Unknown Facts About Motley Crue's Backstage Life
Just starting out in 1981, Motley Crue were the epitome of hardcore hair metal rock
In the 1980s, Motley Crue was the most explosive group of their era, bringing heavy metal and wild antics wherever they went. The band's style and sound set the tone for a generation, influencing everything from fashion to rock and roll attitudes. Often credited with originating the glam metal genre, an upbeat mix of pop, hard rock and heavy metal, the band was a fixture on the LA club scene in the early '80s.
Cultivating a rocker persona of hard drinking, heavy drug use, indiscriminate sex, and generally outrageous behavior, they quickly took America by storm. Their fame was built on their notoriety, and Motley Crue did everything they could to deliberately fuel that notoriety. Within a few short years, they reached the height of their fame as international superstars, the ultimate personification of hardcore hair metal rock.
Their self-produced debut album, Too Fast for Love, sold just 20,000 copies, but the accompanying tour would catapult Motley Crue to international notoriety. The group quickly gained a reputation for hard partying and bad behavior, but it wasn't until years later that fans would discover the true story behind that first recording session in 1981. To begin with, the band turned up at the studio drunk and did their best to stay drunk for the entire three-day session. Lee also resorted to bartering sex for studio time with the sound engineer when they ran out of money halfway.
Nikki Sixx, front man and bassist, fires up the crowd on tour in Edmonton, Canada 1982
After releasing a polished, re-mixed version of Too Fast for Love in 1982 under their new label, Elektra Records, Motley Crue went on their first tour. Hastily arranged by assistant manager, Eric Greif, it was designed to be a media spectacle from the start. Greif made a habit of traveling ahead of the band to hype them up. When Motley Crue arrived in Canada to start their tour, he had them walk through customs wearing spike-studded stage outfits, carrying a bag of pornographic magazines. Edmonton customs officers were not impressed and promptly arrested the lot of them.
Motley Crue cemented their reputation for bad behavior on their first tour in Canada, 1982
Next, Greif arranged for a bomb threat to be called in to one of their Edmonton venues, with another call made to Tommy Lee, threatening him directly. When interviewed by the Canadian police, Greif and Lee both corroborated the threatening calls. A few local press outlets picked up the report, but it was Greif who really made it blow up by calling his media contacts in America and feeding them the bombastic stories. It was a brilliant strategy. Everyone was talking about Motley Crue. Greif would only confess to his role in arranging and faking the infamous incidents years later.
Nikki Sixx, on tour for Shout at the Devil, 1983
During April to July of 1983, Motley Crue recorded Shout at the Devil. It would become their breakthrough album, rocketing them to hair metal superstardom practically overnight. During this time, Sixx's alcohol abuse was at an all-time high, to the point that Demi Moore, (a friend of his from their time in the LA music scene together), begged him to get help. He refused and a few days later ended up crashing a stolen Porsche while drunk, sustaining serious shoulder injuries. He was prescribed Percocet to manage the pain, which led directly to his debilitating dependence on heroin.
Lead guitarist, Mick Mars, on tour in 1983 with Motley Crue and Ozzy Osbourne
Motley Crue wouldn't have been what it was without their iconic lineup, but there was a time when Mars was almost kicked out of the band. Ironically, it was during their rise to superstardom, right after the release of Shout at the Devil that they seriously considered letting Mars go. As the story goes, Motley Crue were on tour with Ozzy Osbourne when they began having open conversations about Mars' age, (he was ten years older), and his less than perfect guitar skills. They decided to stick with Mars, but only after Osbourne's drummer talked them out of firing him.
With its stark cover featuring a large pentagram, Shout at the Devil caused instant controversy
Like many Motley Crue songs, the track Knock 'Em Dead, Kid off the album Shout at the Devil was inspired by a true story. As Sixx tells the story, he came across a group of Hell's Angels who, according to him, were harassing some women outside a bar. He stepped in and told them to leave, which instantly led to a short but brutally violent fight during which Sixx lacerated one of the bikers' faces with his metal chain belt. Unfortunately for him, it turned out the bikers were undercover cops, and he was immediately arrested and charged with assault.
Beloved Hanoi Rocks drummer, Nicholas "Razzle" Dingley, died in a horrific car crash in 1984
On December 8, 1984, Neil invited the British group Hanoi Rocks to his home in Redondo Beach. After several hours of drinking, he left with Hanoi Rocks drummer, Nicholas "Razzle" Dingley, to make a beer run. While returning home, Neil, who was drunk and speeding, slammed into another car, instantly killing Razzle and causing life-changing injuries to the occupants of the other car. Neil eventually served a shocking 18 days in prison for vehicular manslaughter. Although the horrible accident became international news, it was a full week before it was reported in the local papers and the British press.
The album art for Theatre of Pain also featured a pentagram, but not as prominently as before
When Theatre of Pain was released in 1985, it was an instant hit, peaking at No.6 on the US Billboard 200 and spawning the hit tracks, Smokin' in the Boys Room and Home Sweet Home. But behind the scenes, things were not great. The building tension between the band members was exacerbated by Neil's recent accident. Razzle was well-loved and the band's reputation suffered because of their collective involvement in his death. Sixx's heroin use was also intensifying at this time, which led to difficult recording sessions and heightened creative differences. The band was beginning to come apart.
Motley Crue parties backstage on the Welcome to the Theatre of Pain tour, 1987
Sixx continued to ramp up his heroin use over the next year, keeping a daily heroin diary to track his intake. Despite the ever-increasing tension, Motley Crue managed to record and release a new album, Girls Girls Girls, in May 1987, with a supporting world tour. On Christmas Eve that year, less than a week after the tour wrapped, Sixx overdosed on heroin again, this time actually dying in the ambulance before being revived by the paramedics. McGhee and Thaler brought him home from the hospital, only to watch in horror as Sixx proceeded to immediately shoot up again.
