Ratt v Crüe: Who’s best?

Marianne Gravatte

I like Motley Crue. I like Ratt. But which is best? There’s only one way to find out…..

There's only one way to find out

Actually, it’s a pretty easy question isn’t it? (no – it’s not “neither”). Not only have Motley Crue sold millions, they have had at least two books in the best-seller lists and have had far more cultural (and musical) impact. However, if we cast our minds back to 1985 it was not quite so clear cut…

Digressing slightly, a recent Guardian article asked the question “what is the greatest album cover of all time?”. Amongst the winners were some names you might expect (New Order, Iron Maiden) and some you might not (the Manic’s Holy Bible?)

When I was a teenager however, there was little doubt which was the favourite amongst my group of friends.

Invasion of Your Privacy by Ratt.

The first inkling I had of this was when one of my friends asked to borrow the album. I didn’t think glossy LA metal would be his thing at all. He returned the record (with some others) a week or so later.

“What did you think of Ratt?” I enquired.

“Great” he said, with a slightly awkward look on his face.

“What was your favourite song?” I ventured, sensing a slight shiftiness in his manner.

“Oh, all of them….” He stared at the floor like a boy in the headmaster’s office.

“You didn’t play it did you..?”

“Well….not as such…”

It didn’t take the mind of Sherlock Holmes – or even Doctor Watson – to see why my friends were keen to borrow the album. I’m not sure any of them ever played it. The main attraction was the girl on the cover. Believe me, in the eighties she was quite a looker with that frizzy hair all flowing down like that… I guess it was that or the underwear section of the Freeman’s catalogue…

The decision not to play the record was a hasty one however.  Ratt were seen in the UK as contemporaries of Mötley Crüe. Invasion of Your Privacy was released at a similar time to Theatre of Pain and (in my view) was by far the better record. Opening track You’re In Love is a nailed-on classic of ’80s metal. Their previous album Out of The Cellar (front cover showing a young Tawny Kitaen on all fours – almost as tasteful as the pair of fishnet-stockinged legs with rats climbing all over them that adorned the band’s first EP) coincided with Crüe’s Shout At The Devil (front cover showing tasteful pictures of four ugly guys – also probably wearing fishnet stockings – and bad make up).

Classy. The Gorgeous Crue…

So far so good.

The Ratt EP – tasteful image courtesy of Wikipedia

However it is interesting to compare and contrast the two bands’ fortunes from this point.

Unfortunately for Ratt, Crüe made a leap forward with Girls Girls Girls, and a further leap with Dr Feelgood, whereas Invasion remains Ratt’s high watermark. Follow-up Dancing Undercover showed little musical progression, and lacking a trick-pony drummer or blonde lead singer, they failed to dent the UK’s consciousness, or indeed the charts. As watermarks go though, the Invasion of Your Privacy album is a good one.

The press were not convinced. Reporting on a live show, Kerrang! magazine did praise the band’s integrity. No backing tapes were used in the choruses they trumpeted. I think it was praise. What they actually said was “the backing vocals were so bad, they couldn’t possibly have used backing tapes”.

Frontman Stephen Pearcy was also criticised. He was described in the Kerrang! letters page as having the “stage charisma of a snail” when the band supported Ozzy’s UK tour. Even bankers and estate agents get better press coverage than that.

An article in Kerrang! followed them to LA. Drummer Bobby Blotzer‘s erratic behaviour was analysed sympathetically. Perhaps he was misunderstood, the writer suggested.  Nothing to do with any alcohol (or other) consumption, I’m sure.

I got to see them live in October 1990, supporting their Detonator record (which was a half-decent return to form, but heavily co-written by Desmond Child) at the Town and Country Club, Kentish Town: a medium sized venue that they failed to sell out. The previous year, Crüe had sold out two nights at Wembley Arena. It was an odd contrast. Pearcy was quoted as saying the gig was the nail in the coffin for the band’s chances of UK success. He was right, although perhaps a little slow on the uptake. I have still yet to meet someone in the UK who liked Ratt.

