Formed in Los Angeles, California in 1981, Motley Crue is a rock band that is composed of Tommy Lee on drums, Mick Mars on lead guitars, Nikki six on bass, and Vince Neil on lead vocals. The band has sold over 100 million albums worldwide throughout their career that’s why they are one of the best-selling bands of all time. Motley Crue also managed to achieve multi-platinum certifications and twenty-two top 40 mainstream rock hit songs. Even if the band experienced several line-up changes, they still managed to come out successful. That’s why in this article, we are going to find out how Motley Crue changed the rock music scene.
Formation and Early Years
Nikki Sixx formed Motley Crue on January 1981 when he left his band called London and started rehearsing with Tommy Lee and Greg Leon. The trio jammed for some time and Leon eventually decided to leave the team. After that, Sixx and Lee searched for new band members and they soon met Bob Deal or also known as Mick Mars. There would be vocalist, Vince Neil known Tommy Lee since high school and when Lee saw him perform at the Starwood club in Hollywood, he immediately offered Neil to join their band. At first, Neal refused the offer but when the members of his previous band began doing solo projects, Neil eventually accepted Lee’s offer to be a part of the band and they played their first gig at the Starwood nightclub on April 1981.
The band met their first manager, Allan Coffman, who as the brother-in-law of a friend of Mars’ driver. They released their first single called Stick to Your Guns/Toast of the Town under their own record label named Leathur Records. in 1981, they released their self-produced debut album called Too Fast For Love which sold 20,000 copies. After that, the band used their success in the Los Angeles club scene to try and negotiate with record labels. They eventually landed a record deal with Elektra Records in 1982. Motley Crue’s debut album was re-mixed and re-released on August 1982.
The band embarked on the Cruesing Through Canada Tour ’82 which had several widely publicized incidents. First, Motley Crue was arrested but later released at Edmonton International Airport because they were wearing their spiked stage wardrobe which customs considered to be dangerous weapons, and Vince Neil arrived at the airport with a small carry-on bag that was filled with porn magazines. Both incidents were staged PR stunts and customs confiscate their items and had it destroyed. The second incident was when there was a spurious bomb threat against the band while they were performing in Edmonton. The incident made the front page of the Edmonton Journal the next day. However, that incident ended up as another PR stunt that was perpetrated their assistant manager, Eric Greif. The last incident was when Tommy Lee threw a television set from the window of their hotel. This resulted in the band being banned for life from the city. The tour ended early because it became a financial disaster but it set the stage for Motley Crue’s international fame. In 1983, Motley Crue changed their manager from Coffman to Doc McGhee and Dough Thaler. Doc McGhee was popular for handling popular bands such as Bon Jovi and Kiss.
International Success and Addiction
After playing at the US Festival and with the help of MTV, Motley Crue eventually became successful in the US. They released their second studio album in 1983 called Shout at the Devil and it became the band’s mainstream breakthrough. The album became four times platinum and it managed to catch the attention of heavy metal superstar, Ozzy Osbourne. That’s why Motley Crue became the opening act for Osbourne during his Bark at the Moon tour in 1984. As their music became popular, the band members also became known for their outrageous clothing, crazy antis, heavy make-up, and endless abuse of alcohol and drugs.
Aside from fame, Motley Crue’s members also had their fair share of run-ins with the law. On December 1984, Vince Neil was involved in a car accident which killed his passenger, Nicholas Dingley who was the drummer of the band Hanoi Rocks. Neil was charged with a DUI, vehicular manslaughter, was sentenced 30 days in jail and was sued for 2,500,000 dollars.
Motley Crue released their third album called Theater of Pain in 1985 and they released it in honor of Nicholas Dingley. After this, the band released two box sets entitled Music to Crash Your Car To.
In 1987, Motley Crue released their fourth studio album called Girls, Girls, Girls which debuted on the second spot of Billboard 200 chars. During an interview, Nikki Sixx said that he believes their fourth album would have scored the top spot of the charts if it wasn’t for the behind the scenes steering of Whitey Houston’s record label.
On December 1987, Nikki Sixx suffered from heroin overdose where he was declared legally dead on the way to the hospital. Thankfully, the paramedic who revived Sixx was a Motley Crue and he decided to give Sixx two shots of adrenaline which revived the Motley Crue member. This incident became the inspiration for the band’s single called Kickstart My Heart which reached the 16th spot of the mainstream US chart. Since then, Nikki Sixx kept a diary of his heroin addiction and decided to enter rehab in 1988.
