The SmarK DVD Rant for Motley Crue: Greatest Video Hits
– Something a bit different this time, as I go back to my musical reviewing side. In this case, I’ve been reading “The Dirt” as of late and kind of wanting to revisit all the old videos with the new insights from the book as to what was happening behind the scenes at the time, and since the Crue is a bunch of album re-releasing whores lately (how many versions of “Too Fast For Love” do we NEED, guys?), it only made sense that they’d get around to putting all the videos out on DVD.
But man, they did a great job, at least.
To be honest, although the Crue was huge around the time I was first getting into rock music in grades 5-7, I never really ended up a big fan of them until Dr. Feelgood, their magnum opus of rock excess. Most of my exposure from that 80s is limited to the big hits â€” “Smokin’ In the Boys Room”, “Home Sweet Home”, and the other stuff from the shitty Theater of Pain era, when they were coked out of their minds and doing bloated arena shows that doubled as pretentious rock opera. I mean, even if the drummer is hanging upside-down over the crowd in a spinning drum kit, it’s still a f*cking drum solo, okay?
That being said, I LOVED the John Corabi era and it’s too bad that he banged whichever spouse that he did and caused his own expulsion from the group, because Motley Crue is probably one of the most underrated albums of the 90s, and one that got destroyed in the explosion of grunge. Which is too bad, because it’s heavier and more suicide-inducing than most of what the whiny Seattle punks were pumping out at the same time.
So after a couple of lackluster releases from the Crue which were supposed to be definitive but weren’t, they finally got it right, covering everything from start to finish, warts and all. Here’s the rundown of videos included, and my thoughts on each one, just because it’s me.
“Kickstart My Heart”. This is one of those songs that took me a while to really “get”, but much like the whole Dr. Feelgood album, I really dig the groove that Nikki Sixx sets up here. Unfortunately Vince Neil did this one live here in Edmonton and completely butchered it, much like the rest of his catalog, but there’s a great live version of the out-of-print Decade of Decadence greatest-hits package that’s pretty much the definitive one and really captures the essence of the song. The video is a live performance at the Whisky, kind of a “returning to our roots” deal, mixed in with some adrenaline junkie footage. Everything from Feelgood is a winner, with one notable exception, and this isn’t it.
“Same Ol’ Situation”. Another favorite of mine, this is director Wayne Isham in full-on goofy camera maverick mode, shooting a stadium show with crazy angles, including a beachball cam, a bungee cam, and cameras mounted everywhere on stage. The song rocks and it’s a singalong classic live, although the video ends with “See You Next Tour” (this was the final single off Feelgood), which proved ironic because Vince Neil was turfed soon after and the band went on hiatus while recording with John Corabi.
“Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)”. Another great f*cking song from Feelgood, as it starts out like a mid-tempo ballad and turns into a pounding rock anthem. Bob Rock used to be great at stuff like that. The ultimate kiss-off song, too, which again proved ironic considered what happened to Vince Neil after this album. The video foreshadows their problems, as Vince is shot in LA and the rest of the band is hanging out on the streets with skateboarders, and they don’t reunite until the end of the video. Another winner from one of the all-time great metal albums.
“Without You”. The only song off Dr. Feelgood that I skip when I listen to it, which is often. A sappy, pretentious ballad from Tommy to Heather Locklear, and the video is even worse, ripping off Tears for Fears’ “Sowing the Seeds of Love” and featuring a friggin’ TIGER as one of the characters. That’s how you know you’re in a pretentious 80s hair metal video. The exception would be Def Leppard’s “Animal”, because at least the song is about metaphoric animals. Vince Neil is at his preening, posing worst, and poor Mick Mars tries to look badass while magic lockets float in the background. Hated it then, hate it now.
“Wild Side”. Back to the Girls, Girls, Girls album now, and another performance video shot by Wayne Isham, in the same vein as “Same Ol’ Situation”. The focus here is on Tommy’s rotating drum gimmick and the slutty background singers. Not a video about anything, just a live show. The only thing that really bugs me about this one is that the song has a fade at the end â€” I hate that in a “live” video. Either use the live version of the song, or do an actual video, but don’t fade out the song when the guys are standing on stage! Fun stuff, at any rate.
