Perhaps the most momentous accomplishment of Mötley Crüe’s rock n’roll legacy is the fact that its original members have survived to tell their tale—while remaining as active and relevant today as bands half their age, many of whom validated their own mojo from the original bad boys of rock. After what would be more than a complete lifetime for most, the band who described their exploits in their NY Times best selling, rock and roll autobiography defining The Dirt, the band is as relevant as ever, releasing hit records, a new Grammy nomination, record setting tours and new fans discovering them through the cutting edge bands they take on tour, their active internet presence and the timelessness of the songs.
Piled alongside the grinding guitar riffs and ball-busting lyrics that have long defined the rabble-rousing rock quartet are enough bottles of booze, anthills of coke, bail bonds, willing women, body brandings and dysfunctional debauchery to fell many a lesser man. And yet after three decades of decadence, Mötley Crüe maintains its iron will, capturing new fans and influencing musicians across multiple generations. With persistently gratifying and iconic road spectacles, 2011 will bear witness to their endurance as the world’s most notorious band takes on the world’s most notorious city with their Las Vegas residency, Circus of Sin.
Vocalist Vince Neil, guitarist Mick Mars, bassist Nikki Sixx and drummer Tommy Lee have commandeered the rock pantheon for 30 years now and yet, Mötley Crüe’s rock royalty emanates with as much kickass iridescent relevance in the millennium as it did in the 1980s. The Crüe’s bragging rights comprise worldwide album sales exceeding 80 million—25 million in the U.S.—seven platinum or multi-platinum albums, 22 top 40 mainstream rock hits, six top 20 pop singles, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, three Grammy nominations for Best Hard Rock Performance, a New York Times bestselling memoir, and tours logging more than 1,350 live gigs across the globe, to date. The band’s output encompasses nine studio and two live albums, six compilation CDs, three box sets, nine DVDs, and 24 singles with accompanying music videos.
Individually, the gang of four is as notorious as its collective. Over the decades, Neil has released three solo albums, including the top 15 “Exposed” in 1993. Add to that the recent New York Times bestseller Tattoos & Tequila, a companion to the 2010 CD of the same name and more than $2 million raised for his Skylar Neil Foundation in memory of his daughter, who passed away in 1995 after a battle with cancer.
Lee formed platinum-selling band Methods of Mayhem in 1999, and released 2002 top 10 solo album “Never a Dull Moment,” followed in 2005 by “Tommyland: The Ride,” which reached No. 1 in Australia and the U.K. Whether he’s playing the drums upside down on the newly famed 360° rollercoaster or DJing across the globe, Lee has arguably become the most charismatic drummer in rock. Lee also judged CBS reality series “Rock Star,” and wrote his autobiography Tommyland in 2004.
The host of syndicated weeknight radio show “Sixx Sense” and weekend “The Side Show Countdown,” heard on more than 80 stations between the two shows as well as on the XM Sixx Sense channel 161 and on Clear Channel’s iheartradio, Sixx is also the author of The New York Times best-selling 2007 autobiography The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star which was accompanied by a soundtrack with Sixx:A.M. (along with Dj Ashba and James Michael). The record produced 2008’s most-played rock track of the year with “Life is Beautiful.” His follow up book, This Is Gonna Hurt” also debuted on The New York Times best seller list and included, for the first time, Nikki’s photography as well as a soundtrack in Sixx’s second language of music with his band Sixx:A.M. He has also co-written songs for Alice Cooper, Saliva, Meat Loaf and Faith Hill & Tim McGraw.
Mars, meanwhile, maintains a more private persona, in part because of a lifetime battle with a chronic form of arthritis (Ankylosing Spondylitis). Making rare appearances for his signature contributions to albums by Hinder, Murderdolls and Papa Roach, he remains the quiet one among The Crüe. Murmurs continue to circulate that he is preparing a solo album.
