The Theatre Of Pain era brings back so many memories for this Cruehead. I remember sitting in class & hearing some kid, probably skipping school, walking through the school yard with a stereo blasting ‘Smoking In the Boys Room’ in about 1985. The Crue hit the big time with this record. ‘Smokin’’ & ‘Home Sweet Home’ were tunes that appealed to a broader audience & Hard Rock/Heavy Metal music was a more popular genre after all the pioneer work of bands like the Crue, Quiet Riot, Twisted Sister, Iron Maiden & Ozzy Osbourne.
But Theatre is mostly regarded as a misstep these days, with Nikki leading the pack in calling out the records’ weaknesses. It’s hard to disagree. Songs like ‘Fight For Your Rights’, ‘Raise Your Hands To Rock’, ‘Tonight (We Need A Lover)’ do sound like filler (& certainly touched with the dated Twisted Sister anthemic, mid ‘80s production value).
For those of us who grew up with the Crue in the ‘80s, Theatre Of Pain is the bastard fuck-up that you love as much for its highlights as its low-lights. Opinions vary but I’ve always loved the ‘filler’ tunes on the record. The opening track, ‘City Boy Blues’ introduces the world to the Crue of the next two records with their more mainstream, bluesy, Aerosmith-influenced hard rock. It’s a groovy tune with a great lyric . . . Nikki sets the urban scene in an almost poetic intro.
Fireflies . . . & dog fights . . . Running hot in the heat . . . Street noise . . . another bribe . . . things too hard to believe, so head out!
My heart’s in the country, my feet in the city with you . . . Well my friends were eating sushi talking bad about you-know-who-who-who . . . My tongue was talking riddles but I just can’t seem to find the clue . . . So I take a swig of whiskey & I jump into the saddle with you-you-you . . . & I just can’t seem to break the shackles of the City Boy Blues . ..
Another verse & then a nice breakdown before the solo with some particularly choice words from the Sixxster:
Don’t look to Jesus to change your seasons, it’s the American Dream . . . Sold out gypsies, roads of stone . . . can’t seem to find no peace, so head out!
Vince’s car accident in 1984 that resulted in the death of Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicolas ‘Razzle’ Dingley cast a pall over Motley operations & spirit in these years. After the controversies of Shout At the Devil, Theatre represents a creative revision that also reflects where the band was heading musically. Too Fast & Shout are the odd men out as far Crue’s ‘80s sound . . . Too Fast with its power pop punk & proto-Sunset Strip Rock N’ Roll & Shout with it’s Heavy Metal/Satanic/Violent/Gang/S&M overtones. Theatre has most in common with Dr. Feelgood, to my ears. Both are obvious attempts at garnering more of the generic hard rock audience of the times.
It’s a turn to more hard rockin’ sounds but the Metal flavour is still there in some of the songs.
While Shout At the Devil lives on & has become a classic album that still wins fans, Theatre Of Pain remains a record of its time. A product of sudden & overwhelming success & overkill . . . & the effects of indulgence. 1985!