Motley Crue was one of six American bands invited to play the Moscow Music Peace Festival, 1989
Rehab worked. In August 1989, Motley Crue was booked to play at the Moscow Music Peace Festival. Held over Aug 12 and 13, 1989, during the Cold War period, the festival was conceived as a way to ease East-West tensions and to raise funds to help people fighting addiction. At the show, Motley Crue found out that McGhee had given his other act, Bon Jovi, top billing and access to pyrotechnics, something they were denied. Lee, who claimed to be sober until that point, chugged down some vodka, punched McGhee in the face and fired him on the spot.
Their first album after getting sober, Dr. Feelgood was Motley Crue's only No.1 album
A month later, under Thaler's sole management, Motley Crue released their best album to date, Dr. Feelgood. Released on September 1, 1989, it streaked to the top of the charts and was a huge critical and commercial success. The fans loved it. Unfortunately, despite reaching what would be the pinnacle of their career, the cohesiveness of the band was eroding away. To maintain their sobriety and to mitigate the now burning tensions between them, each musician recorded their part separately. The album ended up being a hit, but Motley Crue was falling apart, and the fans had no idea.
Vince Neil with his daughter Skylar, shortly before she died
1992 brought Motley Crue fans the shock announcement that Neil was quitting. Neil's issues with Lee and the rest of the band soon became common knowledge. He returned five years later after his manager staged an intervention that got Neil and the band talking again. Fans were thrilled to see him back, but few knew that in the intervening years, Neil had lost his four-year-old daughter to a devasting childhood cancer. In 1999, he sued Boeing Inc. for using the area near his home as a dumping ground for plutonium and uranium, believing it caused his daughter's rare cancer.
Well-known and well-liked, Randy Castillo played with Ozzy Osbourne before joining Motley Crue
Lee's spot was filled by an old friend of the group, Randy Castillo. He had toured with them when he played for Ozzy Osbourne and fit well with the band. They recorded New Tattoo together, which was released in 2000. Unfortunately, Castillo had to pull out right before the album tour. Kept quiet at the time, Castillo was undergoing treatment for a duodenal ulcer, when doctors discovered he also had terminal cancer. Castillo passed away in 2002, aged 51. In the aftermath of his tragic death, the band went on hiatus, focusing on solo projects for a few years.
Mick Mars performed through excruciating pain caused by a hereditary genetic condition
Mick Mars stayed with the band until his ultimate retirement in 2021, playing hundreds of shows over his long career. But it wasn't as easy for Mars to be onstage as it was for his bandmates. Nick suffered from an extremely painful arthritic condition which had affected his mobility from the time he was seventeen. While Mars was open about his diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis, he kept the growing severity of the condition to himself. In 2001, after Motley Crue went on hiatus, he went into seclusion, only emerging three years later after intensive treatment to rejoin the band.
Motley Crue with their original managers, Coffman, Greif and Stein in the early 80s
When Motley Crue reunited in December 2004, they had definitely toned down their hard partying ways, but trouble still followed them in the form of endless lawsuits. Played out in the courts and far away from the public eye, these cases mainly involved contract disputes. Key among them was a 2008 lawsuit the group fielded from their one-time manager, Burt Stein, who claimed that his years-old contract with Motley Crue entitled him to almost 2% of their earnings. The claim must have had some merit because rather than being dismissed, the case was settled out of court.
Young Nikki Sixx
Nikki Sixx was a man on a mission - a mission to rock the world to its very core. Born Frank Carlton Serafino Feranna Jr., he left behind the drab, rain-soaked streets of Seattle and headed south to the land of eternal sunshine and shattered dreams - Los Angeles. He knew that he was destined for greatness, but success didn't come easy. He spent years toiling away at menial jobs, all the while dreaming of the rock 'n' roll life. He auditioned for countless bands, each one promising him the world, but always falling short. But Nikki refused to give up. He knew that he was destined for something greater, something that would shake the very foundations of the music industry. And then it happened - he joined Sister, a band that seemed to have everything going for it. But it wasn't meant to be.
Nikki was kicked out, left to wander the streets once more. But he refused to be beaten. He formed London, a band that seemed to be on the cusp of greatness, but he soon grew dissatisfied with their musical direction. And so, he struck out on his own, determined to find a gang of like-minded musicians who shared his vision for the future of rock 'n' roll. And that's when he found them - the rest of Motley Crue. And the rest, as they say, is history.
pre record contract promo
The early '80s were a time of excess and indulgence, a time when the Sunset Strip was awash with aspiring rock stars, all vying for their chance in the spotlight. But amidst the sea of spandex and hairspray, there was one band that stood out like a blood-stained thumb - Motley Crue. And it wasn't just their music that set them apart. No, it was their visual style - a horror movie aesthetic that was equal parts terrifying and alluring.
With pentagrams, fire, and cinematic makeup, they looked like they had stepped straight out of a demonic fever dream. But it wasn't just for show. They understood that in order to make it in the cutthroat world of rock 'n' roll, they needed to have a look that would grab the attention of the audience, that would make them stand out from the rest of the bands. And stand out they did, with their killer songs and their eye-catching visuals, proving that they were more than just attention-seeking scenesters. They were the real deal, and they were here to stay.
1981 at the Whisky
It was the early '80s and the Sunset Strip was alive with the sound of raw, unbridled energy. And amidst the neon lights and leather-clad groupies, one band stood out like a sore thumb - Motley Crue. With their explosive sound and larger-than-life personalities, they were the darlings of the underground club scene in Los Angeles. And it wasn't hard to see why. Their self-produced debut album "Too Fast for Love" was a bona fide hit, selling over 200,000 copies thanks to their electrifying live shows and relentless self-promotion.
