Mötley Crüe is a Grammy-nominated American hard rock band formed in Los Angeles, California in 1981.
The band was founded by bass guitarist Nikki Sixx (who was, at the time, in a band called London) and drummer Tommy Lee, who were later joined by lead guitarist Mick Mars and lead singer Vince Neil. Mötley Crüe has sold more than 80 million album copies worldwide, including 23.5 million in the U.S.
The band has often been noted for their hard-living lifestyles; all members have had numerous brushes with the law, spent time in jail, suffered long addictions to alcohol and drugs, had countless escapades with women, and are heavily tattooed. Their ninth studio album entitled Saints of Los Angeles was released on June 24, 2008, while a film adaptation of their best-selling band autobiography The Dirt, is due to be released sometime in 2011.
Formation and early years: 1981-1983
Mötley Crüe was formed on January 17, 1981 when bass guitarist Nikki Sixx left the band London and began rehearsing with drummer Tommy Lee and vocalist/guitarist Greg Leon. Lee had worked previously with Leon in a band called Suite 19 and the trio practiced together for some time with Leon eventually deciding not to continue. The bassist and drummer then began a search for new members. Sixx and Lee soon met guitarist Bob "Mick Mars" Deal. Mars was quickly auditioned and subsequently hired by Sixx and Lee. Mars had been playing for a band, White Horse, when one of the members called the group "a motley looking crew." He had remembered the phrase and later copied it down as Mottley Cru-. Modifying the spelling slightly, 'Mötley Crüe' was eventually selected with the inspiration to add the two sets of umlauts supposedly coming from the German beer Löwenbräu the members were drinking at the time. The group was still in need of a singer. Lee had known Neil from their high school days at Royal Oak H.S. in Covina and the two had performed in different bands on the garage-band circuit. On seeing him perform with the band Rock Candy at the Starwood in Hollywood, Mars suggested Mötley Crüe hire Vince. At first he refused. However, as the other members of Rock Candy became involved in outside projects, Neil grew anxious to try something else. When Lee made one final appeal to audition, he accepted.
They soon met their first manager, Allan Coffman, "the thirty-eight-year-old brother-in-law of Mick's driver friend Stick". The band's first release was the single "Stick to Your Guns/Toast of the Town," which was released on their own label, Leathür Records, which had a pressing & distribution deal with Greenworld Distribution in Torrance. In November 1981, their debut album Too Fast for Love was self-produced and released on Leathür, selling 20,000 copies. Coffman's assistant Eric Greif set up a tour of Canada, while they used the band's success in the Los Angeles club scene to negotiate with several record labels, eventually signing a recording contract with Elektra Records in late spring 1982. At Elektra's insistence, the debut album was then re-mixed by producer Roy Thomas Baker and re-released on August 20, 1982, two months after its Canadian WEA release using the original Leathür mixes, to coincide with the tour.
During the "Crüesing Through Canada Tour '82," there were several widely-publicized incidents. First, the band was arrested and then released at Edmonton International Airport for wearing their spiked stage wardrobe through Customs and for Vince's small carry-on filled with porn magazines (both PR stunts) - considered 'dangerous weapons' and 'indecent material', Customs eventually had the confiscated items destroyed. Second, a spurious 'bomb threat' against the band, playing Scandals Disco in Edmonton, made the front page of the Edmonton Journal (June 9, 1982) where assistant band manager Greif and Lee were interviewed. This ended up being a PR stunt perpetrated by Greif. Lastly, Lee threw a television set from the upper story window of the Sheraton Caravan Hotel. Canadian rock magazine Music Express noted that the band were "banned for life" from the city. Despite the tour ending prematurely in financial disaster, it was the basis for the band's first international press.
In 1983, the band changed management from Coffman to Doug Thaler and Doc McGhee. McGhee is best known for managing Bon Jovi & Kiss, starting with their reunion tour in 1996. Greif subsequently sued all parties in a Los Angeles Superior Court action that dragged on for several years, and coincidentally later re-surfaced as manager of Nikki's former band, London. Coffman himself was sued by a couple of investors for whom he had sold 'stock in the band', including Michigan-based Bill Larson. Coffman eventually declared bankruptcy, as he had mortgaged his home at least three times to cover band expenses.
