Saturday, October 30, 2010

Rocktober Album #21: Mötley Crüe - Dr. Feelgood (1989)

This will be the last Rocktober post of 2010. Stay tuned Monday for Oh No!-vember, a daily look at history's most tragically hilarious around-the-house accidents, starting with Bo Diaz.

We ended Rocktober with Mötley Crüe last year, so why not make it an annual tradition? Mötley Crüe's Behind the Music set the archetype for Behind the Musics to come. They worked hard to get discovered, made it big, indulged in excesses beyond your wildest imagination, fell on hard times with drugs and alcohol, got clean and sober, and then rocked harder than they've ever rocked before.

Dr. Feelgood came in at that last stage. The band had gone through significant drug and alcohol problems. Bassist and main songwriter Nikki Sixx had to be resuscitated after a heroin overdose in December 1987. In 1984, lead singer Vince Neil was driving his Ferrari drunk when he hit another car, resulting in the death of the passenger in his car, Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle Dingley, for which he was sentenced to 30 days in jail (and served 18). Things had gotten so bad by 1987/1988 that the band's managers held an intervention for the band and refused to let them tour Europe.

After that, the band got sober, and sobriety treated them well. They wrote their most successful and strongest record, Dr. Feelgood, and hired now-legendary Bob Rock to produce it. It came out in September 1989 (right at the beginning of sixth grade for me), and it hit #1 on the Billboard album charts and stayed on the charts for 109 weeks. It was the band's first (and only) #1 album, and it was their only album to crack the top 10 in the UK. It spawned five Billboard Top 100 songs, including four Top 40 songs, and the band's only two Top 10 hits: "Dr. Feelgood" (#6); "Without You" (#8); "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)" (#19); "Kickstart My Heart" (#27); and "Same Ol' Situation (S.O.S.)" (#78). In addition, they band had a pretty solid who's who of rock and roll singing backing vocals throughout the album. I'll make a note of where that happens when I'm discussing each song (other than Bob Rock, who sings backing vocals on several songs).

For me, it's one of those albums that helped shape my musical tastes and that I have very fond memories of. I got it relatively soon after it came out, and I thought it was awesome (and still do). I remember sitting in airports, listening to this on my Walkman™ and flipping out the liner notes so that every hot chick would know that I was listening to Mötley Crüe. I have a Dr. Feelgood poster (see image to the left) I got at the LaGrange Endless Summerfest in 1990 or 1991 that I will never let Jessie throw away.

The version I now have is the 2003 remastered version with five bonus tracks, which is apparently no longer in production. Unfortunately, several of the songs (including all of the bonus tracks) are not on

1. T.nT. (Terror 'n Tinseltown)
This is a short instrumental intro that sets the tone for the album.

2. Dr. Feelgood
The title track is a raunchy, streetwise hard rock song about a drug dealer named Jimmy (aka Dr. Feelgood). The song kicks off with a great bass riff and pounding drums, and then Mick Mars comes in with kind of an eerie guitar before the song kicks into gear with Mars's riff. I've always liked this song. Even though I was far from the coke-dealing scene in Hollywood in the late '80s, I've always thought the story the song tells is a good one. And then there are those demonic, unintelligible ramblings during the bridge, which always added some intrigue. VH1 ranked it the 15th best hard rock song of all-time.

3. Slice of Your Pie
When you're 12, you don't really understand overt sexual metaphors, so I assumed when Vince Neil sang "order me up another slice of your pie," he was in some sort of Sunset Strip diner. He might very well have been, but he wasn't talking about pie. This song is another ballsy, raunchy rock song. It starts off with a bluesy acoustic intro and then kicks into the main riff. If the ending riff sounds familiar, it's because it was taken from The Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy)." Steven Tyler sings backing vocals on this song. Perhaps that's why there's a lyric "baby blow up my fuse when you walk this way."

4. Rattlesnake Shake
Not to be confused with the Skid Row song of the same name, this is also one of those songs whose metaphorical meaning was lost on me when I got the tape. Then again, my dick has never rattled, so maybe it is actually about snakes. It's not. What it is, however, is a nice little hard rock song. This is also one of only two songs on the album written by all four band members.

