[Note: Tom Werman, the producer discussed in this post, has disputed several elements of the story. To read his response, click here. –Ed.]
We’re not too far away from a new resurgence of Mötley Crüe, with both a new album due soon — the first with all four original members in 11 years — and a big-screen version of the band’s “autobiography,” The Dirt, due in 2009. (Christopher Walken as Ozzy Osbourne? If it happens, I am so there.) The new album, Saints of Los Angeles, is supposed to follow the storyline of The Dirt to varying degrees, so fans will get to hear the boys tell their story two more times in the next year or so.
Needless to say, while the Crüe are sure to be reveling in tales of their debauchery and their “redemption” from personal addictions, I suspect they’ll gloss over some of the more corruptible behavior that they continue to indulge in even now — the type of stuff for which this series was created. So today you get five dicks for the price of one, as I’m covering each of the band members and the infamous a-hole producer of perhaps their biggest albums. Roll call, please …
Tommy Lee: A whirlwind romance and quickie marriage to Pamela Anderson in February of ’95 resulted in what is still the most famous celebrity sex tape of all time, one which left the majority of the male population feeling very inadequate. The romance was short-lived, however, as Tommy gave Pam a beating in February of ’98 that landed him in jail; he also apparently gave her hepatitis C from a shared tattoo needle. (Who tattoos themselves?) The other three members of Mötley Crüe sued Tommy’s personal manager for letting him appear in two reality shows — Tommy Lee Goes to College in ’05, Rockstar: Supernova in ’06 — that supposedly sullied the band’s image. (When we get to Vince Neil, though, you’ll see why that accusation makes him look like a hypocritical piece of shit.)
In 1999 Tommy was arrested after a Crüe concert on charges of assault and inciting a riot, but he’s been arrested plenty of other times as well. His most recent moment of infamy came courtesy of a spontaneous boxing match with Kid Rock at last year’s MTV Video Awards, as the two decided to do battle over their mutual ex-wife for some reason.
Mick Mars: The oldest member of the band by seven years, Mars looks to also be the wisest member by far, as his resumé is generally spotless in the realm of dickery. Unlike the rest of the band, Mars has only been arrested once, way back in 1974, for failure to pay child support, a relative kiss on the cheek compared to his coworkers’ rap sheets. Mars did have a drinking problem for a number of years, but that can almost be excused, as he’s suffered from a degenerative bone condition for the past four decades that necessitated a hip replacement in 2004 and still keeps him on prescription meds for basically all of his waking hours. A few negatives can be mentioned, though: (1) his entire image, created specifically to break into the Los Angeles hard-rock scene in the ’80s, was stolen from Alice Cooper without due recognition or admission; (2) he named his kids Les Paul and Stormy; and (3) he must have serious psychological issues since he continues to hang out with the rest of these jag-offs.
Vince Neil: So let me get this straight, Vince — you have a problem with Tommy’s reality shows, yet you were on the first season of The Surreal Life in 2002, the one that led to your most recent wedding ceremony being officiated by costar/ housemate/ordained minister MC Hammer. And what about the VH1 special that showed you getting a career makeover that included liposuction and a face-lift? Or the episode of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy that you appeared in? Or the reality-show pilot you developed for A&E last year? Those were cool but Tommy’s shows weren’t? Riiiiight. Just wanted to make sure I knew where the lines were being drawn.
