The Quick-Fix Meaning Behind Mötley Crüe’s “Dr. Feelgood”

The meaning behind one of Mötley Crüe’s most enduring rock classics is one of grimy streets, an unquenchable jones, and the man who can cure what ails you. “Dr. Feelgood” doesn’t have a stethoscope or a prescription pad, but what he does have is a quick fix. Meet the streets’ favorite M.D., below.

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The Origins

“I knew it was a classic from the time I heard that very first ‘bomp bomp bomp bomp’ — that intro just kind of grabs you,” frontman Vince Neil told Rolling Stone, reflecting on the 1989 hit. To this day, “Dr. Feelgood” is Mötley Crüe’s highest charting single, and for good reason. The song’s iconic, instantly foreboding drum hits and muddied guitar riffs are not easily forgettable.

“This song has been popular for 20 years,” the singer continued. “It was funny because I was watching VH1 and they had the Greatest Hard Rock Songs and ‘Feelgood’ was 15 or something. I was like, ‘Wow, of all time.’ Then you have Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith and AC/DC and ‘Feelgood.’ I was like, ‘Wow, that’s cool.’ It’s our signature song in some ways.”

But how did their signature song come to be? Penned by Crüe’s bassist Nikki Sixx, “Dr. Feelgood” initially had various iterations. “In the end, it was inspired by drug dealers,” Sixx said. “Is there ever just one? A good drug addict always has more than one dealer.”

The Lyrics

“Dr. Feelgood” is introduced in a roar of strings, a parade of drums, and a punked-up attitude. The song opens with the lines, Rat-tailed Jimmy is a second-hand hood / He deals out in Hollywood / Got a ’65 Chevy, primered flames / Traded for some powdered goods / Jigsaw Jimmy he’s runnin’ a gang / But I hear he’s doin’ o.k. / Got a cozy little job, sells the Mexican mob / Packages of candy cane.

Who is this Jimmy, you ask? Well, according to the chorus, He’s the one they call Dr. Feelgood / He’s the one that makes ya feel alright / He’s the one they call Dr. Feelgood. Jimmy is a drug dealer who specializes in pushing cocaine on the streets of Hollywood. He’s doing alright, making a name for himself as the guy with the supply.

Cops on the corner always ignore / Somebody’s getting paid / Jimmy’s got it wired, law’s for hire / Got it made in the shade, the next verse plays as the song goes on to explain how Jimmy’s got the law in his pocket. The police usually turn a blind eye to his business transactions. Got a little hideaway, does business all day / But at night he’ll always be found / Selling sugar to the sweet / People on the street / Call this Jimmy’s town.

The chorus plays again, adding the lines, I’ve got one thing you’ll understand / He’s not what you’d call a glamorous man / Got one thing that’s easily understood / He’s the one they call Dr. Feelgood. While his line of work isn’t what many would consider legitimate, Jimmy speaks a universal language and gets the people what they need.

He’ll tell you he’s the king / Of these barrio streets / Moving up to Shangri-La / Came by his wealth as a matter of luck / Says he never broke no law, the next verse plays, hinting that Jimmy’s luck dodging the law may be running out. Two time loser running out of juice / Time to move out quick / Heard a rumor going round / Jimmy’s going down / This time it’s gonna stick.

After another round of the chorus, the band recommends listeners make an appointment with the doctor. Let him soothe your soul, just take his hand, the lyrics suggest, Some people call him an evil man / Let him introduce himself real good / He’s the only one they call Feelgood…

Photo by Ross Marino/Getty Images

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