Occasionally, the Crüe does make a suggestion: the liner notes on Theatre of Pain asked fans to send in pictures – "you know what kind we like" – and the band received 4000 Polaroids of young body parts.
"I've always thought of us as the psychiatrists of rock & roll," says Sixx, "because the kids come to see us, get all this anxiety and pent-up aggression out. That hour and a half is theirs. No one can take it away. No parent can tell them to turn it down."
To fully appreciate what goes into that cathartic ninety minutes, just stand next to Paul Dexter at the back of the floor during a Mötley show. His leg thumping with the beat, the blond, bleary-eyed Dexter calls cues through a headset while he and two assistants finger computerized controls for 1600 lights, which are mounted on mobile grids, and smoke, fire and sparklers during the sixteensong set.
The playlist never varies – the $1.5 million production is too technically complex to allow for improvisation. Everything is planned, right down to Neil's introductory raps, which Sixx has written in Magic Marker on sheets of legal paper taped to the stage. (For the song "Red Hot," the rap goes like this: "You know, there's nothing like a nice, cold . . . blonde! Or brunette! But what I really like are redheads . . .")
When the Crüe was starting out at L.A. clubs like the Starwood, the members would light their pants on fire and chain-saw the heads off mannequins. But Sixx, like his audience, has a TV-bred attention span; last tour, after reading something somewhere about commedia dell'arte, he concocted a stage set that resembled a theater, and the band wore heavy makeup and glittery silks. This time out, the makeup is gone, and the high concept is concert hall as strip club. (The Top Twenty title song and its slick video depict the boys cruising on their Harleys from club to club, ogling and groping at the hot dancers.)
The Girls show kicks off with old stripper music. Ceiling-high red curtains drop to the floor like garments, revealing a bare, smoky red stage. Pneumatic lifts raise first one, then two, then three levels of amps. Lee begins his stick-shattering pounding as his drum set emerges out of the ground in a forklifted cage. Originally, the rest of the band had planned to emerge from between a giant woman's legs. Instead, they hit the stage running. Neil grabs his cordless mike, mike stand and all, and tears around screeching "All in the Name of . . .," which, like most Crüe tunes, has a catchy riff and a much-repeated refrain:
She's only fifteen – she's the reason, the reason I can't sleep
You say illegal – I say legal's never been my scene
I try like hell but I'm out of control
All in the name of rock'n' roll –
for sex and sex I'd sell my soul.
Most of Mötley Crüe's lyrics deal with the band, its milieu, desires and exploits. For Neil, the Girls album "is all based on going out with your buddies and having a good time, going to strip clubs and stuff."
During each song in the concert, the dazzling light array swivels and shifts like Spielberg's grandest special effects; flash pots explode in sync with the music, and lithe, blond Emi Canyn and Donna McDaniel (the Nasty Habits) rise out of the ground to shimmy and sing backup.
But the set's truly awe-inspiring peak comes when Lee's drum-set cage rises high above the stage. In the midst of a solo he stops and announces, "I had a fucking dream. I wanted to play the fucking drums upside down." Then, while he plays, the cage tilts forty-five degrees to the left, then to the right, then face down ninety degrees, and finally it flips him head over heels in two complete circles. "See?" the barechested, strapped-in Lee cries when it finally rights itself. "Dreams do come true."
"We try to go overboard with the stage show," says Vince Neil, tanning by the pool at the Sheraton El Conquistador, near Tucson, "so the kids get their money's worth. I'd be bummed if I went to a concert and they just stood there and played. That's not my idea of show business." Just to make sure his voice won't give out, Neil gets a steroid shot before performances. One-fourth Mexican, he was born in Hollywood, California, and cut high school in suburban Covina to go surfing. He still calls everyone "dude" and skateboards backstage.
Of all the Crüe, he's the one most caught up with living the image of a rock star. In the band's home video Uncensored, released last year, he's seen cruising L.A. in a tub in the back of a limo, drinking champagne with a set of breast-flashing women, explaining, "This is why I'm in this business." Before every concert he kisses dressing-room posters of models like Paulina Porizkova and Carol Alt for good luck.
To be interviewed, he has to be pried from chatting up two leggy models who are staying in the room next door. He marvels that even though the models had spent the entire previous night hanging out in his room, they didn't tear off his clothes. "It's okay," he says with a gleeful laugh. "Laying the foundation before you build the skyscraper!"
Neil, who says he's currently dating a "beach bunny," divorced his wife around the time he went to jail last year. The marriage had never been publicly acknowledged because Sixx had wanted the band to appear to have no attachments. In other words, to maintain their image, the members of the Crüe have the opposite of Gary Hart's problem. "I think Hart would've made a great president," Neil says. "I mean, we could've played at the White House!" But he adds that Hart "lied." "A president, to me, is Abe Lincoln, George Washington – not some guy who's boning some chick."
Neil has had problems of his own since his Ford Pantera rammed into a Volkswagen on the way home from a beer run. "After the accident, I wouldn't even leave the house. I was afraid to." He entered a hospital and underwent therapy for a month. The terms of his probation include speaking to community groups and staying off booze. Neil does his best, asking for Evian when his cohorts chug Jack Daniel's. But it's obviously a strain, especially when, every show, he brings a bottle of Jack onstage so Sixx can take a chug. Neil still drinks beer and margaritas without too much peer pressure. A counselor will be popping in on various tour stops to help him.
"I fucked up," Neil says of the accident. "I've always wanted to go out and have a good time, loved fast cars, loved to get drunk. I just fucked up. So ever since, I've tried to say, 'Learn by my mistake. Don't make the same mistake yourself."' He claims that he doesn't feel a twinge when belting out, "Have a drink on the boys, we'll entertain you in style," in the song "Bad Boy Boogie." "I used to, but not anymore. You can't dwell on things the rest of your life." (Still, the band no longer performs "Knock 'Em Dead, Kid.")
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