Mötley Crüe: Dr. Feelgood
13/01/12 || BamaHammer
There are some albums from my childhood that I remember so fondly, that just seeing the cover or hearing a song or even just thinking about it puts a smile on my face. Mötley Crüe’s “Dr. Feelgood” is one of those albums for me.
I remember getting the cassette tape as a kid and being completely enamored by it. I used to stay up late at night listening to it over and over again through my headphones so I wouldn’t wake up my parents, and as I did, I just stared at the cover to try to take in all the badass-ness. It even inspired me to check out other bands like Skid Row, Guns ‘N’ Roses, and all those bands of that ilk that served as the gateway to metal for kids my age.
According to the band’s autobiographical book (and if you haven’t read it, I can’t recommend it enough), “Feelgood” was the first album Mötley Crüe tried to record sober. Their previous efforts, which are still classics, always seemed as if the band was being held back by something or another, whether it was an overall shitty production, instruments on the verge of being out of tune, or whatever. When the Crüe kicked the drugs and alcohol to the curb to try and produce a great record, the results were an amazing blend of elite L.A. sleaze and some of the best rock ‘n’ roll the ’80s had to offer.
7. Well, let’s see. It debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts, so I should hate it without saying anything else, but I’ll keep going for the sake of the review. It contains five Billboard 100 singles. It’s sold over six million copies (so far). I think the songwriting was pretty fucken decent. Getting that many people to like the same songs is no coincidence. That being said, there’s still a good chunk of filler on here. Out of the ten real tracks on the record, there are only six I remember listening to a lot as a kid or even now. However, the good tracks on this album are really fucken good. Everyone knows the title track. It’s a staple of ’80s heavy metal, and there’s really no arguing that. The other classics lurking on this album are what make it truly great. Songs like “Same ol’ situation” or “Kickstart my heart” are absolutely timeless. Also, unlike many an ’80s glam band, there are fewer slow power ballads to be found on “Feelgood.” Other than “Without you,” everything is pretty upbeat and much more “rockin’,” for lack of a better word, and again, this was another characteristic that gave Crüe an identity.
8. I hate Bob Rock. He can take a band like Crüe, who sound so inherently raw and primal that it actually makes the album better (like on “Too fast for love”), and polish their sound on this album to the point where it almost doesn’t even sound like the same band anymore. However, I couldn’t imagine this album sounding any other way. Everything just has so much clarity, and there is so much mass to the overall sound. The mix has more weight in the bottom end than your mom, and coupled with the D-standard tuning, it gives the band a viciousness they never had before. Guitar leads always cut through the mix nicely and the whammy pedal effects added to many of them are a nice touch that make them stick out that much more. My only complaint is that this record is too produced. When this much effort goes into the production and developing this level of pure sound quality, there is a certain sterility that gets added unavoidably, creating an almost fake sound. The Crüe managed to overcome that because of their undeniable Crüe-ness and attitude. So, fuck you, Bob Rock. This was also the first album the band recorded while semi-sober, so they could probably comprehend things like tuning and mix levels for the first time in their careers. Way to go, guys.
8,5. I’ve always felt like Mick Mars was one of the goofiest-looking guitarists of my lifetime as well as one of the most underrated. All he’s ever done is write a shitload of classic riffs and memorable solos for a band that everybody and their mother knows. Also, despite battling chronic arthritis for most of his life, he also manages to display some insane showmanship while playing live. While his tone is very similar to every other guitarist from the glam scene, what I’ve always admired about his playing is the diversity of his style, and this album is a prime example of that. There is the groovy, palm-muted chunking and two-handed tapping shred of the title track, of course, but Mars also demonstrates his ability to lay down much more intricate parts like the slide guitar in the typical ’80s power ballad, “Without you,” and the acoustic rhythms of “Don’t go away mad (Just go away).” Even on straightforward, balls-out rockers like “Kickstart my heart” and “Same ol’ situation,” Mars’ chops set him apart from the faceless bevy of his ’80s counterparts and their endless supply of fucken Kramer Pacers. During a musical era where pop-metal guitarists were a dime-a-dozen and copied Van Halen licks like a Xerox machine, Mick Mars always managed to find away to create a unique identity. To me anyway.