Mötley Crüe first catapulted into public view in 1981, as the foursome distinguished themselves from the punk- and New Wave-soaked Sunset Strip, donning New York Dolls-debauched leather—a fitting tribute given their upcoming tour with the group—courting glam adornment as much as its barbaric musical signature. Stylistically suggesting Alice Cooper, Kiss and Aerosmith, Neil’s caterwauling vocals and Mars’ melodic guitar riffs prompted the indie debut of “Too Fast For Love” that year. With the group’s burgeoning Southern Cali popularity and first tour, Crüesing Through Canada, the album sold 20,000 copies—enough to spur interest from Elektra Records, which remastered “Too Fast” for release in 1982, followed by sophomore “Shout at the Devil” in 1983, produced by Tom Werman, who helmed three Crüe projects.
That album propelled the band nationally, with three hits at rock radio, including the raucous title track—which became The Crüe’s first calling card, frightening the bejesus out of parents across the land—and “Looks That Kill,” whose bombastic fire-breathing music video was championed by MTV. Within a year, the sleaze-infused album was certified platinum, reaching the Billboard 200’s top 20, as the band embarked on its first year-long headlining tour, while supporting rock gods Ozzy Osbourne, Iron Maiden, AC/DC and Van Halen.
From there, Mötley Crüe’s trajectory soared like a rocket. In 1985, third effort “Theatre of Pain” became the first of five consecutive top 10 albums. An undeniably mass-appeal cover of Brownsville Station’s “Smokin’ In the Boys Room” introduced the band to the mainstream, reaching No. 16 at top 40 radio, followed by power metal ballad “Home Sweet Home,” and multi-platinum home video “Uncensored” in 1986. “Theatre” ultimately reached 4X platinum—as did 1987’s fourth studio disc “Girls, Girls, Girls,” which debuted at No. 2, while the raunchy title track peaked at No. 12 at pop radio and No. 20 at mainstream rock. The album was notably confessional, divulging the darker side of the group’s indulgent lifestyle—and its potential pitfalls—made all the more poignant when Sixx’s heart stopped for 2 minutes after one of several heroin overdoses.
The band returned in 1989—clean and sober—with “Dr. Feelgood,” replacing Werman with producer Bob Rock, who proffered a slicker, more refined rock sound. It became Mötley Crüe’s only No. 1 U.S. album, selling 6X platinum while churning out six rock and four top 40 hits, including the grimy title track, its biggest pop smash at No. 6 on the Hot 100; power ballad “Without You,” its second top 10 pop hit; and chug-along rock smash “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away).”
In addition to Mötley Crüe’s strongest critical acclaim yet, “Dr. Feelgood” and “Kickstart My Heart” were both nominated for Best Hard Rock Performance Grammy Awards, as the group embarked on a third year-long worldwide tour. At this point, Neil, Lee, Sixx and Mars had ascended to the top of the hard rock heap—mind you, with two decades of achievement still ahead.
The 1990s began with compilation album “Decade of Decadence,” which debuted at No. 2 in 1991 and reached 2X platinum, fueled by a remix of the band’s top 40 hit, “Home Sweet Home”—a sweet ballad in comparison to its earlier output. Meanwhile, the group launched its own imprint, Mötley Records, and renewed with Elektra for a staggering $25 million.
In 1997, New manager Allen Kovac joined the team, as well as producer Scott Humphrey, who steered the group in a more alternative direction with their seventh album “Generation Swine.” It launched at No. 4, but with radio indulging all things grunge, the disc produced one rock hit, the top 10 “Afraid,” featuring Hustler Magazine founder Larry Flynt in the video.
“Greatest Hits” was issued in 1998 through the band’s newly created Mötley Records—and included two new tracks sans Lee, who was in jail after an arrest for spousal abuse against Anderson. In a surprise move, Mötley Crüe called it quits with Elektra after 17 years and acquired rights to its catalog and publishing in the exit negotiations. Crüe infighting continued, with Lee departing, even as the group continued to ignite the marketplace with a remastered reissue of its entire catalog, rarities collection “Supersonic and Demonic Relics” and the live “Entertainment or Death,” a collage of stage performances, in 1999.
