It's the end of an era: This Tuesday, Jan. 28, at a big press conference at Hollywood bacchanal Beacher's Madhouse, Mötley Crüe announced that — after several false alarms and semi-temporary hiatuses — they are finally, officially calling it quits after this summer's grand farewell tour.
These notorious live-wires are known for their tabloid exploits —rocky marriages, rehab stints, sex tapes, prison sentences, volatile break-ups and make-ups, accusations of devil-worship, paparazzi fistfights, and girls, girls, girls — all of which has become the stuff of legend. (Their "Behind The Music" rockumentary was the best of the VH1 series, and their book The Dirt is the most compulsively readable rock 'n' roll tell-all of all time. For real.)
Some say that any publicity is good publicity, but in the case of the Crüe, all this unfortunately tends to detract attention from their music. Hopefully the public's memory will be kickstarted by Mötley's farewell tour, but the metal legends' Tommy Lee and Mick Mars recently ran through some of their favorite classic Crüe songs for Yahoo Music, as they reflect on their three decades of rocking on the wild side.
"Looks That Kill"
TOMMY: I just watched [the video] the other day, and I haven't seen it in a while. I was sitting there with my girl, and she had never seen it. She was like, "Oh my God, look at you guys! Look what you're wearing!" It's definitely time-stamped from a while ago. At the time, it was road-warrior-like; we would kick your ass. But we had makeup on and high heels. It's so different to have been there doing that and then watching it back a week ago; it's just the craziest thing. You kind of just sit there in awe. In our stage of the game it was our big-budget video with set pieces, girls, dancers, fire…this was a big deal. I remember that; you're sitting and shooting the video and you're looking all around and there's a bunch of cameramen and a lot of people, and everything's starting to get a little crazier and crazier. I definitely remember walking in and going, "Wow, this is crazy." There are tunnels, spikes, gates, smoke machines everywhere, tracks with dollies. It wasn't fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants productions anymore; it was starting to step up into making a real video here.
"Shout at the Devil"
TOMMY: We were working with [one of our favorite] producers on the planet, Tom Werman. Tom did Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent, and more bands that we dug. We were working with the cast that produced the bands that we dug, and still dig.
MICK MARS: Here's the easiest way I can explain Tom Werman. He can take a dollar bill and you can read him the serial number, and he'd read it back to you backwards. He was our first real legitimate producer. He pretty much mic'd up guitars with SM57s, Sennheizers, doing on-axis, off-axis; that means moving to the center of the cone and on the outside of the cone. I learned some things like that with room sounds; just learning from him with mic-ing techniques. Just learning the tip of what you can do with things in the studio.
TOMMY: There was a lot of awe when walking around, and everything was still really fresh to us, still really early for everybody. It was a crazy time because we had some success, and with some success comes money, drugs, wine, women; the whole thing that kind of started to derail us really early on.
MICK: I hung with [the rest of the band] a little bit there, but not like live with them and that kind of stuff. For me, I have always been the mellowest guy in the band, and it was just too much chaos. They were teenagers, and I was already 30 years old. I was just already over that teenage rebellious kind of stage. I would go out and hang with them, like when we'd play at the Whisky and we'd go back to their apartment, and David Lee Roth would come and….well, it's in The Dirt. The door would fall down and hit him in the head, and he's like, "Oh well," because he was so high.
TOMMY: Obviously I own up my part to the crazy train. I felt bad for Tom Werman a lot, because he was just trying to corral these four f---ing maniacs. The last thing that we wanted to do is hang out in the studio too long. It was like, "Are we done with this yet? It sounds rad! OK, later!" It was difficult making that record, but it was also really cool.
"Smokin' in the Boys' Room"
TOMMY: I don't know whose original idea it was [to cover the Brownsville Station song]; I think it was Mick's. The chorus was always catchy to me, I thought it was cool, and we definitely made it ours. At the time I remember digging it; I remember playing it, and recording it, and playing it live. I don’t remember who originally came up with that. I think that was [video director] Wayne Isham. It was his, and he has a great sense of humor, and he's crazy. He basically just let us have fun with it. I remember him going, like, "You guys just wanna smash the wall in?" We're like, "F--- yeah!" All of a sudden, Nikki [Sixx] is smashing his bass; we're just crashing through the wall. He saw things that he pulled out in us as performers. He saw me goofing around hitting my stick and having it bounce off the snare drum, and he goes, "We gotta shoot that!" He would always set up fun scenarios. He always made it fun. He was always walking around laughing and having a good time."
