30 Years Ago: Motley Crue’s ‘Shout at the Devil’ Released
When Motley Crue released its sophomore album, ‘Shout at the Devil,’ on Sept. 26, 1983, they already wanted to rule the world. But they’d endured such desperate living conditions while scratching and clawing their way out of the Hollywood gutter, that just earning enough money to buy a sandwich probably still felt pretty damn exciting.
Sure, just one listen to ‘Shout at the Devil’ was enough to convince most anyone that it was bound to become a classic album. But Motley Crue did more than deliver on that conviction – they inadvertently captured the very zeitgeist of the looming commercial heavy metal revolution with the ultimate L.A. glam metal album.
Indeed, while early scene champions (and chart-toppers) Quiet Riot and even promising peers like Ratt or Dokken were fated to flare and fizzle relatively quickly, Motley Crue would successfully ride out the decade as the definitive ‘80s hair band – only challenged near the finish line (1988, to be exact) by Guns n’ Roses’ unprecedented, if altogether different, rise to global domination. Along the way, Motley miraculously skirted numerous disasters (Crue bassist Nikki Sixx’s multiple overdoses, the Vince Neil car crash that killed Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle, etc.) while delivering one multi-platinum album after another – but it all began with the template-setting ‘Shout at the Devil.’
Recorded in the immediate aftermath of the band’s signing to Elektra, following the impressive underground response to 1981’s independently released ‘Too Fast for Love’ debut, ‘Shout at the Devil’ literally upgraded every aspect of the band’s qualities: their songwriting, their image, the production – you name it. And while the black pentagram cover art, the title track, their ‘Helter Skelter’ cover, and Mick Mars’ instrumental showpiece, ‘God Bless the Children of the Beast,’ all courted press-generating controversy with conservative groups, Motley Crue had their eyes ever set on the prize, delivering hits.
Yes, these were unquestionably provocative (‘Too Young to Fall in Love,’ ‘Ten Seconds to Love’), dangerous (‘Bastard,’ ‘Knock ‘em Dead Kid,’‘Danger’) and heavy (‘Red Hot,’ ‘Looks that Kill’) songs, but they were hits nonetheless: irresistible fusions of heavy metal power, punk rock attitude, and massive hooks crafted to infect all those who heard them. And then the provocative, androgynous band photos strategically placed in gatefold technicolor behind that aforementioned pentagram sealed the deal with female fans; marking Motley Crue as the first heavy metal band to truly cross over from the male to female audience, and automatically doubling the band’s fan-base-building prospects.
All commercial considerations aside, though, ‘Shout at the Devil’ remains a spectacular LP in the purely musical sense – especially in light of the increasingly disappointing tunes that dominated subsequent albums, as chief songwriter Sixx channeled all of his energies into consuming drugs and other vices instead of producing great music. Luckily, he and his bandmates all managed to survive these travails long enough to turn their personal lives around and carry on prospering for decades (endless band breakups and makeups notwithstanding). But when all is said and done, ‘Shout at the Devil’ will undoubtedly stand as the be-all, end-all of Motley Crue’s long career.