Leading up to the March 22 release of “The Dirt” on Netflix, Live Metal is taking a look back at each of Mötley Crüe’s studio albums.
Review by Greg Maki
Though the band members put almost no real effort into it, Mötley Crüe achieved its greatest commercial success to date with “Theatre of Pain” (1985). That probably wasn’t the best motivation to work harder on the follow-up, 1987’s “Girls, Girls, Girls.” It doesn’t mean the band was complacent, however.
“It was really exciting when we started ‘Girls, Girls, Girls,’” frontman Vince Neil said in the liner notes of the 1999 re-release. “I thought ‘Theatre of Pain’ was a little light. The whole glam thing and everything was great, but it was exciting to get into something tougher and meatier—something you could sink your teeth into.”
The big hair remained, but the androgynous glam look was replaced by leather and motorcycles in the black-and-white photo on the “Girls, Girls, Girls” album cover. The Crüe was taking it back to the streets, perhaps in an effort to recapture the fire that fueled its first two albums. It certainly appears to be back in the first two songs. The opener, “Wild Side,” is a dark, heavy track depicting an urban nightmare of drugs and violence, a clear indicator that the glossy, pop-metal sheen of “Theatre of Pain” is a thing of the past. It’s followed by “Girls, Girls, Girls,” the ultimate exercise in hedonism and maybe the greatest strip club anthem ever written. No pair of songs in the Mötley catalog sums up the band better than this one.
Ironically, the strength of the first two songs dooms the rest of the album. Nothing could live up to that standard. There are some solid selections (“Dancing on Glass,” “All in the Name of …” and the ballad “You’re All I Need,” possibly the Crüe’s most disturbing song), but much of it feels like filler. A cover of Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock” recorded live indicates a struggle to fill out the album.
Once again, the band’s self-destructive nature was to blame. “Like ‘Theatre of Pain,’ ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ could have been a phenomenal record,” bassist/songwriter Nikki Sixx wrote in “The Dirt,” “but we were too caught up in our own personal bullshit to put any effort into it. … If we hadn’t managed to force two songs out of ourselves (the title track and “Wild Side”), the album would have been the end of our careers.”
Tom Werman is back for round three as producer, though there has been some controversy over how big a role he actually played during the recording. Regardless, the production is a step up from “Theatre of Pain,” giving the music a darker, punchier feel. The biggest improvement is in Mick Mars’ guitar tone, which cuts through the recording—a significant achievement considering the state he was in (falling off his stool while recording the title track, then not bothering with another take).
Though the band members barely remember recording it, “Girls, Girls, Girls” was another smashing success, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard charts and selling some four million copies. After the first two songs, it’s far from classic Mötley Crüe, but after the artistic letdown of “Theatre of Pain,” the band had started to right the ship.