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(Dr. Feelgood, 1989)
The title track from what was arguably the Crüe’s best album starts with a slow, rhythmic burn before erupting into one of the most recognizable riffs in the band’s catalog. “Dr. Feelgood” weaves a complex story in under five minutes, charting the rise and fall of a drug kingpin. The song also boasts a Jim Dandy of a chorus that’s almost as addictive as the dealer’s wares themselves. “Dr. Feelgood’s” subject matter and storyline are perfectly complimented by chugging riffs, a slinky bass line, and streetwise war drums. Vince Neil’s vocals add an additional layer of sleaze to the track, and even the band’s heretofore silent guitarist, Mick Mars (the only Crüe member who never sang lead vocals on a track), turns in a brief appearance with demonic, augmented vocals by way of a talkbox.
(Too Fast for Love, 1981)
The sole single from Mötley Crüe’s Too Fast for Love debut, “Live Wire” pulses with the energy of a young, hungry band. The song tears out of the gate with a monster of a riff that cuts right to the chase, while a 19-year-old Tommy Lee bashes the ever-loving hell out of his drum kit and even manages to answer the call for more cowbell. What makes “Live Wire” so interesting, especially for a group in its infancy, is that it quickens and slows the pace at intervals throughout. There’s even a nifty little breakdown with Sixx and Mars plunking away at opposite end of their fretboards and meeting somewhere in the middle with glorious results.
(Girls, Girls, Girls, 1987)
When a song starts with the revving of a motorcycle, you’re not quite sure what you’re getting into, but you have a pretty good idea where you’re headed. An ode to strip clubs around the world, Mötley Crüe undoubtedly receives a hefty royalty check every time a dancer exits the stage and a gentleman’s club janitor has to wipe down the pole to the tune of “Girls, Girls, Girls”. A defining factor of “Girls” is Mick Mars’ blues-flavored tone coming into its own, particularly on the song’s guitar solo outro.
(Dr. Feelgood, 1989)
The song’s title stems from Sixx’s near-fatal 1987 overdose. Sixx was pronounced clinically dead before a quick-thinking EMT gave him a shot of adrenaline to “kickstart” his heart. This overdose prompted Mötley Crüe to re-evaluate its status as hardcore users of drink and drugs, and Dr. Feelgood became the group’s first album as a sober unit. Replacing needles and spoons with fast-paced thrills, “Kickstart My Heart” raps about band life as a collective of adrenaline junkies. Tommy Lee’s fast n’ furious drumming on the track gives further credence to that claim, clocking in with a staggering 179 beats per minute.
(Theatre of Pain, 1985)
“Home Sweet Home” is arguably the greatest power ballad in the history of metal. It begins with a slow, tender series of piano chords that give way to full-blown electric bombast. Sixx’s lyrics via Neil’s vocals declare “My heart’s like an open book / For the whole world to read / Sometimes nothing / Keeps me together at the seams”. Whereas most power ballads wax poetic about romantic love, what makes “Home Sweet Home” so special is that it batters down a single soul’s defenses and lays it bare. “Home Sweet Home” uses life on the road and the concept of “home” (wherever that may be) as a metaphor, but there’s something about this song that anyone can relate to if they’ve ever tried to make a connection with another human being.
(Decade of Decadence, 1991)
If “Girls, Girls, Girls” showcased Mars’ latent metal blues side rearing its head, “Primal Scream” sees it blossom to its fullest by way of a blistering slide guitar that provide the backbone of this song. Originally one of five new tracks that appeared on the group’s Decade of Decadence retrospective, the song features Mötley Crüe at its best and hints at the angst-riddled potential the band could have had moving into its second decade, had vocalist Vince Neil not been ousted just one year later. Neil returned in 1997, but too much time had elapsed to pick up just where the Mötley machine had left off.