Dr. Feelgood

Band: Mötley Crüe
Album: Dr. Feelgood
Best song: The title track is a good riff.
Worst song: Boy howdy. This album isn’t great. Let’s say… “Without You” for being the most typical metal ballad of its era. It’s so paint-by-numbers that it’s almost comical.

Dicking around on Spotify recently, I found myself listening to Mötley Crüe. I’m not completely sure how I got there — Spotify loops are similar to Wikipedia loops and I think this one started with Judas Priest and ended on the Crüe — and I’m not necessarily proud of the fact that I was there. But, the band is part of my life, for ill or for good.

My history with the band is sorta long; the Crüe was my first favorite band when I was moving from listening to Weird Al songs as a pretty small kid. As I’ve written before:

To a pre-pubescent boy in the North suburbs of Chicago in the late 1980s, Mötley Crüe were the epitomy of awesome. I didn’t know what “Dr. Feelgood” was about, just that it was badass. “Kickstart my Heart” was about motorcycles and living the rock lifestyle, not about crank or drinking or whatever that song’s actually about.

That’s the weird thing about that time of the world: I was a little kid at the time and I thought Mötley Crüe was awesome. But, I was a kid. Little kids are stupid. Mötley Crüe was really popular and not just with stupid weiner kids. Like, adult people bought Crüe records. What happened there?

This is the key point of my minor fascination with 1980s hard rock: The key players were ridiculous human beings in every facet. They were selling something so outstandingly foreign to me that I can’t even imagine being a fully-formed human and thinking it’s anything but weird. Going head-to-toe in leather is a kinda weird thing to do outside of a fetish bar, but these dudes did it. Wearing makeup is not completely inane, but pairing it with the leather and the music is… odd. It’s not what an adult human male does with full acceptance. It’s a notion of separating oneself from the audience on a level that’s pretty out of line with the world, right?

The separation between performer and audience is a weird conundrum. On the extreme side of it, there are artists whose job it is to clearly put on a show in which costumes are de rigeur — Lady Gaga, Gwär, Katy Perry and Kiss come to mind. The costumes are part of the show.

But, on some level, there seems to be an idea that dressing like the dudes from Mötley Crüe was something men would do. Teased hair, fetish leather, the whole deal. Did this happen? I was a little kid and dressed like a little kid.

Adding to this, of course, is the lifestyle lyrics and nature of songwriting that the Crüe employed. At some point in decade, hard rock stopped being about anything. There wasn’t an idea of being about love or the Hobbit — Led Zeppelin’s two major themes — or about social issues and satan-y stuff — Black Sabbath’s main themes. Instead, some combination of hippie drug love and oversexed creepiness crept into the mix.

It’s really a good thing that Dr. Feelgood came out when it did. This was a time period in which bands went on two-year-long world tours and Dr. Feelgood was released almost exactly two years before Nevermind broke. It was glam rock’s last gasp, in a way.

That’s not to say that there isn’t things to enjoy about the record. “Kickstart my Heart” — despite the extreme ickiness inherent in any song pumping up drinking and driving, especially considering Vince Neil killed a guy doing just that — is kind of a fun song. The title track has a pretty awesome, if overbearing, riff. Tommie Lee is a superlative drummer in his simplicity, to be honest. As Allmusic puts it, “Mötley Crüe’s albums were a lot like episodes of Married with Children — they may not be great works of art, but they can be darn entertaining.” Well said.

But, the rest of the record is a study in gross glam rock. “Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)” is an extremely creepy bit on lesbianism, writing from this weird ultra macho perspective. “Without You” is the typical ballad that is permeated any sort of hard rock record during the decade (even Screaming for Vengeance has one, sadly): Boring, sappy, piano-based and way too long. “Rattlesnake Shake” is a party anthem for a period in which party anthems were inherently played out. I do not care about Nikki Sixx’ ideas on how society has gone wrong, so “Time for Change” is a mostly worthless song.

I get that the song has themes, but do you really think that the title track is worthwhile, coming from a band that turns around and moves into “Kickstart my Heart?” It’s a song about getting high and driving 100+ mph. There is an inherent tone deafness in these lyrics that speaks to the ending of an era. Which is what it was.

I’m glad Mötley Crüe was a huge part of my early musical journey; bands like the Crüe lead me down the path that eventually ended at Black Sabbath. That’s not without value. But, nevertheless, there’s a reason I do still listen to Judas Priest and Nine Inch Nails (bands I discovered around the same time); their music still holds up.

Dr. Feelgood does not.


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  • About Me

    I'm Ross Jordan Gianfortune. I am not a writer, but I sometimes write here about music and my life. I live in Washington, DC.

    I used to review each of Rolling Stone Magazine's top 500 albums of all time. Now I'm writing about albums I own.

    My work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Gazette, The Atlantic, Sno-Cone and a bunch of defunct zines.

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