It’s that time of week again! Time for me to raid my CD collection and ramble passionately about the work of another big-haired-leather-trouser-wearing band. It was a year ago last week that I saw Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe (with the fabulous Steel Panther, of course) in their joint-headliner tour, and as I looked at a Def Leppard album last week it seems only fair that I sandwich that gig anniversary (gigiversary?) by looking at a Mötley Crüe album this week, especially as tomorrow is Nikki Sixx’s birthday. So, again similarly to last week, I’ve chosen an album which, like Def Leppard’s Hysteria, is also celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary – Girls, Girls, Girls.
Firstly, I’d like to point out that the main song writing credit for this album belongs to bassist and bad boy Nikki Sixx, and I absolutely recommend that everyone reads his fabulous book The Heroin Diaries, which are his real diaries from some of the darkest days of his heroin addiction in 1987, written during the writing, recording and touring of this album. Seriously, go and read it. I’m not kidding, it’s absolutely bloody brilliant and totally fascinating, a real insight into the worlds of showbiz and addiction which so often seem to go hand in hand.
Anyway. If I had to sum up the sound of Girls, Girls, Girls for new Crüeheads, I’d have to use the rather clichéd but ever so apt phrase: sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. The lyrics are rather on the occasionally risqué and often blunt side, and the general sound of the guitars with driving riffs and a bit of distortion sounds downright filthy. If it made sense to describe music as sounding predatory, I would use that description here. It’s all sort of growly and punchy and gritty and I love it, and I know I’m losing a lot of coherence here, but generally it’s all a bit grrr!
The title track Girls, Girls, Girls was the first single from the album, and is probably one of their most well known songs. It’s written about a subject dear to the Crüe boys’ hearts – strip clubs! Loads of famous strip joints are referenced, and the cheeky video features a fair few of the hired girls showing off their moves. Okay, so encouraging women to strip is not exactly the best message in the world, and I’m sure people could see it as being pretty disrespectful or immoral or whatever, but I can’t be getting too bogged down with all that stuff because actually, it’s a really catchy song and it’s damn fun to boogie to, with or without your clothes. As is a familiar feature, the rhythm and guitars sound altogether dirty, and there’s some fun motorbike revving at the start. The guys sound like they’re having a great time (which is plain to see in the video), and it does always put a smile on my face. Basically, it’s a pretty good formula for a song. Check out the video if you want to see some partying strippers and some pretty excited rockstars, all doing their stuff to one hell of a tune.
The second single Wild Side is one of my favourite Crue songs. Again, there’s a down and dirty, meaty riff, a pounding rhythm and, believe it or not, a revolving drum cage! (Tommy Lee has since built up to a sort of rollercoaster drum ring in which he hangs upside down and loops round a big metal frame, with a fan from the audience. It’s amazing no one’s thrown up on it yet!) Lyrics wise it’s a bit more serious than some light hearted stripping, and is focused on crime and general street danger. It’s a huge fan favourite and works really well live, which is pretty handy as trusty Wikipedia has informed me that it has never been left off the set list since its release in 1987. To see Tommy’s revolving drum cage and Vince Neil prancing in the style of David Lee Roth, check out the video.
The final single, You’re All I Need, is a little different in that it’s a beautiful and haunting sounding ballad which, when you listen to the lyrics, is actually about a man killing his girlfriend. The video was originally banned from MTV because of the subject matter, although the video itself is not at all explicit, and yet it shows that love songs don’t all have to be sweet and fluffy to make a lovely (although admittedly hardcore) ballad. It’s got some gorgeous sounding piano from Tommy Lee and some beautiful harmonising, and demonstrates Vince Neil’s ability to really sing melodies as well as growl his way through the grittier tracks. It’s the sort of tune that will really get stuck in your head. The lyrics are a bit chilling at times, although I found the line “we finally made the news” more affecting than the lyrics about death and murder. Check out the video complete with fading face imagery in all its black and white power ballad glory.
The other tracks include a sweet one and a half minute long song called Nona, written by Nikki Sixx in tribute to his grandmother Nona after she passed away. The only lyrics are “Nona, I’m out of my head without you”, with some lovely strings and some nice harmonising. Five Years Dead reminds me quite a lot of Girls, Girls, Girls, but focuses on the ‘bad boy lifestyle’ and criminal underbelly of LA. The specifically ‘Crüe-style bad boy’ image is the subject of the aptly named Bad Boy Boogie, featuring the lyrics “Better lock up your daughters when the Motleys hit the road/ we do the bad boy boogie/ bad is bad” and the innuendo-laden “I got my finger in the pie/ my hand in the cookie jar/ it’s just a lick and a promise in the back seat of my car.” A little bit cheeky, a little bit naughty, but decidedly less dubious lyrics than those of All in the Name of… which begin “she’s only fifteen, she’s the reason that I can’t sleep/ you say illegal/ I say legal’s never been my scene.” Hmm. Like I said, this is an album of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, and dodgy underage lyrics aside, this is stomping rock ‘n’ roll. There’s more sex in Sumthin’ for Nuthin’ with its snazzy snippets of twiddly guitar (I’m sure that’s a technical term), and more drugs in Dancing on Glass, which actually seems rather poignant if you’re familiar with Nikki Sixx’s The Heroin Diaries. (Seriously, go and read it. I won’t tell you again! It’s absolutely bloody brilliant and is bound to feature on The Steel Review in a slot all of its own, so you might as well get ahead and read it now).
Once again, in all of these songs Mick Mars and Nikki Sixx provide a really gritty guitar/bass combo over Tommy Lee’s thumping drum rhythms – the whole sound of Motley Crue just seems so distinctive, and not just because Vince Neil has quite a recognisable voice. They make it quite clear that they know exactly the kind of sound they’re going for, and they stick with it because it works so well. Maybe it’s because Nikki’s largely responsible for all the song writing, and the consistency of this gives the general sound quite a uniform feel. The songs are all so distinctly Mötley Crüe, and yet they’re not all necessarily so distinct from each other. That’s not to say it doesn’t work though, on the plus side it means that the album sounds really consistent and cohesive, and it feels as if the album has been created with the whole in mind rather than individual songs. Obviously there are stand out tracks though, as I’ve already shown.
Finally, the album ends (unless you have the remastered 2003 edition of course, with a few demos and live tracks) with a live cover of Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Rock. This is a pretty fitting song choice if you know anything at all about the boys of Motley Crue and their various jail stints over the years, so it comes across as a bit tongue in cheek, which I’m pretty sure is deliberate. It’s such a feel good song to end on, because you can hear the audience having an absolute ball and joining in, and it doesn’t half make me wish I was there! It cranks the energy levels right up, before ending the show (and the album) with a shouted “We’re Motley Crue… see ya!” I reckon it’s a pretty good high to end the album, and for that matter this review, on. So, on that note, this has been The Steel Review… see ya!
Track listing: 1) Wild Side, 2) Girls, Girls, Girls, 3) Dancing on Glass, 4) Bad Boy Boogie, 5) Nona, 6) Five Years Dead, 7) All in the Name of…, 8) Sumthin’ for Nuthin’, 9) You’re All I Need, 10) Jailhouse Rock (Live).