In 1981, a hair-metal band -perhaps the King Of All Hair Metal Bands- formed, and speaking for myself, I remember being truly blown away, a year later (the time it took them to reach the East coast) when I cranked their cassette to eleven, in my 1972 dark blue Cadillac DeVille. This car, often referred to as the ‘War Wagon’ was one of the best cars I ever owned. With giant bench seats, it could fit 6 or 7 people in comfortably, and my boyfriend ( my true love) hooked up a sound system that shook the leaves off of every tree I flew past: with it’s Pioneer Super-Tuner, Equalizer/Power Booster, and extra amp in the trunk, it slammed the sound barrier. But it wasn’t just loud, it was crystal clear, and it complimented my ‘rolling living room’ by simultaneously pleasing my crew and agitating every human being over the age of thirty for miles around. It ran low and smooth, and was as insulated as a cop car (from what I was told!) The acoustics were amazing. I felt as cool as ‘The Duke’ in ‘Escape From New York’ when I drove that car. Thunder on wheels, with an interior that smelled faintly of leather and Aqua Net. It wasn’t cheap on gas, but after I implemented my ‘Ride For Five’ program, we rolled deep- as far as L’Amour’s in Brooklyn to the south, and the Agora Ballroom in New Haven to the North. From one Rock Club to another, Destination Anywhere. The tunes sounded so great in that car, that many was a time we’d wait out a song’s finish in the parking lot.
So it’s really no surprise that one of the clearest memories I have of really fucking rocking, was to the debut album from Motley Crue, in 1982 in that car. Songs like Live Wire’, ‘Piece Of Your Action’ and ‘Too Fast For Love’ spoke directly to the Heavy Metal faction of the day, a faction of which I was a card carrying member, possibly even on the Board. ‘On With The Show’, ‘Merry Go Round’- I can still hear them. By 1983, I had started college at NCC, with the hopes and dreams of being a rock writer, and I quickly joined the school newspaper (‘Soundings’) strolling in with no concept of seniority or waiting my turn, so anxious I was to begin writing articles about this music that I loved so much. In I would walk, my hair teased to within an inch of my life, heavy handed black eyeliner and various layers of spandex, scarves, glitter, fringes and feathers, spiky suede boots, mini skirts. Like a 70′s version of Steven Tyler in dress, with a little Stevie Nicks thrown in on the girly side. Not that I was as cool as the lead singer, or as pretty as Stevie Nicks was at the time- it was just that I was jocking their style-and hopeful. Some might say I looked like I was heading to the Cat Club in broad daylight. They would be over 30.
I basically announced to the newspaper staff that I was doing an article on Motley Crue’s new album (‘Shout At The Devil’) and then I just did it. (Who did I think I was? I wasn’t rude, but I was determined, and I think I had blinders on at that age. About a lot of things. For one, being a heavy metal fan in college was akin to smacking yourself in the forehead with a Budweiser, and standing on the receiving end of an ‘I’m With Stupid’ arrow. All the ‘cool’ kids were into punk, or anything subversive and/or underground) But what seems somewhat ridiculous now (the heavy metal scene of the 80′s, the style of dress, hair and makeup) was pure bad-ass-to me- in 1982. And what 19 year-old doesn’t think the world is their oyster, or that they can achieve all kinds of crazy dreams and schemes? This was probably the only period in my life when I was absolutely certain about what I liked, who I loved, and who I was going to be. And believe it or not,I batted two out of three, strictly by accident.
Motley Crue (sorry- I can’t find the devilish amulets on my keyboard) epitomized the ‘metal scene’ at the time. Leather, chains, studs, snakeskin boots, tattoos, long hair, lacquered hair, make-up (on guys) combined with high octane vocals, heavy guitar licks,massive drums and driving songs, that blended right in with the up-all-night, raucous club crowd we were running with. We were ‘on the prowl’-drinking and carousing (Kamikaze shots, Alabama Slammers, and ‘fancy’ Goldschlager-which I hated, but dug the way the gold flecks caught the light) and wearing the drawn out circles under our eyes from no sleep like badges. Reconstructing the night before (it took several people to complete the ‘puzzle’)-we had no idea that this lifestyle would catch up with more than a few of us, and kick some ass and take some names when it did.
I loved everything about the Crue at the time. Thanks to a good friend, Mike- I even got a Press Packet and first pressing of their debut album, which was rare and controversial. Vince’s hair fiasco. Bomb threats in Canada. Having to sleep upside down to get their hair right. Inside, the boys are described as, Nikki Sixx, age 22-bass guitar and vocals, ‘an exceptional song writer, who made a lasting impression in the Hollywood scene, with his group, London.’ Mick Mars, 25, lead guitarist and ‘Newfoundland’s greatest claim to fame.’ Tommy Lee, age 21, on drums is ‘high energy, personified’and finally, Vince Neal, ‘fair-headed’, 21, lead vocalist and writer ‘will have the girl’s hearts throbbing” The page goes on to describe Motley Crue’s music as ‘a return to the hard driving sound of the Beatles, re-energized for the 80′s’. Whatever. Personally, I think that’s way off. I wasn’t a big Beatles fan, but I sure loved the Crue (is anyone actually allowed to say that they don’t like the freakin’ Beatles? The Beatles seem to get credited with everything in music. But to me: Yawn! Maybe that’s why I liked scum like Motley Crue? Fine. I’ll take it!) I couldn’t find any similarities between the two bands if I looked for a million years.