One of the best things about music is when a band makes a great album and then gets better with every subsequent release. But sometimes they don’t get better. Some bands spend their whole careers searching for the magic ingredients that made a particular record special. This can be frustrating for fans. But I prefer to see it like this: some bands never get to make a great record in the first place. Those that do are the lucky ones. And Ratt did make a great record – and still had time for a few more decent songs after that. And it also had a great cover too…

Record #94: Ratt – You’re In Love

Footnote: In 2002 Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby died of a heroin overdose, aged 42. RIP.

Categories: Hard Rock

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

47 replies

  1. I’m not hugely familiar with Ratt so I found this really interesting. All that negative press you mentioned back in the day had put me off them until recently. There was a Metal Doc showing footage of “Round and Round” in an attempt to illustrate how terrible the “hair” bands were (think it might have been Metal Evolution). Unfortunately, I thought it sounded amazing and ended up buying the EP and Out of the Cellar on vinyl (I won’t be loaning them to my friends though… eeewwww).

    When I was looking at the Ratt vinyl in the shop a guy browsing next to me looked round to me and said “buy them!”. Ok!


  2. Gotta go with the Crue. Ratt just couldn’t maintain the momentum!


  3. Ratt’s last album Infestation got a lot of good reviews. Have either of you guys heard that one?

    I meant to say earlier, it’s interesting that you talk about Ratt not making it here in the UK. When I watched the VH1 show on Ratt last year I really had no idea they were ever as big as they were in the States.


  4. Crue gets the nod for better ‘Rock’ band better that average music and a real strong rock n roll machine…Ratt was better musically and Warren DeMartini was a much better musician than anyone in Crue. He came from San Diego my town and was the best of the locals Jake E Lee and Craig Goldy IMO.

    Crue gets props though, they outlasted and as you said had an impact on pop culture. In mass media better ‘musicians’ always lose out to better ‘acts’.


  5. Reblogged this on wolfewriter and commented:
    A few of my Generation X buddies would probably be interested in weighing in on this…


  6. Great comment generator – now comes more heaps of praise – I knew you loved music and were opened-minded – what I did not know until now and – just onemore surfacing facet/talent, is your depth of understanding of music mechancics and production, et al. Wow! And I gots the chops to make the comment.


  7. Warren is a fantastic guitar player and I think very underrated. However I give Motley the edge, because I think the bottom line is that they wrote better, more memorable songs.

    I have the last Ratt album with Carlos Cavaso, Infestation, and it’s pretty good. Not a home run, it has about half-filler, but the good songs are good! Sadly they saved the best song “Shattered” for the Japanese edition!


    • I think that’s probably about right… Good to hear about the Japanese Edition of Infestation. There can’t be too many of those knocking around…


    • Actually I think Motley Crue have much more filler per album. The only two consistent albums were Too fast and Dr Feelgood. I think their selling point was their image, 3 pinups in the form of The exotic Tommy Lee, Nikki and blonde Vince, whom all three were always pasted on the front cover of the tabloids. Plus rebellious name and image helps sell their records. Nothing wrong with that, I guess, but it hides the fact that they musically not on par with Ratt. I hardly find any fillers on their albums, love their lyrics, and Warren and Robin add a lot of debt to the band. They have a certain mystique to their songs , whereas Motley lyrics tend to be simplistic.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Depth not debt


      • You forgot two albums that are far better than Feelgood: Motley 94, and Shout!

        I’ve always felt Ratt were on a lower rung than Motley. I’ve never thought any of their best work was as good as Too Fast or Motley 94. I don’t hear the mystique in Ratt or Motley for that matter.


      • And I didn’t like Shout at the Devil that much – just liked the title song. Nothing memorable. Motley Crue 1994 was very boring. When I say mystique, what I mean is mysterious and otherworldly. It’s hard to explain but Ratt conjures that feel in their earlier albums.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Is the link to the band Dr Feelgood a mistake or an in-joke?


  9. @mikeslayen totally agree with the Dr Feelgood/high quality Poison comparison! Although I do really like the album (and Poison get a bad rap too!). I’d definitely rate the Shout at the Devil and Too Fast For Love albums as the greatest Crue moments.


  10. Hey man, don’t mean to be a pain, but me and a bud are doing another blog on 80’s albums and we’re hoping you can put up a link? s’ok?