Record labels were soon knocking at their door, and after a heated bidding war, the band signed with Elektra Records in 1982. It was the beginning of a new era for Motley Crue, one that would see them rise to the top of the charts and become one of the biggest names in rock 'n' roll. But for those who were there in the beginning, in those sweaty clubs on the Sunset Strip, they knew that something special was happening. And they were right. Because Motley Crue wasn't just a band - they were a force of nature.
walking through the mall
In the early days, Motley Crue was more than just a band - they were a gang, a fearsome and ferocious pack of rock 'n' roll outcasts who were determined to take the world by storm. And they looked the part, too - like monsters from outer space, with their spiky hair and studded leather, they were a sight to behold. But they weren't just about the image. No, these boys had brains to match their brawn. And they knew how to play the game.
Take, for example, their 1982 tour, during which they were arrested at Edmonton International Airport for wearing their spiked stage wardrobe through customs, which was considered "dangerous weapons". It was a move that could have spelled disaster for any other band, but not for Motley Crue. It turned out to be a staged PR stunt, a calculated move that showed the world that they were a lot smarter than people gave them credit for. And it worked. Because Motley Crue wasn't just a band - they were a force of nature, a band of brothers who knew how to get what they wanted, and weren't afraid to do whatever it took to make it to the top.
In the world of rock 'n' roll, excess is the norm, and no band embodied that more than Motley Crue. They partied as hard as they rocked, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. And at the center of it all was alcohol, the lifeblood of the rock 'n' roll lifestyle. The boys in the band were no strangers to a good drink - in fact, they were practically experts. And it wasn't just a casual habit - for some, it was an addiction.
Drummer Tommy Lee later admitted that his alcoholism was so out of control that he was slamming two gallons of vodka a day at one point. He explained:
Like, I was drinking just out of boredom. I would just wake up and be just building [a glass with] just all vodka and just a little eyedropper of cranberry or lemonade. I was drinking two gallons — not pints, not quarts, but gallons, the big-handles — a day.
Motley Crue was a band that was never afraid to push the boundaries of acceptable behavior. They were wild, reckless, and dangerous - and they loved every minute of it. Nowhere was this more evident than during their infamous European tour, a drug and alcohol-fueled bacchanal that left a trail of destruction in its wake.
The boys in the band were known for their wild antics - destroying hotel rooms, throwing furniture out of windows, and generally causing chaos wherever they went. It was a financial disaster, to be sure, but it was worth it for the press. Because Motley Crue wasn't just a band - they were a brand, a symbol of everything that was wrong and right with rock 'n' roll. They were the ultimate rebels, the ultimate outcasts, and they weren't afraid to live life on their own terms. And while their antics may have cost them in the short term, they would go on to become one of the biggest bands in the world, a testament to the power of living life to the fullest, no matter the cost.
Nikki and Vince
In the world of Motley Crue, there were two men who stood above the rest - Nikki Sixx and Vince Neil. They were the heart and soul of the band, the yin and yang of a group that was always on the edge. But despite the fact that they worked together on their songs, it was no secret that their relationship was anything but amicable. Nikki may have written all the songs, but Vince was the face of the group, the frontman who embodied everything that was wild and reckless about rock 'n' roll. And it was a source of tension between the two men, a tension that was always simmering just below the surface.
Neil later admitted that there were times when he "really hated everybody's guts," a testament to the acrimonious relationship that existed between him and Nikki Sixx. But even with all the drama and tension, Motley Crue continued to churn out hit after hit, proving that sometimes the most dysfunctional relationships can lead to the greatest success. Sixx later said of his relationship with the guys in the band
We don’t hang out now — we don’t hang out. We go on stage, but we don’t hang out. We don’t go to dinner, we don’t go to each other’s houses for Christmas. We’re not enemies, but we’re not friends… I’ll probably never see them, except in passing.
Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee of Motley Crue at a Rock Festival outside of Kalamazoo, Michigan
It was the summer of '84, and the boys in Motley Crue were on top of the world. They had just played the American Rock Festival in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in front of a crowd of over 350,000 metalheads, all baking in the hot sun. The festival had brought together some of the biggest names in rock 'n' roll - Ratt, Accept, Night Ranger, Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne, and Triumph - but it was Motley Crue who stole the show.
From the moment they took the stage, they were electric, their energy and charisma drawing the crowd in like a moth to a flame. And it wasn't just about the music - it was about the showmanship, the sheer spectacle of it all. They were a force of nature, a band that was destined for greatness. And when it was all over, when the last notes had faded away and the sun had set on Kalamazoo, there was no doubt in anyone's mind that Motley Crue had blown every other band off the stage. They were the kings of rock 'n' roll, and nothing could stop them now.
NIkki Sixx 1984
In the early '80s, Motley Crue was a band on the rise, a group of young upstarts who were determined to take the world of rock 'n' roll by storm. And they did just that, becoming a fixture of the touring circuit, a band that was always on the road, always playing to adoring crowds of fans. Even though we think of them as the kings of the Sunset Strip, the truth is that once they went on tour with Ozzy in 1984, they never returned to the club scene. They had outgrown it, moved beyond it, and they were now a band that was playing in stadiums and arenas all across the world. Bassist Nikki Sixx later explained:
We left to go on tour with Ozzy and we really never came home. And when we did come home we were in the studio. We did a cover of a Brownsville Station song [Smokin’ In The Boys Room] and Home Sweet Home, which were all over MTV, then we were out playing in arenas, and sometimes in stadiums. So people ask us about the Sunset Strip scene, and the truth is that we really didn’t know what was happening because we were kind of gone.
nikki and nona backstage at shout at the devil tour
For Nikki Sixx, the road to rock 'n' roll stardom was a long and winding one, marked by struggle and adversity. From a young age, he never quite fit in with his family, never quite found the sense of belonging that he was searching for. He left home when he was just 17, determined to make it as a rock star, leaving behind a family that he never really got along with. But despite the hardships that he faced, Nikki was never alone.