Rise to International Fame: 1984–1991
After playing the US Festival, and with the aid of the new medium of MTV, the band found rapid success in the United States. They were also known as much for their backstage groupie antics, outrageous clothing, extreme high-heeled boots, heavy make-up, and seemingly endless abuse of alcohol and drugs as for their recordings. Their mixture of heavy metal and glam rock stylings produced several best-selling albums during the 1980s, including Shout at the Devil (September 26, 1983), Theatre of Pain (June 21, 1985), and Girls, Girls, Girls (May 15, 1987), which showcased their love of motorcycles, whiskey and strip clubs, as well as telling tales of substance abuse, sexual escapades, and general decadence.
The band has also had their share of scrapes with the law and life. In 1984, Neil wrecked his car on his way back from the liquor store. He was in a head-on collision, and his passenger, Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas "Razzle" Dingley, was killed. Neil, charged with a DUI and vehicular manslaughter, was sentenced to 30 days in jail (though he only spent 18 days). The band would later release box sets entitled "Music to Crash Your Car To".
On December 21, 1987, Sixx suffered a near-fatal heroin overdose. He was declared legally dead on the way to the hospital, but the medic, who was a Crüe fan, revived Sixx by giving him two shots of adrenaline to the heart, bringing him back to life. His two minutes in death were the inspiration for the song "Kickstart My Heart", which peaked at #16 on the Mainstream U.S. chart, and was featured on their album Dr. Feelgood. From 1986 to 1987, Sixx kept a daily diary of his heroin addiction and eventually entered rehab in January, 1988. In 2006, Nikki Sixx published his diaries as a best selling novel: The Heroin Diaries; A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rockstar.
Their decadent lifestyles almost shattered the band, until managers Thaler and McGhee pulled an intervention, and refused to allow the band to tour in Europe, fearing that "some [of them] would come back in bodybags". Shortly after, all the band members except for Mars underwent drug rehabilitation; Mars cleaned up on his own.
After finding sobriety in 1989, Mötley Crüe reached its peak popularity with the release of their fifth album, the Bob Rock produced Dr. Feelgood, on September 1, 1989. On October 14 of that year, it became a No. 1 album and stayed on the charts for 109 weeks after its release. The band members each stated in interviews that, due in no small part to their collective push for sobriety, Dr. Feelgood was their most solid album musically to that point, and indeed, their best selling album to date. The title track and Kickstart My Heart were both nominated for Grammys in the Best Hard Rock Category, but lost both times to Living Colour. They did find some success at the American Music Awards, as Dr. Feelgood was nominated twice for Favorite Hard Rock/Metal Award, losing once to Guns N' Roses' Appetite for Destruction, but winning the following year, beating out Aerosmith's Pump and Poison's Flesh And Blood. They were also nominated twice for Favorite Hard Rock/Metal Artist, but lost to Guns N' Roses and Aerosmith.
In 1989, Doc McGhee was fired after breaking several promises that he made to the band in relation to the Moscow Music Peace Festival including giving his other band, Bon Jovi, advantages with slot placement. Doug Thaler then soldiered on as sole band manager.
On October 14, 1991, the band's sixth album, Decade of Decadence, a compilation, was released. It peaked at #2 on the Billboard 200 album chart. It was supposed to be just something for the fans while they worked on the next "all new" album.
Years of Turmoil: 1992–2003
After Decade was released, Neil left the band in February 1992. A controversy exists to this day over whether Neil was fired or quit. Sixx has long maintained that Neil quit the band. However, Neil disputes this and insists that he was fired. Neil was replaced by John Corabi (formerly of Angora and The Scream). Mötley Crüe's commercial success waned throughout the 1990s, although their self-titled March 1994 release made the Billboard top ten (#7). Thaler would manage the band alone until 1994, after the band did a mass-firing when their album, Mötley Crüe, failed to meet commercial expectations.
