Dr. Feelgood, Mötley Crüe’s fifth studio album, released in 1989, was a testament to their prowess, with each track pulsating with raw energy and unbridled passion. it was a beacon of hope for those seeking an escape from the monotony of everyday life.
Its success was a testament to the band’s dedication to their craft and their willingness to push musically boundaries,. In a world that seemed to be losing its edge, Dr. Feelgood reminded us that sex, drugs and rock and roll was still alive and kicking.
In the age of Girls, Girls, Girls (1987) and Dr. Feelgood (1989), Mötley Crüe faced dire straits as glam metal’s allure reached its peak. But amidst the pandemonium, the band’s fortitude and finesse coalesced into a magnum opus that set them apart. A sonic opus perfectly attuned to the times, as the band’s sound evolved.
Sometimes great works need the right timing.
Yet, amidst the chaos, Dr. Feelgood emerged at the perfect moment, perfectly aligned with the musical spirit of the times. Their resilience and expertise, honed through trials and tribulations, culminated in a masterpiece that stood out from the rest, a true original. However, as time wore on, their sound evolved, and subsequent works such as Generations Swine diverged from the classic tone. Even attempts to revert to their roots proved ill-timed.
Mötley Crüe has often been criticized for their negative influence on young people, which seems to be a part of their identity. The band has never shied away from the image of living a reckless and dangerous lifestyle. Unfortunately, the consequences of their actions have been devastating. Vince was responsible for a drunk driving accident that caused the death of Hanoi Rock’s drummer, Razzle, resulting in his conviction for vehicular manslaughter and serving a 30-day jail sentence, further adding to the band’s notoriety.
Their songs, which revolved around a lifestyle of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, were present from their underground days with Too Fast for Love. However, their fortunes changed when Elektra came calling, and the album was re-released by the renowned Queen producer, Roy Thomas Baker. The two parties hit it off splendidly, with Cocaine acting as a mediator between them.
Upon signing a contract with a major label to release “Shout at the Devil,” Famous blazed a trail of unorthodox and motley imagery. Their music was characterized by a sense of playfulness and enjoyment, rather than heavy and intense, propelling them to the pinnacle of a career coveted by many.
They indulged in the luxurious life of a rockstar, dating the most desirable actresses while also grappling with drug overdoses and intermittent quarrels.
Despite their tumultuous personal lives, they must acknowledge their role as pioneers of glam metal, forever symbolizing the genre’s ascent and decline.
The momentous occasion of creating the album Dr. Feelgood was marked by a shared goal among band members: to overcome their struggles with drug addiction before commencing work. Some whispered of a possible collaboration with Quincy Jones, famed R&B producer known for his work on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” Alas, it was only a notion. In reality, they sought a replacement for Tom Werman, who had produced their previous three albums.
According to Mick Mars, Tom Werman’s approach to work was too conservative, rigid, and inflexible, leaving them little room for innovation. It was time to push the envelope and chart a new path. Seeking someone younger, fresher, and more dynamic, Nikki Sixx who love The Cult’s masterpiece, “Sonic Temple.” With this new spirit of adventure, they sent their Dr. Feelgood demo to Bob Rock, who found it irresistible.
Bob Rock, a man of many talents, was not only a skilled musician, but also a master sound engineer and producer. Before he linked up with Mötley Crüe, he had already established himself as an expert in crafting rich, vibrant soundscapes. His fingerprints could be found on such iconic works as Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet and Aerosmith’s Permanent Vacation, where he served as sound engineer. He was also the guiding hand behind a multitude of full-scale productions, including Kingdom Come’s eponymous debut album.
Throughout their career, Mötley Crüe have been chameleonic, never content to rest on their laurels. Their musical style has shifted and evolved, from the early glam rock aesthetics with a punk edge, to the gradual refinement of their sound, culminating in the aggressive guitar riffs of Girls, Girls, Girls. They also transformed their image, shedding their glam metal look for the grittier guise of dirt bikers. However, one thing that never changed was their attitude towards sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
But when it came time to record “Dr. Feelgood,” they decided to clean up their act. Under Bob Rock’s watchful eye, each member abstained from drugs during the recording process. Bob confirmed that not a single band member had been using drugs during their work on the album. It was a first for the notorious bad boys of rock, but it resulted in a musical masterpiece that remains a testament to their talent and discipline.
Bob had to resort to recording each band member separately, as the band members continued to drink and argue during the recording of Dr. Feelgood. (from blender magazine)
Insistence on perfection led to some tension in the studio. To ensure the highest quality sound, Vince was reportedly singing all day but only producing one usable line.
Mick’s guitar sound underwent a remarkable transformation in this album. He claimed that working with Tom only involved a few microphones and a Marshall amp. Bob, give more time for experimental and tried out various equipment to find the ideal sound.
Mick, in a subsequent interview, expressed his discontent with Bob’s methodical approach, as Bob relentlessly sought perfection. Bob insisted on recording overdub to achieve a more intricate sound, demanding that Mick play every note to attain the same line. Mick found himself playing repeatedly, feeling at times that it was excessive.
If Mick accidentally brushed a string with his little finger, Bob, with his pure, natural golden ears, would still detect the sound and demand that Mick play it again, exactly the same way.
