A Salute To Mick Mars

A very quick post today, I booted what I had originally planned in order to address this.

Just a few days ago, it was officially announced that Mick Mars would no longer tour with Motley Crüe. Mick is still a member of the band, but due to his long-running health issues, he is bowing out of the planned 2023 world tour and future speculated touring activities, which include a possible Las Vegas residency.

This news is not sudden – the rumor mill was churning for awhile that Mick would step aside as the touring guitarist, and his replacement was already named. And last night that news came to official light – John 5, a long time collaborator with Rob Zombie and with a resume that includes David Lee Roth and other luminaries, will be assuming the mantle of Crüe guitarist.

Mick joined the group very early on after Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee had something going. Mick was a few years older than the rest, hell the dude is 71 now (at least). He has been the sole guitar player for the band in all their existence – while both Vince Neil and John Corabi have contributed on the instrument, the guitar in Crüe is purely a Mick Mars experience. Mick is one of the band’s two constant members, along with Nikki.

Mick’s retirement is well-earned. His guitar work set the stage for what would become a pioneering act in 1980’s metal. And even when certain albums didn’t offer the best we thought the group had, we often fell back to “at least Mick is going off on this stuff.” On their most filler of filler tracks, there was still Mick giving it his all and making his playing the highlight of the song.

Mick has fought a decades-long battle with Ankylosing spondylitis, a serious condition that affects the spine. While this issue is the cause of Mick’s retirement today, it was also the catalyst for the band’s reunion of the original line-up in the early 2000’s. It’s no secret that certain members of the band don’t get along with each other, but “doing it for Mick” got everyone on the same page enough to get out rocking again in the way the fans wanted.

And don’t forget this point – the four members of the band decided to tour on four separate busses when they got back together. While one part of that might have been to mitigate the tension between people, one other reason for it was so Mick could have access to the care he needed.

It is a sad day that Mick can’t continue on. But he is still with us, and hopefully life away from the road will afford him the care and comfort to live in a satisfying way. It’s been an honor to have Motley Crüe around all these years, and Mick is a huge part of what made the music work. And maybe there will be some new studio music that Mick can contribute to that will give some new Crüe memories for the faithful.

Thanks for everything, and may your days be filled with peace.

Album Rankings – Motley Crüe

I’m going to debut a new series today, though it’s one that might not stick around in written form for too long. My original intent was to do these as videos but time to make them proves ever-elusive, and I’m tired of sitting on this content that I originally compiled a year ago.

This will be just as the title says – album rankings of a band’s discography. My rankings aren’t based on any scores, though I do intend to go back through and score each album later on. I prefer to do the rankings based on other factors and then see how differently things come out later based on scoring. There are other factors that can influence where to rank an album that doesn’t reflect in a score, and this first one will give a vivid example of that.

I’m starting out with Motley Crüe – nine total studio albums and it’s a fair shot that this is their final discography. Doesn’t matter either way, let’s get to the rankings. Of course we run from worst to first as most any sane person’s rankings do.

#9 – Generation Swine

The 1997 reunion with Vince Neil did not deliver anything I found worthwhile. I didn’t like the album when I first heard it and last year I played it for the first time since the ’90’s. I was expecting to take to more of the album this time, or at least find some songs I could call quality. I did not. There’s just nothing here I can get into and I don’t really know what they were doing here.

#8 – Theatre Of Pain

I talked about this one awhile back and I didn’t have much nice to say about it. A few songs I thought were really good, a few that were ok but lifeless production and a lot of filler make for a fairly miserable listening experience.

#7 – New Tattoo

This 2000 offering was the only Crüe record not to feature Tommy Lee. It was a pretty good return to form album, it got back to basics and offered up some good cuts. It is consistent throughout but it doesn’t have, to me, any truly breakout or defining moments. It’s a high-floor, low-ceiling kind of thing. But from here and for the rest of the list we’re talking about albums I can enjoy listening to.

#6 – Girls, Girls, Girls

The 1987 album was a success for the band and was certainly better than its predecessor. It has one of the best tracks they’ve ever done in Wild Side (already an S-Tier song), a great title track, and honestly several other songs that I found better than I remembered them to be. Its production wasn’t great but there was a lot more to like here than on that prior one.

#5 – Motley Crüe

The 1994 self-titled effort spelled the end of the band as we knew them up to this point. Vince Neil had been fired and was replaced by John Corabi. The sound was something apart from the band’s prior output but it is still well-executed and has some great moments. It’s a record that gets (I think) unfairly maligned for not having Vince, though I can understand the sound is a departure from what we were used to.

#4 – Saints Of Los Angeles

The band’s final album from 2008. It seems to be a bit overlooked, from my standing this is a fantastic album and I don’t know why people didn’t give it more of a chance. This is the sound that I thought the band would get into after hearing Primal Scream in 1991. And it’s the band not giving a damn about radio play and just saying whatever they want, it’s truly Crüe uncensored. The grit and attitude just drip from this album. If this is what happens when Sixx AM bandmates write Motley Crüe records, then do more of it.

