Mötley Crüe was formed in January, 1981 (see 1981 in music), in Los Angeles, after bassist Nikki Sixx left the band London, (a band he and Lizzie Grey started in 1979 when he was fired from Blackie Lawless' band, Sister). The band, London, would also be the first band for the later Guns N' Roses guitarists Izzy Stradlin and Slash and for Cinderella drummer Fred Coury.
Sixx inquired with his London bandmate Greg Leon if he knew of any musicians who could join the new band he was intent on forming. Leon recommended the drummer of one of his previous bands, Suite 19; its drummer, Tommy Lee.
According to Mick Mars, it was he who thought up the band's name. While in his former band, White Horse, one of the band members walked in and called the group "a motley looking crew." Mars copied the name down on paper, with the original spelling Mottley Cru. The name was later applied to the band he was to join in 1981 with Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee.
They had met guitarist Mick Mars through the classified-ads section of an L.A. music newspaper. His ad said: “Loud, rude, aggressive guitarist available.” Nikki's first reaction was, “I can't believe it! Here's another one like us!” Mars's equipment was quickly set up and, shortly after he was played the opening riff to “Stick to Your Guns”, Mars proceeded to, according to Tommy Lee, “play the s--t out of his guitar”. After getting drunk and jamming for an hour, Mars fired the band's former guitarist, a musician known only as Robin.
Tommy Lee and Vince Neil originally knew each other through high school. They had performed in different bands in the garage-band circuit. Before hiring Neil, the band had a singer by the name of O'Dean, who did not stay long in the band. After complaining how O'Dean was not right for the band, Mars suggested that they hire Vince Neil; he had previously seen Neil perform in the band Rock Candi.
Neil at first rebuffed the band when they asked him to audition. Then, as fate would have it, Rock Candi dissolved; Neil broke down and agreed to audition for Mötley Crüe after Tommy called him once more.
Now the four original members were together. They played in Los Angeles and Hollywood for a while, catching fire wherever they went. They soon met their first manager, Allan Coffman, who was a Vietnam veteran. 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. In November, 1981, their debut album Too Fast for Love was self-produced and released on Leathür Records, selling 20,000 copies. Their success in the Los Angeles club scene earned them in early 1982 a recording contract with Elektra Records. The debut album was then remastered by producer Roy Thomas Baker and re-released on August 20, 1982.
In 1982, the band changed management, from Allan Coffman to Doug Thaler and Doc McGhee. McGhee is best known for managing KISS, starting with their reunion tour in 1996.
After playing the US Festival, the band took the United States by storm, known as much for their hedonistic lifestyle and seemingly endless abuse of alcohol and drugs as for their music. Their mixture of metal and glam rock stylings produced several massive-selling albums during the 1980s, including Shout at the Devil (1983), Theatre of Pain (1985), and Girls, Girls, Girls (1987).
The band has also had their share of scrapes with the law and life, first with Vince Neil's auto accident in 1984 (which had a fatality: Razzle Dingley, drummer of Hanoi Rocks); then in 1987, when Nikki Sixx clinically died and came back to life after a heroin overdose. The band's decadent lifestyle almost shattered the band, until Doug Thaler and Doc McGhee pulled an intervention. Shortly after, all the band members underwent rehabilitation, except for Mars, who cleaned up on his own.
After finding sobriety, Mötley Crüe in 1989 reached its peak popularity, with the release of their fifth album, Dr. Feelgood, on September 23, 1989. On October 14 of that year, it became their only number one album and stayed on the charts for 109 weeks after its release.
Doc McGhee was fired in 1989 after breaking several promises to the band in relation to the Moscow Music Peace Festival.
