MÖTLEY CRÜE – Too Fast For Love (Originally 1981 Leathür Records, 2003 CD reissues)
I was so lucky to grow up not with the Elektra remix of Too Fast For Love, but the original Leathür Records version. Though I didn’t know anything about it at the time, Motley Crue’s debut existed in two different versions and I had the rarer of the two on an old cassette. The original mix released in 1981 on the band’s own label was a raw beauty. When Elektra signed the band, Roy Thomas Baker remixed the album for worldwide reissue. But in Canada, we received the original mix on cassette first before the remix was even released. This was so Motley had some music to promote on their first Canadian tour. We were very lucky. The Elektra mix came out and eventually replaced the original on shelves.
The differences are significant, including the deletion of an entire song (“Stick To Your Guns”) from the original on the Elektra release. For nostalgia reasons, I always preferred the Leathür mix of this album. “Come On And Dance” for example is a completely different and much longer recording. It must be stated the Roy Thomas Baker mix is technically the better of the two. It’s well balanced and has the required punch. Vocal lines are thickened up. It will undoubtedly sound better on your high end stereo. There is more nuance. The changes are especially audible on songs like “Starry Eyes” and “Live Wire”, but I simply have a preference for the raw, rough version I grew up with. There’s something to be said for independent production values. Additionally, the track listing was jumbled and the original running order flows better, so that’s the order we’ll be discussing the songs in.
Fortunately for you, you don’t have to track down an original vinyl or even an obscure Canadian cassette release to get the original Too Fast For Love. It was officially reissued one time only on CD, in the 2003 Motley Crue box set called Music To Crash Your Car To Volume I. In fact that box set includes both mixes of the album, plus the related CD bonus tracks. (Actually, the box set is only missing one song, which we’ll discuss further on.) For the money, Music To Crash Your Car To Volume I is the best way to get “all” the tracks.
The audio for the original Leathür mix is sourced directly from original vinyl, with the tapes presumably lost. Audiophiles take note as you will hear the telltale sound of old vinyl.
It took a while for young me to get into Too Fast For Love. The album was generally much different from the metal assault of Shout at the Devil. That was the Motley I was familiar with. The basic garage glam metal of Too Fast For Love was alien to me. When I first received the cassette, I gave it a fair shake but didn’t start clicking with it until Easter of 1986. It was a deliberate effort on my part. “I want to hear and appreciate this album like my friends do.” Bob Schipper had the songs he liked: “Live Wire” (there was a music video, but he did not like the part with Mick Mars spitting up blood), “Merry-Go-Round”, and especially “On With the Show”.
No matter which version of the album you own, we begin on “Live Wire”, a blitzkrieg of an opener with punk-like pacing. It’s dirty and messy cocaine-fueled mayhem, and the Leathür version sounds sharper and more chaotic. Vince Neil is so young, less seasoned and a little shrill. But the band is on fire with Mick Mars puking out one of his trademark riffs.
The Elektra reissue goes into “Come On and Dance” here, but Leathür puts “Public Enemy # 1” second. It’s perfectly at home in this slot. With the careless glee of youth, the song is one of Motley’s early pop rock deep cuts. There is a lot of pop on Too Far For Love, especially in the vocal melodies. “Public Enemy # 1” must go back to Nikki Sixx’s days in the band London, since it’s a co-write with London’s Lizzie Grey. It then gives way to another blitzkrieg of a riff on “Take Me To the Top”. This turns into a choppy groove, and yet another melodic Vince Neil vocal to keep you hanging on. There’s that pop side again. You could isolate Vince’s vocal and turn it into a pop song. It’s like you have this three-man wall of pounding rock with Tommy Lee, Mick Mars and Nikki Sixx slamming in unison. But on top of that you have Vince Neil singing a candy-sweet melody.
A ballad “Merry-Go-Round” gives your ears a slight rest. Though Nikki wrote it, Mick has a way with these kinds of chords that makes them just sound “Mars”. This song is given an urgency by Vince who, as it turns out, was quite a great singer in his early days. The first side closes on “Piece of Your Action”, a song that has been remixed a number of times over the years. It’s also Vince Neil’s first co-writing credit (lyrics). With a sharp steely riff and aggressive vocals, this song will knock down walls.
The old mix of “Starry Eyes” sounds overblown and slurred compared to the Baker version, yet that’s its charm. “Starry Eyes” has a disco-like groove and another sugar sweet Vince Neil vocal. Nikki Sixx doesn’t get a lot of attention as a bassist, but he’s not content just to hang around banging out a rhythm. He likes to play melodically too, and “Starry Eyes” is a fun song to listen to him play.
