30 Years Ago: Motley Crue Launch Dr. Feelgood Tour With Club Show
With an explosive new album at the top of the charts and millions of fans all over the world, Motley Crue were one of the biggest bands on Earth in the fall of 1989. To kick-start their highly anticipated Dr. Feelgood Tour, the group decided to return to one of its favorite clubs with a performance at the legendary Whisky A Go Go on Oct. 5, 1989.
Motley Crue cut their teeth on the Sunset Strip, playing at such iconic spots as the Roxy and Gazzari’s. Still, the Whisky A Go Go always stood out among the rest and had served as a key predictor of the band’s success. In 1982, they sold out three nights at the iconic club, an achievement bassist Nikki Sixx calls “one of the highlights of [their] career.”
In the band’s autobiography The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band, Sixx recalled telling his grandparents about the shows. “You’re not going to believe it! We sold out three nights at the Whisky. We fucking made it,” Sixx said on the phone call. His grandfather glibly replied, “Made what? Nobody even knows who you are.”
By 1989, everyone knew who they were. Motley Crue rode their electric blend of glam and heavy metal to dizzying heights, scoring hits throughout the ‘80s with songs like “Shout at the Devil,” “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Home Sweet Home.” Along the way, they also built a reputation as one of rock’s wildest bands, with drug use, arrests and copious amounts of partying going hand-in-hand with their personae.
The Whisky was the location for many of these debauched antics, including the band’s fight with a local biker gang, and an occasion when Sixx abandoned a groupie mid-sexual escapade. “I tied a girl up in the Whisky bathroom with Mick's guitar cable, and then went to get a bump of blow from Tommy,” the bassist recalled to LA Weekly. “I forgot she was in there! I think Vince found her and everything was [fine].”
Fond -- and disturbing -- memories aside, the band knew that opening 1989’s Dr. Feelgood Tour at the Whisky would be a logistical nightmare. The group’s popularity had long outgrown the club’s small confines and advertising a Motley Crue show at their old hunting ground would undoubtedly cause pandemonium. With that in mind, the band booked the performance under its favorite pseudonym: the Four Skins.
Over the course of a powerful 16-song set, the band tore through many of its biggest hits. At one point, singer Vince Neil paused to thank the crowd. “You guys fucking made it in, huh?” he joked to his adoring fans. “It’s been a long time since we played here, I’ll tell ya. But this is home to us!”
Watch Motley Crue's 'Kickstart My Heart' Video
Footage from the performance would later be used in the music video for “Kickstart My Heart,” a track that was played live for the first time during the Whisky A Go Go set. Dr. Feelgood became one of the band’s most acclaimed albums, scoring two Grammy nominations and selling more than 7 million copies worldwide.
Rumors regarding one last performance at the Whisky A Go Go swirled following Motley Crue’s announcement of The Final Tour in 2014. "It's gotta be there. It's the only place to end it,” drummer Tommy Lee asserted, insisting that the club was a natural place to wrap the band’s touring career.
Though the idea was “romantic,” it ultimately did not come to fruition. Motley Crue instead played their final show at Staples Center in Los Angeles, about nine miles from their old Sunset Strip haunt. Still, they did manage a return to the Whisky in 2019, celebrating the premiere of their Netflix biopic The Dirt with an after-party at the club.