In 1984, my parents, brother, and I went on a massive trip from Iowa to California. We drove north to Minnesota to pick up my brother from a friend’s cabin, then headed west through Montana, to Washington, then south through Oregon, to Mount Shasta, CA, where my grandma was born and raised. Then we headed south to San Francisco (and Alcatraz) and then Hollywood (and Universal Studios). We then headed to Las Vegas and then through Colorado where we went whitewater rafting before ending up back in Iowa. At some point on this trip, we went to a Kmart in CA. My parents, brother, and I each walked out with a cassette to play in our Ford Econoline van. I walked out with the cassette version of Shout At The Devil while my dad got a John Denver cassette. I do not remember what my mother and brother walked out with.
The agreement was to rotate the cassettes. The ominous beginnings of “In The Beginning” must have sent my parents into the same reaction I have when I hear some of the music my kids listen to, like Taylor Swift and whatever rap artist comes on the radio. Paybacks are a bitch. When the riff of “Shout At The Devil” begins, with Tommy Lee’s thunderous tom hits, I am taken back to an era when Motley Crue was good. In my ears, I hear a band that was hungry and raw.
Their musical vision included a lot of tough guy lyrics in tracks like “Bastard,” “Knock ‘Em Dead Kid,” and “Ten Seconds To Love.” The secret weapon on this release is “Danger,” the last song on the release. This song is as close to a ballad as they would come until their next release (you know, “Home Sweet Home”) but on this song, they actually constructed a song worth listening to relentlessly. I hear their passion.
The lead-off to side two is “Red Hot,” and it is the band’s best performance on tape. Tommy Lee’s thunderous drum performance has been copied on countless other songs, guitarist Mick Mars rips through his solo, bassist Nikki Sixx provides his best bassline under Mars’ solo, and vocalist Vince Neil? Hell, even he sounds good.
The main songs that have survived the test of time are “Looks That Kill” and “Too Young To Fall In Love,” both MTV darlings preempting the whole Theater Of Pain release. I can safely say that their cover of “Helter Skelter” was the first Beatles song I ever heard, except I didn’t know if was by The Beatles. The liner notes say it was written by Lennon/McCartney, but in 7th grade, I didn’t know what that really meant. I am confident that I will always have this cassette nearby.