I also loved that Motley Crue culled a lot of their style from the Glam Bands of the 1970′s. Bands like ‘Sweet’(Ballroom Blitz), Slade (Gudbuy T’Jane),Alice Cooper (Be My Lover, Under My Wheels) Mott The Hoople (Once Bitten, Twice Shy, All The Young Dudes) and The New York Dolls. I loved the way these bands dressed, overly dramatic, the platforms, glitter, long hair and eyeliner. There was nothing effeminate about it, it was pure animal magnetism.Like vintage (60′s) Mick Jagger, it was dark and sinewy and cool.
The Motley Crue concerts I attended were phenomenal. I’ve seen them in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Virginia Beach (Norfolk) throughout the 80′s. Sometimes several times during one tour. Lots of theatrics, fire, explosions, stunts, fun. The best time I can recall was when I was dating this really hot, guy who looked like Jon Bon Jovi and we were just on fire for each other! We were both probably peaking at that very show-and would never, ever be that cool again, but we made out during ‘Home Sweet Home’,below a sky full of lighters, while several fifteen year olds kept asking if we were ‘with the band’ or were we ‘somebody’. We leaned on each other’s shoulders in the backseat of our friend’s car, after the show, holding hands in the stop and go traffic jam and I wore one of his fingerless gloves (he wore the other) and I played with his fingers, while the lights from cars behind us, illuminated our perfectly rockin’ hair from the back. I bet we looked cool as hell!It was freakin’ awesome!
Who knew at the time, but Motley Crue had staying power. Remember, 1981-1983 were great years for heavy metal, hair metal, glam metal, NWOBHM and there was something for everyone. Judas Priest (Screaming For Vengeance), Iron Maiden (Number Of The Beast) Ozzy Osbourne (Bark At The Moon), Def Leppard (Pyromania and so on. But the Crue was just getting started. Soon there would be all kinds of rockstar ups and downs- Vince’s wrecking his Pantera and killing the drummer of Hanoi Rocks, Razzle (who eerily had these words tattooed under a cross: ‘Too Old To Live, Too Young To Die’…though we all knew at least two people who had the same tat) Tommy Lee began dating (and eventually married in 1986) Heather Locklear, Nikki Sixx’s struggle with heroin, Vince’s baby girl dying of cancer and all kinds of Miami-Vice level cocaine issues. The wild the appearances on Headbanger’s Ball, the fights with each other, and with different bands, alcoholism- all of which is covered in one of the best rock bios ever-’The Dirt’ (Did anyone ever look at a burrito the same way again?) In fact, until Guns’N'Roses showed up, The Crue was the gold standard for decadent music and good times. Who can forget them, driving down Hollywood Boulevard on,sweet, gleaming Harleys, heading to the Strip Club? And leaving said strip club with strippers in a hot tub that was built into a Limo? Excessive, overdone, loud- it was like the fall of the Roman Empire, like the Road Warrior meets Gladiator…you laugh, sure, but you really do wish you were there!
And so it was a whole scene, part soap-opera, part heavy, rockin’ music, part circus, part tragedy…..But when it all began, in 1982, it was just us, the hard-rock music lovers, who saw something in Motley Crue, and more importantly heard something in them. Maybe what they had to say wasn’t revolutionary, or important- but it was to us! Deep down, we all knew the party couldn’t go on forever, but we also knew this would be the last time in our lives we’d have as much leeway, the last time we could get away with crazy shit and laugh about it. Take chances, move, have fun relationships, before it all got too serious. The rich kids that were away in Ivy League colleges were doing the same things as the middle class kids, only they hid it better. Somehow, you just know where your people are, and you run with them. Motley Crue was part of our ‘pack’ and we were part of theirs, and they spoke to us and for us: a newly formed, tight knit community of hard rockers who partied till the morning light, for as long as we could, in a ‘we’re young, wild and free’ fast-lane kind of life, in an 80′s kinda world. We were all lucky to have been there. And for some, who maybe took it too far, to have made it out. But those were the days my friend, the days and nights!
I know that Motley Crue- and a slew of other 80′s-and even 70′s bands are still ‘together’ and on the road. I don’t go to see them, partly because my memories are so awesome of seeing the bands in their early days, up through the changing of the guards-in this case, Grunge.I don’t want to risk seeing my bands falter, or parody themselves. I know I’m just as old as they are, and that’s fine. But hearing a lead singer talk about getting laid and shouting ‘Hey, Fuckers! Are you ready to get wasted tonight?!’ is one thing when we’re all 25, and quite another at 50. It didn’t get sad then, and I don’t want it getting sad now. That being said- if you didn’t live in the 80′s, and just want a taste of what it used to be, have at it.