Only the Leathür version has “Stick to Your Guns” at this point in the running order. It’s a busy song with different tempos and flavours, from fast verses, to a slow and choppy chorus riff, and a funky instrumental jam out. Perhaps it was left off the Elektra reissue because it’s a little more complex than the rest of the album. It also might have been because the song had been issued a couple times already: “Stick to Your Guns” was also the flipside of Motley Crue’s very first single, “Toast of the Town” (to be discussed further on).
“Come On and Dance” has a heavy riff that flows well out of “Stick to Your Guns”, but it’s the most different between the two versions of the album, so you can choose your preference. The original is longer and the vocal is better.
Regardless of which version you own, “Too Fast For Love” is always the second-last song on the album…but in two very different mixes. 4:16 on Leathür with a unique intro, and 3:21 on Elektra, going straight into the riff. On Leathür the slow, ballady opening acts as a feint. Mick then cranks up an unforgettable riff, and we are off into one of Motley’s true early classics. The primitive gang backing vocals are quaint by modern standards, but again, that’s the charm.
Finally “On With the Show” is the emotional closer. “Frankie died just the other night, some say it was suicide, but we know how the story goes.” In real life nobody died (yet) but “Frankie” is Frank Feranna, the birth name of Nikki Sixx. That name was his past, and Nikki Sixx was his future. The ride was just beginning, and this song has both a sadness and a certain amount of glee. “But you see Frankie was fast, he was too fast to know. He wouldn’t go slow until his lethal dose.” That part turned out to be somewhat prophetic. Regardless, “On With the Show” is the fist-pounding pop metal album closer needed for a record like Too Fast For Love. If you’re headbanging along with it, the you should feel well pooped out by the end!
In 1999, Motley Crue began reissuing all their albums on CD in a series called Crucial Crue on Motley Records, but the end result was disappointing. The bonus tracks varied in quality, but the real problem was that each CD was given an additional bonus track in Japan, and they were pretty good ones too. Fortunately this was rectified in 2003 with yet another series of reissues, adding the Japanese bonus tracks. The box set Music To Crash Your Car To Volume I has all this bonus material as well. For Too Fast For Love, the Japanese bonus track that was restored in 2003 was a live version of “Merry-Go-Round” recorded in San Antonio with an obviously very young Vince Neil on vocals. Though the singing is shaky live, it’s a genuine live recording capturing the band at this early stage of their careers.
“Toast of the Town” was one of those song titles I kept hearing about as a kid, but nobody I knew had ever heard the first ever Motley Crue single. According to the liner notes in the box set, this single was only given away at shows in L.A. for a limited time. Both it and its B-side “Stick to Your Guns” are restored on the CD reissues as bonus track. “Toast of the Town”, like Too Fast For Love itself, is a pop rocker with punch.
An unreleased song called “Tonight” is actually a Raspberries cover (there’s that pop side again). And it’s bloody awesome. They were already halfway there by covering it, but they made it work with their sound, basically just by adding distortion and turning it all up. It sounds like this version was fully recorded and produced for release, so why it wasn’t, we don’t know. Too pop? Perhaps.
The last bonus track to discuss is “Too Fast For Love” with the alternate intro. This is the same intro as on the Leathür version of the album, but it sounds like it was mixed to the higher standards of the Elektra version. Regardless, there are three distinct versions of the song for you to enjoy.
One track is missing from these releases. The one from this same era that they neglected to include is called “Nobody Knows What It’s Like to Be Lonely”. Its only official release to date is as a bonus track on a 20 year old Motley Crue live DVD. At seven minutes long, it plods along with a deliberate and heavy groove. Nikki Sixx has praised the guitar work of Mick Mars, and it has a bizarrely funky drum breakdown at the end. In order to get the complete picture of this era of Motley Crue, track down “Nobody Knows What It’s Like to Be Lonely”. You can understand how a seven minute song didn’t make an album release, though it is certainly well overdue for a re-release on any format other than DVD.
Any way you go, Leathür or Elektra, CD or vinyl, or bloody Canadian cassette tape, Too Fast For Love is a hell of a debut album. Few bands have as many haters as Motley Crue, but this album is an innocent reckless joy. Shout at the Devil sounds contrived by comparison, with Motley Crue adopting a doomier metal sound and dropping the pop-punk pretences. As good as Shout at the Devil undoubtedly is, this one sounds far more natural. It’s the real deal. This is the Crue laying it down hard, fast, getting it done quick and not messing around. Love it or hate it. I know how I feel.