The band reunited in 1997, after their current manager, Allen Kovac, and Neil's manager, Bert Stein, set up a meeting between Neil, Lee, and Sixx. Agreeing to "leave their egos at the door," the band released Generation Swine. Although it debuted at #4, and despite the band performing at the American Music Awards, the album was a commercial failure, due in part to their label Elektra Records' lack of support. The band soon left Elektra and created their own label, Mötley Records.
In 1998, Mötley Crüe's contractual ties with Elektra Records had expired putting the band in total control of their future. This included the ownership of the masters of all their albums. In announcing the end of their relationship with Elektra Records, the band became one of the few groups in history to own and control their publishing and catalogue of recorded masters. In 1999, the band re-released all their albums, dubbed as Crücial Crüe. The limited-edition digital re-masters included demos and previously unreleased tracks.
In 1999, Lee put his role in the band on hold to pursue a solo career due to increasing bad tension with frontman Neil. He was replaced by Randy Castillo, who drummed on several Ozzy Osbourne albums. Randy died of cancer on March 26, 2002. No replacement had been named which sent the band into a hiatus following a 2000 tour in support of their studio release, New Tattoo. New Tattoo charted at #41 and sold less than 200,000 copies. Former Hole Drummer Samantha Maloney filled in on the tour to promote New Tattoo. The Salt Lake City performance of the tour is featured on the the DVD Lewd, Crüed & Tattooed.
Within the following six years, Sixx played in the bands 58 and Brides of Destruction, while Lee formed Methods of Mayhem and performed as a solo artist. Neil continued touring on an annual basis as a solo artist, singing mostly Mötley Crüe songs. Mars, who suffers from a rare degenerative form of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis, went into seclusion in 2001.
A 2001 autobiography entitled The Dirt carefully packaged the band as "the world's most notorious rock band". The book made the top ten on the New York Times best-seller list and spent ten weeks there.
Reunion and new album: 2004–present
A promoter in England, Mags Revell, started the ball rolling for Mötley Crüe's reunion when he started a promotion that basically revealed how fans wanted the band to reunite. After meeting with management several times, in September 2004, Sixx announced that he and Neil had returned to the studio and had begun recording new material. In December 2004, the four original members announced a reunion tour which began February 14, 2005, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The band's latest compilation album, Red, White & Crüe, was released in February 2005. It features the band members' favorite original songs plus three new tracks, "If I Die Tomorrow", "Sick Love Song", co-written by Sixx and James Michael as well as a cover of The Rolling Stones' classic "Street Fighting Man". A small controversy was caused when it was suggested that neither Tommy nor Mick played on the new tracks (duties were supposedly handled by Vandals drummer Josh Freese and ex-Beautiful Creatures guitarist DJ Ashba). However, a VH1 documentary of the band reuniting would later show that Lee did indeed play on some of the tracks. The Japanese release of Red, White & Crüe, includes an extra new track titled "I'm a Liar (and That's the Truth)". Red, White & Crüe charted at #6 and has since gone platinum.
In 2006, Mötley Crüe went on the Route of All Evil Tour co-headlining with Aerosmith. This was another well attended tour following the "Carnival of Sins" tour of 2005. In June 2007, Mötley Crüe set out on a small European tour. A lawsuit was recently filed by Neil, Mars and Sixx against Carl Stubner, Lee's manager. The three sued him for contracting for Lee to appear on two unsuccessful reality shows the band claim hurt its image. It was reported on Motley.com that the lawsuit has been settled.
Mötley Crüe's ninth studio album, titled Saints of Los Angeles was released in Japan on June 17 and in America on June 24. The album was originally titled "The Dirt", but was changed. The album features the band's original lineup. On April 11, Mötley Crüe released the song "Saints Of Los Angeles" in full, and also as a downloadable song for the game Rock Band, on April 15.