This week I’m taking a dive into the album that really hooked me into music. I talked about it in an older post, now it’s time to get specific and go over the album in greater detail. I got the cassette as a Christmas gift a few months after its release and I played it over and over and over again, literally wearing out the tape and burning the album into my 12-year old brain. The results would have me chasing music all over and shape my pursuit of sound into a new decade while in my formative years.
Motley Crüe – Dr. Feelgood
Released September 1, 1989 via Elektra Records
My Favorite Tracks – Kickstart My Heart, Dr. Feelgood, Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)
Dr. Feelgood was the fifth studio album from Motley Crüe. The album would be a smash success for the group, topping charts and selling several times platinum. The group had been instrumental in starting the hair metal era of the 1980’s and would end the decade with a massive triumph. The album spawned five singles which were in constant rotation on MTV. Hair metal as a whole was winding down as the calendar turned to 1990 but one of its most important acts was still running hot.
After a brief intro to set the scene, the album kicks off with the title track and lead single. Dr. Feelgood is a massive, heavy song that outlines the highs and lows of Jimmy, a fictional drug dealer. The full, bombastic production of Bob Rock was a welcome change from the thin sound of the band’s two prior albums. It went a long way to reminding everyone that the Crüe had the chops to play a harder brand of rock than what the L.A. Scene had largely devolved into in the late ’80’s.
Dr. Feelgood did great as a single – it was the band’s first top ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and also their only gold-certified single.
Slice Of Your Pie
Moving on to one of the many songs on the record about sex, here we have a song full of euphemisms and sex talk that skirts the lines between clever and explicit. Even as one of the perhaps secondary tracks, this song still provides a sleazy thrill ride with the band’s rediscovered chops and improved production. The end of the song borrows from the Beatles track “She’s So Heavy” because that’s what everyone was expecting from a Motley Crüe album in 1989.
Another sleazy rocker that glorifies the evils of lust and fornication. Jesus wept.
Kickstart My Heart
This song was on offer as the album’s second single. Nikki Sixx wrote it about his infamous heroin overdose in 1987 where he was apparently injected with multiple doses of adrenaline to revive him and was dead for a few minutes. The story is disputed by some but the song remains.
Kickstart My Heart quickly caught fire on release and became noted as one of the album’s standout songs. It has gone on to become the band’s signature anthem. We aren’t simply talking about a good song here – this is possibly the best song the band ever recorded, and is easily in the conversation even if not. It is a blistering effort with an interlude that perfectly sums up the Motley Crüe experience. The song is a shot of adrenaline and is found on millions of workout playlists worldwide.
It’s not hair metal without a ballad and Dr. Feelgood hosts a few. The first is this decently crafted tune that is every sappy love stereotype possible shoved into a song. The song is noted to have been written by Tommy Lee about Heather Locklear. The song did well as a single, providing the band’s second top ten showing on the Billboard Hot 100.
This is one of those songs I can go back and forth on. I’ll admit that I probably liked it a lot better when I was 12 than I do 32 years later, but it’s not a song I feel a need to skip over when I play the album. It’s a bit much but I can generally live with it.
Same Ol’ Situation
We thankfully pick the pace way back up with what was the fifth and final single released from the album. It’s a hot, fun rocker about falling for a gal who ditches the guy for another gal. The video was a performance clip, showing the band at the height of their popularity. While some might argue that people only remember the singles more because they were aired out more, I’d say this is a case of picking the right singles to air out. The song is not necessarily any “different” than several others but it packs a harder punch and gets the listener’s attention.
Another ode to the glorious activity of hooking up. It’s simple, to the point and well executed. The lyrics offer a bit of a reference to the earlier Crüe song Ten Seconds To Love.
She Goes Down
One more sleazy number, it’s blatantly obvious what the song is going for.
Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)
This quasi-ballad and top 20 single brings a change of pace and another signature track from the Crüe. Nikki Sixx lifted the title from a movie he doesn’t remember, though many speculate that it’s a line from Heartbreak Ridge that he his using.
While the title invokes a snarky vibe the song itself does not take that path and instead sticks to the high road. This is a quintessential break up song that celebrates the love found and then parts on fond terms. The song builds to a driving conclusion that uses the title to great effect. It’s another well-done effort.
Time For Change
I’ll just get straight to it – I hate the song. I think it sucks. It’s a shitty hair metal attempt to do The Greatest Love Of All or something like that. It has always bothered me and I can’t help but wish the song would somehow fall off the record. But it’s there, and here we are at the end of the album.
Dr. Feelgood was Motley Crüe’s best-selling album, having been certified six times platinum in the United States. It provided the biggest hits of the group’s career and defied the times to put an exclamation point on a genre of music that many were bemoaning at the time and whose death was just around the corner. Motley Crüe themselves seemed poised to survive the specter of 1991 and would only join the list of hair metal casualties due to their own problems a few years later.
The album was a success for more than the band, too. Producer Bob Rock had reinvigorated the group’s sound after two albums that left something to be desired in production. A lot of people noticed his work on Dr. Feelgood, including Lars Ulrich. The Bob Rock-Metallica meetup in 1991 would alter the face of music forever.
Is Dr. Feelgood the best Motley Crüe album? Some critics think so. I would agree that it’s in the conversation but it’s also hard to ignore the sheer ferocity of those first two records. This album is a career-defining effort though and was a huge victory lap for the band at the end of the decade.
As I’ve said, this is the album I played over and over again and that set my music fandom off the scale. I had been following along with music for several years before as a young tourist, but with Dr. Feelgood I became obsessed and had to have more. My own course would go every which way and much heavier as 1991 loomed on the horizon but this album is near the top of a list of the most important albums to me. It kickstarted me into the path I’m still on today, with piles of music in multiple formats and the thing I spend a great deal of my time discussing.