Mötley Crüe’s 15 Best Songs: Axl’s Picks
All lists ranking art or artists are ridiculous… but some are more ridiculous than others.
Take, for example, this piece published by Billboard yesterday: ‘Motley Crue’s 15 Best Songs: Critic’s Picks.’ Obviously, this list only represents the opinion of one person — in this case, Christa Titus. So there’s really no need to get all twisted up in knots over it…
…only it’s fun to debate, and I happen to think, with all due respect, that Ms. Titus’ list is bullshit. For one thing, two of the fifteen songs she chose are covers. Suggesting that any band who have been around a few decades don’t have fifteen original tracks better than their reinterpretations of someone else’s material would be insulting to that group, but it really makes no sense in the case of The Crüe, who have plenty of great original material. If it was Ugly Kid Joe or Orgy, whose biggest hits were covers, that might make sense. In the case of Mötley Crüe, it’s baffling.
For another thing, yeah, I would choose some different songs (in the words of Allegaeon’s Greg Burgess, “‘Looks That Kill’? Seriously?”), I would choose a different running order, and I would not allow any songs from Saints of Los Angeles.
So, I decided to go ahead and make my own list. And then you can go to the comments section and tell me why my list is bullshit and share your own. Like I said: it’s fun to debate!
My list is below. One more caveat before I begin: I disqualified the entire album the band made with John Corabi. That album is fucking great — maybe the last really good album Mötley Crüe ever made — but it’s so far removed from everything else the band did, I think it’s best considered its own entity, separate from the rest of the group’s oeuvre.
Okay. Here we go…
15. “Generation Swine”
After the Corabi record didn’t sell well enough to allow the band to continue to make enough money to kill people and get away with it, the band reunited with Vince Neil for 1997’s Generation Swine. The attempt to update the group’s sound for ’90s was, creatively speaking, a fucking disaster; I distinctly remember saving up money to buy it, not having enough when it was first released and being really bummed, getting it on July 4, and then being even more bummed.
Still, there is a good song on the album — the title track. Which was actually an odd choice for a title track, because it’s not really representative of what the band was doing on Generation Swine. Regardless, if The Crüe had written eight or nine more songs like this one, they might have actually managed to update their sound for the ’90s. “Generation Swine” is stripped down, has an anthemic, punky chorus, a different Vince Neil vocal style that isn’t awful, and a friggin’ guitar solo (of which there were few on this record). In fact, if the guitar screech after the section with the solo doesn’t make you wanna put someone’s head through a fucking wall, something is wrong with you.
14. “Louder Than Hell”
There’s a reason the title of this song became the slogan emblazoned on a million t-shirts.
13. “Wild Side”
1987’s Girls, Girls, Girls exists at an interesting intersection in Mötley Crüe’s career. Nikki Sixx was clearly perfecting his pop-metal songwriting skills and building up to the band’s masterpiece, Dr. Feelgood; at the same time, the band made a conscious decision to cut back on the glam and play up the leather biker dude image. A lot of their lyrics, subsequently, ended up focusing on the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles. The band was already rich by this point, so they didn’t sell it as well as, say, Guns N’ Roses (whose Appetite for Destruction came out the same year). But goddamn did Nikki write some catchy songs.
12. “Dancing on Glass”
Speaking of Girls, Girls, Girls…
This song’s title may lead you to believe that, like the album’s title track, it’s about strippers. But the title is actually meant as a metaphor, with ostensibly the same meaning as “walking on thin ice.” In any case, it has a killer riff and is way under-appreciated.
11. “Save Our Souls”
Another underrated gem, this one from 1985’s Theatre of Souls. Dat slide, yo!
10. “Girls, Girls, Girls”
There’s a reason this became one of the two most popular stripper anthems of all time (alongside “Pour Some Sugar on Me,” natch).
9. “Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)”
The lyrics are basically about how women are all nymphomaniacs, which is obviously misogynistic… although the group was eyeball-deep in groupies at this point, so it’s easy to understand why they may have actually thought that all women are nymphomaniacs.
In any case, this is just one of many incredible songs from Dr. Feelgood, the 1989 album which pretty much dominates this list (for a good reason).
8. “Dr. Feelgood”
Drug addicts sing about the dangers of being a drug lord. Gotta love the lack of self-awareness. At the time, this was probably the band’s heaviest riff to date.
7. “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)”
Another great cut from Dr. Feelgood! And the rare Mötley Crüe relationship song that isn’t totally dumb. A surprisingly Buddhist approach to love’s end. Not bad advice, either.
6. “Knock ‘Em Dead Kid”
The band’s second-most under-appreciated song (we’ll come to the first momentarily). Mötley Crüe at their most Judas Priest-esque.
5. “Without You”
The band’s most under-appreciated song. What’s funny is it was a huge hit when it was released, but seemed to gradually fade from the setlist, and the memories of many fans. Mick Mars’ lap slide work makes me feel all the feelings every time I hear it. I suspect the need for said lap slide has a lot to do with why the band mostly stopped playing the song live. Honestly, I’m not even sure Mick Mars can sit down anymore.
4. “Home Sweet Home”
There’s a reason this song has been licensed enough times to pay for all the band members’ divorces five times over.
3. “Shout at the Devil”
There’s a reason the band traditionally closed every show with this song.
2. “Primal Scream”
In 1991, Mötley Crüe released Decade of Decadence, the first of approximately 18,000 greatest hits collections the band would release. This new song was intended to get kids like me who already owned the band’s albums to buy Decade anyway. It worked. Another great showcase for Mick Mars, who doesn’t really get the credit he deserves for what he brought to this band.
1. “Kickstart My Heart”
“Shout at the Devil” may technically be the “definitive” Crüe song, but let’s get real: this should be the definitive Crüe song. It’s from their best album (again, Dr. Feelgood). It’s about Nikki Sixx’s heroin overdose, thereby beginning the trend of Sixx mostly writing lyrics about how hard it is to be a rock star, which never really ended. It’s got another gnarly Mars solo, this one utilizing a voice box. It just feels like the shot of adrenaline it’s describing. If aliens came down from another planet and asked me who Mötley Crüe was, this is the song I’d play for ’em.