In Part I we discussed KISS’ Love Gun Tour as first man on the moon, Paul Stanley’s sackfuls of cash, Frankenstein Dynasty, and psychoanalysis and personality theory as it pertains to the downfall/saving grace of Coca-Cola KISS. Read it here.
JMB: So my mom drops me off at Musicland one day and they’ve got Shout at the Devil right next to KISS’s Music from the Elder on the wall. The Elder cover doesn’t look right. Is it a soundtrack? I wrestle back and forth, finally buy Shout at the Devil, take it home and stare at the second most awesome gatefold of all time. And the record just killed. “Knock ‘Em Dead Kid” and “Ten Seconds to Love1”? I wore those songs out. Here’s the problem. I’ve thought back carefully and there’s no way that story is true. It’s a false memory. But I would swear that’s how I got from KISS to Mötley Crüe.
CK: Memories are weird like that. Sometimes I worry that things that are vivid in my mind are complete constructions. Could it have been Too Fast for Love?
JMB: It’s possible. We were in the sticks, way behind the times. This older dude named Marc McCoy had given me a dubbed copy of Too Fast for Love and told me it was his band. He would play it off like, Dude, I am so out of tune on “Come On & Dance”. Or Man, our cowbell sound sucks….”
CK: You must have thought that guy was super-cool! That would be a pretty good high school band2.
CK: Yeah, they do kind of sound alike. Too Fast for Love is not as heavy as Shout. A little catchier. Overall, the songs might be a better.
JMB: Too Fast for Love is my favorite but Shout was way more influential.
CK: My brother comes home from Army basic training and he’s got Sports by Huey Lewis and the News, Speak of the Devil by Ozzy3 and Shout at the Devil by Mötley Crüe. The cassette cover didn’t have the pentagram – it was just the four guys. And it blew my mind. On one hand, I had never seen anything like it. On the other hand it seemed to personify exactly what the idea of heavy metal music was supposed to be. It was almost like they were in a play about heavy metal. Like if Quincy had done an episode on heavy metal like they did on punk rock the band would have looked like Mötley Crüe.
CK: (cont) I don’t know if I was scared or what but I listened to Huey Lewis a lot more at first. Then I put on side one of Shout at the Devil. Like – fifty times before I even listened to the second side? I don’t know. I just kept rewinding that first side. Also, it was when I really got into reading liner notes. I would compulsively pore over those notes, not even knowing what they meant. Remember it said the record was recorded on Budweiser, Jack Daniels and Krell? I had no idea what Krell was.
JMB: Me neither, but somehow I knew it was bad.
CK: I didn’t know Krell was cocaine for fifteen years after that. There was also that part that said: Caution: This album may contain backwards messages. It’s a cassette! I have no idea how to play this thing backwards….
JMB: I probably ruined my mama’s needle dragging that record backwards. I don’t remember finding anything.
CK: I loved it though, loved it. Thought I was the only person in the state of North Dakota listening to Mötley Crüe. I had no idea they were on MTV. I lived on a farm, we didn’t even have cable. In seventh grade I saw a kid with a Mötley t-shirt and I was shocked. I couldn’t believe you could buy a shirt with a pentagram4 on it. Then I got a Hit Parader — like one of their Best Of issues — and Shout at the Devil was their number one record, Nikki Sixx was the number one bassist, Tommy Lee was the top drummer, Vince was the number two singer. Mick Mars was, like, the number eight guitarist though.
JMB: Poor Mick, always last place.
CK: Regardless, Mötley Crüe was clearly the most popular band. I had this new understanding that this thing that I thought I had liked individually was actually loved collectively. I guess if I had been into punk rock, I would have hated this. I would have felt like it was being ripped away from me and becoming part of mass culture. I wasn’t like that. I was happy that Mötley Crüe was popular. But the wait for Theatre of Pain was just excruciating. They had all that drama and car wrecks… and finally “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” came out. I would listen to the radio just to hear that song. Then I get the album and the band is totally different. They dress different and it’s like glitter rock. I didn’t like it at first. I was angry about “Home Sweet Home”. Some kind of travesty! But I kept listening to it and eventually came to love Theatre of Pain. Then Girls, Girls, Girls comes out and they’re totally different again!
JMB: I never thought of it that way. Theatre of Pain was a let-down and Girls, Girls, Girls was a mess. I mean, both had worthwhile tracks but overall they seemed distracted.
CK: Now they looked like a bunch of bikers and the music is almost straightforward sleazy. We know the stories now but even at the time I remember recognizing a degree of darkness that was clearly a product of drug addiction. Something seemed sick about it. Then Dr. Feelgood kept getting delayed and it felt like we waited forever – and they were different again! I remember thinking, this sounds really professional. I thought they were directly trying to compete with Appetite for Destruction because Mötley Crüe was by far the biggest hard rock band until Guns N’ Roses came along. It felt a little too much like Pump by Aerosmith. Which is an album I just hated. But I kept playing Dr. Feelgood and it was the first Crüe record that was popular among the non-metal kids. The first one the girls liked. So it felt like this massive iconic moment.
JMB: Dr. Feelgood didn’t do much for me. I remember thinking, this is a looong way from Piece of Your Action. It sounded too produced, too polished, too radio. Like precision over energy now.
CK: Well, THEN Vince Neil leaves the band. I’m in college by this point. Another weird time because grunge was rising and Mötley Crüe was extremely uncool. I was one of the few people who liked Nirvana and Pearl Jam and still loved metal too. But when they came out with the John Corabi5 record… (sighs)
JMB: I was like, what?
