If you've ever listened to Aerosmith's Pump and Motley Crue's Dr. Feelgood back to back, you already know the similarities of both releases. Plus, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler guests on two Dr. Feelgood tracks: "Sticky Sweet" and "Slice of Your Pie."
Both Dr. Feelgood and Pump were released in 1989. Motley Crue and Aerosmith recorded their respective albums at Little Mountain Sound Studios in Vancouver, Canada. Bob Rock produced Dr. Feelgood and Bruce Fairbairn produced Pump. Bob Rock learned production techniques from Fairbairn. While both Aerosmith and Motley Crue were recording their albums, each band member was also going through rehab. At one point in The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band, the members of Motley Crue recount their days recording Dr. Feelgood right next to Aerosmith. Apparently, both bands would jog "around a pond," doing things to stay healthy and sober.
Getting clean really helped both bands, financially and musically. Of course, many will argue that Dr. Feelgood and Pump are overly produced, too slick and lacking the raw qualities of earlier releases. No, Dr. Feelgood isn't Shout at the Devil and Pump certainly isn't Rocks, but both bands were trying to reinvent themselves and become more commercially successful. The slick production worked, especially for Motley Crue. Dr. Feelgood is the most successful (in terms of chart position and concert ticket sales) release for the Sunset Strip kings. For Aerosmith, Pump is one of their most successful releases, but 1993's Get a Grip was even bigger.
Dr. Feelgood went to the top spot of the Billboard music chart and Pump peaked at number 5.
Thanks to the close relationship of both producers, most songs on Dr. Feelgood and Pump sound very similar and enjoy the same themes. Sex and drug use is prevalent on both albums. On Dr. Feelgood, there's "She Goes Down," and "Rattlesnake Shake." Nikki Sixx wrote the lyrics to all the songs on Dr. Feelgood, but for my money, his Aerosmith influence is most prevalent on "Rattlesnake Shake." One reason this song sticks out so much to me is because the Bad Boys of Boston actually also have a song named "Rattlesnake Shake" available on Pandora's Box and Rockin' the Joint: Live. The songs have very different lyrics, but it's pretty clear that Motley Crue is paying tribute to America's greatest rock band.
Since every member of both bands is a recovering addict of either drugs or alcohol, it's no surprise this battle creeped into the recording process. Of course, Dr. Feelgood is a term for cocaine and Sixx wrote "Kickstart My Heart" after he nearly died from a drug overdose. Aerosmith's drug themes are even darker, with "Monkey on My Back" and "Voodoo Medicine Man."
For their similarities, there are also differences. Nikki Sixx maintains the main songwriting credit for all the songs on Dr. Feelgood. Aerosmith also wrote most of their album, but still relied on hit-makers Jim Vallance and Desmond Child to churn out the tunes.
Finally, the year of the release also dictated a similar sound. In 1989, Badlands, Dangerous Toys, Danger Danger and Skid Row all released self-titled debuts. Warrant released Dirty Rotten Stinking Filthy Rich, Bang Tango released Psycho Cafe and L.A. Guns released Cocked & Loaded. All these albums feature influences of both Aerosmith and Motley Crue.
So, did the older Aerosmith borrow from Motley Crue during the recording process, or was it the other way around? You decide.