Here in the new century, it's sometimes a bit hard to take the Cre seriously. After all, the 1980s hair-metal scene seems a near-total anachronism after grunge and alternative rock swept not just the sound but the attendant coke 'n' chicks lifestyle and such fashion accessories as scarves and mascara into the dustbin of history. Then there are the various adventures of Tommy Lee, with and without Pamela Anderson, which even for all his brilliant PR exploitation still make Tommy seem a bit like the Paris Hilton of rock. Add to that Vince Neil's pudginess, Mick Mars's health problems and Nikki Sixx's rep as one of the biggest surviving drug casualties in popular music, and it's hard not to wonder if they've almost descended into becoming rock star caricatures who bicker like some dysfunctional family rather than the wild, woolly characters they once were.
Then again, while most of their still-active brethren from the '80s have descended to the suburban club scene, Mtley Cre has proved itself downright relevant in recent years. Thanks to Lee's Tommyland memoirs and the group autobiography The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band, their legacy is far more than some scratched-up old vinyl LPs you never play anymore (and to up the ante, Sixx's Heroin Diaries will augment the library in the near future). Even the truly skeptical must marvel at how the Cre has continued to fascinate the public long after its heyday.
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And the primary reason for this, even as the sideshow comes dangerously close to eclipsing the main event, is the music. It didn't hurt that in an era of pretty boys, the Cre's makeup and garish garb couldn't hide the fact that they were and remain four scruffy 'n' scrappy street kids, quite the motley crew indeed. And they played like their survival depended on it, making music that kicked, pummeled, scratched and clawed like metal on a mission, inserting barbed hooks and a cheeky wit to turn their songs into earworms damn near impossible to shake from your skull. This was hard rock as pure, unbridled, sleazy fun. Add to that the band's gift for staging concert extravaganzas, and there's every chance that "Red, White and Cre" will be the best sort of dj vu all over again.