There was only one thing keeping Motley Crue from exclusively being known as knuckleheaded hedonistic glam metal party animals, and that was Mick Mars. More dark and mysterious than his bandmates, even when he was decked out in the same ridiculous hair, makeup, and outfits, Mars was the “respectable” member of the Crue.
In that he didn’t make an ass of himself at every possible instance. Mars was more stoic, clinging to his guitar like it was the only thing keeping him upright. In later years, this was actually the case: Mars was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis at a young age, and the condition progressively impaired his movements until he was barely able to move on stage.
But Mars could always play guitar, and holy hell did he know how to play. Connecting the dots between Keith Richards, Chuck Berry, and Eddie Van Halen, Mars was the musician who kept the Crue from getting too pop or too metal. He could play detuned lines with the best of his peers, but Mars was always centred on classic rock and roll riffs, whether it was on ‘Looks That Kill’, ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’, or ‘Dr. Feelgood’. He could wail and shred, but he had good taste and expert musicianship to back up those theatrics and histrionics.
There’s no better example of Mars’ pure rock and roll power than on ‘Kickstart My Heart’. Starting with a Floyd Bridge detuning of strings that replicates a motorcycle shifting gears, the entire song is a showcase for Mars’ uncompromising six string style. There are the classic riffs that he is able to conjure up out of thin air, wild shredding that was required for any glam metal band of the day, and even some talkbox effects, which Mars helms throughout the song.
It’s a dense production, helmed by future Metallica producer Bob Rock, and Mars is right at the centre of the mix. Even when the affair comes down a notch and it’s just Mars’ sparse clean playing, the guitarist still commands attention. He’s the fuel that keeps the engine of ‘Kickstart My Heart’ continuously pumping, and he’s weirdly underrated in the modern day. Maybe it’s because his bandmates could occasionally turn into birthday clowns, but Mars never got caught with his pants down. He was always sharp, and always ready with the goods to make Motley Crue more than just another hair metal act.
Check out the isolated guitar for ‘Kickstart My Heart’ down below.