The eighties were a decade of excess, an era where extreme hair, attitude, and greed created a world where extroverts thrived. Bands had to generate drama to become noticed, and it was no secret that Motley Crues notorious off-stage antics were just as famous as their metal songs for propelling ‘sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll’ into the limelight.
Like most people, my music taste developed in my teens, an eclectic soundtrack for a turbulent life. I remember walking into Costermongers, an underground dive bar that had a strong mix of eau de toilet and beer, a pool table that sat under dingy lighting, and a dark ambience I gladly hopped on board with. I loved that bar. It became my second home, and every week I’d walk in with friends burdened with teen angst, purely to revel in the ear-bleeding thuds of rocks greatest.
On one such occasion, a raw, gritty riff blasted through the speakers. It was fast, filthy, and made me sit upright.
‘Plug me in, I’m alive tonight,
Out on the streets again…’
Motley Crue had been around for a couple of decades by then and I had heard their other songs, such as Girls Girls Girls before, but I showed little interest in the overt sexualisation and theatrics of glam rock. However, Live Wire was a revelation. I instantly connected, the song pounding so hard it made it seem like you were invincible. I had the urge to kick down the walls of my life much like the lyrics, and in a moment of clarity, I realised I could do anything. Its brutal rhythm and speed riffs put me on a high, and I went out and bought their 1981 Too Fast For Love album from the music store around the corner, the taste of whiskey still on my lips. It was re-released years later on Decade of Decadence, a compilation of their greatest hits and homage to their own self-indulgence.
Nikki Sixx, the bassist of the band and writer of the song, to everyones surprise, revealed in 2019 that Live Wire was about domestic violence. An ode as it were to the stepdads who beat him and his turbulent relationship with his mother. Mirroring traits of my own life back then, the music peeled back a new layer of meaning, and I found a deeper appreciation for the song I had connected with all those years ago. Influenced by Girlschool’s ‘Yeah Right’, Live Wire encompassed dramatics (like Nikki setting himself on fire in the video) and the aggressive guitar playing of Mick Mars, coupled with the charismatic singing of Vince Neil and fast pounding drums of Tommy Lee. The result was a debut song that created an outlet for those living with their own darkness, making unpredictable ‘live wires’ of us all even decades after its release.