The Rockstar Ramblings: Shout vs. Cellar vs. Hungry
Band Photo: Motley Crue (?)
Three rock albums were releases during 1983-1984 that would change my life. For a boy approaching his teen years these albums (actually cassette tapes) opened me up to a new world that remains part of me today. These albums were Ratt’s “Out of The Cellar,” Motley Crue’s “Shout at The Devil,” and Twisted Sister’s “Stay Hungry.” Given these three bands are back touring (Ratt and Twisted Sister playing these albums in their entirety) and the albums are celebrating 25+ years I thought it might be a good time to break down these volumes and see how they influenced, compared to each, and hold up today.
THE CATALOG (start to finish):
Motley’s “Shout” starts with the track “In The Beginning” setting the stage for a dark album where most songs contain the words: kill and blood (interesting how these words would translate in later albums to “cocaine” and “Hollywood”). Side 1 is anchored by the album titled track and “Looks That Kill.” Side 2 mixes fast rock (“Red Hot” and “Knock’em Dead Kid”) with a few slower songs, including what could be considered one of the first glam ballads in “Too Young to Fall in Love.” Although there is some filler (will discuss later), the songs are arranged in perfect order. Even today, it’s hard to create an iPod playlist with “Knock’em” and not include the song “Ten Seconds to Love” directly after.
“Stay Hungry” is the first track on Twisted’s album, followed by the rebellious “We’re Not Gonna Take it.” After this, the songs turn, in a good way, into a horror movie of sorts. “Burn In Hell” is followed by a song that looks like a Grindhouse double feature: “Horror-teria (The Beginning): A. Captain Howdy B. Street Justice.” Eventually these songs do find their way into Dee’s horror movie productions. Side 2 starts with “I Wanna Rock” and ends with the TS anthem “SMF” which stands for Sick Mother Fuckers. Obviously, as a kid growing up this was one of the most important songs in my catalog. The songs “The Price” and “Don’t let me Down” are interesting, and also similar to a lot of later Sister recordings, which is to say not quite as good as their others.
Ratt’s “Out of The Cellar” kicks off with Stephen Pearcy telling us about “A Lone Dealer, with Snake Eyes” in “Wanted Man.” Track 3 provided us with one of the biggest hits from eighties in “Round and Round,” a song that will stick in your head for days, also a glimpse into Ratt’s musical inspiration (fast women and hookers) which would be detailed during their next three albums. Side 2 begins with the guitar heavy “Lack of Communication,” but falls off once we get to the fourth consecutive hooker song.
These albums established identities in “their sound” so much that when you heard any Ratt song you instantly could identify the band by the lead vocal sounds, drums, and guitar riffs. The same goes for both “Shout” and “Hungry,” give anyone five seconds of a song and they would be able to identify the band. The would get a little more difficult to do in years following.
Nikki Sixx (Motley Crue) was a fan of the movie “Escape from New York” and experimenting very much in black magic at this time, hence some of the dark subjects. Dee and Twisted were into horror movies, and Ratt sex and hookers. I wouldn’t say any one of these albums is deep, nor was that their intention.
If you had to sum up “Shout” in one word it would have to be BLOOD, “Hungry” would be REBELLION, or horror, and “Cellar” would be HOOKERS, or whores.
All three of these albums contain incredible album covers. First, Ratt introduces us to a girl crawling (presumably out of a cellar, but it almost looks like she is going in). Ladies and gentlemen meet Tawny Kitaen! Tawny would go on to be the video girl for eighties rock videos (I realize she was in mostly Whitesnake videos, but let’s face it, does anyone remember Coverdale in those videos? No, they remember Tawny fucking a car). From a marketing perspective, Motley Crue created pure gold by putting their pictures on the cover. Suppose to be a take off The Beatle’s “Let it Be” here are four guys who are so glam’d up they look like girls (this of course would be shattered later when Poison releases “Look What the Cat Dragged In,” the album that broke the record for most eye shadow on a cover ever) plus they have haunted backdrops and Nikki Sixx is giving the sign of the devil. Chilling stuff for a twelve year-old (or thirty-five year-old for that matter). Twisted Sister’s cover features lead singer Dee Snider in stage costume (chilling in its own rite) gnawing on a bone. When Dee Snider started producing horror movies later in his career was anyone surprised?
Twisted Sister created videos for “I Wanna Rock” and “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” Essentially they are the same video. They show rebellion against authority by incorporating the use of Mark Metcalf (Neidermeyer from Animal House). A boy (around thirteen) is confronted by teacher/parent who doesn’t like Twisted Sister music. Wait long enough and the band will break through a door and scream their lyrics. They were angry and in your face. This was a band that was hurt by censorship.
The influence from the movie “Escape From New York” is prevalent in Motley Crue’s videos “Looks that Kill” and “Too Young To Fall in Love.” Ratt stepped it up, using Milton Berle in their video for “Round and Round.” They also released videos for “Wanted Man” and “Back for More;” however, both were overshadowed by their first video (“Round and Round”) showing the band playing above a dinner party, during the guitar sola the band comes crashing down through the ceiling.
All of these videos are a fantastic part of eighties pop culture. In the Motley videos you see Tommy Lee spending an entire song wanting to eat the gruel from a little girl, in the end he gets his chance; predictably it is not an enjoyable experience. In “Looks that Kill,” Nikki Sixx drop kicks an Asian girl. An inexplicable move that today would probably have protesters lined up outside MTV studios if aired. In “Wanted Man”, Ratt is in the Wild West. The production cost is low, the acting terrible, and comedy high.