He was raised by his grandparents, who gave him unconditional love and undying, unbreakable commitment. They were the ones who believed in him when nobody else did, the ones who saw the potential in him that nobody else could see. And it was that love and support that helped Nikki through the darkest moments of his life, that gave him the strength to keep pushing forward, even when everything else seemed to be falling apart. It was a testament to the power of family, to the strength that comes from knowing that somebody believes in you, no matter what. And for Nikki Sixx, it was the key to unlocking his true potential, the key to becoming the rock 'n' roll legend that he was always meant to be.
recording at Cherokee Recording Studio circa 1981 in Los Angeles, California
The year was 1983 and the boys in Motley Crue were holed up in the legendary Cherokee Recording Studio, determined to make their mark on the world of heavy metal. They had just been kicked off the Creatures of the Night tour with Kiss, their reputation for "bad behavior" preceding them like a black cloud. But the boys in the band weren't deterred. If anything, they were more determined than ever to show the world what they were made of. And show them they did. Shout at the Devil was the album that would change everything for Motley Crue, the album that would propel them to the top of the charts and make them the biggest names in heavy metal. But it wasn't without its trials and tribulations.
Bassist Nikki Sixx was involved in a serious car crash after drunkenly stealing a friend's Porsche, a testament to the wild and reckless nature of the band's lifestyle. But even with all the shenanigans and craziness, nothing could stop the boys in Motley Crue. They were on a mission, and they weren't going to stop until they had conquered the world of rock 'n' roll. And conquer they did, in a blaze of leather, hairspray, and screaming guitars.
Ozzy tour 1984
In the summer of '84, Motley Crue hit the road with heavy metal legend Ozzy Osbourne, a tour that would go down in history as one of the wildest and most debauched of all time. The band had gained the attention of Ozzy with the release of Shout at the Devil, a breakthrough album that had established them as one of the top selling heavy metal acts of the 1980s. And when they hit the road with Ozzy on his Bark at the Moon tour, it was a match made in rock 'n' roll heaven.
The band members were notorious for their backstage antics, their outrageous clothing, their extreme high-heeled boots, their heavily applied make-up, and their seemingly endless abuse of alcohol and drugs. And with Ozzy as their mentor, they took their excess to a whole new level. They were soulmates, united in their love of all things wild and reckless, their love of living life on the edge. And the result was a tour that was as insane as it was unforgettable, a tour that would go down in history as one of the greatest rock 'n' roll adventures of all time.
Mick Mars, the guitarist of Motley Crue, was the elder statesman of the band, and while he was never exactly the poster boy for clean living, he was always the most responsible member of the group. His years of experience and a more moderate approach to the rockstar lifestyle left him as the most level-headed of the bunch, and often found him trying to keep the peace between the warring factions of the band. While the others were up all night, drinking and drugging, Mars was often the one who would retire early, preferring to get some sleep rather than stay up for days on end.
Mars explains that on the Bark at the Moon Tour with Ozzy things were out of control and that came straight from the Ozz-Man:
I remember Ozzy just had his daughter Aimee and I remember seeing her as a tiny, tiny little baby. Sharon had just had that kid when we were doing that tour. But Ozzy was still [messing] up everywhere. He’d come up to our bus singin’ 'Iron Man' but he was singin’, 'I... am... krelly man.' And he’d have about half an ounce of cocaine in a baggie and he’d come on the bus and cut out a bunch of cocaine lines and stuff. We called ’em Texas power rails. And the next thing that I know is, I was going to my room, the other guys went to the pool... and Ozzy started snorting ants.
Tommy Lee and Wendy Barry (the looks that kill girl) on set for the looks that kill video (1983)
For Motley Crue, the release of "Looks That Kill" was a pivotal moment in their career, a chance to take their music to a whole new level. And with a music video to accompany the song, they had the chance to make a statement, to show the world what they were all about. It was the first time that they had a real budget for a music video, and they made the most of it. They worked with pyrotechnics, a suitably provocative script, and absurdly detailed costumes on a soundstage owned by A&M Records. And the result was a video that redefined MTV forever, a video that was as visually stunning as it was audacious. But of course, it wouldn't be Motley Crue without a little bit of trouble.
During the 18-hour shoot, they got into arguments with crew members, made trouble, and drank a little too much. But even with all the chaos and drama, they managed to pull off an amazing video, a video that would go down in history as one of the greatest rock 'n' roll visuals of all time. It was a testament to their power as a band, to their ability to push the limits and break the rules, no matter what. And it was a sign of things to come - a glimpse of the future of Motley Crue, and the incredible music and visuals that they would create in the years to come.
One of the most remarkable things about Motley Crue was the way that they managed to attract fans of all ages, despite their very adult antics. And a big part of that was due to their over-the-top comic book and horror movie visuals, a style that was as irresistible as it was outrageous. With their heavy use of pyrotechnics, their exaggerated makeup and costumes, and their larger-than-life personas, they were like something straight out of a comic book or a horror movie. And it was that sense of fantasy, that sense of the surreal, that made them so appealing to young fans.
They were rebels, outcasts, and misfits, but they were also heroes, larger than life figures who could do no wrong. And for young fans looking for something to believe in, something to hold onto, Motley Crue was just the thing. They were a symbol of everything that was wild and reckless about rock 'n' roll, a symbol of the power of music to change lives and inspire greatness. And no matter how old you were, no matter where you came from, you couldn't help but be drawn in by their magic.
Vince Neil (right) of Motley Crue backstage at Monsters Of Rock festival, Donington Park, Leicestershire, United Kingdom, August 18th 1984
In 1984, Motley Crue was a band on the rise, a group of young rebels who were taking the world of rock 'n' roll by storm. And nowhere was their power and energy more evident than at the Monsters of Rock festival in Castle Donington, England. The band had the opening slot on a bill that included heavyweights like Ozzy, Van Halen, and AC/DC, and they were determined to make their mark. And make their mark they did - with a set that was as explosive as it was audacious, they blew everyone off the stage, leaving fans stunned and critics raving. It was a moment that would go down in history as one of the greatest rock 'n' roll performances of all time, a moment that would define the band's legacy for years to come. And for Motley Crue, it was a sign of things to come - a sign of the incredible music and performances that they would go on to create, and the lasting impact that they would have on the world of rock 'n' roll.
