Motley Crue, Twisted Sister & the Hair Metal Explosion

Mötley Crüe: Dionysian/Korybantes/Galloi
Twisted Sister: Dionysian/Korybantes/Galloi
Mythos: Although most of the original UK glam bands flopped in the US, they struck a nerve with hardcore fans who'd mix the glam attack with more conservative memes from affiliated bands like Kiss and Alice Cooper and concocted a new strain of bubblegum metal for the Material Age.

Mötley Crüe emerged when skinny-tied New Wave was still the rage on the Hollywood rock scene.
The Crüe dressed metal but were a hard rock band at heart, drawing its influences from British glam stompers like Slade and Sweet (Crüe’s debut Too Fast for Love was a dead ringer for Sweet’s 1975 smash Desolation Boulevard), as well as better-known acts like Alice Cooper, Kiss and Queen. Unlike the ranting NWOBM bands, early Crüe lived and died on catchy, shoutalong melodies. Noting that the girls in the stands got prettier when bands offered up power ballads, the Crüe made sure they had one on hand for every album.

With Kiss out of uniform, the Crüe hijacked their old comic book villain outfits, adding just enough makeup to ring a bell without crossing Kiss’s army of lawyers. Their look and unintentionally-humurous videos caught MTV’s eye, and helped spark a strip-mall rebellion against the androgynous Brits dominating the charts. The critics hated them, but Crüe fed on their disapproval, boasting of the bad reviews in their press kits.

Van Halen and Mötley Crüe inspired a batallion of lesser metallic Dionysii. Hot on Crüe’s heels were Quiet Riot, who scored platinum with their soundalike cover of Slade’s ‘Cum on Feel the Noize.’ Ratt scored with ’Round and Round,’ bolstered by a video featuring Milton Berle (who appears in drag, as he did on TV). Other bands like Y&T, Autograph, and Poison repeated the formula and New York’s Twisted Sister made a mockery of it.

Led by Dee Snider, Twisted Sister were nowhere near as slick as their California rivals, but scored big in 1984 with two catchy hits, ‘Were Not Going to Take it’ and ‘I Wanna Rock’, both of which were as punk as they were metal. Twisted Sister produced two humorous videos for the hits, both of which were burnout revenge fantasies featuring Animal House star Mark Metcalf (who played the sadistic fratboy Doug Niedermeyer).

Sister quickly waned, buy Dee Snider became an MTV VJ and a rock folk hero after testifying before Congress during the Rock music censorship hearings called by the politically-connected wives of the PMRC. Snider kept bus with a new band, sporadic acting roles, frequent appearances on Howard Stern's radio show, his own DJ gig and the inevitable Twisted Sister reunion.

Crüe’s own fortunes took a turn for the worse when the entire band descended into addiction hell. Vince Neil’s career was nearly ended when he drunkenly crashed his car, killing Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle. He got off with what many thought was a shockingly lenient sentence, and the Crüe cleaned up their act as best they could and became major stars, peaking with 1990’s smash, Dr. Feelgood. (Razzle was replaced by Terry Chimes, who'd recently fled the Clash's internal meltdown.)

Things got complicated from there, with Neil and Lee coming and going and a new singer (briefly) taking over in 1994. All of the tumult led to the inevitable big-money reunion, which was nearly scotched by Mars’ severe illness, which caused the bones in his spinal column to fuse. With big money at stake, Mars got the best care available and the band raked it in on the road.

NOTES: This cut hurt. Writing is difficult enough as it is but dealing with shrinking word counts has made it torturous. I worked ten times as hard on Secret History of Rock 'n' Roll than I would if I were writing for a blog because every word brings you closer to the brink. I wanted to make sure that every word counted; that every page packed maximum impact, both informationally and emotionally. In the end I think it made me a better writer, but it forced me to make some very hard decisions. Since these bands were essentially the after-effect of Van Halen's success- and were less archetypally pure this bit had to go, even though I worked very hard on boiling it all down to its essence.


Nikki said...

Oh, mine friend, you have touched a nerve.
Hanoi Rocks was inspiration to Motley Crue, not by them. See the Wiki here:

Cutting is a bitch, I will agree.

Christopher Knowles said...

Good call- fixed. Another great thing about the 'Net!

Delorus said...

Dear Chris,
Thanks for posting the cuts- good stuff.
I just ordered Secret History and Spandex- I am sure I will enjoy and think about them as much as I do the blog.

Christopher Knowles said...

It's all a continuum, Delorus. Thanks for your support, absolutely.

Raj said...

hey Chris,
I just listened to your x-zone interview and I'm really jazzed about the book. Can't wait to read it. I especially enjoyed the parts of your interview when you went into how the backbeat of rock can contain that magic that quickens the spirit, how it's analagous to the rising human hearbeat, etc. I think because music is sound/vibration/frequency and those are the building blocks of reality, in the right hands music can be infinitely powerful. Maybe that's why these themes and archetypes keep returning - they ARE us, and we are them. Therefore, maybe in the right hands (our own hands) we could be infinitely powerful too. Your interview reminded me again why and how much I love music.


Delorus said...

Twisted Sister's "Twisted Christmas" is the best xmas CD ever and I don't like xmas music so that's saying something! Their
"12 days of xmas" is a hoot!

Christopher Knowles said...

Raj- I like your thinking and this is definitely a theme we'll be returning to. Thanks for bringing it all to the table.

Delorus- Noted!