    Uncle E


  11. Up until Feelgood, when Bob Rock forced them to concentrate on actually writing songs (radical idea), Crue’s albums typically contained a couple of stand-out tracks (fit for MTV heavy rotation) and then a load of lazily assembled dross. Why bother writing more good material if it got in the way of the next debauched escapade?
    Seeing them live recently showed up this up – you don’t leave a Crue gig wistfully thinking about the songs they didn’t play.
    At their best, Crue were genre-defining – their distillation of 80 LA rock was (later) trumped by G’nR only – and you can’t say that about Ratt, even if the latter included better musicians and more consistently respectable content.
    It pains me slightly to write that about Crue – after reading Dirt, a bigger bunch of twits you couldn’t wish to meet.


    • I think The Dirt backs your view that the band were too busy getting wasted to really focus on the music. It’s a classic book however…


    • Its Crue’s image that were their main selling point. Great example is the fact the one of three members always adorned the front cover of the tabloids. And the Girls, girls album has only three or four good songs, to my ear. I mean, Ratt’s Reach for the sky is slightly weak but has far better songs than Girls girls


  12. I live in the UK and have been a Ratt fan since 1984, they remain to this day my favourite band. The band have had issues, I think the non U.K. success is a lot down to Atlantic records that didn’t ever really push Ratt over here. The first 2 albums are killers, Dancing is disappointing. I don’t agree with your assessment of Crue’s Girls, Girls, Girls, yes it contains some great songs but some pretty bad ones too. Back to Ratt Reach For the Sky again wasn’t brilliant but it did contain some great tunes such as Way Cool Jr, I want a Woman and Bottom Line. Detanator is a killler album and contains many good songs. By the time the 99 album came out rock music had changed significantly, but I still like the album. But moving on to 2010 and Infestation that’s an absolute beast of an album. There seems to be more harmony in the band now Bobby isn’t there so I hope that the next album is also a killer! Ratt n Roll people

    Liked by 1 person

    • Disagree about Dancing Undercover – that was brilliant from beginning to end with an amazing throbbing baseline and constant steamrollers and fast songs. And the guitar seems more thicker compared with the previous two classics. Kills Theatre of Pain


  13. Ratt, they had better music, but never progressed musically after they kicked Robin out, and fizzled out. Crue is bubble gum metal some of their early stuff is plain embarrassing. They are musically inferior to Ratt.
    I am not a fan of either band.


  14. I saw Ratt open for the Scorpions in Tacoma, Washington, 1985. Music wise both bands were excellent but when it came to comparing lead singers and how they connected with the audience the Scorpions front man – Klaus Meine – was clearly the pro. Pearcy the student.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Nice article. I’ve always held Ratt & Crue as the gold standards for that LA metal scene. This is a great argument, but for me Ratt wins out. Shout at the Devil was great from front to back for me, but it is the only Crue album that is solid all the way through. Out of the Cellar is strong top to bottom, and Invasion of your Privacy is solid too. I loved Infestation, and Warren Demartini is one of my favorite guitar players. I know this is totally subjective, but I like Ratt better. Both singers suck live. Ha.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Ratt: Out of the Cellar is great.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I’m American and I grew up in the far northwest suburbs of Chicago. I was 13 when I bought Shout at the Devil and immediately loved the Crue. The following year I bought Out of the Cellar and immediately loved Ratt. In 85 I bought Invasion of your Privacy and loved it even more. I never did go back to Motley Crue and never thought to buy Theater of Pain as it had too much of a pop sound to it. I just liked Ratts sound better and Warren Demartini always had awesome licks. After that I got more into heavier bands like Mettalica.

    Ratt was pretty huge in the states. There was a time when Bon Jovi opened for them.

    I never did like Ratts subsequent albums, but I did like Motley Crues Dr Feelgood when it came out. It had a good heavy sound to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Yea first lf all I do like Ratt,but imo they never put anything out that stands with shout at the devil!!Shout was closer to a metal record!!BASTARD,KNOCK EM DEAD KID,HOLLYWOOD and title trackare all heavier and deeper then anything Ratt would ever put out!!They got put in the same class of music,but Crue really was a little different,Ratts lyrics were basically ALL THE SAME!!no FEELGOOD,WILD SIDE,PRIMAL SCREAM type stuff,just slip of the lip and lay it down,just the same lyrics EVERY SONG!!cant agree,MOTLEY CRUE were head and shoulders above RATT!!

    Liked by 1 person

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