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Motley Crue - The Dirt

On the Thursday night of April 5th 2001, Chronological Crue’s Paul Miles came face to face with former Mötley manager Doc McGhee, backstage at Kiss in Melbourne, to inspect the dirt during his six years of Crüe management. Be a part of this conversation that pulls no punches, and makes the Doc, feel good.

I first made contact with Doc at the hotel and we tried to set up a time for me to conduct the interview there over the next couple of days. After playing phone tag for a while, Doc said the interview would have to be conducted at the venue before the last Melbourne Kiss show. He said that it was OK to bring my wife and kids backstage as well so, “You could all see the show too.”

After arriving at the venue on the night, we made our way through security and were led down a maze of corridors towards Doc’s office. We were stopped by the crew member leading us. After opening Doc’s door a bit, he said we’d just have to wait in Catering, since the band was currently in with Doc.

We watched the last of the crew chow down, as we talked amongst ourselves. Doc then came to us and we introduced all. He led us into another room as Ace Frehley entered from outside, just arriving for the night. After we greeted the Spaceman, Doc led us through a doorway to a room that had a temporary sign on it saying DOCS HOSP. Was this the sick bay?

Paul Miles & Doc McGheeChronological Crue: OK, we’re sitting here backstage at the Kiss show on the 5th of April in Melbourne with Doc McGhee. Doc, Chronological Crue traces the complete history of Mötley Crüe, starting from the time when they were born, through to the latest current events happening. Mötley is a band that you first became involved with back towards the end of ’82. I believe it was at the New Year's Evil concert at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium after Ronnie James Dio tipped off Doug [Thaler] to go and check it out. What do you recall about that night?

Doc McGhee: Well, actually there was a guy named Tom Zutaut who was the A&R guy and he had called us, and I had just brought Doug in. He was working for Leber & Krebs Publishing. We were down in Florida… in my office in Florida, and a lawyer David Rudich who was the Mötley Crüe lawyer, who’s been friends of mine for ever, called me and said, ‘”You should check this out.” So Doug said, “Yeh I’d heard about it from Ronnie and we should go and check it out.” So anyway we got on an aeroplane and flew to Los Angeles for New Year's Evil.

CC: And it turned out that just a couple of months after that you then became their management team. 

DM: Yeh.

CC: Not long after that, you prepared the band to support Kiss on the first five shows of their Creatures Of The Night tour.

DM: Right.

CC: Was that a successful tour for Mötley?

DM: I think it was successful in the fact that they got to get on a bigger stage and be in front of a lot of people and find out a lot of the mistakes that they were doing. It was a stumbling period for them, but they did really well.

CC: There’s quite a few people that believe that Mötley were actually out-playing Kiss on those and that’s why they didn’t play any more dates. Would you say that’s correct?

DM: No, that wasn’t it at all. We only had those five shows to begin with. That’s all we had. You know, they would’ve loved us at that point to be on more shows because at that time Mötley started to blow up right away. So they wanted us to be on it, but we had other commitments that we had already made.

CC: The US Festival was perhaps one of Mötley’s most important gigs back in the Shout At The Devil days. What do you recall about that particular festival? Do you recall any particular stories about any of those events?

DM: Not that I could tell you [with your kids sitting next to you]. I mean, the US Festival was a great show for them. They were on with everyone from Triumph to Van Halen. Everybody was on there, so it was really the first big festival they had played and they did very, very well. Went over huge!

CC: Right.

DM: So that was the time when Mötley was breaking anyways. Southern California was like their home ground. So they did very, very well there.

CC: Doc, I’ve had the privilege of proof reading The Dirt, which is Mötley’s autobiography coming out soon, and in particular I took note of your first comment in the part that you contributed to the book, where you say, “My biggest regret as a manager is that I let Vince think he could get away with murder.” Can you elaborate on that a bit more?

DM: Vince was a pretty out of control kid, from birth, I believe. You know, we were in the middle of building one of the biggest bands in the world. Every time he would want to go buy a [Ford] Pantera or something like this, or something pretty stupid, and then we’d try to stop him and he’d just write a cheque out of his household account for it, which he had no money in it, but he’d just write something, you know? And then he got drunk and went out and killed a kid and maimed two. But being in the management business and trying to, you know, almost being an enabler, and then instead of making somebody face the consequence of what they had done and accept their actions… there’s consequences to their actions. I came in and helped orchestrate a defence for him that literally got him away with murder and to me, maybe hadn’t I done that and made Vince stand up and understand that this was his actions that did it, then he may be a better person today for it.

