, and Vince was wearing garter belts! What happened ? If you were a kid who thought 18 months before Motley were all about Alistair Crowley and old Beelzebub – you must have known you’d been conned to the hilt when you heard this. The first single – Smokin’ in the Boys
Room, was a Brownsville Stations COVER. What happened ! A COVER as your big follow up to ‘Shout’? No original songs at all good enough as a first single? Great tune and all – and I’m sure Cub, bless his soul, must have appreciated the royalty checks and the fact that people outside of America were now hearing one his tunes, but in no uncertain terms – Motley had polished a turd pink, and this was the result. Even Sixxcheeseburgers has gone on record saying words to that effect. “We could serve up shit on a platter and people would buy it”. A truer word never spoken Frankie. I bought the bloody thing! That’s not to say that the album was without its merits – City Boy Blues was OK, as was Louder Than Hell, an old demo written during Shout, but “Keep Your Eye on the Money” and “Home Sweet Home” ? This was Bon Jovi, not Motley Crue. In fact, most of side 2 is dross – “Tonight (We Need a Lover), “Use It or Lose It”, “Save Our Souls” , “Raise Your Hands to Rock” (cliché) “Fight for Your Rights” (double cliché). Yawn.
Hedonism was the word of the day – and Motley lived the life and then some. Booze, drugs, birds. Combined with ego and recklessness and – the fuse was lit – and which is commonly known – resulted in the tragic death of Hanoi Rocks’ drummer Razzle, in a car being driven by a sozzled Vince Neil. Neil effectively killed the career of Hanoi Rocks – another band knocked off in their prime and whose looks/sound was ripped off by LA Guns, Guns ‘n’ Roses and a zillion other LA sunset strip poseur bands……nice one Vince. The Theatre of Pain album is evidence of a band on the brink – and as a result, the album was underwhelming. Talk about alienate fans of more trad. hard rock./metal in one fell swoop.
The decadence continued with Motley being in their prime in 86/87. 1987 of course saw the release of the Girls, Girls, Girls album, the fourth studio album. The Motleys attempted to reel in any slack from the estranging ‘Theatre’ album, by releasing a more harder rocking album that was probably the logical album follow up to ‘Shout’. It also contained a more blues riffed style than their previous albums. How can you not have heard “Wild Side” and “Girls, Girls, Girls”. These were massive songs that garnered huge airplay and MTV exposure. Lots of leather, a strippers ode – what was not to like? Motley needed to put out all the stops to secure their place as the #1 bad boys of the whole glam/hard rock shootin match – and they did it in no uncertain terms with these tunes. And they had to come up with a cherry – cos in the 18 months/two years since ‘Theatre’, the wave of hard rockin hair bands was of tsunami proportion – with Cinderella, a rejuvenated Whitesnake, Leppard, and Bon Jovi in particular pushing ahead in rapid terms. Yet as a whole, does the album stack up ? Is this a contender for the BEST Motley album of all time ? Lyrically, let’s just say that Bernie Taupin was not on the payroll to delicately craft the words. DUUUUUUUDDDDDDE – the lyrics reflect the band’s hard-living lifestyle, paying homage to their love of riding Harleys, drinking whiskey, drugs, life on the Sunset Strip, and spending nights at strip clubs. There is the power ballad – ‘You’re All I Need’ and the average “Dancin On Glass”, and “Bad Boy Boogie”. Most of the second side is again, filler. ‘Five Years Dead’. “All in the Name Of…”, which isn’t a bad tune, “Sumthin’ for Nuthin’ and an unnecessary cover of “Jailhouse Rock” (live) (which I already had on a compilation album called ‘Time To Rock”. If they HAD to include a cover, what was wrong with including the cover of Tommy Bolin’s ‘Teaser’ they also recorded. An Elvis cover ? What gives ? Maybe all and sundry were far too coked up during the recording sessions to actually say, “Duuuudes, is this really necessary?” At this time, Motley Crue were unquestionably the kings of LA rock, and probably the biggest hard rock/metal band in the world at that time. The title tune as well as ‘Wild Side’ were so heavily rotated via MTV that they really couldn’t fail with this album in terms of sales success. I think it went to number 2 on the charts in the US. Yet by 1988, they’d been knocked off their perch somewhat by a bunch of up and comers called Guns n Roses.
