By 1988, the slick and polished sounds which heavy metal became known for was starting to fade. We saw the NWOBHM morph into the Sunset Strip rock and roll show and when the hairs became bigger than the sounds courtesy of MTV, the label reps came up with so many other wonderful names like Glam Metal, Hair Metal, Pop Metal, Hard Rock, Heavy Rock and whatever other word they could find to put before rock and metal. Basically, a rethink was on the cards for a lot of the artists.
But not for all.
Bon Jovi delivered one hell of a slick rock and metal album in 1986 and followed it up with another slick album in 1988. Whitesnake had the same dilemma, so they wrote another guitar heavy album to follow up from the self-titled 1987 album. Kiss continued on from “Crazy Nights” to “Hot In The Shade”.
Then Motley Crue dropped “Dr Feelgood” on September 1, 1989. All of those interviews about the drug overdoses, the death and subsequent return from death for Nikki Sixx, the drugs, the crashed cars, the lawsuits, the drugs again, the imposter, Vince escaping jail, the women, the drugs again times two and three and four, the partying, the clashes with the law, the break ups and the eventual “sobriety”. “Dr Feelgood” had to be number 1. If the music didn’t do it, the stories would have.
But “Dr Feelgood” wasn’t just an album, it was a statement and it was a sound. And underpinning it all was the blues. That’s right, the baddest boys of rock and roll had gone back to the Missy Sippy Delta (I know how Mississippi is spelt) well for inspiration.
I remember walking down to the local shopping centre to buy the album which cost $19.99 in Australian dollars.
From the start of the Dr Davis call in “Terror N Tinseltown” which segues into the thundering rolling E note that kicks off “Dr Feelgood”, you knew this album was an assault on the eardrums. But it’s the chromatic blues riffs which come after which showcases the underrated Mick Mars. There is the chromatic passage and then two note chords, a D5 to an A/C# chord. Then it goes back to the chromatic passage and then that “Purple Haze” chord, the E7#9.
Sonically, its heavy and pleasing on the ear drums. It has a lot of groove. And lyrics that deal with a drug boss called “Dr Feelgood”. You can create a comic book character based on the lyrics of the song. Descriptive all the way down to the type of car with primed flames.
But it was the nod to the blues which got me very interested, especially when bands like Aerosmith, Badlands, Lynch Mob, Dangerous Toys and Tora Tora all released decent albums based around heavy blues rock. You could say they were all building on what Guns N Roses brought back to the masses with “Appetite For Destruction”.
And the changes weren’t confided to blues rock.
Some bands went heavier based on the new found success of bands like Pantera. Other bands went back to classic rock acts from the 70’s and others went more progressive. One thing that was clear, change was happening, except if you were AC/DC and Iron Maiden. And maybe there is something to be said there as well, as both of those acts still make great coin from touring.