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Heavy Hitters: Mötley Crüe & the Stadium Tour

Paul Gargano celebrates the show of the summer and the Crüe's first four albums

Raise your hand if you were watching footage of the opening night of the Stadium Tour and wishing you were in Atlanta… I know I was! I woke the next morning and checked the itinerary for a show I might be able to make before the spectacle hits the SoFi Stadium here in Los Angeles at the end of August – then I dug into my vinyl collection and spent the day listening to all the bands on the historic package. I’ve written about Def Leppard’s Pyromania, On Through The Night and Retro Active, as well as Poison’s Look What The Cat Dragged In and Open Up… And Say Ahh! in Heavy Hitters before, but I’ve barely scratched the surface with Mötley Crüe, until now only exploring their now mis-named live album, the soundtrack to The Dirt, and an ‘80s-flavored tribute album. So, this week, where better to dedicate my deep dive into must-own vinyl than to the first four albums from the most bad-ass band to ever cover the Beatles, Brownsville Station and Elvis Presley…

MOTLEY CRUE Too Fast For Love

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This is the album that started it all. It’s also the album that opens with “Live Wire,” a song I won a lip-sync contest with while on vacation as a teenager. I’m sure my outfit helped, highlighted by black spandex shorts with neon green stripes. I’ll give you a minute to regain your composure… Too Fast For Love established the shape and form of Mötley Crüe. Where other bands connected the dots with straight lines, Mötley sped around curves with reckless abandon, swirling a vintage aesthetic with an unapologetic eye on the future. More than four decades later, “Live Wire” is just as electric as the day we first heard it, “Piece of Your Action” pulses, and “Starry Eyes” and “On With the Show” offer a salacious slice of the Sunset Strip’s shadowy underbelly. Then there’s the title track, boasting two of my favorite - albeit simplest - Nikki Sixx lyrics: “she puts her legs up, well, calls it good luck” and “the more that she gets, the more that she needs,” both offering a timeless taste of the Hollywood dream. I wouldn’t call this the best Mötley Crüe album, but it’s the most raw and pure – which is why I call it their most important. Shape and form, it all starts here. The Leathür Records original issue of this sacred debut remains atop my vinyl wish list, but it’s called a wish list for a reason - this BMG reissue won’t cost us a mortgage payment! And, yes, somewhere there’s a picture of me in my unfortunate lip-sync get-up.

MOTLEY CRUE Shout at the Devil

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I can count on one hand the number of hard rock albums from the ‘80s that deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as Shout at the Devil – and when I’m done counting, I’ll still have enough fingers left to fly the devil horns in praise of this glorious piece of musical history. At a time when danger didn’t exist on the Sunset Strip, Mötley threw Satan on their shoulders and challenged the world to a chicken fight. And they kicked the world’s ass. “In The Beginning/Shout at the Devil” is one of the greatest openings ever pressed to vinyl, “Looks That Kill” and “Too Young to Fall in Love” remain as incendiary as anything the Crüe have to offer, their cover of “Helter Skelter” made the Beatles’ classic their own, and “Danger” is one of the most unheralded and underrated song across the band’s epic catalog. Visually, the monochrome pentagram on the album cover is minimalist perfection, and no band has ever looked cooler than the Crüe circa Shout. No vinyl collection is complete without this classic.

MOTLEY CRUE Theatre of Pain

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For many of us, Theatre of Pain was our gateway drug to Mötley Crüe. Where its predecessor made the boyish charm of the Sunset Strip dangerous by flirting with Satanism and singing about the Manson murders, Theatre made the bad boys less threatening by trading two albums of black and red for a color palette inclusive of pink, purple, yellow and orange. The Crüe didn’t get shiny or happy – hell, they even kept the pentagram on the album cover – but they shifted their focus from the children of the beast to kids that want to rock, becoming more accessible overnight. “Save Our Souls,” “Louder Than Hell” and “Tonight (We Need a Lover)” still danced in the darkness, but their cover of “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” emerged as a teenage anthem for a new generation, while “Home Sweet Home” became an anthem for the ages and one of the era’s defining songs. I appreciate this album infinitely more since rediscovering it on vinyl several years ago – grab this latest reissue and raise your hands to rock along with me!

MOTLEY CRUE Girls, Girls, Girls

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After seducing us in their Theatre of Pain, Mötley Crüe used the allure of the wild side and the promise of three times the girls to turn us into rock 'n' roll junkies on this, their fourth full-length album and the arguable apex of their visual evolution. With the release of Girls, Girls, Girls in 1987, my fascination with these larger-than-life Hollywood rockers bordered on mania - I was still aspiring to drive anything with four wheels anywhere it would take me in hopes that any girl that knew who Mötley were would even acknowledge my existence, and the Crüe were riding their Harleys to every strip club in America and leaving every bodily fluid imaginable in every back alley along the way. “Wild Side” is transcendental, “Girls, Girls, Girls” is an epiphany, and “Bad Boy Boogie” was The Dirt before Machine Gun Kelly was even a glimmer in his mama’s eye. All things considered, who better to cover the King’s “Jailhouse Rock”? And as every girl, girl, girl will attest, it doesn’t get much better than being pressed on vinyl.