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History and Introduction
Anyone who's a hair/glam metal fan like me or followed rock music during the MTV-craze from 1984 to 1992 is all to aware of Motley Crue and their compatriots - Starting out virtually unknown with low budget production budgets in 1981 to being rated by VH1 as one of the top 10 heavy metal groups of all time, the quartet has sold in excess of 75 million copies of their singles and albums worldwide. It was hence fitting for me, a massive hair-band fan to write an article about them considering they recently announced they were calling it quits after a final worldwide tour which would end in 2015.
In 1981, drummer Tommy Lee (born on October 3 1962 as Thomas Lee Bass) and bassist Nikki Sixx (born on December 11 1958 as Frank Carlton Serafino Feranna Jr.) began rehearsing some songs and jamming some material along with vocalist and guitarist Greg Leon, who later quit to pursue other projects. The duo, in search of new members, put out an advertisement to find a new guitarist, the advert was answered by future and permanent Crue guitarist Mick Mars (born on May 4 1951 as Robert Alan Deal) who apparently also helped coin the group's name, 'Motley Crue', after he heard someone say - "now isn't that a motley looking crew?" Still without a lead vocalist, Tommy Lee decided to contact his former schoolmate from California, Vince Neil (born on February 8 1961 as Vincent Neil Wharton) and asked him to give it a shot. Back in the day, Vince wasn't really known to be the best singer around however what he lacked in vocal ability, was compensated by his stage presence and persona - this exactly is what guitarist Mick Mars noticed who believed that regardless how good Vince is as a singer, he's got the looks and antics which were needed considering they were launching their careers at the dawn of the 'MTV revolution'.
After being signed up by producer Allan Coffman on a label called 'Leathur Records', Motley Crue released their debut album in November 1981 called 'Too Fast For Love'. The following year, the group signed up for what would become more or less their permanent record-label, "Elektra Records" which employed producer Roy Thomas Baker to rework and reproduce "Too Fast For Love" and release the song "Live Wire" as a single in August 1982.
Though being far from being their best selling album (or single), "Too Fast For Love" managed to sell in excess of 200,000 copies and was met with positive reviews, thus making the possibility of future success for the quartet fairly plausible.
Motley Crue - Live Concert (29 May 1983)
Shout At The Devil (1983) and Theatre of Pain (1985)
Upon receiving decent airplay for their video of 'Live Wire' the previous year, Motley Crue got back into the studios and began working on their next album, which would essentially (and ironically) mark the onset of international fame, recognition, riches along with typical rock-star excess and personal problems including numerous brushes with the law, escapades with women and even short stints in prison.
In 1983, the group released their 2nd and as such 'breakthrough album' called 'Shout At The Devil' which was a lot longer in length than its predecessor and thanks to slick production by new producer Tom Werman, cemented the group's status as being one of the most influential musical acts of the time to promote the MTV-backed 'hair-band/glam metal/Sunset Strip Rock' scene.
Despite the success of 'Shout At The Devil', the group also began garnering some unwanted attention (which is probably what made them even more popular) from Christian groups who accused them of being Satan worshipers (The cover for 'Shout At the Devil' clearly showed the quartet sporting a 'Pentagram') while the song 'Bastard' made its way to #3 in the list of 'filthy fifteen' (A list of songs compiled by the 'Washington Wives' in 1985/86 which they believed were the most offensive on radio and TV that their teenage children were being exposed to).
The video clip for 'Too Young to Fall in Love' showed the group among a group of young Asian girls and older Asian men (suggesting the theme of the song was about underage prostitution in the Eastern hemisphere) and this gave them even more notoriety. Nevertheless, 'Shout At the Devil' managed to turn Motley Crue's fortunes around and established itself as a base for the group's future successes.
In 1985, the quartet released their 3rd album, 'Theatre of Pain' dedicated to the memory of British drummer Nicholas 'Razzle' Dingley (drummer for the Finnish hard rock group, 'Hanoi Rocks') who was killed that year in a car-crash with singer Vince Neil on the wheel driving drunk. While still produced by Tom Werman, the album featured a less 'hard rock' sound and featured a more 'glam' sound featuring more keys and a less 'raw' drumming effect. The biggest singles to be released from 'Theatre of Pain' were 'Smokin' In The Boys Room' (a cover of the original song released in 1973 by Brownsville Station) and 'Home Sweet Home'. The video for 'Smokin' in The Boys Room' featured Michael Berryman (of the 'Twisted Sister' videos fame), who reprised his role as an antagonistic school principal while 'Home Sweet Home' became one of the group's biggest hits and concert staple along with being considered the best and one of the first 'power ballads' of all time, with Tommy Lee playing the piano parts of the song both in the studio and in concert.
