Motley Crue is the greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world, with great musicians and a great stage show.
Nikki Sixx, the band's bassist-songwriter, that's who.
He's not kidding either.
"We can out-rock anybody," he boasted, as if issuing a challenge.
You expect this kind of bluster from Sixx. He's an expert at blowing his own horn. Arrogance is his middle name (Frank Ferranno, by the way, is his real name). But lots of rock fans would back him up. The L.A. band's latest Elektra Records album, "Girls, Girls, Girls," is a smash hit. And its local shows--Tuesday and Wednesday at the Forum and Thursday at the Long Beach Arena--will most likely be sell outs.
"We don't take a back seat to anybody ," bragged Sixx, a 28-year-old San Jose native.
In casual conversation when his aggressiveness is in check, his arrogance isn't in full bloom and the sexism is muted, Sixx is really a nice guy.
But Sixx, drummer Tommy Lee, guitarist Mick Mars and singer Vince Neil still aren't the kind of guys most people would take home to mother. They've been actively cultivating a rowdy image since the band was organized in 1981.
At first this quartet of rebellious high school dropouts was all image and cocky attitude.
In the early '80s, they were playing mediocre metal. Even Sixx admits that their debut album, "Too Fast for Love"--in 1982 on Elektra--wasn't very good: "It wasn't the best-sounding album. It was all attitude. But we got better."
Each album has shown improvement over the last. But by his own admission the band's last LP, "Theatre of Pain" (1985), was a bit too polished. "Some of that stuff on that album is as polished as we've ever gotten," Sixx said. "That's not good for this kind of music. But there was still plenty of dirt and grit on it--we can only get so polished. Polishing our music is like painting a garbage can."
The new "Girls, Girls, Girls" is marvelously metal-explosive, earsplitting, mind-numbing. There are no substantial messages or insights, but who cares? That's not what it's for.
"We come from the school of Aerosmith, the Rolling Stones and Zeppelin," Sixx said, explaining Motley's musical roots. "We're into rock 'n' roll, not making hit songs for the radio. We stay away from that slick premeditated stuff, that Toto-Journey style of writing hits. That's connect-a-dot rock 'n' roll. Put Journey, .38 Special, Survivor and Toto back to back, you can't tell one from the other--the music has no guts. We stay far away from that style."
The band's image is constantly changing--mostly hitting new lows. A few years ago Motley's image as the gutter guys of rock seemed to have hit rock bottom. There were rumors of drug and booze excesses and wild sex parties. Those who witnessed their on-the-road revelry insisted that these untamed party animals were hellbent on redefining degeneracy. They were living the sex-and-drugs-and-rock-'n'-roll fantasy to the hilt.
Young male fans, of course, were envious of the crude Crue. Parents, appalled that these rowdies were role models for their kids, were shaking their heads disdainfully and saying things like "hoodlums will be hoodlums." Of course, Tipper Gore and the PMRC came out as anti-Crue.
"She's an idiot," Sixx said of Gore. "I'd tell it to her face. And these parents are ignorant, screaming and preaching against us. They don't know what they're talking about."
At the end of 1984, parents who didn't want their kids listening to this band were given new anti-Motley ammunition. Singer Vince Neil was hit with a vehicular manslaughter conviction for an accident--while driving under the influence--that killed Nicholas Dingley, the drummer for the band Hanoi Rocks, and injured two others in December of 1984. Besides spending 20 days in jail and doing extensive community service, Neil paid an injury settlement of $2.6 million.
That scandal rocked the band but didn't ruin it.
"That was a horrible thing that happened but the band survived it," Sixx said. "We don't try to hide from it. We mention it whenever it's appropriate. We tell the kids, 'Don't drink and drive,' but we don't get too heavy about it. We don't want to preach to anybody."
The Crue also survived another grim episode--Sixx's bout with heroin addiction that began in the spring of last year. "It happened after the 'Theater of Pain' tour. I had been dabbling in drugs for years but I never got myself strung out like I did then. But I was never out of it on stage at any point during that tour. This happened after the tour, when I had too much time to myself.
"My music suffered when I was doing drugs. How can you write songs when you can't stand up and you're dribbling down the front of your guitar? If you care about your music, you'll keep yourself together."
Though he did write a searing anti-drug song, "Dancing on Glass," for the new album, Sixx isn't one of those self-righteous ex-addicts. "I'm not going to put myself above anybody or preach to anybody," he said. "I don't do drugs, but I still drink like a fish."