#3 – Too Fast For Love

The debut that kicked off a whole damn scene in Los Angeles and the official beginning of this crazy band. This is raw, ferocious and just great music. Not a weak track in the bunch. There honestly isn’t much more for me to say about it – it’s just a damn great record.

#2 – Dr. Feelgood

The Crüe closed out the ’80’s in style with their biggest success. A honed and polished affair saw several huge singles and perhaps their best song ever with Kickstart My Heart. While many bands were feeling the end of the hair metal train, this group rode into the ’90’s in style.

As for why this one ranks so high, I covered the reasons when it was the Album of the Week. It was the album that flipped a switch for me and made me massively obsessed with music. It’s a super important album in my listening history and there was a strong argument that this should be number one. But…

#1 – Shout At The Devil

Their second album is just unbeatable. This is packed from top to bottom with fantastic songs and some of the best moments of the band’s career. This stuff is loud, heavy and dangerous and the band gained massive notoriety from both the music and the album imagery. Nothing here misses or is even of a lower cut than the rest, even the cover of Helter Skelter fits both musically and image-wise.

That does it for my first-ever edition of album rankings. Let me know where you agree or disagree in the comments. It might be a minute before my next round, depending on who I choose to go with.

When The Line-up Changes – Motley Crue

One big part of being a music fan is enduring line-up changes. Bands break up or members quit or get fired. Other times it is tragedy that forces a band member change. Sometimes the change is not even very noteworthy – person x is in place of person y behind the drums of that thrash band that’s good but no one is up in arms about. But other times the line-up change is world-shaking and causes intense amounts of speculation and drama.

Numerous line-up changes have occurred over the years in bands I like and listen to. I’m going to begin a new series where I look at changes that have had a great impact on the band in question and my fandom of said band. There are enough of these that I can go on about them for quite awhile.

For my first look at a band’s member changes I’m going to look at Motley Crüe. The group have only had a few member changes but one especially was a nuclear bomb that changed the course of the group immeasurably.

Motley Crüe had no lineup changes for 11 years, only having jettisoned a second guitar player before the band was named. The same line-up of singer Vince Neil, bassist Nikki Sixx, guitarist Mick Mars and drummer Tommy Lee would go on to terrorize radio, hotel rooms and women for over a decade unscathed.

While 1991 saw a new form of rock overtake hair metal as the new format of choice, Motley Crüe were one of a few 80’s bands that seemed poised to make it through the mess with a career still intact. The group released a greatest hits compilation in October 1991 called Decade Of Decadence that offered highlights from the group’s career. It also feature a scorching, heavy as hell new track Primal Scream. That song gave the appearance that the band could regroup and offer a more gritty, heaver version of their sound that might still resonate in the new music climate. Decade sold well and Primal Scream was a much-talked about song in the Crüe legacy.

But it wasn’t to be. In February 1992, the band announced that Vince Neil was departing. It’s still unclear if he quit or was fired – the consensus seems to be that both happened. Either way, the Crüe were now in uncharted waters.

Neil went on to record two decently received yet commercially unsuccessful solo albums, while his former band hired The Scream mainman John Corabi to helm a new record. 1994’s Motley Crüe came out the gate decently enough but then floundered. The band would see the financial writing on the wall and reunite with Vince in 1997 for the equally unsuccessful and, well, bad Generation Swine.

So what was it like at the time? The music landscape was shifting, of course, but it was still a bit of a shock that Motley Crüe were parting like this. Like I said, they seemed like they might be able to crank out something viable to keep up with the times. Primal Scream had a fair bit of grit to it and the band were certainly capable of delivering above the standard hair metal line. As much ink has been spilled about the changing face of rock in the early 90’s, recall that one of the best-selling groups of those years were Aerosmith. Even with the arrival of grunge and alt-rock, there was room for Motley Crüe.

The singer change in 1992 was one that just did not bear fruit. Yes, John Corabi is an excellent musician. The band updated their sound for the times and let Corabi inform their recording, and honestly that was probably too much. They made a record that sounds great with John but it really just isn’t Motley Crüe. It didn’t have the sneer and sleaze that defined the band up to that point – the early indications in 1991 were that the classic outfit could update their own sound. The self-titled record proved too much for fans to bear, even if the album is good or even excellent in its own right.

The band was knocked off course through the 90’s and wouldn’t get right again for quite some time. Their other major line-up change would come in 1999, just after the failure of Generation Swine. Drummer Tommy Lee, by this time far more of a tabloid star than a rock drummer, would leave the band due to frustrations with Vince Neil. And if you heard the dredge that Lee released as a solo artist, he must have been very angry to leave his signature band behind and release that crap.