CC: Right.

DM: You know, the Crüe might not have spilt. It just would have been on pause for a while, and they’re in that… Vince had to, you know, reconcile what he had done.

CC: That’s right.

DM: But when I said to him, “They want you to go to jail” and he said, “I can’t” and I go, “Why?” and he goes, “Because I gotta go out on tour.” I went, “Oh OK.”

CC: [laughs]

DM: [laughing] It’s like, "Oh OK. I didn’t think of that one." I didn’t think that.

Rich Fisher, Doc McGhee & Doug Thaler on the Girls, Girls, Girls TourCC: A couple of years after that, you felt that it really started to unravel on the Girls [, Girls, Girls] Tour and you found yourself actually in jail with Nikki Sixx in Japan. How was that experience for you?

DM: From 1982 to 1989, actually ’88, were pretty bizarre years. So it could have been in any day we could’ve been in a jail somewhere… so it wasn’t just Tokyo, it was like – it was just a bad scene with these guys from day one.

CC: You talk about 'full contact management’ in The Dirt. A lot of people are aware of the incident at Moscow that happened when Tommy [Lee] let one fly [and hit you]…

DM: Right.

CC: and we all know Tommy’s a hard hitter.

DM: [laughing] Right, right.

CC: But I think a lot of the fans don’t actually realise that there were more punches thrown than that in the day-to-day course of managing the band.

DM: Well, I mean, there wasn’t very many ‘argument fist fights’ where we would get mad at each other and get into a fight, but it was always some drunken induced, drug induced kind of … playing where you would end up… I’d end up having to fight Nikki and Tommy. You know, we’d have to fight on the bus for an hour. I punched him one time until I threw up... you know, it was one of those things like… we had fights everywhere. But it was kind of in fun to start out with but then it’d get a little loud. These guys were more like a gang. They were more like a gang, than it was a band you know!

CC: Yeh... Just before the Dr. Feelgood album there was a lawsuit filed by a guy called Matthew Trippe [more on this here], who claimed that you and Doug brought him in as the new Nikki Sixx after Nikki was unable to go on in ’83. That’s proved to be a very interesting point with fans over the years, and I know it’s something that Nikki felt quite strongly about. What are your views on that whole scenario these days?

DM: Well this was somebody that wanted to have their fifteen mins of fame, you know, and it cost me a lot of money because he sued me. He didn’t even sue the band, he sued me.

CC: Right, OK.

DM: So he didn’t sue Mötley, he sued me and I had to defend it. I had this crazy guy who I had never met in my whole life, sat in… and when he walked in – we did a deposition in front of him – he was like, [casually] “Hey Doc.” I go, “You are one sick puppy buddy.” You know… “What are you doing?” It was very bizarre because I had never had… I’ve had people pretend that they were me in towns renting limousines, and trying to sign bands, and all that kind of stuff.

CC: Yeh?

DM: So I’ve had that happen to me several times. There’s been Vince Neil impersonators that have been out there saying that they are Vince Neil and they’re trying to get into shows, and all that kind of stuff. They’d get a limo and all that kind of stuff to come in… but it was just pretty bizarre that this kid took it to that [degree]… and that a lawyer, or a judge would even allow somebody to do this.

CC: Yeh it was certainly bizarre, that’s for sure.

DM: That was very bizarre!

CC: The Moscow Music Peace Festival [8/89]… I spoke with Randy Castillo recently in an interview, and he claims that event is still the highlight of his career.

DM: Absolutely.

CC: Is it a highlight of your career as well, Doc?

