James Gunn has helped shine a light on a bunch of hair metal acts thanks to his new HBO Max series Peacemaker, and for the filmmaker, it’s something that’s been a long time coming.
In a new interview with Billboard, Gunn details the many aspects of the Peacemaker soundtrack with him noting out the gate, “First of all, it seemed like the kind of music Peacemaker would like. John [Cena, who stars in the titular role] and I talked a lot about who Peacemaker/Christopher Smith was back when we were doing ‘Suicide Squad’ and we both kind of thought he’d listen to hair metal. But also secretly I’ve been wanting to do a hair metal/glam metal soundtrack for a while, because I do think there are a lot of great songs out there.”
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Gunn continued, “It’s music that died in a few weeks after Nirvana came out and with the exception of Motley Crue and Bon Jovi and some of the monster acts was just completely gone, unfairly so. But there’s also some really good musicianship and some really good songs from that era that just stick with me. So finding those gems amidst the heap of glam metal was something that excited me and something I’ve been doing for years on my own anyway. There are so many great sleaze metal/glam rock bands today, especially out of Europe that are so good and actually much better, in general, than the old stuff.”
Gunn singles out Hanoi Rocks, whose music is featured in the latest episode of the series. He calls the Finnish band “my favorite band from that era, period” and would add, “And they really are the place where punk became glam metal. They did create the look, 100% — Guns N’ Roses were copying their look for sure.”
Gunn’s love of hair metal goes way back saying, “I was a punk rock kid, but I liked hair metal and was kind of part of that scene. I saw Guns N’ Roses at the Troubadour on the night they got signed, because I was a Hanoi Rocks fan — that’s why I went to see them when I was 18. I only know this because Slash came to the set of ‘Suicide Squad’ to hang out and I told him I’d seen them way back live on the Sunset Strip, and he said, ‘Yeah, that’s the night we got signed.'”
Motley Crue: Their 40 Best Songs, Ranked
A new track featured on the Crue’s first greatest hits compilation, “Angela” has a unique place in pop culture as Dwight and Angela danced to the song at their wedding in the series finale of ‘The Office,’ which was a clever use of a Crue tune since the band was Dwight’s go-to for when he needed to get pumped for a sales call or performance review.
Motley Crue is far from being a “political” band, but with “Fight For Your Rights,” we find the band taking on issues around race and invoking Martin Luther King Jr. The track closes out ‘Theatre of Pain,’ and while it only scratches the surface of race relations, it’s one of those tracks that’s always a surprise when revisiting the Crue catalog.
One of the rare Crue songs credited to all four members of the band, “Bitter Pill” was a new track that was included on 1998’s ‘Greatest Hits’ album. Oddly enough, when this compilation was reissued in 2009, “Bitter Pill” was omitted along with “Enslaved” (another new track released on the LP) and the remix of “Glitter” from ‘Generation Swine.’ In fact, “Bitter Pill” isn’t even available on streaming platforms right now, which is a shame because it’s a beyond catchy pop-rock tune.
The Crue’s 2005 compilation album ‘Red, White & Crue’ saw the band reunite for a second time in their history. (This time around, it was drummer Tommy Lee returning to the fold.) The 38-track set featured some of the Crue’s biggest hits, fan favorites and a few new tracks including “Sick Love Song,” which was penned by Nikki Sixx and James Michael who would go on to be the lead singer in Nikki’s side project aptly named Sixx: AM. It’s a great example of how even a quarter-century in, the Crue still had *it* and are a prime example of being greater than the sum of its parts.
The John Corabi-era with Motley Crue is a unique time to examine, because when you revisit 1995’s ‘Motley Crue’ -- the lone album the band released with Corabi as its singer -- it’s a pretty solid rock album. However, it just doesn’t *sound* like Motley Crue, so it feels out of place in the band’s catalog likely due to Nikki, Tommy and Mick playing to John’s strengths. “Loveshine” is the first of four tracks from that LP to appear on this list, and it’s the sound of ‘Led Zeppelin III’ hanging out with The Black Crowes. Great song, but it’s one of the last things you’d expect from Motley Crue.
If you listen to “Rattlesnake Shake” and think the horn section sounds an awful lot like the one used on Aerosmith’s “(Dude) Looks Like A Lady,” it’s because tenor saxophonist Tom Keenlyside, baritone saxophonist Ian Putz and trumpet player Henry Christian played on both tracks. (Fun fact, right?) Whether or not this was a planned homage to Aerosmith or just a happy accident, “Rattlesnake Shake” is one fun tune.
