Pomp it Up: On the wild side with Motley Crue – Pueblo Chieftain

Jon Pompia|The Pueblo Chieftain

In my 1979 Ford Mustang beset with more problems than a calculus syllabus,there was a cassette stereo that, most appropriately, never functioned properly either.

In fact, the eject button eventually went kaput, which resulted in Motley Crue's seminal release "Shout at the Devil" taking up residence for myentire junior year of college.

In hindsight, the only worthwhile memory associated with that bucket of bolts.

Until I heard that 1983 hard/glam rock masterpiece, I always considered the band's first release, "Too Fast for Love," to be the greatest thing since Anita Ekberg in Fellini's La Dolce Vita."

But hearing "Shout at the Devil" on an endless loop fully revealed the dark and glorious beauty, and ferocious hunger, of this upstart band of misfits from the heart of Hollywood.

And coupled with the aforementioned"Too Fast for Love," "Shout" set in motion an unbreakable obsession with the band, especially lead Crue-ster Nikki Sixx, whom I considered the coolest and most talented cat to ever walk the Sunset Strip in 7-inch heels.

"Im sure there are much biggerMotleyCrue fans out there, but I have been a pretty big one for as long as i can remember," said Matt Centner, an account executive for Effectv, and president of Southern Colorado Press Club as well as the board of the Greater Pueblo Chamber of Commerce.

"My guess, since I was 7 years old: hearing 'Girls, Girls, Girls' for the first time when that album came out."

Although I only caught the Crue in concert once, a not particularly memorable stop on the "Carnival of Sins" caravan, Matt hit the "Crue Trifecta" in 2005:all three Colorado shows in less than a month.

"Add a few more shows over the years, and even the two Vince Neil solo shows at the Colorado State Fair when the band took a break, and I have probably seen this band more times than any other I can think of," he said.

In narrowing the wide Crue song field to 10, Matt said he began to "break down songs and albums, it became much more difficult than I expected: so many great songs. But its a top 10 list, so here it goes, in noparticular order."


MATT: The title track to the1983 release, this is usually the one that kicks off the show. That Vince Neil is still able to hit the high notes, even close to 40 years later, is phenomenal. Add in the crowd engagement and chants of shout, shout, shout and this is a solid hit to start the list.

JON: Staking a claim as the greatest kickoff to an album ever, this menacing but insanely catchy ode to resistance is, without a doubt, one of the top five MC songs of all time. The "devil," in case you are wondering, was reportedly Ronald Wilson Reagan, whom Nikki Sixx was convinced was the Antichrist as prophesized in scripture. That's reason alone to love this masterwork.


MATT:One of my first introductions toMotleyCrue, this has awesome guitar riffs from Mick Mars from the get go and powerful drumming by Tommy Lee. To me, this is probably Tonny's best drumming performance.We can never forget the spinning drum set, with Tommy playing upside down. Of course, the personal highlight of this song as a 7-year old was the line Kicking (expletive)on the Wild Side." Love this song.

JON: After the lackluster "Theatre of Pain" album, the Kings of L.A. returned with something to prove. Like "Shout" and before it "Live Wire," "Wild Side" is the ideal start to a record chock full of meatytunes. The ferociousness of the main lick is complemented by gritty, and some might way blasphemous,lyrics I consider to be among the best Sixx ever penned.


MATT: Slowing it down a bit from the traditional hard hitting sound. "Home Sweet Home" was a song I blasted making trips home from college or after being away for awhile. Vince'sfocus and Mick'sguitar carry most ofsong, but Tommy'spiano playing was a new sound for the band. This track off 1985's "Theatre of Pain" iscertainly the best original song off the album. It even came back to life to close out the movie Hot Tub Time Machine.

JON: Fantastic on the first couple of spins, but overplaying, especially on MTV, and overhyping killed it for me. I know "Theatre of Pain" has taken its licks from critics and record buyers alike, but I maintain that it does host one truly great Crue track, the overlooked "City Boy Blues." Driven by a swaggering lick and loose groove worthy of Keith Richards, this cut boasts another batch of killer lyrics that prove Sixx was the Charles Bukowski of his day.


MATT:My first track off 1989's "Dr. Feelgood" continues the ballad-type style but with a little more energy than some of the "lighter-waving" songs. In the era of music videos, this was a good one.

JON: I know "Dr. Feelgood" sold millions and exposed MC to a whole new legion of fans, butfor the most part, I find it much too poppy and commercially contrived. Sure, the title track and "Kickstart My Heart" are the bee's knees, but the rest strays too far from the Sunset Strip depravity that served as the band's benchmark. Instead, I'm going with "Looks that Kill," which follows "Shout" on the album, giving that disc a one-two punch that levels any pretenders to the hard/glam rock throne. Arguably, the most notable example of "riff rock," with that inescapable three-chord main passage giving way to a plethora of similarly engaging passages.


MATT: Sticking with arguably the best album ever fromMotleyCrue, this track was a bridge from traditional hair band-type rock to a harder style, before the grudge era took over. Written by Nikki and Mick, as were most Crue songs, this boasts another powerful drumming performance and consistently great riffs. One of MotleyCrues top five songs, ever.

