First released in 1989, the album Dr. Feelgood became and remains Mötley Crüe’s best-selling album to date. It was also their most critically acclaimed, in no doubt due to the band’s newly found sobriety. After years of drugs, sex, and debauchery, Dr. Feelgood was Mötley Crüe’s announcement that they could still rock even if they were sober.
Ironically, for an album that was recorded sober, the title track was about drugs. Dr. Feelgood was about a Los Angeles drug dealer. Nikki Sixx, who wrote the song, later told Rolling Stone that the song was based on several different drug dealers that he had done business with. Just two years before Dr. Feelgood became a hit, Sixx had been a notorious junkie who, after a heroin overdose, was actually legally dead for two minutes before a paramedic was able to revive him with two shots of adrenaline.
Along with being a slang term for heroin, Dr. Feelgood was also the nickname of several notorious doctors. Perhaps the most infamous Dr. Feelgood was Max Jacobson, who used to give “miracle tissue regenerator” shots to the rich and famous. His clients included everyone from JFK to Marilyn Monroe to Humphrey Bogart. Robert Freyman, the physician who is though to have inspired The Beatles’s Dr. Robert, was also sometimes called Dr. Feelgood.
Dr. Feelgood became Mötley Crüe’s first and, to date, only gold single in the United States. The video follows the song’s title character as he goes from working the streets to owning a mansion. In a repeat of what happened to Tony Montana, Dr. Feelgood’s own hubris eventually brings him down. As for why Mötley Crüe is performing in a revival tent, it probably just looked cool.
The song spent 109 weeks on the charts after its release and it remains Mötley Crüe’s most popular single.