Waxing Nostalgic: METAL MAYHEM! with Mötley Crüe, “Looks That Kill”

Published on May 8th, 2013 in: Music, Waxing Nostalgic |

By Jeffery X Martin


Gather around, children. The following is a true story.

The year was 1983.

The most popular band in the world released the biggest album of their career. It was also, arguably, the worst album of their career. How they went from songs based on famous novels to bad poetry about dinosaurs is still beyond me. At the same time, a little metal band from Los Angeles was making waves by not only cranking out killer riffs, but by painting themselves as Satan-worshipping post-apocalyptic satyrs.

I was thirteen years old, a sweet church-going boy, and I had cleverly squirreled away enough money to purchase both of these albums on cassette. I was far too concerned about the coolness issue involved with these new additions to my musical collection. I had to have Synchronicity because everyone had it. I wanted Shout at the Devil because “Looks that Kill” was stuck in my head, slowly driving me mad.

This was the beginning of the Satanic Panic era. Heavy metal was coming under attack from concerned groups of parents for its sexual content. Religious groups were mortified by the licentiousness in the lyrics and perceived glorification of violence and sexual perversion. Ozzy and Judas Priest would end up going on trial. Frank Zappa would appear before a Senate committee, telling them to keep their white-gloved hands off our rock and roll. They were dark times for heavy music.

I was on the path to becoming a Christian minister.

Buying that Mötley Crüe tape was a mortal sin. Even touching it through the shrink-wrap burned my fingertips slightly. There was even a sticker warning the prospective buyer that the music contained backwards messages! That was like opening a door and inviting Satan in for Singapore Slings and a game of footsie.

The Police were safe, even with Sting’s tendencies towards Buddhism and Tantric sex. Eastern mysticism didn’t affect us. The Devil takes many forms, though, and he constantly prowled about like a lion, waiting for some innocent soul to suck into his gaping maw. I went to a meeting once where the preacher found evil messages in the music of James Taylor! He said to us, “Remember, there’s no such thing as soft rock.” If Satan could take us through something as benign as “You’ve Got a Friend,” then my soul was in more peril than Pauline.

With a deep breath, I stripped the plastic from the Mötley Crüe tape and slammed it into my cassette player. The music just oozed sleaze and evil. Surely, the Devil was their master. If the upside-down pentagram on Tommy Lee’s bass drum head didn’t prove that, then the terrifying instrumental track, “God Bless the Children of the Beast,” surely did. I took the tape out of the player, praying for forgiveness for my curiosity and haughtiness.

I returned Shout at the Devil to the record store. I kept Synchronicity.

Within three years, everything had changed. I had quit the church, discovered the joys of illicitly gained liquor and the company of females whose hormones overran their good sense and social standards. I had grown accustomed to being told I was on the path to eternal damnation by former friends, a couple family members, schoolmates. I didn’t care.

Any religion that attempted to prevent me from listening to sweet boss riffs like this and this could go to hell.

2 Responses to “Waxing Nostalgic: METAL MAYHEM! with Mötley Crüe, “Looks That Kill””

  1. morgana268:
    May 8th, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    I was going to comment on the last one you posted, but this one.. THIS! This almost sums up my experience exactly, sans liquor and the company of females etc etc etc.

    Mine started out initially when a man by the name of Jim who worked with my father in the motor pool when dad was still in the army, came to live with us for a couple of weeks. I can’t recall the reason. Anyway, he had a beautiful gunmetal gray mustang and a ton of metal albums. ACTUAL ALBUMS. These were not like my parent’s collection.. no mom and dad had Foreigner, the Allman Brothers, I’m pretty sure there was an Abba in there, and BeeGees too. For the mostpart, mom and dad listened to country though, and being stuck in Germany during the formative years, musically I was pretty much limited to some random German-speaking/German New Wave station, or Casey’s Top 40 when it came on on Saturdays. I had no idea anything about this “heavy metal” stuff, other than what I saw on the album covers Jim had. It was evil. It sounded evil. I compared it to what I heard in Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”, when the band of demons jumped in. THAT is what evil sounded like, only this stuff he was playing was MUCH MUCH WORSE. And it was beautiful, it was cacophony, and mom raised all kinds of hell because Jim was inclined to blaring this auditory onslaught of Quiet Riot, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest first thing in the morning. I didn’t jump right into listening to metal then, no, it was still too much. Like you, I stuck to things like The Police, and whatever else was on Casey’s. It wasn’t until about 4-5 years later, when Guns and Roses hit the scene, that I really began exploring outside of “pop”. It was a time when I was desperately trying to figure out where I “fit in”, and this music told me I didn’t HAVE to fit in anywhere, and to hell with anyone who said different.
    I bought all the heavy metal magazines, with all the posters and whatnot in them, and spent an entire day plastering every vertical surface of my bedroom with posters. I even put together a few different collages of stuff I’d cut out. Suffice it to say I nearly gave my mother a heart attack when she finally came in to see what was keeping me so occupied. Motley Crue, with the pentagram on the drum, and pentagram on the belt buckles, the leather pants that pretty much guaranteed an accurate pubic hair count… that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was listening to devil music, these people wore pentagrams, and anyone who consorts with the devil, or those who consort with those who are in league with satan were going to hell. I was going to hell! But I wasn’t convinced. What I -was- convinced of, though, is that C.C. Deville knew more about how to properly apply cosmetics than I ever would, Sebastian Bach was going to end up unable to speak before he was 30, but it was Motley Crue that was pretty much the standard I compared every other band to.
    Flash forward 3-4 more years. I had a friend who was an avid Danzig fan. I’d never heard of them but she went on and on about how great they were, so I borrowed a cd… How the Gods Kill III. I will be honest… I put that cd in my brand new cd player, and listened through the first song.. Godless. It sounded…..okay I guess (this was my assessment at the time). Kinda like if Elvis went metal. But it was definitely darker than anything else I’d heard, but by the time it got towards the end…. I was scared to death, hearing my mother’s warning about those who are guilty by association in my head over and over. Glenn Danzig goes into a spiel about how they’re having a feast, and mental imagery puts him at the head of some stone U-shaped table, with goblets of blood and slaughtered animals in front of them… maybe even an altar for human sacrifice. I promptly shut it off. I returned the cd and clung to Metallica and Nirvana to carry me through most of highschool, but got ahold of the Danzig cd again several years later after I was already married and we had moved out on our own. This was after I had been “saved” and baptized, and I had my little crisis of faith.. I listened to it again… this time, the whole cd in its entirety, and wondered what it was that had made me so afraid of it before.
    Either way, all of this led me to other things, other music.. Marilyn Manson being a big one. This was another “hearing mom’s warning in my head” moment, but by the time he came on scene, I didn’t care, it was just music, he was just another artist expressing himself in ways “normal people” would never understand. The only regret I have is that I didn’t pursue metal, whatever subgenre you want to attach to it.. hair metal, heavy metal, all things NOT metal… sooner than I did. I find it oddly amusing though, how many people’s changing religious/spiritual beliefs occurred at a time they started listening to a certain band or type of music. Can’t be a coincidence.

  2. Popshifter:
    May 8th, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    Your comment is amazing. Thank you.


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