Speaking of lines, how many had you done the night you got behind the wheel and caused the crash that killed Razzle from Hanoi Rocks? But that’s okay, because you did your time — or at least a teeny, tiny bit of time (30 days) compared to what most people would get for vehicular manslaughter, and you’ve admitted that you “bought” your way out of further prison time by writing a check for $2.5 million. But that’s all in the past, along with the 11 other arrests and (at least) seven trips to rehab … and your own sex tape with a porn star … and the time you got kicked out of the band for four years because of your behavior …
Nikki Sixx: The band’s bassist and main creative force has a thing for security guards, apparently: within a period of three months in 1997, he was accused twice of assaulting them. One of those times led to an arrest, the other merely led to a lawsuit. He was also arrested in ’99 for inciting a riot, though his arrest doesn’t seem to have taken place at the same concert that led to Tommy’s arrest for the same reason. Sixx’s most infamous moment was probably the time he OD’d on heroin and actually died. Luckily, doctors were able to get his heart started again, after which he checked himself out of the hospital, went home, and did more heroin. His current social beef is a back-and-forth between him and the producer of Girls, Girls, Girls and the two Crüe albums that preceded it: Sixx said in his autobiography The Heroin Diaries that he actually produced the bulk of those albums while the producer spent most of the time in the studio taking phone calls. Which leads us to …
Tom Werman: Two things are consistent with bands who work with Tom Werman — they often have some of the biggest-selling albums of their career with him as their producer, and, regardless of point one, they leave him for other producers because they can’t stand him. Bossy, egotistical, and either in denial or oblivious to the damage his attitude has caused him, Werner has also produced albums for Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent, Blue Öyster Cult, and Poison as well as almost every other ’80s L.A. glam-metal band. Even with no formal training behind the boards, Werman was known for his dogmatism in the studio, preferring to force slick arrangements on bands whose type of music would seem to call for something louder and rougher. For instance, he accused Cheap Trick of leaving him because he “wanted them to be the Who” and “they wanted to be the Beatles,” yet the album Werman produced for them was 1977’s In Color, easily the poppiest of their career. Werman’s arrangement of “I Want You to Want Me” was a piece of British dance-hall music, for God’s sake!
In truth, the only thing truly hard about Werman was the life he led. He openly admits to having partied like a rock star back in the ’70s and ’80s, snorting coke, drinking, and cheating on his wife (who must be very forgiving, as he’s now been married to her for nearly 40 years). To this day, he makes no excuses for his behavior, because, in his words, “everybody did it.” So with Werman you have a guy with a hard-rock resumé and a soft-rock mind, who says his favorite production is Glyn Johns’s work on the first Eagles album, and who, when his production career dried up, moved to Massachusetts and opened a bed-and-breakfast. Seriously.
But regardless of who produced how much or what the final product sounded like compared to what it was supposed to be, Girls, Girls, Girls (1987) still holds up as a very good album from the late ’80s. A large part of that has to do with the fact that, unlike many of the bands from the L.A. rock scene at the time, Mötley Crüe actually played their instruments well. Most guitarists in Mick Mars’s peer group were trying to do their best Eddie Van Halen impressions back then, but Mars had been schooled in classic rock and blues. And while Tommy Lee is all about showmanship (as the band’s popularity grew, so did his drum kit, until it included a plethora of bass drums, gongs, and … a rotating cage?!), he also has a very good sense of rhythm and feel in his playing, at least partly due to the fact that drums aren’t the only instrument he plays — he’s also a rather good pianist. (No, that’s not a sex-tape joke.)
Additionally, Mötley Crüe’s background and training lent their music a quality more in line with Aerosmith and the Stones and less like traditional heavy metal and glam rock. Hence, not only is the title of Girls, Girls, Girls and the great lead single taken straight from an Elvis movie, but the album ends with a hard ‘n’ fast live take on the King’s “Jailhouse Rock” (download). Then there are songs like “Dancing on Glass” and “Five Years Dead,” which incorporates Exile on Main Street horn arrangements and female gospel background vocalists. Additionally, Mars dipped into a bit of Chicago-style electric blues, albeit a much faster version of it, for the sleazy riffs that dominate the album’s first track and second single, “Wild Side” (download). Finally, the band wore its Beatles influence a little more on its sleeve than most other L.A. scenesters (with the possible exception of Use Your Illusion-era Guns n’ Roses), especially with their willingness to experiment. Check out the musical change-ups in “Wild Side” and the somewhat bizarre and haunting 80-second piece “Nona” (download), which closes the first half of the album.
I’m not sure how these new Mötley Crüe projects are going to turn out, especially the new album. Most hard rockers of their era have long since hung it up or faded into obscurity. I will say that I like the title track (and first single) from Saints of Los Angeles; it’s very evocative of the Girls, Girls, Girls era of the Crüe, though Vince Neil’s voice has quite a few miles of wear and tear on it now. Regardless, it is kind of amazing that not only are all of these guys still alive but the band has grown into being at least semi-respectable elder statesmen of hard rock. As for Tom Werman, turndown service costs extra, but it does come with free chocolates.