(originally published 1/17/12)
Back in the early ’80s, New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Saxon, Mötorhead and the pre-Pyromania Def Leppard battled over metal-mag cover space with softer, glossier stateside bands, who proudly wore pop sensibilities (and heaps of lucrative crossover potential) on deliberately ripped sleeves.
But an L.A. foursome called Mötley Crüe, who head-banged the hardest (at first), partied the most, had the tallest, firmest hair and landed more than their share of backstage female attention, ended up winning the greatest share of prime rock-mag real estate. Dig around the Internet for profiles in early ’80s metal poster-boy mags, titles like Metal Edge, Hit Parader, Circus, Metal Hammer, Kerrang! and Metal Forces: every other issue, it seems, has Crüe singer Vince Neil on the cover. Quiet Riot, Lita Ford, Whitesnake, Poison, Europe, Cinderella, Dokken, Stryper, Slaughter, even Ozzy Osbourne couldn’t keep pace.
That was 30 years ago. Three members of Mötley Crüe, including Neil, are in their ’50s now (think about THAT for a moment). They all appeared recently on CNN’s “The Piers Morgan Show,” talking candidly about bottles they’ve downed, women they shared, low moments and high ones. Except for guitarist Mick Mars, they’ve all written detailed memoirs of what went on back then (Mars participated in the band’s group tell-all, The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Band). There’s hardly anything left to be said, but everyone’s still listening.
Neil’s story, Tattoos & Tequila: To Hell and Back with One of Rock’s Most Notorious Frontmen, was released in 2010. That year, Neil also put out a CD, Tattoos & Tequila, of mostly cover songs, each of which corresponds to a chapter in the book. He’ll perform songs from the album (along with the required allotment of Crüe material) with his solo band at the Ridgefield Playhouse on January 19.
By phone, Neil said there was never any grand plan to record an album of covers to go along with the book. “It just kind of happened,” he said. “It was really a coincidence that they came out at the same time. And it seemed like a cool idea. The songs have absolutely nothing to do with the book. Those are just songs that I grew up with that have special meanings. Each has a specific memory. They are my favorite songs.”
Punk, glam and disco were folded into West Coast metal, along with the usual mid-’70s British and American blues-based rock suspects: Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Kiss, Alice Cooper, AC/DC, Cheap Trick, Aerosmith, David Bowie, Slade, T. Rex, even the Sex Pistols played some role in shaping what’s now called ’80s hair-band rock.
Naturally, some of those influences show up on Neil’s CD, along with one or two you might not expect. “‘Who’ll Stop the Rain’: my dad was a big Creedence fan, so that one’s attached to my childhood,” Neil said. “Aerosmith brings me back to when I was 15 surfing with my buddies. The only album we played was the Aerosmith’s Rocks.”
In addition to playing with Mötley Crüe and his solo band, Neil opened up a tattoo parlor in Las Vegas six years ago. “They are both a lot of fun,” Neil said, when asked about the twin pursuits of performing and owning a business. “But being on stage is the number one thing that’s always going to be up on top. But it’s nice when you have an idea and you see it grow and be successful, like putting together and album and going on tour.”
“It’s all about being on stage,” he continued. “That’s why we got into this, the performance. With Mötley, there’s always something cool that we plan to do each tour. With my solo band, it’s fun just playing what I want to play.”