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 Ferrano, and drummer "Tommy Lee" Bass decided to leave the bands they were in at the time and pursue a new project together. "Vince Neil" Wharton was added as the vocalist, and Bob "Mick Mars" Deal was hired to play guitar. 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 time off, 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 videocassette, 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 band's star continued to rise, as other songs like "Wild Side" became increasingly popular. The group finally embarked on their own tour, but the Japanese dates was canceled when Sixx suffered a drug overdose and nearly lost his life.
Over the next year, Mötley Crüe remained out of the spotlight, as all four members sought out drug rehabilitation. Clean and sober, they returned in 1989 with Dr. Feelgood, which hit #1 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 #2, 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 band members' camaraderie. In 1992, sessions for Mötley Crüe's next album turned ugly, and Neil was fired and replaced with vocalist John Corabi, formerly of Union. The 1994 product was Mötley Crüe, which peaked at #7 in the U.S. and eventually went gold, but was ultimately a commercial disappointment, as was the supporting tour. In early 1997, it was confirmed that Corabi had been fired, and that Neil was back for the much-hyped Generation Swine album. Though Generation Swine opened at #4, 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, Lee left the band in 1999 to form Methods of Mayhem, who released their self-titled debut late that year, and 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.
Band Members Biographies