Lee was replaced in Crüe by former Ozzy Osbourne skinsman Randy Castillo, who helped the group record 2000’s New Tattoo. Castillo was beset by health problems before the tour began and was replaced by Hole drummer Samantha Maloney. Castillo would unfortunately find himself in a losing battle with cancer, passing away in 2002.

New Tattoo was a better offering than their prior effort but did not move the needle for the band. In 2004 the group decided to put their differences aside and reunite. This time the classic line-up would stick for eight years, through a new album and several tours. The tours attracted a lot of attention and the band would ride a wave through to their “retirement” at the close of 2015. Of course they would famously reunite for a 2020 2021 2022 stadium tour several years later.

In most line-up changes I can accept whatever caused the rift or loss and I can set my feelings aside and allow a band to move on. But in the case of Motley Crüe it just didn’t work out with Corabi. The band seem fine ignoring the time period – Nikki Sixx had long been complimentary of the Corabi period but recently turned on his former collaborator in interviews. The songs from that era are left alone in live sets and the album doesn’t even get the reissue treatment.

Motley Crüe the album probably ought to see a revisit. I have no problem citing its worth, though I can see why so many fans turned on the band. But enough others hail it as one of the band’s best and would cough up the necessary cash for the much-needed repress. Hell, the other two albums from the band’s “dark” period could also see new issues – neither was ever officially pressed on vinyl.

But Motley Crüe seem to be happy to retrofit their career to 1981-1991, and 2004-2022. It’s probably a wise choice given the poor reception to the line-up change despite the merits of the replacement singer. It’s the case of one band where line-up changes didn’t work out. The Tommy Lee departure in 1999 might not have been terribly impactful – by then the damage had already been done. And they’re the only line-up changes the band has had in its history. Sometimes a group has to stick with what works, and that is certainly the case with Motley Crüe.

Album Of The Week – March 28, 2022

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.

Dr. Feelgood

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.

Rattlesnake Shake

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.

Without You

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.

Sticky Sweet

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.

S-Tier Songs, Vol. 5

In 1987 rock was king and it had hair. Everyone was on board the hair train – every new band, no matter their actual sound, made sure their luscious locks were on prominent display in press photos and videos. Many old guard rockers, such as Heart, joined in on the hair party. Rock some tunes, get some huge hair, and cash the royalty checks.

And in 1987, the four people most chiefly responsible for starting the whole hair mess arrived with a new album. Motley Crue returned with Girls, Girls, Girls as a way to reclaim a bit of glory after their prior effort Theatre Of Pain was commercially successful yet critically panned. The album was a success and the band continued their hot streak through the end of the decade they helped define.

For everything on that record, one song stands out as among the very best tunes Crue recorded. The album’s opener Wild Side did not see an official release as a single, but a crazy MTV video put the song in the spotlight and the song became a sensation.

It is Wild Side that I’ve chosen as the next entry to my list of S-Tier Songs. For an explanation of what S-Tier songs are and the list as it stands today, head here.

Motley Crue – Wild Side

In the late 80’s where the formula for success was hard rockers about sex and ballads about sex, Motley Crue showed back up to add a grittier edge to the sound of their own doing. The band started heavier and nastier than the scene they helped forge, and on Wild Side they returned to explore the sleazier side of life.

The song is a hard hitter, going straight for the throat with a great riff and some pounding drums. Motley Crue were never technical masters of their instruments but when they wrote a great song it was unmistakable. Wild Side is signature Crue and it stands with the other staples of their set, and towards the top of it.

The song lyrically explores the seedier side of life. It’s something often left out of the polish and shine of 80’s rock – everyone was so busy glizting up the Sunset Strip that people forgot how screwed up Los Angeles really was. But this band, one who was billed as the most dangerous in the world, reminded everyone what life on the streets could really be like.

And yeah, they really were dangerous – sadly they were a danger to themselves and others.

The heralded video showcased a live performance replete with Tommy Lee going upside-down on a crazy drum rig. The stunt was a huge talking point that helped spread word about the song and also cemented the band’s reputation as over the top and crazy.

Why is this an S-Tier song?

Wild Side is a kick ass banger that is widely considered one of the band’s best songs. It stood apart from the muddled rock scene of the later 1980’s and re-established some of the grittier edge to Motley Crue. It might not be hard to stand out from the hair rock pack when you drew the blueprints for it, but the band’s return to a harder sound was timely as the Sunset Strip was about to give birth to a dangerous new band who would directly challenge the Crue for the top spot as the king of the rock hill.

I’m not at a point yet where I would take the time to rank individual Motley Crue songs but Wild Side is an easy top 3 for me. It’s one of the real gems in their catalog and it stood out from the crowd as 80’s hair metal excess began to swamp the scene.