The Filthy 15: Motley Crue’s “Bastard”

photo credit to Motley Crue and probably Elektra Records at the time


Way back in 1983, Motley Crue released their Shout at the Devil album.  The devil message alone was enough to get them noticed by Tipper Gore’s PMRC. The Crue would have gotten more attention if they kept their original title, Shout with the Devil. Guitarist and head-Motley, Nikki Sixx, felt that such a title would be inviting dangers they didn’t want to summon. Shouting at the devil sounds against Satan, while shouting with implies support. A subtle but important difference to a band wearing animal print latex and make up.

On this album was a song named “Bastard”. It does have some violent images, to be sure. However, the entire song is a warning to a former manager who took advantage of them. I don’t know the break down of Motley Crue’s money but I do know that hit R&B group TLC once claimed, with the math to back it up, that due to bad business deals they only make 2 cents for every dollar earned from album sales. It’s not ridiculous to think a band would wish to express their disappointment in song.

In fact maybe the most famous evil record company song is Heart’s “Barracuda”. The record company’s publicity team suggested marketing Heart not as real life sisters, but as lesbian lovers. Ann Wilson immediately wrote the hit song using the deep water predatory fish as a metaphor. Heart was not actually singing about fish, homosexuality, or incest. Yet the meaning of the song came through for those looking into it, and everyone else got a catchy rock hit.

But back to the wild side with Motley Crue. In “Bastard”, Vince Neil sings:

Out go the lights
In goes my knife
Pull out his life
Consider that bastard dead

He is no more going to stab the former manager to death than he is going to summon Lucifer just to shout at him. The point is, don’t screw me over again. We are not a band to be messed with. How many times have you heard fights with the quotes, “don’t screw with me family”, or “if you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us”. This isn’t just from the trashiest in society. Good people get attacked to, and the details don’t matter. The point is, we are not someone you want to F with.

One of my favorite podcast hosts (‘sup Joe) told a story of how he made someone’s life a living hell after one of his friends was screwed over. My own clique has cut ties with those we found to be two faced. In many if not all of these situations empty threats are thrown about. “You tell him if I ever see him again, I’ll kill him!” In most of these cases that is a hollow threat to express the extreme level of anger the situation is causing. Yet these situations are seen for what they are and until it crosses a certain line no police, or in the case of Motley Crue, Congressional panel, is needed to discuss what was said.

Get on your knees
Please beg me please
You’re the king of sleaze
Don’t you try to rape me

Again, most of us have had violent thoughts over those who have taken advantage of us for hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Motley Crue lost millions. While not a violent assault, their feelings of getting used and having their trust violated leaves them with only one word to express the hurt. Metaphorical of course, but also not glorifying any of it enough to be counted among the Filthy 15.

There is nothing wrong with using music to express pain. Even if some people apply different meanings to the point the songwriter was trying to make.  If, for example, the lead Senator during the hearing and husband to the head of PMRC, Al Gore, was running for the presidency. Just to continue this example, he names his favorite songs in an interview, including Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman”. A song that has been attacked from day one for being misogynistic and “the nastiest of all Dylan’s putdowns of former lovers.” If only Al Gore’s parents had a warning sticker on the album, he may have been protected from such messages.

The entire Shout at the Devil will be discussed later in this series.

Al Gore interview:


Motley Crue “Bastard”

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