I wasn’t a big Motley Crüe fan when they first hit the scene. I don’t remember hearing anything off their first album, and thought a few tunes off of their second effort, Shout At The Devil, were pretty good. I didn’t really pay a whole lot of attention to them until I saw the video for Smokin’ In The Boys Room off of their third album, Theater of Pain. The video was amusing and that’s what drew me in. Then they released Home Sweet Home and it stayed in heavy rotation on MTV, claiming the top spot on the Dial MTV call-in request show for a solid three months.
By the time Girls, Girls, Girls rolled off the presses in May of 1987 they were a pretty big deal. Much bigger, in fact, than I though they were because—drum roll please—I wasn’t a big fan. The video of the title track might as well have been a short documentary film about the whole sleazy Sunset Strip scene: tight denim, leather, Harley Davidson motorcycles, strip clubs, and girls. And as a fifteen-going-on-sixteen year old hot-blooded American boy it sucked me right in. Not to the band, mind you, but to the whole image of what the band represented.
Gone were the days of fluffy New Wave groups ruling the roost. The hair metal revolution had been building for a few years and Girls, Girls, Girls brought it of age. Goodbye OMD, Howard Jones, and Simple Minds. Hello Motley Crüe, Dokken, and Guns N Roses.
And it was glorious.
I’ve mentioned already that I wasn’t the Crüe’s biggest fan. But all of that changed on November 14, 1987, at the Carolina Coliseum in Columbia, South Carolina. That was the night I attended my first concert. And it was Motley Crüe. But even then I wasn’t there for the headliner but instead the opening act. Who was that? Guns N Roses.
The older brother of a friend got hold of GNR’s EP, Live ?!*@ Like A Suicide, and he played it a lot. So much that I and my friends all got to know every song and we fell in love with them. In July of 1987 Geffen released GNR’s first official album, Appetite for Destruction, and we flipped out. It was love at first listen. So, when we heard that GNR was going to be opening for Motley Crüe on the Girls, Girls, Girls Tour? No question we had to go see Axl, Slash and the boys.
And Guns was fantastic. They kicked every ass in that arena that night and we all knew that they were on the way to becoming a Big Deal. Our night was made and I was absolutely thrilled that I got to see them at my first concert. I was ready to leave after they finished but we stuck around since we payed so much for our tickets (a whopping $16.50).
After the intermission the lights went down and the crowd cheered like mad, as rock concert crowds are wont to do. The arena was filled with the sound of the classic 1962 David Rose Orchestra hit The Stripper. Upon conclusion Tommy Lee’s drum set rose up from beneath the stage and he pounded them like they owed him money. The announcer told us to welcome the Bad Boys of Rock N Roll and they were off and running with the second song on Side B, All In The Name Of…
It was the perfect song to start the show. They sounded great and looked like they were having a blast. We had seats on the first row of the second landing next to the stage and when they turned 10 Seconds To Love into a sing-along with the crowd Vince Neil ran over to our side of the stage and looked up at us as we sang the chorus. He was drenched in sweat, had a big smile plastered on his face, and his eyes were so wide it appeared that he was looking directly at me. And then something weird happened.
For the first and only time in my life I got starstruck. I’d heard this guy sing for years and saw him on MTV—friggen MTV, for god’s sake!—pretty much nonstop for a year. And he was looking straight at me (which, he wasn’t, but it felt like he was). This was Vince Neil, the lead singer to Motley Crüe, an honest to god Rock Star and he was within spitting distance of me.
In that moment I became a huge Motley Crüe fan.
They closed out the decade of decadence with Dr. Feelgood, a damned fine album with my favorite Crüe song, Kickstart My Heart. They were nominated twice for Grammys for this album but lost out to Living Colour. Not quite the same travesty as Metallica losing to Jethro Tull, but close.
Now, looking back on the 80s and all of the different bands that tore up the charts and airwaves, Bon Jovi was a bigger band. My theory? It’s because they were fluffy and pretty and safe (which they weren’t based on tales I’ve heard) and ALL girls liked them, not just the ladies of the heavy metal variety. But Motley Crüe WAS the 80s hard rock scene.
They were the poster boys for the Reagan era with all of their debauchery and larger-than-life excess. The perfect band at the perfect time. And I almost missed them.
But, lucky for me, I caught them just in time.