I first heard of Motley Crue some time around the release of their popular biography The Dirt. A lot of my friends were getting into the band when I was more into Limp Bizkit and Marilyn Manson. At the time, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with the lame, old-fashioned, girly looking, out of touch hacks that old-me I perceived them to be. Not just Motley Crue but all ’80s Glam/Hair bands. I had a real anti-glam snobbery due to the music mags of the time (the same thing probaly exists for the Nu Metal bands of my youth nowadays too now ironically).
Some time later, when making a concerted effort to explore the history of heavy metal when I was in university, my friend gave me a copy of the dirt and a lend of some Motley Crue albums. The thing with book, is that while it is entertaining, it really made me hate the band. Disrespectful, abusive, thieving, borderline rapists such as they come across in the book… I just could not come to like the band. Guns N Roses, who were probably as bad, got a free pass it seems, because I got into them when I was young enough to buy into the whole sex drugs and rock n roll schtick, but I was in University and old enough to see through that nonsense by that age.
Reading the book did make me listen to the music. I listened to it with curiosity at first, and the more of the book I read, and the more I came to hate the actions and words of the band, I then came to listen to it with resentment. I almost wanted to dislike it, because of how dislikeable the band were in the book as they used and abused people and disrespected property, people and laws throughout its duration.
But if there is one thing in the world I can’t deny, its good music. I loved heavy metal. I loved hard rock. I love Judas Priest, and who knows maybe they were just as bad but I just hadn’t read a book about yet?
‘Live Wire’ is utterly undeniable. The chugging riff, the double kicks, the cymbal chokes. There is a sense of urgency, a sense of fun, it is dynamic. It doesn’t outstay its welcome. Its one of those utterly perfect Metal songs like ‘Ace Of Spades’ or ‘Stand Up And Shout’ or ‘Breaking The Law.’ I think, pretty much, if it hadn’t have been for ‘Live Wire’ the band could have completely fallen off my radar. It is just too good. No matter what rude, immoral or illegal thing they do in the book, there is just no fucking with ‘Live Wire.’
The album isn’t just a one hit wonder either. ‘Take Me To The Top’ has the same sort of bouncy fun as early NWOBHM bands like Tygers Of Pan Tang, but with the production job it has a sort of punk feel, but then there is a sweet pop sensibility too. ‘Piece Of Your Action’ (which I always hear as ‘Piece of Direction’) has that same mixture.
‘Starry Eyes,’ ‘On With The Show’ and ‘Merry-Go Round’ lean even harder on the pop side of things. Very catchy. Vince Neil being high pitched and melodic. There are some moments on this album that very clearly inspired Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day (especially on deep cuts from American Idiot).
Is it strange that I find this album under-rated? I mean its gone platinum, it can’t be that under-rated. That being said; Out of all the early Motley Crue album, this is probably my least favourite. It is raw and charming and full of potential. However; the albums that followed would build on that. They also lean less on the pop and punk sides, and go more metallic and rock focused. Due to my overall tastes in music, that is just more up my street than this.
Watching the Dirt Movie recently, especially with its focus on the early days, made me go back to this album and give it more of a generous ear. Just because they made better albums, doesn’t mean this one should be overlooked.