Motley Crue at a MTV Halloween Party at the Limelight in Chicago
In 1985, Motley Crue was a band that was at the top of their game, a group of young rebels who had taken the world of rock 'n' roll by storm. Their third album, Theatre of Pain, was a commercial success, launching a new phase in the band's style that would come to define the glam metal era. And yet, for all their success, the band was in turmoil.
Vince Neil's car accident that caused the death of Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas "Razzle" Dingley had left the band reeling, and Nikki Sixx's growing addiction was tearing them apart from the inside. But even in the midst of all this chaos and drama, Motley Crue kept pushing forward, kept pushing the limits of what was possible in rock 'n' roll. They spent most of the next year on a world tour, taking their music to fans all across the globe, and cementing their status as one of the greatest rock 'n' roll bands of all time. It was a wild and heady time, a time when anything seemed possible, and for Motley Crue, there was no limit to what they could achieve.
Shout at the Devil Going Sold Millions With No Publicity
For Motley Crue, the success of their second album, Shout at the Devil, was a moment that changed everything. It was an album that marked a new phase in the band's career, a moment when they went from being underground sensations to mainstream superstars. And it was a moment that was made all the more incredible by the fact that it happened while the band was on tour with Ozzy Osbourne.
Even though the singles on the album were only minor hits, the band managed to push the album beyond the million sales point by playing to anyone who would listen, not relying on their label's publicity but on the sheer power of their music and incredible performances. And the result was nothing short of spectacular - Shout at the Devil went platinum, establishing Motley Crue as one of the biggest and most important bands of the 1980s. It was a moment that was hard-won, a moment that was the result of countless hours of hard work and dedication. But for Motley Crue, it was just the beginning - a sign of the incredible music and performances that they would go on to create, and the lasting impact that they would have on the world of rock 'n' roll. Looking back on the success of the album in 2000, Nikki Sixx said:
When a band like us put out Shout at the Devil and the label does zero marketing, zero publicity and takes zero trade adverts, and you sell five million records, then everybody starts patting themselves on the back. But it's Mötley Crüe that did that, not Elektra Records.
Vince Neil and Nikki Sixx of Motley Crue attend Motley Crue Concert After Party on August 14, 1985 at Madison Square Garden in New York City
For Motley Crue, the release of their fourth album, Theatre of Pain, was a moment of reckoning. It was their first album following the insanity that came with the two tumultuous years surrounding Shout at the Devil's unexpected success, and it was an album that was defined by chaos and turmoil. The band's fondness for partying and sex had earned them a reputation as a legitimately dangerous band, and the car crash that killed Hanoi Rocks' drummer Nicholas "Razzle" Dingley only cemented that reputation.
Meanwhile, Nikki Sixx's heroin addiction was spiraling out of control, and the band was thinking about replacing guitarist Mick Mars. And yet, in the midst of all this chaos and drama, the band managed to create an album that would go on to define a generation. Theatre of Pain reached No. 6 on the US charts, and it has been credited with changing heavy metal from an album-oriented format to a genre focused on hit singles. It was an album that was instrumental in inaugurating the pop-metal era which to many has become synonymous with the 1980s. And for Motley Crue, it was a moment of redemption - a moment when they proved that they were more than just a band of reckless rebels, but a band that had the power to change the face of music forever.
In 1985, Motley Crue was a band that was living on the edge. They were touring in support of Theatre of Pain, their most pop-oriented album yet, and their behaviour was as wild and outrageous as ever. This was the era of the band's greatest debauchery, a time when they seemed determined to outdo themselves at every turn. And the result was chaos - hotels trashed, equipment destroyed, and a trail of destruction left in their wake. In fact, Mötley Crüe's behavior during this period was so extreme that their manager, Doc McGhee, was forced to create a rule where each band member would submit to him a list of everything they had destroyed in a hotel before he'd allow them to check out.
And yet, in spite of all the chaos and destruction, there was something undeniably thrilling about Motley Crue in 1985. They were a band that was willing to do anything for the sake of their music, a band that was willing to push the boundaries of what was acceptable in pursuit of their dreams. And for fans around the world, that made them one of the most exciting and dangerous bands on the planet.
MTV Music Awards 1986
In the mid 1980s, Motley Crue underwent a dramatic transformation. Gone were the leather and studs of their early days, replaced by a more traditional glam look that featured bright colors, wild prints, and heavy makeup. Along with the outfit change came a change in their entourage - the band was famous and they started attracting even more famous fans. Suddenly the guys were so well known that drummer Tommy Lee was out and about with TV babe Heather Locklear. The change was controversial - many fans and critics derided the band's new look, arguing that it was too flashy, too superficial, and not true to the spirit of rock 'n' roll.
But for Motley Crue, the glam look was a way of asserting their individuality and pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable in the world of music. They were a band that was unafraid to take risks, to experiment with new sounds and new styles, and to challenge the conventions of the rock 'n' roll establishment. And for fans around the world, that made them one of the most exciting and inspiring bands of their generation. Guitarist Mars spoke to the criticism of their look, saying:
We've always been a bit different looking band than anybody else. And everybody, now, is wearing lots of leather and studs and blowing out their hair and stuff. So it’s time for us to change, ’cause we don’t want to be stuck into that mainstream. It's just to be something different.
Tommy Lee & Heather Locklear Attend An Event 1985
In the world of Motley Crue, anything was possible - and that included a romance between drummer Tommy Lee and good girl TV babe Heather Locklear. The two first met backstage at an REO Speedwagon concert, where Lee was feeling too shy to approach the beautiful Locklear on his own. Instead, he asked friends to introduce him to her, something that's out of character for one of the bad boys of rock n roll.
Despite the fact that Locklear wasn't a fan of Mötley Crüe, she was immediately taken with Lee, noting that he looked great. Things went to the next level purely by chance when Locklear's dentist told her that someone from the band had been trying to get in touch with her. And sure enough, it turned out that Lee had been calling and begging for Locklear's phone number. Despite a few hiccups along the way, including a phone call during which Lee mistook Locklear for actress Heather Thomas, the two eventually agreed to meet again - and the rest is history.