“Girls, Girls, Girls”. The title track from their fourth album, it’s low concept videomaking at its best â€” the Crue shoots a video in a strip club, complete with strippers stripping. I’m not such a big fan of the generic nature of the song itself, but you can’t go wrong with half-naked chicks fondling Vince. This is the PG-13 rated version of the video that MTV played.
“Dr. Feelgood”. The absolute peak of the band, this is the first single and title track from the greatest album of the Vince Neil era, Dr. Feelgood. The album as a whole is blistering, rock swagger with Bob Rock polishing it to a shine, and the first single is a sober Crue’s volley back at their drug dealers. The video is also a classic, a riff on Scarface featuring a cocky dealer getting caught in his own web while the Crue destroys their own set in the middle of nowhere and burns shit down. The only thing about this one is that the 5.1 mix of it included on the DVD is different than the stereo mix that’s also included â€” the stereo mix is true to the album version, whereas the 5.1 mix features vocals from Vince that sound newer than the original, and more reverb in the rhythm section, to the point where it’s really distracting. Plus there’s so much cowbell mixed into the drums that it’s like Bruce Dickinson was producing or something. With songs like that where I’ve basically got every note memorized, it’s a real distraction.
“Looks That Kill”. Oh, now we’re getting into the truly cheesy 80s version of the Crue, from Shout at the Devil, as they strut around in full makeup and leotards with caged women and a bondage motif. The showdown with Xena Warrior Princess as Vince shoots pentagrams from his microphone warrants an Oscar, at least. And Nikki and Tommy look so demented here that that you can almost play a game of “Which combinations of drugs were they on?” and probably be right guessing stuff at random. Oddly enough, it’s still a great SONG all these years later, with a killer riff and great head-banging backbeat.
“Live Wire”. All the way back to the beginning, as they directed their own video on their own record label in the days before superstardom, and basically just went out and played a live performance to impress record execs. I appreciate stuff from Too Fast For Love more today, especially after reading the book, because it’s apparent how desperately Nikki Sixx wanted to be a rock god, and songs like this are all about the hunger of guys trying to play guitar and score with chicks. Not necessarily in that order.
“You’re All I Need”. First time I’ve seen this one (third single from Girls, Girls, Girls), and it’s probably because it was banned everywhere. In this case, Nikki Sixx wrote a song to his cheating girlfriend about a hypothetical guy who murders his hypothetical girlfriend and buries her in the house, and then set the lyrics to the tune of a Bon Jovi-ish pop ballad. The Crue doesn’t even appear in the video, it’s just a documentary-style B&W story about a guy driven nuts by his girlfriend who stabs her to death and gets hauled off by the cops at the end. The lyrics are ultra-creepy and the video is pretty disturbing, so no wonder no one in Canada would touch it.
“Too Young To Fall In Love”. Hoo boy. Back to the cheesy early days, as the Crue does their version of “Kill Bill” and battles evil female ninjas in Japan while decked out in tights and lipstick. Newer fans will probably recognize the song from Grand Theft Auto Vice City’s heavy metal radio station. I’ve never liked the song, or the video, but it’s nice they included it to laugh at.
“Primal Scream”. On the other hand, I LOVE this video and song. In fact, “If you wanna live life on your own terms, ya gotta be willing to crash and burn” was barely edged out as my yearbook quote by Spinal Tap’s “There’s a fine line between genius and stupidity”, but about 6 other people went with the Crue in 92. The song is pure anger and rage with a killer groove from Tommy Lee, and the video is this great NIN-ish darkly-lit industrial nightmare that makes them all look like badasses. This was the first single off the greatest hits package Decade of Decadence, and better than most of the other songs on there, to boot. It also foreshadowed the direction they’d go with Corabi, as Vince Neil stuck with the 80s glam rock on his solo album (the brutal X-Posed, which I picked up for $1.50 in a Wal-Mart discount bin only for “You’re Invited” and never listen to).
