27 Years Ago: Motley Crue Release ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’
The ‘80s were an equally decadent and dangerous time for Motley Crue. But when the band emerged in 1987 with ‘Girls Girls, Girls,’ something was different.
Ruling the notorious Sunset Strip, the glam rockers rose to fame after releasing ‘Too Fast for Love,’ (1981) ‘Shout at the Devil’ (1983) and ‘Theatre of Pain’ (1985)– all within a four year period. But with ‘Girls’ came a head-to-toe image transformation: Vince Neil, Tommy Lee, Mick Mars and Nikki Sixx traded in their spandex and make-up for leather and motorcycles, ushering in a new era for the band as they released their fourth studio album in May of 1987.
The disc chronicles a dark period during the band’s career, steeped in heavy drug use, alcohol, and general debauchery and dysfunction as their lives played out in the seedy underworld of Los Angeles — one they helped personally craft. It marks a time when the band was fighting just to stay together and stay alive, let alone put forth their best music — but in the end, they managed to do a little of both.
The record kicks off with the grungy, gritty anthem ‘Wildside,’ setting the scene for the rest of the album. ‘Wildside,’ arguably the best song on the disc, has since become a staple in the band’s live show. While the edginess of the track doesn’t carry throughout the entire album, it definitely gave the band something to build on in the future and proved to be a shining moment on ‘Girls, Girls, Girls.’
The album’s title track — still part of the playlist in every topless club from coast-to-coast more than two decades later — is raunchy, sleazy, and Crue to the core. Written during a time when music videos were not only relevant but generally required, the risque video for the song left a lasting impression. It featured all four members cruising on their Harleys, hair in the wind, from strip joint to strip joint, paying homage to the lovely ladies.
As Nikki Sixx recounted in his book, ‘The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star,’ he was knee-deep in his drug addiction during this time, something that inspired the track ‘Dancing on Glass.’ It was during this general timeframe, after ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ had been released that Sixx was on one of his benders and suffered an overdose, one of many he would fall victim to throughout his battle with addiction.
Sixx was pronounced dead by paramedics and brought back to life at the hospital. It wasn’t very long before Sixx left the hospital against doctor’s orders, went home, and started the whole vicious cycle all over again. Years later, Sixx referred to the band during that time as being “a mess” and “out of control”.
The third and final single ‘You’re All I Need’ was the obligatory power ballad for that era. Although a sweeping song with beautiful music driven by piano, the lyrical content wasn’t quite as sweet..or expected. The controversial tune chronicles a tale of love gone bad where a boyfriend kills his girlfriend so she could never leave him. The lyrics “You’re all I need, make you only mine / I loved you so I set you free / I had to take your life” are not exactly the most romantic sentiment but Sixx has always done things his own way and this song was no different. The video was subsequently banned from MTV, the primary outlet for videos at that (gasp) pre-internet time.
One song that always felt a bit out of place on the disc was the track ‘Nona.’ Written for and about Nikki’s grandmother, who had raised him and who passed away during the writing process for this album, is a beautiful tribute. It provides soul and depth among the rest of the sleaze and general debauchery going down on this album. It’s a short song but the sentiment remains strong. Sixx admitted later that he didn’t make it to her funeral due to his drug abuse at the time.
The bluesy beats of ‘Bad Boy Boogie’ and ‘All In The Name Of…’ in addition to the more rock based ‘Five Years Dead,’ and the wonderfully shambolic ‘Sumthin’ For Nothin’’ round out the original songs on the disc. Having had success with cover tunes in the past, ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ employed a live take on Elvis Presley’s ‘Jailhouse Rock’ to close out the album.
Generally panned by the industry, fans embraced ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ unreservedly, and the album climbed its way to the No. 2 slot on the Billboard charts, although it couldn’t knock Whitney Houston to take over top honors.
Although it may seem like a distant memory now, there was a time when the genre of music led by Motley Crue and the like reigned supreme. In today’s musical landscape, only the strong from this era have survived and continued to remain relevant. Motley Crue top that short list and continue to be successful to this very day, as they gear up for a summer super tour with Kiss.
Looking back now at what role ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ played in their spanning career, it seems to be the glue that kept them together during a personally difficult time for each member, preventing the whole band from blowing up. While maybe not their most commercially successful release, it was still immensely popular. Besides, ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ succeeded in other ways and gave the band a vehicle to live on another day… quite literally in one instance.