It is impossible to watch these videos today without cringing, but at the same time it’s very hard to look away. I suggest several rum and Cokes prior to viewing.
Twisted Sister was from New York. Ratt and Motley Crue were born on L.A.’s Sunset Boulevard. No one was gunned down in this East Coast vs. West Coast confrontation, because there really wasn’t any. This was the eighties. If you didn’t like what was going on then go try cocaine.
Initially Twisted Sister’s “We’re not Gonna Take it” was a more popular song. This was until Ratt’s “Round and Round” hit. A radio favorite, Ratt hit main rotations and popularity with the same people listening to Michael Jackson and Boy George. Motley’s “Shout” was not radio friendly. Occasionally you would catch “Too Young to Fall in Love,” but for the most part radio stations and MTV were scared of this band. This wouldn’t last long as Nikki would change the band’s image, making them an MTV staple with the next three albums. This is not to say the Crue didn’t have their fans. Through word of mouth “Shout” blew up overnight. Motley Crue also got the coveted spot of opening for Ozzy Osbourne, opening doors to decadence and fans to their music. When it came time to record their next album they were already the biggest band of the three despite not having the biggest hit.
For Ratt and Twisted Sister these were to be their biggest albums, there is not argument. Motley’s best work (“Dr. Feelgood”) was still ahead of them.
If you pull out the cassettes and listen to these albums they all sound dated. They sound as if they were recorded in the 1983-84 time period. The digitally re-mastered versions are better, though some songs (Ratt’s “You’re in Trouble,” Motley’s “Shout at the Devil,” and Twisted’s “I Wanna Rock” to name a few) still could be updated as Motley did with their version of “Shout” on their “Generation Swine” record.
Today Ratt is back out promoting “Out of the Cellar.” As a band they sold millions of records after “Cellar,” but this was their definitive work. “Round and Round” is still in radio rotations across the world, and songs from “Cellar” continue to be picked up for movie soundtracks. Twisted Sister is taking “Stay Hungry” out on the road one more time. It is clear now that this album was a breakthrough in the way that it allowed the band (mainly Dee Snider) to continue making music, pursue other opportunities (movies), and be a voice for the metal generation. After years of little love both Ratt and Twisted Sister are back playing in front of their fans, both old and new.
That being said neither have had the longevity of Motley Crue. “Shout” was an inspirational album that laid the groundwork for a career of chart topping hits, careers in reality television, and abuse on all levels.
As debatable as most of these categories are, this may start the most arguments with metal heads. How many songs are “weak” or were thrown in to complete the album? Motley’s “Shout” contains a guitar solo named “God Bless The Children of the Beast” that appears to have been placed on their for pure shock value, this is followed by a cover of The Beatles “Helter Skelter.” This is a very good cover, but as with any cover you have to wonder if they ran out of songs. As mentioned before Side 2 is strong, including the final song “Danger” that I feel was a throw in at the time, but actually holds up pretty well today (this is also the official hand-off to change all lyrics that contain the word “blood” to “Hollywood”). Side 2 of “Cellar” contains “The Morning After,” “In Your Direction,” and “I’m Insane.” Three songs (I assume about fast women and hookers) that may have watered down some of their side 1 songs are still being played and are popping up in movies (The Wrestler featured a couple of Ratt songs including “I’m Insane”). Horror movie tracks aside (I think we all agree “Burn in Hell” and “Horrror-teria” stand on their own) we have to take a look at “The Price,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” and “The Beast.” Fortunately these songs are sandwiched between “I Wanna Rock” and “SMF,” or they would have received little play from my boom box as a kid.
In conclusion (yes, I tried, but we are going well over 2,000 words on this one) I find it difficult to rank these albums against each other in each category as was my original intention (using the Metal Underground skulls as the standard of course). So anyway, here it is.
I’m giving Motley Crue’s “Shout at The Devil” five skulls. There may be a little fluff and this was not a “popular” album when released (though quickly caught fire), but listening to this now (switching the versions of “Shout at the Devil” of course) this is still one of the most solid albums of the eighties. This is where the four members of the band really gelled and launched their decadence upon us.
Ratt will always be defined by “Round and Round”; however, this isn’t really fair. “Out of the Cellar” is an incredible listen from beginning to end. From song order to arrangement of songs dealing with love, hookers, and sex it’s too bad Ratt decided to make their next couple records so similar. Had they done something a little different I believe “Cellar” would have stood out a little more, of course, I will look past this and give it 4.5 skulls (this is only 4 if Tawny isn’t on the cover).
“Stay Hungry” will always be around due to the hits “We’re not Gonna Take it” and “I Wanna Rock”. What I haven’t noticed until recently was how this album is more heavy metal opera than just a rock album. The collection of fuck you songs mixed in with a horror movie soundtrack are groundbreaking for the time and deserve its due. “Stay Hungry” receives 4 skulls.
Should you find yourself with time to reminisce and your drink of choice nearby I highly recommend throwing in one of these CDs and giving a listen from start to finish. You will hear what made them popular then, hear the inspiration for many bands to follow, and give you a shot of energy as well.
David S. Grant is the author of books Corporate Porn, Bleach|Blackout, Hollywood Ending, Emotionless Souls, and The Last Breakfast. His new novel, Blood-the New Red, will be available this fall. For more information please go to http://www.davidsgrant.com.
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