“Anarchy in the UK”. I never got the point of fixing the production on a Sex Pistols song about anarchy â€” it seemed to be kinda missing the point, ya know? Anyway, this is the other single off Decade (not counting the underrated “Rock N Roll Junkie” from the Ford Fairlane soundtrack), and it’s a hodge-podge of live footage, most of which probably has nothing to do with the song. The song is okay, the video is okay.
“Afraid”. Into the dark period now, as this is the first single off the disastrous Generation Swine album, the “reunion” with Vince after Corabi left. Unfortunately, Vince didn’t actually participate in the making of the album â€” they just deleted Corabi’s vocals and had Vince redo them, which led to a bigass lawsuit. The result sounds like, as you’d expect, Vince Neil singing John Corabi songs. It’s an interesting direction for the group, with an almost industrial feel to the song and video, but ultimately it doesn’t work. The video features the band playing in a cage underneath a giant woman’s dress, with the usual jerky quick-cuts associated with trendier videos of the late 90s. It’s pretty much the only good song on the album, not counting their unnecessary remake of “Shout at the Devil”.
“Smoke the Sky”. And now we come into the scary period for casual Crue fans, with the first Corabi track on the DVD. This was actually the third single from the awesome, ballsy Motley Crue, long after the record company had given up on the album, and it’s great, kickass, bluesy hardcore ROCK with a rehearsal session serving as the video for this one. Not even my favorite track from that album, but John Corabi is not only a better singer than Vince, but actually PLAYS AN INSTRUMENT, so Mick Mars could concentrate on his playing instead of filling in all the rhythm guitar parts on the other tracks.
“Misunderstood”. This is like the evil version of “Don’t Go Away Mad”, as it starts with a gentle acoustic jam session and slowly builds in intensity until it explodes with a thrashing second half with a killer riff. Corabi absolutely wails on this one, and the video is all about desperation and loneliness and stuff. I love this song and never get tired of it. The only complaint about the video is that they fade out too soon off the outro, but it’s great menacing stuff and a great song otherwise. This is the one to really give a shot if you’ve never listened to the Corabi stuff before.
“Enslaved”. One of the bonus singles from the more recent Greatest Hits release, this features Vince again, and the return of Bob Rock as producer. Shot with what seems to be a series of bootleg videos, it’s a pretty straightforward rock song that’s pretty good, but ultimately forgettable. I wouldn’t have included it if not for the completist nature of this DVD.
“Smokin’ In The Boys Room”. Their biggest hit and most well-known video, this is a cover of a Brownsville Station song that was the first single from the putrid Theater of Pain album, which was so bad that they even trash it in the book. The video is weird camp 80s excess at its strangest, as a kid journeys through the bathroom mirror after a dog eats his homework, and the Crue guys torment the fascist school regime and teach them about rock n roll. The song still rocks and still gets played today, but the video doesn’t hold up at all.
“Hooligan’s Holiday”. God I love this song. The first single with Corabi, from Motley Crue, features their take on A Clockwork Orange, with subliminal visuals and great editing. Plus Nikki Sixx looks his most cool and evil here, in full control of his songwriting craft without Vince dragging them down. This song was perfect for their new direction, because it sounds nothing like Vince Neil, features chord and tempo changes out the wazoo, and just sounds really EVIL. Kind of like Metallica in the late 80s without the polish of Bob Rock. This was truly three guys freed from their annoying lead singer and ready to kick ass in the rock world, but too far ahead of their time to succeed at it, unfortunately. I bought the album, and I still listen to it and love it, though.
“Hell on High Heels”. The first and only single from the failed comeback album New Tattoo, with Vince again, supposedly bringing them back to the glory days. Unfortunately Tommy Lee was gone by this point and replacement Randy Castillo died, so that plan never really got off the ground, and they broke up again before they could take back their place on the charts. It’s a pretty decent rocker, with a good chorus, but a goofy animated video that reeks of the band not wanting to throw their full effort into things.