JON: The opening guitar chug that leads into the main riff remains as colossally epic as The Big Bang itself. This track oozes attitude, but like the best of the Crue's output, is accessible, memorable and fun. As this was to appear on my list, I will use the opportunity to single out the excitable ferocity of "Piece of Your Action," a highlight of the debut "Too Fast for Love." Like "Take Me To the Top" from that same disc, "Piece" is cut straight from the less glamorous side of Hollywood that birthed the quartet.


MATT: Even on a greatest hits album,MotleyCrue still finds a way to produce new hits. Off the "Decade of Decadence" compilation from 1991, "Primal Scream" showed thatthe Crue could continue to deliver hits: even when all of their hits are on the same album.

JON: A solid track to be sure, as are the covers of "Teaser" and "Anarchy on the U.K." also found on "Decade." But I'm going to venture off the main part of the Sunset Strip onto a back alley not often visited by true Crue fans: the "Motley Crue" disc from 1994 that featured John Corabi, rather than Vince Neil, on vocals. Although all but lost to history, that self titled albumboasts a first-rate hard charger in the form of "Hooligan's Holiday:" Like "Hell on High Heels" from the also overlooked "New Tattoo" record, the powerfully raw "Hooligan's Holiday" is a track that demands a revisit.


MATT: This one is a no-brainer for a Top 10 list: the song and video that truly putMotleyCrue on the mainstream map in 1987. Along with "Wild Side," this was one of my earliest memories ofMotleyCrue. I remember going to the local restaurant/bar in my hometown with my parents. The owner cranked it up on the jukebox and I was hooked. The motorcycles revving up to kick the song off showed more of the attitudeMotleyCrue has when they deliver hits

JON: One of the Crue songs that even non-Crue fans especially patrons of adults-only cabarets know, this one is indeed an obvious selection. Which is why I'm returning to 1983 and what I consider to be one of the band's greatest achievements, "Too Young to Fall in Love." The pop hit that never was you can probably blame the flaming pentagrams and band's satanic aura for that this is metal with a bite, heart and a melody that digs in for the long haul.


MATT: Back to "Dr. Feelgood," and not for the last time, "S.O.S" showcased more of Vince's powerful vocals. In what would seem to most to be a simple video of a band performing live in front of the crowd, it added a few extra elements such as the rising drum set, which you would see at a Crue concert. But to wrap it up, they added in, as a tribute,the spinning video camera to catch all of the fans and get their reactions.

JON: Right or wrong, I always see "Dr. Feelgood" as a move into the mainstream, which is about the time I lose interest. Chalk it up to sobriety, as the band was reportedly off all the illicit substances that characterized the early days and, in my opinion, superior songcraft. From 1983,"Danger" is as fitting an album closer as "Shout" is an opener. A dark and foreboding street serenade, "Danger" unfolds like an autobiographical expose of the dangerous underbelly of Hollywood, "my town," in the words of Sixx. This is the sound of a young and hungry band, with production and atmospherethat, in my estimation, was never topped.


MATT: "What?"Im sure this is what many of you are thinking, but I had to go with a recent hit due to the fact thatMotleyCrue went through a rough patch between 1992 and 2003. So when the band decided to get back together and plan a tour, they released an anthology album, "Red, White and Crue." This included all the hits one would expect,including ones thatdidn't make "Decade of Decadence." Well it wouldnt beMotleyCrue without adding a couple more hits to the mix, and "If I Die Tomorrow" was the ballad hit we hadnt had since "Dr. Feelgood."

JON: Admittedly, I had to track this down for what turned out to be my first listen.It's not a bad song, but not memorable enough to be considered one of the top 10. What does belong in this spot, however, is a tossup. So take your pick from "Starry Eyes," "Red Hot," "Dancing on Glass," "Louder than Hell," "Knock Em Dead Kid," "Afraid" or "Kickstart My Heart."


MATT: My final selection isa hard-hitting song that turned out to be one of the bigger stadium/arena sports anthems you hear at events: especially a Colorado Avalanche hockey game. So much power and energy, it's impossible to not get pumped up when this song comes on the radio or at an arena near you.

JON: For me, there is no other song to cap a list than the one that started the black leather and eyeliner revolution. Not only does "Live Wire" start the "Too Fast for Love" album, it effectively kicked off MC's career and my ongoing fascination with these street savvy hitmakers. I know this is a key track in the biopic "The Dirt," but I wouldn't know, because I have no real desire to see it. After reading "The Dirt," the book on which the Netflix piece is based, I was thoroughly disappointed, because many of the juiciest and wildest stories I recalled from obsessively pouring over "Circus," "Creem," "Hit Parader," "Kerrang" and other bibles of mayhem, didn't even make the book.

Chieftain reporter Jon Pompia can be reached by email at jpompia@chieftain.com or at twitter.com/jpompia.

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Pomp it Up: On the wild side with Motley Crue - Pueblo Chieftain

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