With a gritty reputation that was arguably equaled only
by Guns N' Roses, Mötley Crüe's infamous antics made them a force to be reckoned with in the '80s. As one of
the first and most influential hair metal bands of the '80s, Mötley Crüe had a series of hit albums, the biggest
and most noteworthy being 1989's Dr. Feelgood. The band continued to court controversy into the next decade, even when
their recording career took a downturn through a series of well-publicized mishaps and run-ins with the law. Mötley Crüe's
beginning can be traced back to 1981, when bassist Nikki Sixx (born Frank Ferrana) and drummer "Tommy Lee"
Bass decided to leave the bands they were in at the time and pursue a new project together. Bob "Mick Mars" Deal
was hired to play guitar and "Vince Neil" Wharton was added as vocalist. The band went through several name changes
before Mars presented them with Mottley Krue, recalling a time when his previous band was described as a "motley looking
crew." After agreeing on this name and altering the spelling somewhat, the newly formed group began to play at local clubs
and soon became cult favorites, known for their unique stage theatrics.
The band soon met up with Allan Coffman, who financed their first
album, Too Fast for Love, on their own small, independent Lethur Records label; the record sold a surprising
20,000 copies. After signing to Elektra Records, the band released Shout at the Devil in 1983, which featured
the hit video "Looks That Kill." The record went platinum, but the band's success was temporarily brought to a halt
when Neil was involved in a deadly automobile accident on August 12. Driving under the influence of alcohol, Neil
crashed into another car, killing his good friend and passenger Nicholas Dingley of Hanoi Rocks; the other victims
emerged with broken bones and brain damage. Neil was found guilty of vehicular manslaughter and driving while intoxicated,
and was incarcerated for 30 days in 1985, in addition to performing community service and paying a large cash settlement.
By the time Neil had been sentenced, however, the band's newest record, Theatre of Pain, had already been released
and soared up the charts, making the band stars and producing their first Top 40 hit with a cover of Brownsville Station's
"Smokin' in the Boys' Room."
After a short hiatus, the band regrouped with Neil to film a music
video for "Home Sweet Home"; the first hit power ballad to be aired on MTV, it became their most requested
music video for four months straight. A 44-minute home video cassette, Uncensored, was released in 1986, containing
rare live footage and interviews; meanwhile, Lee married actress Heather Locklear. A year later, Mötley Crüe
released their fourth album, Girls Girls Girls. The uncensored video for the popular title track was immediately banned
from television, not airing until a slightly cleaned-up version was released. The group finally embarked on their own tour,
but the European dates were canceled when Sixx suffered a drug overdose and nearly lost his life. Over the next year,
all four members sought out drug rehabilitation and Mötley Crüe remained out of the spotlight. They returned, clean
and sober, in 1989 with Dr. Feelgood, which hit number one on the Billboard charts due to the strong singles
"Kickstart My Heart," "Don't Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)," "Without You," and the infamous title-track,
which became their first Top Ten single.
After another worldwide tour, they released a compilation album, Decade
of Decadence, in 1991. The album opened at number two, and a home video of the same name was released shortly afterwards.
The group created their own record label, Mötley Records, and signed a new contract with Elektra for $25 million.
Unfortunately by this time, the music industry that made them famous was beginning to change, and the pressure to keep pace
with the times began to take its toll on the bandmembers' camaraderie. In 1992, sessions for Mötley Crüe's next album
turned ugly, and Neil was fired and replaced with vocalist John Corabi, formerly of the Scream. The 1994
product was Mötley Crüe, which peaked at number seven in the U.S. and eventually went gold, but was ultimately a commercial
disappointment (as was a supporting tour). In early 1997, Corabi was fired and Neil rehired for the much-hyped
Generation Swine. (Corabi resurfaced alongside former Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick in the group
Union.) Though Generation Swine opened at number four, it was sharply criticized and fell off the charts before
long. In 1998, the band released Greatest Hits, but shortly after the supporting tour, Lee was arrested for
spousal abuse against wife Pamela Anderson and sentenced to jail time for most of the year. Meanwhile, the group's
deal with Elektra fell apart, and Mötley Records switched its affiliation to the Beyond label, with the
band acquiring the rights to its back catalog.
After numerous bitter encounters with Neil, Tommy Lee left
the band in 1999 to form Methods of Mayhem, who released their self-titled debut late that year; he was replaced with
Ozzy Osbourne drummer Randy Castillo. That year, the revamped Crüe issued remastered editions of all
their studio albums (complete with bonus tracks) plus the rarities collection Supersonic and Demonic Relics. An album
of all new material, New Tattoo, appeared in the summer of 2000. Also in 2000, Sixx found time to launch a side
project, 58. On the eve of the Crüe's tour in support of New Tattoo, Castillo was stricken with
an undisclosed illness and sat out the tour to recuperate. Instead of canceling the tour, the Crüe temporarily enlisted
Hole drummer (and lifelong Crüe fan) Samantha Maloney.
In May of 2001, the band issued an over-the-top, tell-all biography, The
Dirt (which even included input from former drummer Lee), that quickly became a best-seller. Around the same time,
Neil embarked on a brief solo tour of U.S. clubs and looked for a new solo record deal, but remained adamant that he
was still a member of Motley Crüe. Sixx used the downtime to write material for other bands, including Tantric,
Meatloaf, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, and James Michael. Sadly, Castillo passed away in the
spring of 2002, and the band announced their hiatus would probably last into the next year. Sixx also began talking
about reuniting the original lineup for a farewell tour, but Tommy Lee quickly went to the press and told them that
his relationship with Vince Neil was simply too poor for that to happen. Controversy surrounded the band again as former
producer Tom Werman sued the band for unpaid royalties, Neil's former wife Heidi Mark publicly accused
him of physical abuse, and Neil was kicked off a nationally syndicated radio show for being too drunk to maintain an
interview. Tour drummer Samantha Maloney was also mixed up in things as Sixx decided to write a mean-spirited
posting on his website in retaliation for the public acknowledgement of a feud between her and his wife due to his infidelity
during their 2000 tour. Rumors of a reunion continued to swirl during 2003-04, even as Mötley Crüe members stayed busy
with individual projects. Both Tommy Lee and Vince Neil participated in celebrity shows, Lee as the focus
of a half-hour show on NBC featuring the rock star attending college classes and Neil in the first season of
The Surreal Life. Sixx toured and released an album with his new band, Brides of Destruction. The reunion
rumors finally came true in late 2004 when the four original members announced dates for a full tour in 2005, their first
in more than six years. The tour coincided with the February release of the band’s double-disc greatest hits collection,
Red, White & Crüe.
~ Barry Weber & Greg Prato, All Music Guide