Totally True Memoirs of a Metal Producer: Mötley Crüe’s Generation Swine
In December of ’84, Vinnie Neil took the fall for me for on a DUI because a conviction really would have fucked with my insurance rates. More than twenty years later, he finally called in the favor. He told me he was re-joining Mötley Crüe, who had been in the middle of recording an album with their new singer. Now they’d fired my old poker pal “Baba O’Rocky” (Bob Rock) to cut costs, and Vinnie wanted me to come in and produce the album for a song. What could I do? I owed him two decades of excellent premiums.
I knew the record was going to be a goddamn mess the second I stepped into the studio. The band had replaced Vinnie with some Bobby Plant wannabe, Joey Crabtree, and when they got Vinnie back in the band, they somehow got Joey to agree to stick around and help him learn his parts. But that wasn’t working out so well — Joey was curled up in a ball in the corner, crying like a little baby with a rash in the tuchus, while Vinnie, blotto, scream-slurred at him: “I’mthesingerformotleecrwyurnobodyimmastaricouldbuynsellutentimesovah!” Blah blah blah. Typical Vinnie stuff.
I couldn’t see Tommy, but I could hear him, in the studio shitter, shutpping Pamela Anderson (I knew it was her because they each kept screaming their own names). They had one of those wooden Indian things in the corner for some reason. I didn’t see Mick anywhere but Sylvie Rhone had warned me he wasn’t getting along with the band because of creative differences bullshit.
Nikki started to explain to me the band’s “vision,” how they wanted to “update our sound for 90s,” and make something that sounded like Nine Inch Nails crossed with Sonic Youth crossed with The Pixies crossed with Live crossed with Stabbing Westward crossed with Oasis, “but punk” (“…and also U2 and Alanis and Radiohead! Radiohead are SO rad!” Tommy added, briefly sticking both of his heads out of the crapper before Pam grabbed his third leg and yanked him back inside).
Of course I knew none of this was going to work. I also knew the album would probably sell okay regardless because of the reunion with Vinnie. And above all, I knew I wasn’t getting paid. So I decided to see if I could drop acid every single day we were in the studio.
Ollie Stone hooked me up with some primo shit the CIA used to turn orphan immigrants into Jedi or whatever it is they do, giving me a keen insight into how the fuck Nixon happened.
But it did make recording the terrible songs the band had written for Generation Swine a lot more fun. Because when you’re tripping that hard, there are no rules. Open the record with a song where Nikki sings in a bad Sid Vicious impersonation? Sure. Co-write a techno ballad with Bryan Adams? Sounds fabulous. A “SO rad” Tori Amos-style ode to Tommy’s new kid? Hey, if it gets Tommy out of the john for ten minutes, let’s make it happen. Possibly racist lyrics comparing a prostitute to a horse? Terrific. Include the same song twice under two different names to prove no one will even notice? Hilarious. (That last one was actually my idea.)
At one point I did try to gently suggest that they should make something which sounded more like Shout at the Devil, which resulted in “Shout at the Devil ’97,” which I tried to talk them out of but you know Tommy when he gets an idea. So that one is my fuck-up and I am forever sorry for that.
Nikki recorded most of the guitars since Mick wasn’t around. Then there was a week where Pam was menstruating, which Tommy thought was “NOT rad,” and so he recorded some other guitars. Then Vinnie wanted to record guitars, too, but he didn’t play guitar, so we plugged him in and let him futz around but didn’t record anything. We just kept telling him he was doing a great job.
At some point I finally asked about the wooden Indian in the corner and it turned out that it wasn’t a wooden Indian, it had been Mick the whole time. Let me tell you, that fella can blend.
The album was pretty bad but actually maybe slightly less bad than I thought it would be. It got to #4 on the Billboard charts and went gold and best of all, I got to keep my insurance rates down. I’ve had worse jobs.