7. Vince Neil has never been my favorite pipesman, but once again, I couldn’t imagine anyone else doing the job on this album. He has always had a pretty good range and has always flirted with the cusp of being out of that range. Sometimes his vocal parts sound like he’s singing his balls off just to (almost) hit those high notes, and having heard him live, I suspect there’s a good deal of studio trickery to get the pitch up there. Anyway, his high-pitched, nasally scream of a vocal style fits the Hollywood sleaze sound so perfectly. Even his skanky lower semi-growl sounds great. He also demonstrates a high level of versatility on “Feelgood.” Like most singers of the era, he combines the balls-out rockers with an occasional more sentimental ballad and pulls it off well.
8. On the subject of technical prowess, Nikki Sixx is really nothing more than an adequate bassist for a straightforward rock band. However, you can’t measure the impact that his songwriting skill had on the band on “Feelgood,” and the actual sound of his instrument on the album is absolutely awesome. The band tunes in D-standard, so by that trait alone, their sound is going to have a bit more bottom end than many glam bands, but the bass is so prominent in the mix that Crüe has an unmatched massiveness to their sound on “Feelgood.” While Sixx does nothing even remotely spectacular on the fretboard, he does lay an unshakable foundation for the albums real rockers like the title track and “Kickstart my heart.” On top of his excellent sound, he wrote or co-wrote every song on the album and allegedly did it without using hard drugs. Whatever. Sixx was an invaluable asset to the Crüe on this one.
7. I’ve always liked Tommy Lee’s drumming style. For some reason, I’ve always found his sound pretty recognizable, and he’s usually rock-solid behind the kit in terms of keeping the band together. His overall sound on “Feelgood” is a pretty classic ’80s heavy metal sound. The snare has a nice ringing “gunshot” sound to it, and the kicks are deep and powerful. I absolutely love the sound of the high-hat on this record. It really shines during the opening of the title track, and Lee does a good job of using his foot on it. The ride cymbal also sounds great on “Don’t go away mad.” Overall, the drum sound on this album was as good as a glam band from the ’80s could produce.
7,5. The lyrics on this album range from typical ’80s cheese:
We could sail away or catch a freight train
Or a rocketship into outer space
To blatant teenage horniness:
Always a lady
I love southern ladies
They just know how to please
It’s like connecting the dots
Start at the bottom, lick to the top
To drug-peddling escapades:
Jigsaw Jimmy he’s running a gang, but I hear he’s doin’ okay
Got a cozy little job, sells the mexican mob packages of candy-cane
I honestly don’t see what more you could want from a sleazy Sunset Strip, L.A glam band in 1989, but the bottom line is that it’s all really just a bit too juvenile for my own personal liking. Nonetheless, I dig it for what it is.
9. I’ve always loved this cover. It’s a take on the ancient Rod of Asclepius, only instead of a rod, there’s a dagger or some shit with a hairy skull on top, and they added wings. Fucken A. Put it on top of a background of some puke green tiles from the bathroom in which your bass player O.D.‘ed and basically died and came back, and you’ve got a winner. The red logo with while skull-and-bones looks ace on the top of it too. This is just a classic cover, and it even looked awesome on a t-shirt.
7. It says “Mötley Crüe.” Alrighty then. The Crüe have never been known for any consistent logos, but as far as cover logos go, this one is their best, without a doubt.
6. My old tape had a couple of stereotypical ’80s glam metal photos of the band in straightjackets with some skanky chicks and lyrics. Oh, and Vince Neil has never looked more androgynous. The CD version is basically the same but with a few more photos, I believe. Nothing special.
Overall and ending rant
This is an album that’s probably greater than the sum of its parts, and it’s not a record that was loved by everyone. It doesn’t have the primal rockin’ attitude of “Too fast for love” or the fist-pumping sleaze of “Girls, girls, girls,” but it is Mötley Crüe’s most polished, best written, and best sounding album they’ve ever produced, and it’s undoubtedly a staple of ’80s glam metal.
- Released: 1989
- Label: Elektra
- Website: motley.com
- Vince Neil: vocals
- Mick Mars: guitars
- Nikki Sixx: bass
- Tommy Lee: drums
- 01. T.nT. (Terror ‘n Tinseltown)
- 02. Dr. Feelgood
- 03. Slice of Your Pie
- 04. Rattlesnake Shake
- 05. Kickstart My Heart
- 06. Without You
- 07. Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)
- 08. Sticky Sweet
- 09. She Goes Down
- 10. Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)
- 11. Time for Change