"Home Sweet Home"
TOMMY: To me, that was one of those videos and songs that really captured what it was like out on the road: missing home, touring, the magnitude of the setup, and the fans. It was like one of those cool videos that still when I watch it I say, "Wow! This is still cool, man. It still stands up." One of those things that sort of confirms the song's potential timelessness is when other people start to cover it. When Carrie Underwood covered it, you're like "Wow, OK, that's cool, and other people dig it."
"Girls, Girls, Girls"
MICK: I went to Tommy's house when he was married to Heather [Locklear], and that was the first time that I heard 'Girls' because he had an idea for it.
TOMMY: No, I wasn't married to her yet; I was living with her and I had a little studio-type setup in the corner in one of the rooms.
MICK: He mostly had the hook for "Girls, Girls, Girls."
TOMMY: We were touring a lot then and going to a grip of strip clubs. Just those neon letters: "Girls, Girls, Girls." We were going every night, almost, and I was at home and I was like, "God, I need to write about this, this is f---ing cool."
MICK: "But I didn't like the guitar parts at all, because they were like too happy. So I went home and sitting there thinking about this going, "This is messed up." So I opened a bottle of Jack and took back some, and I listened to it, and that's where I came up with the licks that are on it now. To make it sound like that it was a lot different than what it was when I first heard it.
TOMMY: I remember playing Nikki a demo and that's really it all I had was the chorus. I think I had a verse groove, but we ended up changing that. Once Mick got a hold of the riff, he bastardized it and he did the Mick Mars thing that he does to guitars and made it even better. Every time you walk into a strip club, no matter what member of the band walks in, all of a sudden, here it comes…I'm like, "Dude, you really gotta play that every time we walk in?" It is a strip club anthem and it will be forever, I believe, because I haven't heard a song that does that. There's something else to be heard in the song like [strip clubs] the Body Shop, the Dollhouse, the Seventh Veil. Those places are cool; it's like mentioning a city. It's more than just a song — now it's personal.
TOMMY: I think you're just only as good as your last effort, and we would always try to outdo ourselves with the live show, outdo ourselves with a better record with better songs. You're always like, "It's gotta be better! It's gotta be better! Faster! Cooler!" So there's a lot of pressure. It was a time in everybody's lives we as a group were just like, "That's it, it's too crazy, let's all shut it down, let's all make a pact, get sober, really focus on this and make this super super next level." And we did it. I look back now and I still can't believe it, the four of us in the state that we were in, all fully pulled it together like we were all going into battle. That's what it felt like. And just we left home, moved to Vancouver for six months, left everything here but our motorcycles and equipment. It was also a time where once again we were working with [record producer] Bob Rock. I always sort of take it back to the producer, because I think that's just as important.
"Kickstart My Heart"
MICK: Nikki came in with the initial beginning part, but that's all. But I would take the lick from there and do all the other parts to it. Also, when it came in, it was a very punky-sounding. Nikki always goes, "Play it like you're 14 years old." I go, "I'm not 14 anymore." The solo part, I wanted something different besides "here's this again, here's another solo again," so I said, "Let's do a talkbox," because nobody had done talkbox, since Joe Walsh had done it. My guitar tech went out and got this little cheap thing that I blew up anyway, and we did the solo for it in the studio for the first time. So all of that stuff and everything that I was playing at the end was just ad-libbing and just jamming from the top to the end.
TOMMY: Dude, "Afraid." I'm like, "Nikki, we gotta play that song live, dude!" And once again, I was watching the video last week. I just love the chorus. That was a really good song; always will be one of my favorites. That record I really like.
"Saints of Los Angeles"
TOMMY: Technology-wise, you're able to pretty much record anywhere. I mean, people have been recording stuff in their bathroom. But for it to sound and feel like we're all in the same room, that's a whole other thing. I think [producer] James [Michael] did a really good job pulling that together. This was a smaller demo studio; we did the drums right there in the corner, and that record sounds insane. It's just crazy that you're able to do that stuff now. I'd love that song, I really do.