“Home Sweet Home”. And to finish the DVD, it’s the seminal power ballad, with the band whining about life on the road and wanting to go home again. I don’t really like the song anymore â€” overplaying it in the 80s really ruined it for me. Even worse, the video included here has been overdubbed with the 91 remix version instead of the original from Theater of Pain. No idea why. The video is the old “setting up an arena with time-lapse photography” deal and shots from the tour bus and stuff. Sadly no shots of them sending a limo for their drug dealer or shoving phones into hooker’s genitals are included.
So basically, everything from start to finish (and the true hardcore fans are probably saying “Wait a minute there’s three missing”, but hold your horses ), albeit in slightly bizarre order. But you can take care of THAT, too, later!
I don’t see the Crue getting back any time soon, so if this stands as their legacy, it’s a good one.
Standard full-screen video, as you’d expect, and the quality varies according to age, but it’s all been cleaned up pretty nicely. There’s compression issues all over the place, which may have to do with all the videos being done in 5.1 surround, but it’s not noticeable anywhere but the fadeouts.
Call me a purist, but I like the 2.0 stereo mix a lot better than the “If it ain’t broke ” tinkering on the 5.1 mix. You can, however, pick either one. There’s a lot of minor, annoying differences in the mixes, too â€” things are mixed louder and softer than they should be, certain tracks are brought up too far, and things like the explosions in “Wild Side” are mixed too loud in the surrounds. “Dr. Feelgood” sounds terrible with the new mix, as does “Same Ol’ Situation”. The stereo mix is faithful to the originals and handled much better. Oddly enough, the credits list different mastering personnel for each mix, so it kind of makes sense.
Here’s where this thing REALLY excels compared to most music-video collections (GNR, I’m looking at YOU).
First off, you get an HOUR long interview with Tommy and Nikki, as they go over each video and reminisce as best they can (which, sadly, isn’t very well, due to all the drugs), but it’s still an incredibly interesting look at the stories behind all of them. They even go out of their way to praise Corabi.
Next, you get six more videos â€” the “X-Rated” version of “Girls, Girls, Girls” (with nudity), the alternate version of “Dr. Feelgood” (with only the band’s performance portion and no drug dealer story), the uncensored “Primal Scream” (with some tasteful female nudity), the uncensored “Misunderstood” (with a shot of the old man about to eat a bullet from his own gun), the uncensored “High on High Heels” (with cartoon nudity and a different version of Mr. President) and the 1991 remixed version of “Home Sweet Home” (the B&W version of the video, with a theme about the homeless).
But wait, there’s more!
If the oddball order of the videos offends you, you can choose “Personal Playlist” and rearrange them however you want! I wish all music DVDs would include that feature.
Next, a comprehensive discography, with listings for the most recent re-releases of all the albums (including Decade, which isn’t even on the Hip-O label, a nice touch).
And finally, easter eggs! Yes, it’s THREE MORE VIDEOS, bringing the total to a whopping THIRTY. To access them, go to the main menu and highlight ‘Set Up.’ Now, press up, up down, up, down, left, right on your remote. No, we’re not playing Contra. This will take you to a crude video for “Take Me To The Top”, shot with what appears to be a webcam or something.
Next, go to the “Damn Videos” section, and move to the second page. Highlight the entry that says “1-7.” Press down, right, up, left, up, right and down. That unlocks another crude video from the early days, “Public Enemy #1”.
Finally, the third hidden video is located in the “Extra Crap” section. Head to the Discography and select the Generation Swine album. Highlight “Next” and the hit up three times. A pentagram appears and if you press Enter you get the video for “Shout At the Devil 97”.
About the only other thing you could ask for would be the audio versions of all the songs in the discography (and at 192K, you could easily fit them on a DVD), but obviously that would be foolish and cause you not to run out and buy all the albums separately.
The Film: ****
The Video: **
The Audio: ***
The Extras: *****