Mick has the spirit of an old-school rockstar, where imperfection is perfection and mistakes lend a more human touch. He cherishes a non perfect sound. However, since Bob is on board as the producer, he had no choice but to acquiesce to the producer’s desired framework.
The shift in Mötley Crüe’s music is evident in the role of the riff style. The band’s initial glam metal style gave way to a more straightforward rock approach, which relying on the riff guitars as the centerpiece. but now allowed emphasis on vocal melodies and song structure, Nevertheless, the band didn’t entirely forsake the riff; instead, it played a supporting role in the rhythm section, allowing for more diverse and dynamic songwriting.
The songs of the album are focused on sex, drugs and rock and roll, just like before. Only “Time for Change” differs slightly in its substance. However, the themes portrayed in the songs are outdated by today’s standards, and the overemphasis on sex seems rather empty, especially in light of the threat of AIDS in early 1990s. As society changes, so does the content of music.
Mötley Crüe, known for their raunchy lyrics and heavy guitar riffs, surprised fans with a ballad called “Without You” – a song about love and loss. It was a first for the band, who had never ventured into sweet territory before.
While their previous album, Girls, Girls, Girls, did contain a ballad titled “You’re All I Need,” it was about murder and obsession, not love and heartbreak. “Without You” was a signal that Mötley Crüe was willing to give the market what it wanted. The band’s success with their album, Dr. Feelgood, which topped the Billboard charts and surpassed the achievements of many other hair bands.
The other songs are rocking’, ready for a good roll. Each of them carries a hook that catches, especially the song “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)” with a melody that won’t let go. But the music has a pop-metal feel, or take “Kickstart My Heart,” which Nikki wrote based on his experiences in 1987. While on tour with Guns and Roses, he hangs out with Slash in a hotel room and overdoses on drugs, causing shock and cardiac arrest for nearly two minutes (according to Behind the Music). Slash later claimed he didn’t feel responsible for what occurred in the room.
The opening guitar riff of “Kickstart My Heart” appears to imitate the revving sound of motorcycle engines, creating a powerful and energetic start to the music.
It is believed that may the band drew inspiration from Montrose’s “Bad Motor Scooter” for this sound. As the song progresses, the riff takes center stage and drives the melody forward, resembling the driving rhythm of The Sweets’ “Hell Raiser.” Interestingly, despite these similarities, ” Kickstart My Heart ” remains a signature song for Mötley Crüe, showcasing their ability to create catchy and memorable rock anthems.
The world is not made of originality alone, but rather, inspiration and influence. There have been questions raised about the similarity between the ” Hell Raiser ” riff and Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love,” Riff, but don’t forget the similarity between “Whole Lotta Love” and Willie Dixon’s “You Need Love.”
Dr. Feelgood, with its six million copies sold in U.S. and number one spot on the Billboard charts, stands as Mötley Crüe’s pinnacle achievement. While their other albums have garnered attention, it is this one that truly captures the essence of the band’s youthful vigor and senseless carefree spirit.
The album reflects the band’s growth and progress and represents a moment when they were at the peak of their creativity, speaks to the wild and reckless adolescence that many of us have experienced, where life is a party and consequences are an afterthought. Through its songs, Dr. Feelgood channels this energy and attitude, and it’s no wonder that it has become a classic of its time.
All lyrics are written by Nikki Sixx.
- “T.n.T. (Terror ‘n Tinseltown)” 0:42
- “Dr. Feelgood” 4:50
- “Slice of Your Pie” 4:32
- “Rattlesnake Shake” 3:40
- “Kickstart My Heart” 4:48
- “Without You” 4:29
- “Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)” 4:12
- “Sticky Sweet” 3:52
- “She Goes Down” 4:37
- “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)” 4:40
- “Time for Change” 4:45
- Vince Neil – lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar, harmonica, shakers
- Mick Mars – lead guitar, backing vocals
- Nikki Sixx – bass, (all but Time for Change), backing vocals, organ and piano (Time for Change)
- Tommy Lee – drums, backing vocals
- Bob Rock – bass (Time for Change), background vocals (Dr. Feelgood, Rattlesnake Shake, Sticky Sweet, She Goes Down)
- John Webster – honky tonk piano (Rattlesnake Shake), keyboards & programming
- Tom Keenlyside, Ian Putz, Ross Gregory, Henry Christian – Marguerita Horns (Rattlesnake Shake)
- Donna McDaniel, Emi Canyn, Marc LaFrance, David Steele – background vocals
- Steven Tyler – background vocals (Sticky Sweet), intro (Slice of Your Pie)
- Bryan Adams – background vocals (Sticky Sweet)
- Jack Blades – background vocals (Same Ol’ Situation, Sticky Sweet)
- Robin Zander, Rick Nielsen – background vocals (She Goes Down)
- Skid Row, Bob Dowd, Mike Amato, Toby Francis – background vocals (Time for Change)
- Bob Rock – producer, engineer, mixing
- Randy Staub – engineer, mixing
- Chris Taylor – assistant engineer
- George Marino – mastering at Sterling Sound, New York
- Bob Defrin – art direction
- Don Brautigam – cover art illustration
- William Hames – photography
- Kevin Brady – artwork, design
- Mike Amato – project coordinator