In 2000, eighth studio album “New Tattoo” signaled a welcome return to the group’s signature glam, with former Ozzy Osbourne drummer Randy Castillo sitting in for Lee. The set fostered rock hit “Hell On High Heels”—followed by eight years of sonic down time. In May 2001, confessional, no-holds-barred memoir The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band was released, written by the four original members with Rolling Stone’s Neil Strauss. It became a sensation, spending a month of The New York Times bestseller list.
While the group members busied themselves with personal projects, output moved ever forward. With ownership of its master recordings, Mötley Records issued a three-series box set, “Music To Crash Your Car To,” in 2003 and 2004, along with a first-ever greatest hits DVD, “Mötley Crüe: Greatest Video Hits.”
At last, in late 2004, the four original members of Mötley Crüe agreed to a full-scale reunion tour—their first outing since the latter part of the 1990s—to coincide with the February 2005 release of two-disc greatest-hits collection “Red, White & Crüe.” The top 10 disc, which featured three new studio tracks, was certified platinum within six months, and served up the band’s biggest mainstream rock hit ever, the No. 4 eight-cylinder-fueled “If I Die Tomorrow.” Their Carnival of Sins outing was the No. 7 grossing tour of the year, accompanied by a VH1 behind-the-scenes documentary illustrating resolution of the group members’ feuding.
A second live album, “Carnival of Sins Live,” complemented a 2006 tour, accompanied by a concert DVD, which marked the band’s partnership with Eleven Seven Music. That year, the boys in the band were honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and co-headlined the Route of All Evil tour with Aerosmith.
In mid-2008, a reinvigorated Mötley Crüe released “Saints of Los Angeles” on Eleven Seven Music, which was launched with the city of L.A. honoring the band with “Saints of Los Angeles Day.” Their ninth album and first studio release in more than a decade—thematically based on memoir The Dirt—reunited the classic line-up of Neil, Mars, Sixx and Lee for the first time since 1997. And fans were frothing: It debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Independent Albums chart and scored the top debut of the week on the Billboard 200 at No. 4, also reaching the top 5 in Sweden, Canada and Finland.
The title track, the first song ever released simultaneously on iTunes and as a downloadable single for music video game Rock Band—demonstrating The Crüe’s affinity for a new generation of fans—garnered a third Grammy nod for Best Hard Rock Performance, and reached No. 5 on the Mainstream Rock chart, the band’s second-highest showing—proving that you can go home again.
Mötley Crüe supported the album with its first-annual Crüe Fest, the most successful touring rock festival for the summer of 2008. Nearly three decades since the release of the band’s first album, the outing played to nearly half a million fans in 40+ North American cities. The Crüe Fest Tour’s partnership with Rock Band also received a nomination for Best Marketing and Promotion at the 2008 Billboard Touring Awards. The band followed in early 2009 with a second arena leg, the Saints Of Los Angeles Tour.
In September 2008, with Eleven Seven Music, Mötley Crüe repackaged and reissued its studio catalog of eight albums originally released between 1981 and 2000. It also issued 17 music videos, available via digital download.
Crüe Fest 2 rocked the continent in summer 2009, as the band enlisted Godsmack, Theory of a Deadman, Drowning Pool and Charm City Devils to join it on the road. During the tour, the original four members celebrated the 20th anniversary of their iconic “Dr. Feelgood” by playing the entire album from start to finish—including two tracks, “Sticky Sweet” and “Slice of Your Pie,” which had never been performed live.
Mötley Crüe recently invaded Las Vegas with the city’s first ever hard rock residency, Mötley Crüe in Sin City leaving the loud impression that what happens in Vegas can be heard around the world.