DM: I think it’s one of the top highlights. I mean, I brought 641 people, 64 transport trailers into Moscow before anybody could do it. With no… landed two 757’s on a tarmac in Moscow without one permit. I went in and had the American flag being laid in the Lenin Stadium, for the first time ever these kids got to see a rock show. That’d be like listening to a baseball game your whole life and get to go to one, one time. It was very emotional for the two-day show…[Doc’s mobile cell phone rings and he answers and soon ends a call]

Eric Singer, Paul Stanley & Doc McGhee at Adelaide Airport - Photo by Dave AdamsCC: Can you afford 5 minutes more [before you have to attend to the call just taken]?

DM: Yeh, sure.

CC: You said in the book [The Dirt] that you believe that, “Even today, I still believe that they could come out roaring again with something that’s new and meaningful and true to where they are at in their lives.” What do you think it would take… what are the things that they need to do before that could happen, in your opinion?

DM: You know… it’s about a point of view. Mötley always had a great, dark, point of view for kids. It wasn’t too dark but it was a rock’n’roll band that was more about fun than it was about the devil and all of the rest of the stuff that they had. So they seemed to have been people that they weren’t, and they’re not, and so they go through… Nikki’s a very smart guy… and they’ve just all disintegrated kind of. They haven’t been a unit since Dr. Feelgood, that I’ve seen, you know. That was the biggest thing. When they had [John] Corabi I went and saw them and I said, “This is the worst thing.” Not that Vince was great at that time ‘cause he was, you know, drunk all the time and was always getting out of control… but at least there was a vibe. There was no vibe in the Crüe with John. John’s a nice kid. John’s a really good kid. He just didn’t have a vibe with being a front guy for Mötley.

CC: Doc, I also asked a few people on the Internet if they wanted to submit any questions and I’ve just got a couple here to finish up with… Someone’s asked if you feel that the guys really appreciate their fans in the way that they say they do, and in particular, this person wanted to know about Vince… whether that was the case or not?

DM: In Vince’s case, it’s probably who was the fan that’s to be appreciated [laughing] and if it’s a blonde then he really appreciates it. Nah, you know… honestly, these guys really do love their fans and they’ve always been very close to them. Always stood there and signed autographs and they’ve always done that.

CC: Yeh.

DM: And that’s one thing that they’ve wanted to give their fans the best rock’n’roll show in the world. That’s why we had gotten together to do it… and through my time to Dr. Feelgood, my time was ‘amazing rock’n’roll shows.’

CC: And finally Doc, someone submitted another question and they wanted me to ask you how David Lee Roth and Van Halen are getting along these days.

DM: [smirks] I don’t know.

CC: [laughs] 

DM: [laughs] I don’t know. I’ll have to tell you that some other time. [laughing]

CC: [laughing] OK. Thanks very much for your time Doc.

DM: You’re welcome.

CC: Rock on.

We spent more time with Doc as we chatted, and he signed next to a picture of himself inside my Girls, Girls, Girls tour book [as shown above previously]. I felt it had been a while since he’d seen a copy of this, if the surprised look on his face was an appropriate gauge (or perhaps it was his moustache in the picture that made him pull a face).

I told him I had recently moved to Melbourne from Perth. He said Perth is beautiful and if he was ever to live in Australia it would be in Perth, as it reminds him so much of the way California used to be. 

I gave Doc a CD from my own band, SkinInc. along with a copy of the Mötley Tribute CD that I co-produced called Kickstart My Heart. He asked us if we would like to have anything signed by the band, that he would obtain since we were inside the two hour preparation time when the band is off limits. He soon returned from the Kiss makeup room with my Unplugged vinyl LP signed by all, plus my 1980 Paul mirror with one of the largest size Stanley signatures I recall seeing.

Handing us third row tickets for the family to watch the show from, along with VIP stickers, and offering that I could leave my bag in his office during the show instead of taking it back to my car, Doc McGhee was THE most professional, gracious host and person I could ever wish to meet.

Perhaps it was partly because it was my first face-to-face interview, but I just felt such a strong presence and charm from this rock business icon. No wonder he is so successful. His hospitality was clearly the reason for the DOCS HOSP sign on the door.

We then watched the last Melbourne Kiss show ever (?) as I handed a "rock’n’roll baton" to my son, who experienced his first ever concert. (Very appropriate after teething on Kiss video cases as a baby.) We all had an experience we will never forget. Thanks Doc, thanks Kiss, thanks Mötley, and thank… you!

Doc McGhee with the Miles family

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