“Keep Your Eye On the Money” acts as a pseudo-title track on ‘Theatre of Pain,’ especially on the lyrics, “Comedy and tragedy/Entertainment or death/Like sister morphine/Hooked on her game/Time to place your bets,” which make subtle reference to the album’s cover. There’s a unique tension in the song. Clearly, the band knows it’s living life dangerously, but they just can’t stop because they have a big payday ahead. Definitely more depth to this song than you’d think.
Another rare topical song that closes out a Crue album, just like the aforementioned “Fight For Your Rights”! This time around, we find the band looking to the youth to push society forward to a better tomorrow. It’s almost as if Motley made their own version of “Greatest Love of All,” which shouldn’t work but it does. The Crue is joined by a host of background vocalists including all of Skid Row, which, once again, shouldn’t work but it does.
There’s no denying that when John Corabi was tapped to replace Vince Neil that Motley Crue’s sound drastically changed, but clearly the rise of grunge had an impact, too, as evident on “Power to the Music.” Opening the band’s self-titled 1994 album, the track is a gritty anthem that doesn’t get enough love in the Crue’s catalog.
‘Theatre of Pain’ was the Crue’s third studio album, and by that time, they were already rock stars, but on “Raise Your Hands To Rock,” they still look back fondly on the days before they were household names and just trying to make it. Simply put, it’s a fun track with a big sing-along chorus, which makes it puzzling as to why they only performed it live once at a December 1982 show in Santa Monica, Calif. according to Setlist.fm.
The glam influence is STRONG on “Toast of the Town,” the b-side to the Crue’s very first single “Stick to Your Guns,” which was featured on the original 1981 release of ‘Too Fast For Love’ but omitted on the 1982 re-release of the album once the band signed to Elektra records. The track would be included on the 2003 reissue of the album, and it’s a good thing it was because it is a ridiculously good time of a tune.
With the premiere of the film adaptation of ‘The Dirt’ and the band recording new tunes for the film’s soundtrack, we should’ve known Motley Crue was going to renege on their "Cessation of Touring Agreement" they signed before their "Final Tour" in 2014-15. Then again, with “The Dirt (Est. 1981),” which features Machine Gun Kelly who portrayed Tommy Lee in ‘The Dirt’ film, they clearly show they have plenty left in the tank. Hopefully, “The Stadium Tour” will *finally* happen in 2022. (Thanks a lot, coronavirus pandemic!)
Once again, the rise of grunge very much had an impact on Motley Crue, who incorporated elements from the genre on their eponymous 1994 album featuring John Corabi on vocals. If you want to get specific, the track seems very influenced by Temple of the Dog, Soundgarden and the whole vibe of Alice In Chains’ “I Stay Away,” particularly the strings on that track. The moment you realize it’s *really* a Motley Crue song is when Mick Mars launches into a slide guitar solo about four minutes into the 6:36 track. Definitely an underrated song or, perhaps, misunderstood.
The only thing more confusing than Motley Crue without Vince Neil is ‘Generation Swine,’ Neil’s first album back with the band following his firing back in 1992. There’s just *too* much going on with the album as far as musical directions are concerned, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t bright spots on the LP. The brightest of those spots lies with “Afraid,” the album’s lead single and a stealthy tender love song Nikki Sixx wrote when he was first seeing his eventual second wife, actress/’Playboy’ Playmate Donna D’Errico.
“Come On and Dance” is obviously a filthy song (“When she's on top/Well, you can't be stopped/Watch her scream/Watch her suck you clean”), but there’s something very charming about it. Perhaps it’s the minimalist arrangement and production or even the way it feels like Vince Neil is working through his vocal to determine his sound. Either way, it’s a great piece of glam metal.
“Modern times and new blood’s pumping/Only the strong survive” were the lyrics that closed out “Hooligan’s Holiday,” the lead single from the Crue’s self-titled 1994 studio LP featuring John Corabi on vocals. The obvious style change from the band due to having a new singer and to keep up with current trends was met with a mixed reaction at best, but since the release of ‘Motley Crue’ strong tracks like “Hooligan’s Holiday” have managed to survive. Sure, the Corabi era will always feel a little strange, but you can’t deny quality regardless of who’s behind the mic.