CK: I felt a little embarrassed for them. Because it seemed they were so obviously trying to become some sort of metal Soundgarden6. But I still went and saw them live. At the Fargo Civic with like, four thousand people. Had to be weird for them. They played hard and put on a good show but man, it was not the time to care about Mötley Crüe.
JMB: The Dirt really boosted their legacy.
CK: Absolutely. The Dirt not only changed the legacy of Mötley Crüe, that book probably had the single biggest impact on a new way to remember 80s metal. I wrote Fargo Rock City in 1998 and ’99 and it’s hard for me to describe to people how unpopular hair metal was in the late 90s. It was so unpopular that people who I know loved that music were actively lying about it. Someone who I knew loved Faster Pussycat would now claim they loved The Cure in high school. I was initially going to try to publish Fargo Rock City through an academic press and have it be a book about rural sociology and how that can be explained through an obsession with a form of music. I didn’t think it was possible to sell a book about Ratt and Mötley Crüe and KISS. Then The Dirt came out. Everything changed. All of the sudden people were really excited to remember that period of music. Mötley Crüe was the most important metal band of the 80s and I think in some ways, they are again. I realize Guns N’ Roses’ musical footprint is much larger but they also sort of transcend the genre. Also, I think Mötley Crüe are one of the few bands where even the casual follower can name every member. All four people in that band are famous. A lot of people love U2 but can’t name the bassist or drummer. But a lot of those same U2 fans know who Tommy Lee is and that’s kind of amazing.
JMB: Tommy’s video added a bit of juice to the Crüe’s legacy as well.
CK: Oh, it did.
JMB: Has a drummer ever become so famous?
CK: If you combine the fame of Tommy, Nikki, Vince and the very moderate fame of Mick Mars, that fame almost seems greater than the fame of the band. That’s one case where I’m not sure the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In that regard, there are not many bands like Mötley Crüe.
JMB: What would The Dirt have looked like if Chuck Klosterman had written it?
CK: It wouldn’t have been as good, I don’t think. The amazing thing Neil Strauss does is portray people the way they want to be portrayed. Like they never even realized until they met Neil. I’ve interviewed every member of Mötley Crüe. None of them speak as eloquently as they do in that book. Nikki Sixx, sort of. Mick Mars, maybe. Certainly not Vince Neil and Tommy Lee. But when you read that part where Vince talks about the death of his daughter – that’s the way he would want to describe it if he could. I think Neil Strauss interviews people over a long period of time, in a very intense sort of way and eventually he comes to understand how they wish they could talk. That’s what The Dirt is.
JMB: I’m going to totally pull a Strauss edit on this interview and try to make myself sound more coherent….
CK: Well, Neil did the same with Marilyn Manson. Manson is actually a very well-spoken person but he’s never been as smart as he is in the Strauss book. When I quote people, I don’t get close to them in the same way. I like to ask my questions as directly as possible, think about the responses and write something from that. But if I could do a version of The Dirt with Axl Rose, I would. He’s the only guy.
JMB: Maybe next time we can break down the psychological profile of G N’R.
CK: (laughs) Yeah….
JMB: So KISS and Mötley Crüe are touring together in 2012….
(In Part III: What KISS might look like a hundred and fifty years from now, the makeup-era album most conducive to making out, Ace = George Harrison and the Vinnie-tastic value of widdly widdly WHOOoooo….)
1) “Ten Seconds to Love” sounded a little ripped-off from “Rock & Roll” by The Plasmatics. In fact, I believe Creatures of the Night & Shout at the Devil were both strongly influenced by Wendy O. & Company’s under-appreciated metal classic Coup D’ Etat.
2) U2 formed in high school.
3) I was sorely tempted to talk about Speak of the Devil, a live LP of Ozzy doing Sabbath songs, just after Randy Rhodes had been killed in the plane crash. Night Ranger’s Brad Gillis filled in, doing a standup job, while poor Ozzy stumbled around grief-stricken. There’s a particularly poignant moment on the accompanying MTV concert where Osbourne does a heartbreaking rendition of Goodbye to Romance which seems to backup Chuck’s notion that never has a straight man so freely expressed his love for another man. As tragic as the accident was, it showed that Ozzy was sensitive and human and endearing and not just some demoniac who bit the heads off of bats and pissed on the Alamo. Which may well be part of the reason he’s still around today. Also, I’m struck by how much the Smashing Pumpkins record “Tarantula” sounds influenced by Brad Gillis & Rudy Sarzo circa Speak of the Devil tour. I figured if I mentioned any of this to Klosterman, we may never make our way back around to KISS or Mötley Crüe again.
4) Chuck’s opinion is that since Mötley Crüe shouts AT the devil and not to or for — this makes SATD the best-selling Christian rock release of all time. My take is that while Nikki and Tommy might not be in league with DC Talk, Mötley Crüe is no more demonic than devil’s food cake.
5) Imagine Chris Cornell singing Smokin’ In the Boyz Room.
6) I was in a store in downtown Nashville awhile back and Corabi came in with some girls passing out flyers for “John Corabi’s Rock and Roll Party”. The Jack White hipsters and Kings of Leon lookalikes sort of turned up their noses up and laughed and I felt sad for John. I wanted to take him to the side and tell him that I liked “Hooligan’s Holiday” and that even Corabi’s Crüe was cooler than these vegan thrift store lo-fi rockers who thought they were so damned advanced. But I didn’t. I just watched as he got into the backseat of a Mitsubishi Eclipse and slowly drove away.
CHUCK KLOSTERMAN is the New York Times bestselling author of seven books, including Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs; Eating the Dinosaur; and The Visible Man. His debut book, Fargo Rock City, was the winner of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award. He has written for GQ, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Spin, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Believer, A.V. Club, and ESPN, and he now writes about sports and pop culture for Grantland.com.