So anyway, by 1989, Nikki Sixxceeseburgers had died and come back again, and the Motley’s had to contend with Bon Jovi and Guns N Roses for the top rock dog mantle. Metallica had also elbowed up to the top of the pyramid. It was clear that they had to come up with something pretty big. The first thing they did was ditch Tom Werman and go with a hungry for success producer called Bob Rock – keen to follow on from his success with Metallica’s None More Black album. The result was the ‘Dr Feelgood album. The band are all straight jacketed and teased hair on the rear cover. Didn’t Quiet Riot first do the straight jacket thing ? Another aping Nikki ? Anyway – this album went all the way to number one, and is arguably more consistent than either ‘Girls’ or ‘Theatre’. Yet let me take a look. ‘Kickstart My Heart’, Same Old Situation. Two great tunes, even with the corny ‘kitty kitty’ lyrics. Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)”. Fantastic tune, and one of my all-time favourite Crue tunes. Without You also gets a tick – one of the better power ballads. So what’s that, 4 good tunes? Would have made one hell of an EP ? But the rest? Passé songs both musically and lyrically- “Slice of Your Pie”, “Sticky Sweet” , “Rattlesnake Shake. What’s was up with all the hair metal bands and the rattlesnake obsession? Little miss muffet, 58 Chevy, ‘She Goes Down’. No no no. Dr Feelgood was pretty much the end of the Motleys for a while. This was their peak, the top of the roller coaster, the days of excess had to end, no more f….g ridiculous revolving drum sets (can you imagine Phil Rudd doing that?), no more private airplanes, no more world tours. Mr Rockbrat saw the Motleys in London in 1991,(read about that here) but by 1992, Motley, like most others of the hair variety were victims of their own success –and were languishing whilst the Seattle bands were on the rise.
Yet by 94, Vince was gone and the Motleys released the self-titled album with John Corabi. I’ll be honest here, and say that in 1994 I had zero interest in the Crue, yet I did like the first single, ‘Hooligans Holiday’ a lot. By 1997, the company line read that the Motleys realised the fans expected Motley to have a blonde singer (the real reason apparently being that the band bowed to record company pressure and made the original band reunite), so Vince was drafted back in, and the result being 1997’s Generation Swine’ album. Shit sandwich. Even with a reworking of ‘Shout At The Devil’, 1997 version. No one cared. Nor should they have.
And so it was that in late 2000 I stumbled across the ‘New Tattoo’ album, and I have to tell you, I was pleasantly surprised. New Tattoo combines the best elements of Shout At The Devil, Too Fast For Love and Dr. Feelgood. It’s the eighth studio album, and shows the band going back to the earlier musical style that gave them commercial success in the 1980s. This is the only album by the band not to feature that detestable human, drummer Tommy Lee, who left the band a year before to become a rapper, and was replaced by former Ozzy Osbourne / Lita Ford drummer Randy Castillo on the album. (Lee split also because of long-term animosity between himself and Vince). The songs, “Hell on High Heels”, which charted at number 13 on the mainstream rock charts, “New Tattoo” and “Treat Me Like the Dog I Am” were released as singles for the album. All killer tunes. The album artwork was inspired by the cover of Bruce Dickinson’s album Tattooed Millionaire, whose title track is said to be about Dickinson’s wife cheating on him with bassist Nikki Sixxcheeseburgers. This is BY FAR the most complete, consistent Motley album. “Hell on High Heels”, “Treat Me Like the Dog I Am”, “New Tattoo”, “Dragstrip Superstar, “1st Band on the Moon” (points here Nikki, great tune), and “Punched in the Teeth by Love”. All killer tunes. ‘Side one is almost faultless. “She Needs Rock & Roll” reminds me of a tune by Starz or any great US hard rock band of the 70s. Great chorus, catchy hooks. Just goes to show you what Nikki Sixxcheeseburgers is capable of penning when he is clean and sober. Further evidence of this is on the ballad ‘”Hollywood Ending”. Great bare tune highlighted by the pairing of Vince’s vocal with acoustic guitars. ‘Porno Star’, with its ‘nah nah nah’ singalong chorus aint bad, yet I can do without the tuned-down guitars of ‘Fake’. The cover of the Tubes “White Punks on Dope” works well, and rounds out an album that was, in my opinion, their strongest since Dr Feelgood, and arguably, Shout At The Devil. The album debuted at No. 41 on the Billboard 200 and slid down shortly after. The album has sold about 203,000 copies in the U.S. to date. Right before the tour in support of the album, Castillo fell ill with a duodenal ulcer. He was consequently replaced by Hole drummer Samantha Maloney for the New Tattoo tour. It’s a shame that the band didn’t garner more success with this album, and it’s also a shame that more ruepeople didn’t get to hear it.
I hadn’t seen Motley since the 1990 ‘Dr Feelgood’ tour of Australia, and it was only that Motorhead were on the bill that dragged me along to see Motley Crue in Sydney in 2005. Motley were abysmal. Tired, clichéd, worn out old whores. BAD MOVE having Motorhead on first. Plug in, play, (LOUD), leave. No nonsense. I was kind of hoping that Motley might include something off ‘New Tattoo’ in their set, but as Tommy Lee, (IMO – one of the most obnoxious scumbags of all time – with WAY over stated relevance), didn’t play on it, no dice. I was subjected to his adolescent behavior of walking around the crowd with his ‘titty cam’, getting girls to lift their tops, which the entire crowd could then view on the big screen. This kind of infantile shtick may have worked back in 83 when excess (ie: snorting ants with Ozzy) was tolerated, but by 2005 the audience were noticeably cringing. I PAID money to see this kind of behavior ? Who the hell do you think you are? Turd. As a result, I didn’t even give a listen to ‘Saints of Los Angeles’ as I’ve heard it all before, so therefore, best to worst, are the following Motley Crue albums.
- New Tattoo
- Shout At The Devil
- Too Fast For Love
- Dr. Feelgood (as a 4 track EP)
- The rest