An underrated ballad with an interesting history, “If I Die Tomorrow” features songwriting credits from Nikki Sixx and the band Simple Plan. Bob Rock produced Simple Plan’s 2004’s studio album ‘Still Not Getting Any…,’ and “If I Die Tomorrow” was a track left over from the recording sessions. Rock then passed along the tune to the Crue, and after Sixx made some changes, the band recorded the song and was the lead single to their 2005 compilation album ‘Red, White & Crue.’ The band took things one step further in the song’s music video which depicted each Crue member reliving some of the most horrific moments in their lives, from Sixx nearly dying from a heroin overdose to Vince Neil’s drunk driving accident that resulted in the death of Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle.
‘Saints of Los Angeles’ was Motley Crue’s first studio album following their reunion with Tommy Lee in 2004. At this point in their career, the band really had nothing left to prove, but that didn’t stop them from putting out one of their strongest singles in years with the title track, which is loosely about when the Crue first signed with Elektra Records in the ‘80s. (“We are, we are the saints/We signed our life away.”)
It’s unknown if there was a particular inspiration behind “Starry Eyes,” but if this Nikki Sixx-penned tune was about a specific woman, clearly Sixx had it *bad* for her. Looking back on Motley Crue’s first album and its raw energy, it’s amazing what the band grew to be and just how much they had *it* from nearly day one.
Judging by title alone, one would be quick to assume “Dancing On Glass” was about strippers which would be a proper fit on ‘Girls, Girls, Girls.’ However, the song’s subject matter is far grizzlier, and its second verse leaves little to the imagination it’s about drugs. (“Silver spoon and needle/Witchy tombstone smile/I’m not puppet/I engrave my veins with style.”) Even staring down a tough subject, Motley Crue still manages to churn out one hell of a rock song.
Mick Mars’ guitar tracks are just *so* damn good on “Without You,” a grand power ballad and third single from ‘Dr. Feelgood.’ The track was reportedly inspired by Tommy Lee’s relationship with Heather Locklear. While Tommy and Heather didn’t stand the test of time, “Without You” still does.
Motley Crue has a handful of covers in their catalog, but their take on Brownsville Station’s “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” is, by far, their best. The cover was their lead single from ‘Theatre of Pain’ and would peak at number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.
Remember that thing about Motley Crue having *it* from nearly day one? “Piece of Your Action” is another prime example of that. It’s an undeniably dirty, sexy song. (Tight action, rear traction/So hot, you really blow me away/Fast moving, wet and ready/The time is right, so hang on tight.”) Perhaps most importantly, “Piece of Your Action” brilliantly showcases how valuable Mick Mars is to the whole Crue dynamic. It’s hard to imagine any other guitarist filling that role.
‘Theatre of Pain’ was a bit of a style departure compared to the Crue’s previous two studio albums, but “Tonight (We Need A Lover)” was proof those metal hellions from the Sunset Strip were very much part of the band’s identity. Tommy Lee providing a killer drum track is far from shocking, but the drums on “Tonight (We Need A Lover)” manage to reverberate in your gut.
The melodrama of “On With The Show” is equal parts Meat Loaf and Bruce Springsteen. It’s truly a wild Crue track that doesn’t get enough attention. “On With The Show” is a semi-autobiographical tale about Nikki Sixx (born Frank Feranna Jr.) and how he changed his name to distance himself from his absent father. (“Frankie died just the other night/Some say it was suicide/But we know/How the story goes.) Once again, so melodramatic!
Honestly, it’s the sexiest song about a quickie ever. Name me another song about a quickie that’s better. I’ll wait...
Along with Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me,” Motley Crue’s “Girls, Girls, Girls” probably helped its fair share of strippers pay their way through college. In fact, the song name-checks seven different strip joints, and over three decades later, three of those clubs are still open: Tattletale Lounge in Atlanta; The Body Shop in West Hollywood, Calif.; and the Seventh Veil on Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles where the band filmed the raunchy song’s music video.
Motley Crue is responsible for some of the greatest arena rock tunes ever, but few of their songs feel as tailor-made for arenas as “Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)” Of course, the song is the age-old story of boy meets girl, boy meets girl’s friend, the two women realize they love each other and then run away together. It’s all very “Tale as old as time.”