Motley Crue - Too Young To Fall In Love (1983)
Motley Crue - Home Sweet Home (1985)
Girls, Girls, Girls (1987) and Dr Feelgood (1989)
The group's success from sales of 'Theatre of Pain' and the following tour introduced them to the world of typical 1980s rock-star excess and indulgencies like drugs, excess alcohol, prostitutes and insomnia and it is during the height of their addiction that Motley Crue began recording songs for their 4th album, 'Girls, Girls, Girls', again produced by long term Crue producer Tom Werman. While the sound of this album shifted once again to a more 'bluesy' tone from a 'glam' feel as was the case in 'Theatre of Pain', the album was both a commercial and critical success despite the less than ideal circumstances it was released under - During the subsequent tour to support the album, 3 out of the 4 bandmembers underwent extensive drug rehab to get rid of their heroine addictions while in December 1987, Nikki Sixx overdozed on heroin to the extent he was declared clinically dead for 2 minutes before being miraculously revived by a paramedic.
Despite the album's release being marred by the group's personal demons and battles, it went on to chart very high on Billboard - 3 songs, "Wild Side", "You're All I Need" and the title track were released as singles with accompanying music videos.
The video for "Girls, Girls, Girls" was censored due to the depiction of topless women in strip joints while that for "You're All I Need" was banned as it depicted a murder committed as a crime of passion.
Until the release of "Dr. Feelgood" in 1989, "Girls, Girls, Girls" remained Motley Crue's best selling album, only to be outdone by its successor
"Dr. Feelgood" was and still is Motley Crue's best selling album and was met with much more positive fanfare as it marked the group's recovery from the drug and alcohol addiction and the follow up tour to support the album was also one of the most spectacular fans had witnessed. The key tracks (and singles) from this album were the title track, "Same Ole' Situation" and what will become Motley Crue's signature song, "Kickstart My Heart". The lyrics and name for "Kickstart my Heart" were coined and inspired by Nikki Sixx, who credited his clinical death due to an accidental overdoze on heroine as the basis for writing the song.
The release of "Dr Feelgood" marked the height of Motley Crue's career - they followed the album up with a compilation album in 1991 called "Decade of Decadence - 81 to 91" including the release of a previously unreleased track, "Primal Scream" which became the group's last major hit before changes within the music industry will have a drastic change in fortunes for the quartet.
Motley Crue - You're All I Need (1987) (Banned from MTV)
Motley Crue - Girls, Girls, Girls (1987)
Motley Crue - Kickstart My Heart (1989)
1992 and Beyond
Like the fate faced by most glam metal and hair-band artists, the sudden change in the music industry and the emergence of grunge practically (and almost suddenly) killed any future paths to continued success and Motley Crue's fate was no different.
Despite a successful tour and the compilation album 'Decade of Decadence' selling extremely well, interest of fans eventually began waning and some bickering among the group members also began taking shape, which eventually led to the departure of lead vocalist Vince Neil (though to this date he maintains he was fired).
After a few turbulent years within the group and the band members pursuing various other solo projects, a couple of producers organized a meeting between Mick, Tommy and Nikki along with Vince and his manager across the table with the aim of negotiating a comeback with Vince taking up vocal duties once again.
By the end of the 90's, Motley Crue, like many hair-bands of the 80's saw renewed interest (both mainstream and 'cult') and after ending their long term association with 'Elektra' Records and creating their own label to which they signed up to, the 4 original members reunited for good and after years of releasing compilation albums, released their 9th album, 'Saints of Los Angeles' in 2008 - the first album after 9 years to feature original material and with Tommy Lee on drums. Reviews of the album were fairly positive with contemprary music channels including Channel V and VH1 offering reasonable airplay to the title track.
The success of 'Saints of Los Angeles' ensured the return of the group to embark on more tours (including supporting KISS in Australia in 2013) before the group announced by the beginning of 2014 that they had signed a 'death pact' which will see them retire forever after embarking on a final worldwide tour lasting until 2015.
Motley Crue - Saints of Los Angeles (2008)
As they say, there're only a few artists within the music industry who're evergreen and no matter how hard they try, their legacy cannot be replaced. A few examples which spring to mind are Abba, Led Zeppelin, KISS and Van Halen. However, when it comes hair-metal, the influence which Motley Crue left on generations ahead is more or less irreplacable.
Despite the personal lives of the band members and their notoriety including Tommy Lee's sex tapes with Pamela Anderson, Nikki Sixx's drug overdoze and Vince's repeated run ins with the law, it is exactly this sort of rebellous attitude which propelled the group to stardom due to the fact that despite everything else, they were indeed a bunch of talented musicians and the image they presented, whether real or for entertainment, has left an impression and precedence in the world of rock which will last forever.