Theater of Pain after party
The mid-1980s was a time of turmoil and upheaval for Mötley Crüe. The release of their album Theatre of Pain had catapulted them to new heights of fame and fortune, but it had also brought with it a host of new challenges and difficulties. At the heart of the band's troubles was lead singer Vince Neil, who had become embroiled in a series of legal troubles following a tragic car accident that had claimed the life of Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas "Razzle" Dingley and left two others seriously injured.
Despite his personal turmoil, Neil soldiered on, determined to keep the band moving forward and maintain their position at the top of the heavy metal hierarchy. It was a difficult and trying time for the band, but it was also a period of growth and change - one that would ultimately shape the course of their career and help them to become one of the most enduring and beloved heavy metal bands of all time.
Vince Neil of Motley Crue at Farm Aid 2 in Austin, Texas, July 4, 1986
In the mid-1980s, Vince Neil was on top of the world. As the frontman of Mötley Crüe, he was one of the biggest stars in the world of heavy metal, and his distinctive voice and electrifying stage presence had earned him a legion of fans around the globe. So when he was invited to perform at Farm Aid 2, it was a huge opportunity for him to showcase his talents to a wider audience. But there was one problem - the rest of the Crue was nowhere to be found.
At the time, the band was dealing with their own personal problems, and they were kind of on autopilot. Not only were they trying to hide their problems from the world, but they were also attempting to keep their personal demons from each other. Tommy Lee was living with Heather Locklear and trying to hide his drug abuse, Mick Mars was in constant pain from his ankylosing spondylitis, and Nikki Sixx was deep into a heroin addiction that left him paranoid and alone. So while Neil took the stage with an all-star group of musicians, the rest of the Crue was left behind, struggling to find their way forward amidst the chaos of their own lives.
Nikki Sixx was the driving force behind Mötley Crüe, but in the mid-1980s, his heroin addiction threatened to consume him. By the time the band embarked on their summer tour of Japan in 1985, Sixx was deeply ensconced in his drug habit, and it was clear to his bandmates and those around him that he had a serious problem. Despite his escalating addiction, Sixx refused to seek help, preferring instead to plunge headlong into the madness and chaos of life on the road. It was a dangerous and self-destructive path, one that would ultimately lead to his near-death experience in 1987, but it was also a time of incredible creativity and artistic growth for the band, it's just that Sixx doesn't remember it very well. He told The Guardian:
I can remember the Feelgood era pretty well. Before that it really was a blur. I got very spotty. I had a hangover for pretty much 15 years.
Motley Crue bubble bath, 1986 by Mick Rock
The band's behavior was increasingly erratic and unpredictable, and their on-stage performances were often marked by bickering and infighting. It was clear to those around them that something had to give, but for the members of Mötley Crüe, there was no turning back. They had become prisoners of their own success, trapped in a cycle of excess and self-destruction that would ultimately lead to their downfall. Looking back on this dark era in 2019, Sixx said:
We had to cancel a European tour because I had a bad drug problem that I had to handle. We ran out of steam and we hit the wall head-on. It was damaging to the band and it was damaging to our career... I don’t really understand how we survived that, other than we were just stronger than we thought.
Nikki Sixx on Stage
In the mid '80s, Nikki Sixx was in the grips of a severe heroin addiction. He tried to maintain a facade of control and normality, but it was clear to those around him that his drug use had become an all-consuming part of his life. The band's debauched lifestyle, fueled by drugs, alcohol, and groupies, was starting to take its toll, and it seemed that Sixx was on a collision course with disaster. Despite the potential consequences of his drug use, Sixx couldn't seem to help himself, and he became increasingly erratic and unpredictable, pushing those around him away even as he desperately sought to hold onto his rock and roll lifestyle. In 2019, Sixx commented on his addiction, noting that he's surprised as anyone that he survived:
I’m surprised that all four of us are still alive. I wake up every day and look around and see that I’m a father, and that I’m married, and that I have all these projects that I’m involved with.
Tommy and Heather Locklear
Tommy Lee and Heather Locklear's relationship was the ultimate odd couple pairing of the 80s. Locklear was known for playing the good girl on television shows like Dynasty and T.J. Hooker, while Lee was the wild drummer of one of the most notorious bands of the era. Despite the contrast, the two made it work for several years, even getting engaged at one point. Their relationship was a sign of how even in the midst of Mötley Crüe's insanity, they could still find moments of stability and happiness. However, as with all things related to the band, it was not meant to last.
Nikki super high at Tommy's Wedding
As Motley Crue's drummer, Tommy Lee, tied the knot with actress Heather Locklear in 1986, his bandmate Nikki Sixx was falling deeper into his heroin addiction. Sixx, serving as Lee's best man, was reportedly high as a kite during the ceremony. While Locklear looked radiant in her mermaid-style wedding dress, Sixx was sweating profusely and clutching onto anything he could for dear life. The ceremony was a blur for Sixx, who later admitted to not remembering much of it. In the midst of Motley Crue's wild ride to the top, Sixx's addiction was rapidly spiraling out of control. Lee wrote in the band's autobiography, The Dirt:
[Sixxx] was emaciated; he sweated constantly; and his skin was pure yellow, dude. He kept excusing himself to go to the bathroom, and then he'd return and start nodding off in the middle of the ceremony. As a best man, he was so f***ed up on heroin, he was useless. I couldn't believe he was shooting up at my f***ing wedding.
Vince in '86
As Motley Crue continued to spiral out of control in 1986, their future was uncertain. Vince Neil had just served time for vehicular manslaughter, Nikki Sixx was lost in a heroin addiction, and Tommy Lee and Mick Mars were battling their own struggles with alcoholism. In the midst of all this turmoil, the band embarked on a world tour in support of Theatre of Pain. But the year took a dark turn when, in February, Sixx suffered a near-fatal heroin overdose in London. The dealer who sold him the drugs panicked and dumped his unconscious body in a dumpster, leaving Sixx to die alone. It was a harrowing moment for the band, a stark reminder of the toll their excess was taking on their lives.