The second single from ‘Shout At The Devil,’ “Too Young to Fall in Love” boasts one of the Crue’s hookiest chorus and campiest music videos ever. The whole plot is a mystery beyond words, so just go and watch it...after you finish this list, of course. A tip of the hat to Tommy Lee for providing a rhythm track that is minimalist but meaty AF.
Hmmm...the early days often found the Crue too (insert adjective here) for love, it seems. Regardless of the descriptor, it certainly made for fun songwriting as evident with “Too Fast For Love,” another raw tune from Motley Crue’s debut that really showed the band’s punk influences. Plus, the way Vince Neil sings the “Oh no, oh no!” intro remains some of the most iconic notes he’s ever sung.
Simply stated: “Public Enemy #1” is a glammy, pop-punk delight! The track was co-written by Nikki Sixx and Lizzie Grey, who was Sixx’s former bandmate in London, the band Sixx co-founded before forming Motley Crue.
“Live Wire” is the first track on ‘Too Fast For Love,” and from the moment you hear Mick Mars’ chugging opening riff, you know Motley Crue is not a band to be messed with. It’s the type of song that can only bit written by someone who’s young and hungry. You just can’t get away with writing lyrics like, “Because I'm hot, young, running free/A little bit better than I used to be,” when you’re three albums into your career.
As Motley Crue looked back on ten wild years on their first greatest hits album ‘Decade of Decadence,’ they did so with a new track in “Primal Scream,” and it’s an absolute monster that packs as much attitude as anything they dropped in the previous decade. Of course, “Primal Scream” was one of the final singles released during Vince Neil’s first tenure fronting the band. It’s one of the finest examples of each member of the Crue operating on all cylinders.
It’s the title track to Motley Crue’s most commercially successful album, and it’s the band’s most successful single in their catalog peaking at number six on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. While the song explores the life of a drug dealer wasn’t necessarily a new theme for the band, “Dr. Feelgood” had a polish unlike any other Crue single until then. That’s a touch likely due to producer Bob Rock and the fact the band was sober during the making of the album.
“Shout At The Devil” wasn’t released as a single, but when you write a hook as catchy as, “Shout, shout, shout/Shout at the devil,” the people will undoubtedly find it and help make it an anthem. Fun fact: It’s the song Motley Crue has played the most live in their band’s history, according to Setlist.fm.
The fourth single from ‘Dr. Feelgood,’ “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)” finds Motley Crue embracing pop elements in expert fashion without losing a touch of their metal edge. Plus, its title alone is one of the best kiss-offs in music. Who hasn’t gone through a breakup that ended with this type of vibe?
Motley Crue grew significantly from their debut to their second studio album ‘Shout At The Devil,’ and out the gate, they weren’t messing around as evident on the lead single “Looks That Kill.” It’s one of the Crue’s signature tunes for a reason.
“Kneel down you sinners to streetwise religion/Greed’s been crowned the new king.” That opening lyric is both super-’80s and, yet, somehow timeless, much like Motley Crue themselves. The dark lyrical content of “Wild Side” is a total juxtaposition of its music, which is one of the most upbeat tempos and melodies the band ever wrote. The whole song is as dizzying and brilliant as Tommy Lee’s spinning drum rig that’s featured in the song’s music video.
In the realm of power ballads, “Home Sweet Home” is among the most quintessential if not *the* most quintessential. Even when listening to it in your car, you’re almost tempted to lift up your lighter or phone and just sway. Tommy Lee’s piano intro is instantly recognizable, and his little drum fill at the end of the track is the perfect cherry atop one epic tune. Add Mick Mars’ guitar solo and the way Vince Neil wails “Tonight, tonight!” during the chorus, it’s no wonder this tune penned by Nikki Sixx and Lee is one of the Crue’s best.
Picking the best Motley Crue song is a tough challenge, because a number of songs in their catalog could be argued as their “best.” Why does “Kickstart My Heart” come out on top of our list? Because not only is it an incredible rock song, but it represents the essence of the Crue better than any other song in their catalog. When you’re a band whose debauchery is beyond legendary, picking the song that was inspired by Nikki Sixx being brought back to life following an overdose just makes sense. And, once again, it’s an incredible rock song that decades later is still a mainstay on active rock and now classic rock radio. It’s a song that just refuses to die, sort of like Nikki Sixx.