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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Somewhere in Time Tuesday by Metal Mark - Motley Crue's Theatre of Pain

Welcome to a new segment of The Metal Minute penned by my longtime brother-in-all-that-is-heavy, Metal Mark. Tuesdays will now be his here at the site to freestyle his thoughts on random albums throughout heavy metal's vast history. First up is Motley Crue's junior slab Theatre of Pain from 1985.

The year was 1985 and I remember the local radio station was going to play the new Motley Crue album in its entirety at midnight on the day it was due out. I was excited because I loved Shout at the Devil and Too Fast for Love.

The Crue were one the best hard rock bands around at the time and I expected Theatre of Pain to be just as good. That night the album came on and about three songs in I could feel the disappointment setting in. Where was the edge to these songs? Why did they sound so watered down? The Crue used to charge into their songs like beasts and now they sounded timid.

I made it through a few more, but at some point I fell asleep before the album finished and I probably was not that tired. I didn't write it off yet as I did borrow it from a friend soon after that to give it another chance.

The results were the same. The Crue had smoothed down their sound and the roughness was almost entirely gone. They changed their look as well replacing black leather with stripes, polka dots and pastels. “Home Sweet Home” and “Smokin’ in the Boys' Room” both became staples on the radio and MTV.

The album was huge for them and its accessible approach helped Motley Crue reach a wider audience, but it also marked the end of their once-great run. Eventually they would again put out a decent album in Dr. Feelgood a few years later. It was not the same though. Where Motley Crue was between 1981 and 1984 was not just about the sound, but it was also about a spirit. Granted, it may have been partly an alcohol and drug-inspired spirit, but whatever the motivation was, the band changed after Shout and they never again approached that level of greatness.

--Metal Mark


Benign said...

1. I am not really a crue fan but I enjoyed reading The Dirt. Have you read that superb autobiography? I also heard that there were plans to turn it into a movie. How? Maybe a documentary style like how they did it with Anvil.

2. The Heroine Diaries was also a good read. It was Nikki Sixx's 1987 diary published in the form of a book.

3. I think it was the song Home Sweet Home that started the whole power ballad streak. All of a sudden all the bands in Sunset Strip wrote power ballad songs for a sure airplays on the radio and MTV.

4. If my memory served me correctly, record labels at that time have this widely known formula of putting power ballads as the bands first single , and a heavier song as the second. This formula was also implemented when the Sunset Strip rock craze reached the shores of malaysia back in the early 80s.

5. All of a sudden heavy metal became a dancable tune.

A peak into Malaysian Metal

TheMetalChick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TheMetalChick said...

Good article. :) ToP was not the greatest album in retrospect, nor was it horrible, but everyone I knew seemed to loved it BECAUSE it was the new Crue album. Granted I was an eleven year old kid, but it wasnt just my friends- ToPs singles were insanely popular on MYV, all the guys in the Crue won all the polls as the best musicians in all the metal mags, etc. As much as I know you are correct, at the time ToP's lower quality was almost a dirty little secret, something that absolutely nobody seemed to come out and acknowledge until many years later.

Regarding the #3 comment by Benign: HSH is always credited as starting the whole power ballad streak, but it is not true. Ask bands like Vandenberg, Kiss, Journey, Styx, Whitesnake, etc. Motley Crue just helped make the power ballad, a staple of the arena rock bands, fall contentedly under the "metal" category... although even that is debatable. I think HSH is one of the most successful metal power ballads of all time and is the best song on ToP because of its sincerity, but it simply gets too much credit in the innovation department.

Regarding the #4 comment by Benign: The power ballad formula that took hold of the metal industry was not to let out a power ballad first, it was always the second or third single off the album. The first single was always a tough or party sing, only after that could the band show their soft side. Great White, Skid Row, Warrant, Cinderella, Bon Jovi, LA Guns, the Scorpions, etc etc etc none of them started off with a ballad, they started off with a rocker. :)

Benign said...

Owhs. Thanks MetalChick for your correction.

Metal Mark said...

Benign-I still listen to TOP on occasion, but it's average at best and I was expecting more.

The Metal Chick-It was a huge album at the time. No doubt. Probably the biggest hard rock album of 1985. Still they lost a lot of their energy and it was toned down from the previous two albums. I am sure that didn't bother the band much though since it was so successful. As a fan my interest in Motley Crue began to fade during that album.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

I'll bring my own thoughts into this...I remember being severely addicted to Shout and of course Too Fast For Love and I recall the kid who lived behind me was a good friend who'd first turned me on to the Crue and he got TOP ahead of us all and we sat on his deck while he cranked it and we were all like, 'Wow, not so heavy this time around. What do you make of this?'

TOP eventually grew enough on us and I like it pretty well today, but it's only better than say, GGG and Generation has its moments, but the cash-in effects were all over TOP despite some good tunes overall...of course, Bon Jovi made the Crue and Poison and others looking for fame modify themselves to be in BJ's commercial league

TheMetalChick said...

Metal Mark: Me, too... but I have to say- when the Crue actually broke out a ToP non-single last time I saw them, my friends and I were happy to hear it. It was a lot more enjoyable than it is hearing yet another rendition of Without You or hearing Motley Crue cover Megadeths cover of Anarchy in the UK again.

Ray: I agree with you, the BJ factor was a huge part of the Crues change, and many other bands as well. Even established and highly regarded musicians like Ozzy, Priest, The Scorpions, Whitesnake, etc all felt it! GGG tried to toughen back up, but it was when that album was popular that I came to terms with the fact that normal female favorites were not generally the bands for me- Id rather listen to Dio, Black Sabbath, Anthrax, Accept, etc.

Benign: I was not really going for the correcting thing, just adding my 2 cents to your interesting comments :)