Girls Girls Girls - Motley Crue's Guide to Feminism
Even though their personal lives were in shambles, the Crue were riding high commercially as they began building the groundwork for Girls, Girls, Girls. Despite being "pure shit," as leader Vince Neil bluntly called it in the band's lurid autobiography, The Dirt, their previous album, 1985's Theatre of Pain, had gone double-platinum on the strength of hit songs "Smokin' in the Boys Room" and "Home Sweet Home." After killing Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle in a drunk-driving accident in December 1984, the platinum blonde vocalist was the only band member sober enough to come to this conclusion. He had been advised not to drink as part of his probation.
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Neil's three weeks in the clink and subsequent probation caused him to be shunned by the rest of Motley Crue, who were all busy planning their own suicides. Nikki Sixx, the bassist, was suffering from drug addiction, locking himself in his room and shooting heroin and freebasing cocaine with Vanity, his lover and Prince protege. Tommy Lee, a drummer, married actress Heather Locklear in 1986 and struggled to balance his newfound domestic joy with his vices. Mick Mars, meanwhile, was quietly suffering from ankylosing spondylitis, self-medicating it with alcohol and finding it difficult to even pick up a guitar.
It wasn't looking good for Elektra Records' prime asset. Progress was slow when Motley's managers hustled them back into the studio to start production on their next album. Sixx, the band's lead singer and composer, had tried unsuccessfully to quit heroin and instead became hooked to methadone. In The Dirt, Sixx wrote, "And those three words are the difference between an addict and a hedonist." Ex-girlfriend and fellow rocker Lita Ford, who was recording in the studio next door, gave him a harsh reality check: "'You used to be ready to take on the world,' she told me, 'but now you look as if you let the world take you down.'"
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"Nona," a minute-and-a-half lament composed for Sixx's late grandmother. Featuring the melancholy/bit shit chorus "Nona, I'm outta my head without you." was the album's opening tune and its most extreme sound change. After failing to make it to his grandmother's funeral because he was too too busy being Nikki Sixx, he came up with the song. "I often have nightmares about my grandmother's sickness and funeral because not being there for her, and my grandfather then is one of the things I regret most about my life," he (probably mis-) remembered in The Dirt.
Several tracks on Girls, Girls, Girls vividly depict the band's addictions, paranoia, and despair. Sixx's near-fatal heroin experience in London on Valentine's Day 1986, where he turned blue after being shot up by a dealer, was smashed with a baseball bat by Hanoi Rocks' Andy McCoy in a failed resuscitation attempt and was left for dead in a dumpster behind the dealer's tenement slum, are referenced in the lyrics to "Dancing on Glass.". "Wild Side," the band's second single, is a mangled version of the Lord's Prayer aimed at their money-grubbing record label ("Kneel down ye sinners to streetwise religion / Greed's been crowned the new king"), with a staccato guitar riff and military drum beat. And "You're All I Need," inspired by Sixx's belief that his fiancée had cheated on him with actor Jack Wagner, parodies the conventional power ballad fad with a gory tale of a guy who murders the woman he loves because she doesn't return his affections.
Other tracks are less thought-provoking. With juvenille nonsense like "Better lock up your daughter when the Motleys hit the road" and "It's just a lick and a promise in the back seat of my car", the faux-blues of "Bad Boy Boogie" leaves even less to the imagination. "All in the Name Of..." opens with a terrible, and let's face it, criminal ("She's only 15 / She's the reason I can't sleep") as well as the boneheaded refrain "For sex and sex I'd sell my soul,". Then there's the gloriously sleazy title track, which names-checks various adult-entertainment venues and alongside Warrant's "Cherry Pie" and Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me" makes up the holy trinity of strip club anthems,
Girls, Girls, Girls was a refreshing departure from Theatre of Pain's insipid pop-metal in favour of Aerosmith-inspired blues-rock, packed with Mars' filthy slide guitar solos and polished to a shine by producer Tom Werman. Despite the album's strong points, it's evident that the band wasn't firing on all cylinders, as indicated by the filler and a tacked-on live performance of Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock" to complete out the 10-song track list.
"Like Theatre of Pain, Girls, Girls, Girls could have been a phenomenal record, but we were too caught up in our own personal bullshit to put any effort into it," Sixx bemoaned in The Dirt, "but we were too caught up in our own personal bullsh*t to put any effort into it." "You can actually hear the distance that had grown between us in our performance. If we hadn't managed to force two songs out of ourselves (the title track and 'Wild Side'), the album would have been the end of our careers."
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Unfortunately, when Girls, Girls, Girls was released on May 15, 1987, it propelled Motley Crue to even higher and more precipitous heights, selling 4 million copies in the United States and peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 behind Whitney Houston's Whitney, which Sixx found dubious. In The Heroin Diaries, Sixx claimed, Doc McGhee, (Motley Crue's then infamous manager) was telling him how when the album was Number 2 but should have gone to Number 1. "We had the Number 1 album in the country but for mysterious reasons (payola, anyone?) Whitney Houston was Number 1. That sucks. Girls should have been our first Number 1 album."
With 1989's massive Dr. Feelgood, Motley Crue would get their first No. 1 record. Sixx, however, would have to touch rock bottom first, overdosing on heroin on Dec. 23, 1987, and being considered clinically dead for two minutes before being revived with two doses of adrenaline to the heart by paramedics. The episode inspired the Dr. Feelgood single "Kickstart My Heart," which effectively ended one of Sixx's and Motley Crue's most difficult chapters. Suppose Girls, Girls, Girls doesn't have the same level of hard-rocking accuracy as its predecessor. In that case, the band deserves some credit, as frankly, it's a miracle the record exists at all, given the conditions of its creation.