Bryget Chrisfield hits you with some juicy nuggets of wisdom surrounding the creation, impact, and legacy of her favourite classic records. This month it’s the one, the only, the mighty Mötley Crüe with Dr. Feelgood.
Mötley Crüe’s fifth album, Dr. Feelgood – which spent a total of 109 weeks on the Billboard 200 and is the band’s only record to top the U.S. chart – elevated the Tinseltown terrors to peak popularity. And this record’s title track, which became the Crüe’s first Top Ten hit, ain’t about an actual doctor, obvs. “It was inspired by drug dealers,” Nikki Sixx confirmed during an interview. “Is there ever just one? A good drug addict always has more than one dealer.”
Following the near-death experience that inspired Kickstart My Heart, Nikki immediately discharged himself from hospital and was driven home by fans
On December 23, 1987, Nikki went on a drug-fuelled bender with pals (including Slash and Steven Adler from Guns N’ Roses, and Ratt’s Robbin Crosby) before their dealer injected him with a lethal dose of heroin. Nikki was pronounced clinically dead for two minutes. After he was revived, the musician eventually came to in a hospital bed. He recounted in his autobiography The Heroin Diaries: A Year In The Life Of A Shattered Rock Star: “There was a cop asking me questions, so I told him to go f-ck himself. I ripped out my tubes and staggered in just my leather pants into the parking lot, where two teenage girls were sitting crying around a candle. They had heard on the radio that I was dead, and looked kind of surprised to see me.” After giving Nikki a jacket – and making him promise he’d kick his drug habit –the teenagers gave the Crüe’s bassist/primary songwriter a ride home in their Mazda.
The Crüe sobered up to record Dr. Feelgood
Described by drummer Tommy Lee as “the best record of [their] career”, Dr. Feelgood was recorded while Mötley Crüe were (uncharacteristically) sober. The band responsibly relocated from the party-hard temptations surrounding LA’s Sunset Strip to laser-focus on making the follow-up to Girls, Girls, Girls – with producer Bob Rock – in Vancouver, Canada, where they stayed for almost a year. Girls, Girls, Girls peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200, pipped at the post by Whitney Houston’s Whitney. “It was through payola that we lost the #1 position,” Nikki claims during Autobiography: The Mötley Crüe Mini-Doc. “It unified the band even harder and it bummed the band out to the point where we said, ‘We will do anything to prove that we are the biggest band in the world.’ And that is how we got to Dr. Feelgood.”
Without You is a romantic ode to Tommy and Heather Locklear
Dr. Feelgood’s tender-hearted power ballad Without You has soundtracked many a high school prom slow dance/pash. “That was a very simple idea for a song, [for] which I had written a lyric about Heather Locklear and Tommy,” Nikki revealed during a 2009 interview. “They were coming over to my place all the time. I thought to myself one day, Without You – coming from Tommy’s perspective – life would not be the same. It was a good relationship at that time. It was sort of a romantic moment. I apologise for that.” Naw, ain’t that cute?
At Tommy and Heather’s wedding, however, Nikki was a shoo-in for ‘Worst Best Man Ever’. “He kept excusing himself to go to the bathroom, and then he’d return and start nodding off in the middle of the ceremony,” Tommy recalls in the Crüe’s bestselling tell-all autobiography, The Dirt: Confessions Of The World’s Most Notorious Rock Band. “As a best man, he was s of-cked up on heroin, he was useless. I couldn’t believe he was shooting up at my f-cking wedding.” Tommy and Heather divorced in 1994.
Metallica booked producer Bob Rock because they loved Dr. Feelgood’s sonics
“I had seen Mötley Crüe live, and when I heard the kick drum, my kidney fell out,” Bob has joked during an interview. So how did he recreate that booming bottom-end for Dr. Feelgood!? “By using samples in conjunction with the drum kit to get the weight and the size of the drums,” the producer told journalist Jake Brown. “Tommy would tap me on the shoulder and say, ‘Rockhead, could I have a little more bottom?’… He was such a loud hitter that he would actually compress the drums… so I remember I would have to back off the mics.” Metallica were so impressed by the resulting sound that they recruited Bob to produce their seminal self-titled album of 1991 (AKA ‘The Black Album’). “They particularly liked the sonic quality of Dr. Feelgood, and they wanted that size and weight,” Bob confirmed.
Bryan Adams plus members of Aerosmith, Cheap Trick and Skid Row supplied backing vocals
The roll call of legends who sing back-up vocals on Dr. Feelgood proved the Crüe’s magnetic pulling power extended way beyond just drugs and chicks: Sticky Sweet features Bryan Adams plus Steven Tyler (Aerosmith were recording their tenth album Pump in the same Canadian studio); Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander and Rick Nielsen supply BVs on She Goes Down (check out that cheeky zipper sound effect at the 3.33-minute mark!); and Time For Change features additional BVs by Skid Row.