Online news magazine Blabbermouth.net's moderators recently posted a bulletin at the site entitled ‘Cleaning Up The Crap,’ a hilariously belated attempt to rid the site of the racist, sexist and homophobic remarks that have plagued pretty much every single news story posted since user comments were first introduced almost five years ago. The timing is odd, it seems to me that cracking down on hostile responses after fully five years is roughly congruous to Jonas Salk beginning his search for a polio vaccine in earnest next Tuesday.
Why they’ve suddenly decided to crack down is anyone’s guess; webmaster Borivoj Krgin has in the past appeared proud to have assembled the dumbest community of men since The Paul Revere Society and has admitted to posting articles purely to invoke negative responses from users. Perhaps they’ve finally developed a prototype that automatically transforms band names into obnoxious block capitals and removes the human labour element from posting the same damn Velvet Revolver article four times a week and thus freed up much time for corporate affairs.
There was a similar aura of the sinking ship surrounding Mötley Crüe when they began work on their fifth studio record in late ’88. All four members were battling addiction: Nikki had undergone heroin detox which consisted in part of Steven Tyler calling him repeatedly to tell him he’s going to die; Tommy and Vince were in rehab for alcohol abuse, while Mick quit drinking cold turkey at home. Meanwhile, the last few drug-addled years had seen the band go from producing one of heavy metal’s defining albums to becoming a caricature of their former selves in just three short years. Guns N’ Roses had usurped their position as metal’s leading street punks and were producing better music to boot. Mötley Crüe had nothing to lose; they were still a major draw whether they produced the goods or not
The newly sober band members discontinued their association with Tom Werman and set their sights on a producer who’d force them to challenge themselves musically. When Quincy Jones responded that he was busy with his own project and the new Michael Jackson album, Nikki Sixx approached Bob Rock instead. Rock’s work with The Cult and Kingdom Come was much admired in the metal community. As it turns out, the feeling was mutual: Rock was eager to work with the group as they were with him. In essence, he did for Mötley Crüe what Desmond Child did for Bon Jovi, albeit without turning the band into puss
ies. He afforded the band the ability to write stronger melodic hooks without losing the hard rock sound they so coveted.
Bob Rock’s style of production was alien to the band. They were used to recording in a number of days and leaving most of the work to Tom Werman; Rock’s method involved perfecting every facet of the recording, even if it meant recording the same guitar line for two days straight, as Mick Mars was pushed to do during the sessions. While seemingly at odds with group’s simple rock n’ roll image, Rock’s perfectionism made a real impression on both Tommy Lee and Nikki Sixx, who’d grown up listening to bands like Cheap Trick and David Bowie who placed a strong emphasis on the production side. If the hollow, under-produced sound of Shout At The Devil
suited the atmosphere the band wished to create, Dr. Feelgood
’s powerful production with a strong emphasis on the melody is equally suited to the mood of the revitalised rockers.
Sobriety for the band members meant an entirely different focus for the band. Nikki, as main songwriter, suddenly found himself with the time to listen to more music and expand his pallet from the usual glam rock and power pop, resulting in more blues-based compositions and sweeter melodic hooks. Having kicked his destructive habit, Nikki also found time to indulge in hobbies he’d lost once drugs took over his life, things like sober reflection and interpersonal relationships. His lyrical themes shifted squarely from the celebration of drugs, sex and motorbikes to love… sex and motorbikes.
There were, of course, still songs about sex. ‘She Goes Down’ boasts the inspirational chorus, “She goes down/She goes down/She goes down/Down, down, down.”
, while ‘Rattlesnake Shake,’ ‘Slice of Your Pie’ and ‘Sticky Sweet’ all read like bad smut novels. Dr. Feelgood
also showed a level of emotional maturity rarely seen from Nikki in the years since Too Fast For Love
. ‘Time for Change’ is the obligatory power ballad (of which there are three) that represents the grown up Nikki’s perspective on the same issues he was so youthfully passionate about on Shout At The Devil
. ‘Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)’ puts a humorous spin on a bitter break-up and ‘Without You’ is a touching love song made all the more powerful by Vince’s most emotive vocal performance to date.
‘Kickstart My Heart’ was the first song to be recorded for the album, a song Nikki wrote about his near death as a result of a heroin overdose. He was medically dead, without a heartbeat, before an adrenaline shot administered by paramedics jolted his heart back to life. Nikki thought little of the song (and if the demo recording included with the Crucial Crue release is anything to go by, he had good reason), but Bob Rock heard something in it, and Tommy thought it sounded like the Sweet’s ‘Ballroom Blitz,’ so they recorded it. Simplicity is the key here: Mick’s chugging riff and the punchy gang vocals are the focus and Tommy’s drum performance is one of his most restrained to date, yet the stellar production brings out the strong melodic core of the track.
went on to break every record the band had set for themselves: it became their first number one album, produced more hit singles than they could ever have imagined, and it re-established them as one of the best rock bands on the planet. Dying and coming back to life afforded Nikki the right the right to make sugary pop music without losing his rock star edge, an opportunity never afforded to country music superstars Jon Bon Jovi and Bret Michaels (although Bret never really pretended to be a rock star). The album as a whole is hit and miss, for every ‘Kickstart My Heart’ there’s a ‘Slice of Your Pie,’ but it marks a second creative peak for the band and what many critics feel is the band’s best offering to date.