Friday, June 1, 2012

A 'Motley' mission accomplished

August 1, 2011

I've never really been one to try and go backstage at concerts. Considering I've covered literally hundreds of them over the past 19 years for The Times Leader and The Weekender, you'd think I'd have a wall of laminates in my collection. But I don't. If I had to guess, I'd say I've only gone backstage about 20 times over the years, and I've only done so when I was a big, longtime fan of the artist.

On Sunday night at Montage Mountain, with Motley Crue back in town, I ventured backstage for the first time in a few years. I'd known the band professionally for about 15 years, interviewed them many times, and even back in high school, I was the first kid on the school bus to blast their music. I saw them at Pocono Downs back in '87, at the old Spectrum in Philly, at the F.M. Kirby Center, at Montage a bunch of times, in Camden, N.J., and at the arena in Wilkes-Barre. On one occasion, as part of a radio contest, I even saw them play in somebody's backyard. In total, it's probably been about 10 times that I've caught them live.

On Sunday night, I was on a bit of a mission. And it was both personal and professional. And it all evolved around something that I doubt many of our readers even know: In 1999, I wrote the liner-notes to the entire Motley Crue CD catalog. And though I'm sometimes asked why my name is on all of their albums, and how it all came about, I don't think it's anything I've ever written about. So I'll explain ...

In late 1998, the band had played in Wilkes-Barre and I had done an interview with Vince Neil to advance the show. The story was also picked up by one of the national entertainment news wires and it ran in newspapers all across the United States. I'd also covered Motley's 1997 show in Philadelphia. In 1999, I got a call from the band's publicist telling me that the group really liked my stories on them, and they wanted to know if I would be willing to work with them on a new CD project and write their bio. Of course, I was.

The albums, titled "Crucial Crue," were the original Motley Crue albums, but were digitally-remastered and included special bonus tracks. They also included all new liner-notes written by me with the help of the band. For several days in the spring of 1999, I interviewed Nikki Sixx, Vince Neil, and Mick Mars on their recollections of various albums in their catalog. Those thoughts were then included on the new CDs. The band also credited me on each album. I sometimes joke that I might have to explain to St. Peter someday at the Pearly Gates why my name is on all of the Motley Crue albums. And I hope I get a pass. It was a lot of fun.

At the time of the project, Tommy Lee was in the band, but he never called when he was scheduled to do so for his interviews. Nobody knew why. Not even Nikki. I can still remember having phone conversations and e-mail exchanges with him where we both wondered what was going on. Eventually, with the deadline to finish the project approaching, Nikki filled in and covered all of the CDs that were originally assigned to Tommy. And it was just a few weeks later that we all learned that Tommy Lee had left Motley Crue.

"Well," I thought. "That explains that."

To the band's credit, ever since we worked on the project together, they've always treated this music columnist from Pennsylvania pretty good.  A few years back, when Motley played the arena in Wilkes-Barre, I had requested a phone interview, through the band's publicist, with Nikki, and was told he wasn't doing any one-on-one interviews with the press, just a group teleconference. I politely asked the publicist to tell Nikki it was me making the request. Soon, Nikki and I were chatting on the phone. And he gave me a great interview.    

I had also caught up with the band, sans Tommy, a few times around 1999 and 2000 while they were on tour. They were very nice. In fact, one year they sent a beautifully framed and autographed item commemorating CD sales of 30 million to the "Concert For Karen" rock auction. And when we met, Nikki, Mick and Vince all signed a copy of a "Dr. Feelgood" CD that I wrote the liner-notes for and the original story I wrote for the newspaper. But until yesterday, they were both still missing one signature: Tommy's.

Not any more.

He signed them both last night.

Though the "Crucial Crue" project was 12 years ago, they still hooked me up with a great pair of seats for last night's show and I was able to go back and say a quick hello to Mr. Sixx, who said he remembered the project well. And while Tommy was keeping to himself or roaming about somewhere else in the backstage area, the band's tour manager - who was also aware of the "Crucial Crue" project - asked him sign my two items. And he happily obliged.

Motley mission accomplished. "Crucial Crue," to me - after 12 years - is now complete. And maybe that's why, to me, "Dr. Feelgood" sounded particularly great last night.

Thanks, Crue.

It's always good to see ya.