The Terror Twins - Nikki and Tommy
Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee's friendship was the stuff of rock and roll legend. They were notorious for their debauched behavior and wild antics, and their close bond was fueled by a shared love of drugs, alcohol, and mayhem.
They were inseparable on and off stage, with Lee's upbeat personality balancing Sixx's darker, more brooding persona. Despite their wildly different backgrounds, the two found common ground in their mutual obsession with rock and roll and the lifestyle it afforded them. Their friendship was a key element of the band's success, and their chemistry helped to create the hard-hitting, high-energy sound that made Motley Crue one of the most popular bands of the 1980s. In 2019, Sixx described their relationship as a yin and yang:
There was absolutely darkness and lightness. We were drawn to each other because of that. I would come up with the idea how to get the TV out the window and then Tommy would throw the TV out the window. We worked well together, but my hands were clean. [Lee's] personality is very outgoing; he loves everything; he's quick to fall in love with stuff; we just see things differently, and that's part of the magic.
Tommy and Heather at Billy Idol Show 1987
Motley Crue in 1987 were at the height of their success and excess. They had established themselves as the arena rock juggernauts with hit singles like “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Girls, Girls, Girls”. Despite being fully out of control at this point, with rampant drug and alcohol abuse, no one wanted to stop them. Their fans loved the outrageousness and danger, and the band's record label, managers, and promoters were making a fortune off their wild behavior. It was a time when anything seemed possible and nobody wanted to put an end to the magic of this heavy metal gold goose. Motley Crue was living their wildest dreams, but the danger and darkness lurking beneath the surface were starting to catch up with them.
Tommy and Vince
In the 1980s, Motley Crue were the epitome of the Sunset Strip's hedonistic excess. The band members, particularly Vince Neil and Tommy Lee, were fixtures of the scene, partying with groupies, fellow musicians, and anyone who could keep up with their wild ways. During the band's early years, Vince Neil and Tommy Lee lived together in a dingy apartment just off the Strip, where they indulged in copious amounts of drugs, alcohol, and group sex. The apartment was a filthy mess, but to the young and hungry musicians, it was a palace of excess and rebellion. Neil told Reelz:
What we'd do is play the Whisky a Go Go and say, 'Everyone come back to our place for drinks!' and we would be like the Pied Piper, hauling 200 people up this street to the apartment. We lived in that apartment for a little less than a year but the police had kicked in the door so many times, it wasn't on hinges anymore. We had to stick it in with pieces of cardboard to shut the door!
Tommy Lee With A Pig
Tommy Lee of Motley Crue was the consummate drummer, but he was also a skilled songwriter. Despite being seen as the big, goofy guy of the band, he was responsible for much of the songwriting and arrangement of their music. Many fans may not know that he wrote a large portion of the band's massive hit "Home Sweet Home" on the piano. He was an important creative force in the band, contributing to their unique sound and image. In 2020, Lee spoke with Stereogum about his under-represented work with the band, saying:
I was always involved when it came to arranging and making things work — that’s a drummer’s job, to make sure everything’s flowing right. I did that a lot, but on Theatre Of Pain I started bringing in full ideas and demos. I was just [messing] around on the piano during rehearsal playing what would become 'Home Sweet Home' and Nikki was like, 'What is that?' And I was like, 'It’s this thing I’m working on, it’s pretty cool.' Later on I’d get more into the production side too, but I started bringing in stuff around this time.
Vince at the Beach
Vince Neil, the frontman of Motley Crue, always seemed to stand apart from the other members of the band. With his blonde hair and California surfer look, he was the odd man out in a group of jet-black-haired bad boys. But Neil's distance from his bandmates went deeper than just his appearance. He wasn't quite as hard-living as the rest of the group and was often seen as the "pretty boy" of the band. Despite this, Neil and the rest of Motley Crue managed to come together to create some of the most iconic and memorable music of the 1980s.
backstage with Nikki Sixx and a young Motley Crue at Dr. Feelgood Tour in Copenhagen
Motley Crue's Dr. Feelgood era was a testament to the band's relentless pursuit of success. After years of partying and drug use, the band had finally made a concerted effort to get sober, but old habits die hard. Tensions were high during recording, with band members frequently butting heads. Producer Bob Rock took a unique approach to keep things on track, having each band member record their parts separately. The result was a finely polished, cohesive sound that helped make Dr. Feelgood one of the band's most successful albums to date. With five hit singles and some of the most expensive and visually stunning music videos of the time, Motley Crue had truly cemented their place as one of the biggest rock bands in the world.
Motley Crue's Dr. Feelgood tour was an ambitious undertaking for a band that had been known for their over-the-top partying and drug-fueled excess. But the newly sober band members were determined to not only continue, but improve upon their '80s run of chart and tour successes.
They managed to pull off the massively successful tour, but not without destroying themselves and the band in the process. By the end of the intense nearly yearlong world tour, several band members were back to their old habits, likely because they were so wrecked from this tour.
It's telling that the Crue's original lineup wasn't willing or able to work together as a full-scale recording and touring unit again for more than half a decade. Drummer Tommy Lee wrote in The Dirt:
We didn't hang out, we didn't party, we didn't stick our d***s where they didn't belong. We just flew into a city, played our a***s off and got the f*** out of there. For the first time, we were operating like a machine instead of four untamed animals.
During their Dr. Feelgood tour, Motley Crue had transformed from a group of wild and hungry rockers into a well-oiled business machine. The tour, which kicked off in 1989 and lasted for nearly a year, was a massive success, but the personal cost for the band members was enormous. By the end of the tour, several members had fallen back into old habits and the group's original lineup wasn't able to function together as a full-scale recording and touring unit for years to come. The relentless grind of the tour had taken a toll on the band, both mentally and physically, and while they had made millions, they had also been pushed to their breaking point. Singer Vince Neil later said:
We each walked with a payday of over $8 million. Not bad for a quartet of high school dropouts.
