“You build a production so people will go, ‘Holy fuck!'” he says. “I don’t ever want anybody to see something I’m involved in and go, ‘Yeah, that was pretty cool. …’ I’m not interested in ‘pretty cool.’ There’s no room for that. There’s room for ‘holy fuck’ and nothing else.”
Back in their Hollywood club days in the early 1980s, the band’s special-effects budget may have been smaller, but the ideas were no less imaginative. Onstage, Sixx would routinely smear his knee-high leather boots with pyro gel or rubbing alcohol, and then Neil would come over and light him up.
“Vince and Tommy would practice setting me on fire in the apartment we all shared in Hollywood,” Sixx recalls. “I used to hang out by this dumpster behind a local pyro company to get tips on how to do it. They’d be like, ‘What d’ya want, kid?’ And I’d say, ‘Can you show me this? Can you show me that?’ I guess I was very inquisitive about pyro. I still am.”
Singer Vince Neil, for his part, had his own show-stopping gimmick, which involved using a chainsaw to sever a mannequin’s head from its body. “With Mötley, it’s never been a question of, ‘Should we do it?'” Sixx says. “It was always, yes. Should Vince chainsaw the head off a mannequin filled with blood during a song called ‘Piece of Your Action’? Yes. Of course he should! Who wouldn’t? Well, 99.99 percent of all other bands wouldn’t. But we would.”
By the mid Eighties, the band was routinely attempting things onstage that had never been seen in rock & roll. The tour for Theatre of Pain, the 1985 album that, with MTV hits like “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” and “Home Sweet Home,” graduated the Crüe to arena headliners, was accompanied by a stage show that saw Tommy Lee’s kit mounted to a platform that would rotate forward almost 90 degrees, to allow audiences a bird’s-eye view of his performance.
“Tommy’s a great drummer, and coming out of that punk-rock and new-wave period, there weren’t a lot of musicians and personalities like him at the time,” Sixx says. “He was very young, and he wanted to have a drum solo where he could just slam it. And his thing was, ‘How can I take things to the next level? How can I create my own sort of mini-production inside the main production?’ So for the Theatre of Pain tour we figured out how to take the drum riser and have it lean all the way forward, so that the fans could actually watch him play his drum solo. And that led into, ‘OK, what else can we do?’ “
From there, the band developed one of the more notorious drum contraptions in rock history — Lee’s kit-in-a-cage from the 1987-1988 Girls, Girls, Girls tour, which would raise him high above the stage and spin him head over heels. The ’89-’90 Dr. Feelgood jaunt, meanwhile, had Lee and his drums traveling out over the crowd. For Mötley’s 2011 summer tour, his kit was placed inside a Ferris wheel-like contraption known as “the 360” or “the Loop,” an idea conceived in part by Long.