The band’s lifestyles were almost shattered until their managers decided to pull an intervention and did not allow Motley Crue to tour Europe. Shortly after the manager’s decision, all the band members entered rehab.
After being sober in 1989, Motley Crue regained their popularity when they released their fifth studio album called Dr. Feelgood. After the album was released, it climbed the top spot of the charts and stayed on the charts for 114 weeks. The lead single Kickstart My Heart earned a Grammy Award nomination in the Best Hard Rock category. The album was also nominated at the American Music Awards for two years. At first, they lost to Guns N’ Roses’ album called Appetite for Destruction but Motley Crue won in the same category the following year. In 1991, Motley Crue released their first compilation album called Decade of Decadence 81-91 which reached the number two spot of the Billboard 200 album chart.
Commercial Failure, Own Label, and Hiatus
After they released their compilation album, Vince Neil decided to leave the group in 1992. This was also the time when other bands from the 80s glam metal scene broke up when grunge music started to gain popularity. Neil was eventually replaced by former The Scream and Angora member John Corabi. In 1994, Motley Crue released their self-titled album which made it to the seventh spot of the Billboard charts but it failed to reach commercial success. The album received negative reviews from the band’s fans because of the absence of Neil’s sound. That is why Corabi said that Neil was really the voice of the band and it resulted to his own firing in 1996.
The following year, Motley Crue reunited with Vince Neal after both parties agreed that they will leave their egos at the door. After that, they released their seventh album called Generation Swine which debuted at the fourth spot of the charts. However, the album turned out to be another commercial failure partly because they lacked support from their record label. Which resulted to the band leaving Elektra Records and creating their own record label named Motley Records.
When Motley Crue’s record contract with Elektra expired, the band had total control of their future and they gained the ownership of the masters of all of their albums. They are one of the few artists to control and own their music catalog and publishing. According to some reports, Motley Crue gained full ownership of their catalog because Elektra Records got fed up with the band and they handed over all the rights of their songs to get the band off their record company.
In 1999, Motley Crue re-released their albums and called it the Crucial Crue, it featured limited-edition digital remasters of their live performance, demos, instrumental of their song, and unreleased tracks. That same year, Tommy Lee decided to leave the band to pursue a solo career and because of the increasing tensions he’s having with Neil, all the band received was a phone call from Lee’s attorney saying that he wasn’t coming back to the band because he was not into rock and roll anymore.
Lee was eventually replaced by former Ozzy Osbourne member, Randy Castillo. In 2000, Motley Crue released their eighth studio album called New Tattoo. However, before the band started their tour to promote the album, Castillo became ill with cancer. That’s why Motley Crue recruited Samantha Maloney for their Maximum Rock tour together with Megadeth. After Castillo died of cancer in 2002, the band announced that they will be going on hiatus.
Reunion and Touring
in 2004, the original members of Motley Crue announced that they will have a reunion tour. The tour resulted to the compilation album named Red, White, and Crue which was released in 2005 which featured the band member’s favorite original songs of the ban and three new tracks namely Sick Love Song, If I Die Tomorrow, and a cover of the Rolling Stone’s hit song, Street Fighting Man. In 2006, Motley Crue embarked on the Route of All Evil Tour together with Aerosmith.
In June 2008, Motley Crue released their ninth studio album and they called it Saint of Los Angeles. The album was originally called The Dirt and it was based on the band’s autobiography with the same title. Later that year, Motley Crew went on the popular Crue Music festival.
Since then, the band became busy with touring and performing on music festivals which is why they didn’t have the time to create new music. They toured with Def Leppard, Kiss, Alice Cooper, Poison, Steel Panther, and Poison. In 2015, Motley Crue announced that their career as a band would eventually end with international concerts in Australia, Brazil, Japan, and Europe. Motley Crue ended their tour at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Los Angeles which was followed by three more shows at the Staples Center during the latter part of the ‘80s.
On September 2018, Vince Neil announced that Motley Crue was recording four new songs which were later confirmed by Nikki Sixx who said that the new songs will be a part of the film adaptation of their biography. In March 2019, Netflix released The Dirt which featured an 18-song soundtrack filled with their songs.