“Just because we wear lipstick doesn’t mean we can’t kick your ass!”
— Mötley Crüe singer Vince Neil
By David Glessner
June 8, 2011
Mötley Crüe, Poison and the New York Dolls have all lived like they wanted to die. From overdoses and car crashes to legal scrapes and porno tapes, few bands have been more determined to live fast, die young and leave a pack of pickled corpses. In the case of the Dolls, the success rate has been alarming. By comparison, Mötley Crüe and Poison have fared much better while rolling the dice of their lives.
Friday at Toyota Center, these three notorious gender-bending groups rewind to the decades of decadence when dudes looked like ladies of the evening and their appetites for destruction fueled ’70s punk rock and sleazy ’80s hair-metal. Their slutty makeup has toned down a tad over the years, but their primal-scream party tunes still incite rebel yells and flashes of female flesh.
To the drooling delight of their fans, of course, Mötley and Poison have always flashed back. Flame-throwing pyro? Hell yeah! Lightning-storm theatrics? Totally rad! Crüe drummer Tommy Lee still gets high — specifically, during his airborne drum solo that now includes what a press release calls a “360 drum rollercoaster,” whatever the hell that is.
To paraphrase former Mötley Crüe manager Doc McGhee, the glam-rock experience is “low IQ, high rpm.” Poison singer Bret Michaels prefers to call it “Nothin’ But a Good Time.” It’s certainly not without its critics or casualties, but there’s little time to worry about either when it’s time to talk dirty and shout at the devil.
The New York Dolls: Pretty Ugly
While other glam bands have enjoyed way more commercial success (KISS, Twisted Sister, hell, even Ratt and Cinderella), almost all of them owe a debt to the Dolls.
Formed in New York in 1971, the swaggering, staggering Dolls immediately shocked and offended the unsuspecting by dressing in drag and playing with ragged abandon. Not surprisingly, the band’s trashy fashion, primal sound and hedonistic living were massive influences on subsequent punk and metal bands…such as Poison and Mötley Crüe.
While feeding a gluttonous appetite for hard drugs, the Dolls effectively imploded in 1975 after two disastrous albums that today are considered punk staples, although they more accurately reflect such influences as Bo Diddley, the Stones and doo-wop girl groups.
Prior to recording, 21-year-old drummer Billy Murcia drowned in a bathtub after a bender of booze and pills. In 1991, a heroin overdose claimed 39-year-old guitarist Johnny Thunders. A year later, second drummer Jerry Nolan died of a stroke at age 42. Finally, bassist Arthur “Killer” Kane, who had quietly found religion, died from leukemia at age 55 less than a month after a 2004 Dolls reunion gig.
With only singer David Johansen — “Buster Poindexter,” anyone? — and guitarist Sylvain Sylvain still above ground, the Dolls revamped in 2004 and have since released three albums, including the latest, Dancing Backward in High Heels. Noted guitarist Earl Slick is the newest NY Doll. Congratulations or prayers are subject to your discretion.
Essential Albums: New York Dolls (1973), Too Much Too Soon (1974)
Honorable Mention: One Day It Will Please Us to Remember Even This (2006)
Glam Trivia: Jerry Nolan was best man at KISS drummer Peter Criss’s wedding.
Poison: Pout at the Devil
Unlike other glam bands that wore makeup to trashy effect, the guys in Poison arrived on the scene looking hot enough to date Hugh Hefner. Flaunting come-hither pouts and hair your girlfriend would die for (in 1986), Poison’s shameless sexiness polarized the genders.
Girls loved them. Guys hated them, or so they claimed while clutching Slayer albums. Regardless, the L.A. band, by way of Pennsylvania, was hugely successful and will forever be remembered as both the face and punching bag of 1980s hair metal.
Behind the pretty-boy smiles, however, was a boatload of bad-boy behavior. Singer Bret Michaels beat Crüe drummer Tommy Lee to sex taping Pamela Anderson’s good graces. He also was involved in a death-defying 1994 car crash that demolished his Ferrari along with his nose, ribs, jaw, fingers and teeth.
Michaels has brawled more than once with substance-troubled Poison guitarist C.C. DeVille; been attacked onstage by bass-hurling bandmate Bobby Dall; and was twice targeted by drive-by bullets that riddled his tour bus’s windows.
Oh yeah, there’s also that pesky childhood diabetes and last-year’s well-publicized brain hemorrhage. At least he enjoyed Rock of Love.
Essential Albums: Look What the Cat Dragged In (1986), Open Up and Say…Ahh! (1988)
Honorable Mention: Power to the People (2000), Hollyweird (2002)
Glam Trivia: Prior to joining Guns N’ Roses, guitarist Slash auditioned for Poison.
Mötley Crüe: Too Fast to Live?
A band that places an ad for a “loud, rude, aggressive guitarist” is clearly looking for trouble. Mötley Crüe, meet Mick Mars.
Formed in Los Angeles in 1981 by a gang of high-school dropouts, Mötley Crüe was immediately distinctive for its raunchy guitar tone, shrieking vocals, cowbell drumming and skyscraper-inspired shag haircuts. Tattooed, high-heeled and openly under the influence, the band set new standards for bad behavior while winning rowdy fans with a unique brand of streetwise, cartoonish punk-metal.
On the way to becoming a worldwide sensation in 1984, singer and future DUI champ Vince Neil crashed his Pantera sports car into an oncoming car, maiming its two occupants and killing his friend and passenger, Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley of the band Hanoi Rocks. Jail time was minimal, so Neil could get back in front of arena crowds where he could collect paychecks to pay restitution.
A few years later, bassist Nikki Sixx would famously overdose on heroin and momentarily be pronounced dead, only to be revived with adrenaline shots to the heart — before escaping the hospital to shoot up and pass out again. Drummer Tommy Lee also made dubious headlines when his sex tape with Playboy Playmate Pamela Anderson sold like the Big Mac of porn. He later would serve jail time for spousal abuse against her. Comparatively sane by Crüe standards, Mars battled his own addictions, and still struggles with a crippling bone disease that continues to twist his spine.
To date, Mötley Crüe has accumulated worldwide album sales exceeding 80 million. The band also scored big with the must-read, ultimate tell-all memoir, The Dirt, which offers depraved new uses for egg burritos.
Essential Albums: Too Fast for Love (1981), Shout at the Devil (1983), Dr. Feelgood (1989)
Honorable Mention: Girls, Girls, Girls (1987)
Glam Trivia: In the early ’80s, Nikki Sixx began dating Lita Ford after the metal vixen introduced herself by slipping him half a Quaalude.
Motley Crue, Poison, New York Dolls
6 p.m. Friday, June 10, at Toyota Center, 1510 Polk, 866-446-8849 or www.toyotacentertix.com.