5. Kickstart My Heart
This is the song legends are made of, or, actually, it's the other way around: this is the song made from a legend. As you may or may not know, bassist and main songwriter Nikki Sixx had a bit of a heroin problem back in the '80s. He did something most junkies don't normally allow: he let someone else fix him. The resulting heroin injection killed him, quite literally. He was dead for several minutes, had an out-of-body experience, and was shocked back to life by two shots of adrenaline. They kickstarted his heart. Of course, after he left the hospital, he went home and cooked himself up a nice fat needle, but eventually he got clean and he wrote this song. I would put this up there as one of the top five Mötley Crüe songs. It starts off with that wicked motorcycle-sounding guitar riff, then just busts balls after that. Mick Mars's frantic guitars really drive the song. I've always loved the line "And I'd say we're still kicking ass." Yes, you are.

6. Without You
The hair band that invented the monster ballad (see 1983's "Home Sweet Home") showed off their softer side on "Without You." It's a little drastic. The last line is "With you in my life / You're the reason I'm alive / But without you, without you." The thought isn't finished, but it presupposes death.

7. Same Ol' Situation (S.O.S.)
This is my favorite Mötley Crüe song. It starts off running, and it's just catchy as hell. The riff throughout the verses is a fantastic hook. I love the line "Now, I used to call her Cindy / She changed her name to Cin / I guess that's the name of her game." Even at age 12, I thought a cellophane dress sounded pretty cool. The song is just so happily raucous. Why did grunge have to ruin this for everyone? Night Ranger's Jack Blades sings backing vocals on this song. This is also the other song on the album written by all four band members.

8. Sticky Sweet
This is another one of those songs dripping with sexual metaphors. It's another great, raunchy hard rock song. Singing backing vocals are Tyler, Blades, and Bryan Adams.

9. She Goes Down
I have no idea how I didn't know what this meant when I got the tape. This doesn't even try to be subtle. Hell, there's a zipper sound and a woman laughing naughtily at the beginning of the song. Then again I was 12, and I though a blowjob was when a woman blew on your dick. I had no idea what either party would get out of this, but I still knew it was something that I wasn't going to ask my current girlfriend to do. Anywho, I dumped her before I had the chance, moved onto another girl I wouldn't ask, and then started an unprecedented dry spell with women that would last until my freshman year of college. I don't -- and would never -- blame Mötley Crüe for this drought. Cheap Trick's Robin Zander and Rick Nielsen sing backing vocals on this one.

10. Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)
This is another great song. I sing the chorus of this song, repeatedly, to Jessie whenever we get into a fight, and it usually ends up with her putting her hands on her hips, smiling coyly, and saying, "What am I gonna do with you?" Then I look at the camera, shrug sheepishly, and smile. Then we ride our motorcycles up the coast to play pool with our friends. The line "Too young to fall in love / Guess I knew it all along" is a reference to "Too Young to Fall in Love" off of the band's 1983 album Shout At The Devil (reviewed masterfully by me last Rocktober).

11. Time for Change
This appears to be the Crüe's social consciousness song, written about what Sixx felt plagued society at the time. Unfortunately, it can be seen in retrospect as an ominous foreshadowing of the grunge movement ("Change / Now it's time for change / Nothing stays the same / Now it's time for change"). Fucking dirty, depressed, plaid-wearing assholes. Sebastian Bach sings backing vocals on this song.

12. Dr. Feelgood (demo)
This is one of the few times that a demo version of a song isn't just a shittier version of the real song. This version of "Dr. Feelgood" has almost entirely different lyrics. The verses are different and it's sung from a first-person perspective ("I'm the one they call Dr. Feelgood."). I think the final version is better, but this one is definitely an interesting look into what the song had previously been.

13. Without You (demo)
The demo version is not great.

14. Kickstart My Heart (demo)
This version is also not as good as the final version. It sounds like a true demo -- a rougher, less polished version of what the song would become.

15. Get It For Free
I love a good bonus song, and this is a good bonus song. This song is raunchy, with crunchy guitars and innuendo-laden lyrics. It could very well have made it onto the album.

16. Time for Change (demo)
This version is a little more gothic than the final version, or at least that's what it sounds like to me. The organs are a little more pronounced. The backing vocals are also a little wilder.

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