Changing trends in music and the temporary departure of Neil from the band in February 1992 caused a decline in Mötley Crüe's commercial success, although a self-titled 1994 release with new frontman John Corabi (formerly of The Scream) made the top ten. Doug 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 Vince Neil's manager, Bert Stein, set up a meeting between Neil, Lee, and Sixx. Agreeing to “leave their egos at the door,” the band recorded Generation Swine. Although it debuted at number four, and despite the band's 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 the 1990s, Mötley Crüe was perhaps better known for the women married by three of its members. Both Lee and Sixx married former Playboy Playmates and stars on the TV show Baywatch, Lee to Pamela Anderson and Sixx to Donna D'Errico. Not to be outdone, Neil married former Playboy centerfold Heidi Mark. However, only Sixx's marriage has endured the test of time.
More tragedy would hit the band in the 1990s. In 1994, Neil suffered his perhaps most crushing blow: losing his daughter Skylar Neil to cancer. Neil (along with former wife, stripper and mud wrestler Sharise Ruddell) would later sue the company Rocketdyne for dumping cancer-causing chemicals near his former Simi Valley home. Lee, on the other hand, would soon after go to prison for six months, after being accused of abusing his then-wife Pamela Anderson.
In 1998, Mötley Crüe's contractual ties with Elektra Records had expired, putting the band in total control of their future, including the ownership of the masters of all of their albums. In announcing the end of its relationship with Elektra Records, the band becomes one of the few groups in history to own and control its 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 left to pursue a solo career; he was replaced by Randy Castillo, the drummer on several Ozzy Osbourne albums. Castillo died of cancer on March 26, 2002. No replacement had been named, sending the band to hiatus following a 2001 tour in support of their most recent studio release, New Tattoo. New Tattoo charted at number 41 and sold less than 150,000 copies. Drummer Samantha Maloney filled in on drums during the tour for this album. Maloney is perhaps best known for her work with Courtney Love. She replaced original Hole drummer Patty Schemel in 1998; then, she later toured with Love in 2004 in support of the latter's solo album America's Sweetheart.
Within the following six years, Sixx played in the bands 58 and Brides of Destruction, Lee in Methods of Mayhem and as a solo artist, and Neil touring on an annual basis as a solo artist, singing mostly Mötley Crüe songs. Mars, who suffers from a degenerative back condition called ankylosing spondylitis, went into seclusion in 2001.
A 2001 autobiography entitled The Dirt told their full story. The book made the top ten on the New York Times best-seller list. It also introduced the band to a whole new generation of fans. A later book, "Tommyland" (which was written by Tommy Lee) was released in 2004.
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 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”, and a cover of The Rolling Stones' classic “Street Fighting Man”. Red, White & Crüe charted at number six, and has since gone platinum. The tour would become one of the biggest in 2005, taking many people in the media by surprise. The band had to add a second leg of sixty additional dates to meet fan demand. This ongoing tour included performances at the KROQ Weenie Roast and Live 8. A DVD of tour highlights is due to be released later in 2005, along with Sixx's long-awaited book The Heroin Diaries.
Critics of the band would say that they have released more "greatest hits" albums than original-material albums since Dr. Feelgood in 1989, and thus keep trying to sell the same old songs to the same fans over and over.
The subject matter of Saints of Los Angeles (2008) is loosely based on the book, The Dirt, the Crue biography that was released a few years ago. It’s great material from which to draw, and Motley Crue makes the best of it. This CD has moments of Motley Crue in their heydey with screaming guitars, a punk influence and giant hooks. Several songs would have fit perfectly on their ‘80s CDs.
However, Motley Crue’s sound also has some modern influences. Nikki Sixx is the band’s main songwriter, and he has some help from producer James Michael and others. A few of the tracks have a modern rock vibe, and sound contemporary and current. It’s the perfect mix of classic and today. The production isn’t as slick as on some of their older CDs, which helps make it sound more up to date.
Vince Neil’s voice sounds good and he has no problem nailing any of the notes here. Mick Mars is one of the most underrated guitarists in music. He’s the least flashy member of the band, but the guy can still shred.
Saints of Los Angeles has everything old school Crue fans want, and will have appeal to the younger generation as well.