Vince at the TJ Martell Music and Sports Event, 1989
As Motley Crue moved into the Dr. Feelgood era, Vince Neil found himself in a position where he was distancing himself from the band. He was trying to stay sober, but that didn't stop him from getting into a feud with Guns N' Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin. The feud came to a head at the MTV Awards in 1989, where Neil waited for Stradlin to walk off stage and then punched him in the face. Guns N' Roses then-manager Alan Niven said:
Afterwards, we’re walking off the brightly lit stage into the darkness to our left, and suddenly Vince comes running over and popped Izzy in the face... I grabbed Vince and put him very quickly on his back on the floor. My left hand was around his throat and my right hand was cocked and ready to smash his nose, and I actually had a fleeting moment of intelligent thought where I went: 'If I do this, this is not going to be good,' so I let him up.
The incident was caught on camera, and Neil was arrested and charged with assault. The incident further drove a wedge between Neil and his bandmates, who were already struggling to stay together. It was a sign of things to come, as Neil's relationship with the rest of the band continued to deteriorate in the years that followed.
Vince Neil Backstage at the 1989 Moscow Peace Festival
In the summer of 1989, Motley Crue participated in the Moscow Music Peace Festival, a historic event that marked the first time hard rock and heavy metal bands from outside the Soviet Union were permitted to play in Moscow. Over 100,000 people attended the concert, organized by the Make a Difference Foundation, a charity established by rock producer and manager Doc McGhee. However, the festival was not without its tensions.
Motley Crue felt that McGhee was giving preferential treatment to Bon Jovi, whom he also managed, and whom the Crue disdained. When Bon Jovi used pyrotechnics in their performance, which the Crue had been told they couldn't use, backstage tensions boiled over. Tommy Lee reportedly punched McGhee after downing a bottle of vodka, despite the band's efforts to stay sober. The incident left a sour taste in the band's mouth and highlighted the growing tensions within the group.
Vince Neil Sebastian Bach
While Vince Neil was the voice of Motley Crue, his relationship with the band members was never without friction. He was known to be aloof and distant, often keeping to himself and not fully embracing the wild lifestyle that the rest of the band reveled in. This tension eventually reached a boiling point, and in 1992, Nikki Sixx reportedly asked Sebastian Bach, the lead singer of Skid Row, to join the band and take over vocal duties. Or at least that's what Bach said. Sixx has since said that Bach was never invited to join the band, but Bach is relentless in suggesting that it happened, saying:
The fact of the matter is I was not only asked to join Motley Crue….. I actually REHEARSED with the band Motley Crue. I was driven to rehearsal by Tommy Lee and I spent a full day singing the Motley Crue set with the band Motley Crue. In front of their whole road crew. I remember the songs that Nikki asked me to sing that day. I remember the whole road crews' ecstatic reaction to us jamming together all day. And I remember Nikki's very generous, kind offer, at the end of our rehearsal, for me to join the band Motley Crue. I remember his exact words, that he said to me in front of his whole road crew, Tommy, and Mick as well. It's not every day that your hero asks you to join his band.
If this actually happened, the plan ultimately fell through, which speaks to the level of animosity that had developed between Neil and the rest of Motley Crue. Despite this, the band continued to put out successful albums and play sold-out shows, but it was clear that the tension behind the scenes was taking its toll.
Sylvia Rhone, head of Elektra Entertainment Group, was relieved to get Motley Crue off the label
When Motley Crue cut ties with Elektra Records in 1998, they walked away with something few musicians can boast of, even today. Unlike most of their peers in the industry, Motley Crue retained the rights to their entire catalog of music and their masters. It made big news at the time and was believed to be a masterful piece of contract negotiation by the band's manager. However, rumors soon started circulating that the group won the rights to their music by deliberately making an unholy nuisance of themselves until the label, desperate to get rid of them, caved.
Married in 1995, Lee and Anderson's tumultuous relationship often played out in the public eye
In 1998, Lee went to jail for six months for assaulting his estranged wife, Pamela Anderson. Motley Crue had to turn down several shows during this period due to Lee's legal situation, including Ozzfest. The band also had to deal with the bad publicity Lee's arrest had generated. When Lee got out, he released Greatest Hits with the band and went on tour with them, but he'd already decided to quit in jail. After each show, he'd go straight to his trailer and work on new material. In 1999, Lee officially quit Motley Crue, shocking fans the world over.
Lee struggles to keep up with his fellow marching band drummers at the University of Nebraska
They also brought lawsuits of their own. In 2007, the entire band, with the exception of Lee, filed suit against Lee's manager, claiming he had led Tommy into ventures that made the band look bad. In particular, they were referring to the short-lived and much panned reality show, Tommy Lee Goes to College. Ironically, Lee was a producer on the completely staged show, so he was creatively behind a lot of the decisions that the band claimed had damaged their image. Eventually, the suit was settled out of court, but no-one really knew about it until years later.
Motley Crue announced their retirement in 2014, playing their final show on New Year's Eve, 2015
Motley Crue announced their retirement in the summer of 2014, with plans for an epic farewell world tour lasting till the end of 2015. True to their word, Motley Crue performed their last show on December 31, 2015. The individual members of the band continued to tour and work on solo projects, but they were contractually obligated to never perform under the Motley Crue name again. However, and you certainly know this if you're aware of Motley Crue in 2023, the band is still out there rocking and rolling contract or no.
Motley Crue Continue To Bring The Rock Wherever They Go
The world is a strange and perplexing place. And nowhere is this more evident than in the realm of rock and roll. It seems as though nothing is ever truly over in this world of excess and decadence. And so it is that in the year 2023, Motley Crue continues to pound the pavement, defying the odds and silencing the doubters. Even the departure of long-time guitarist Mick Mars, due to health concerns, has not slowed down the band's momentum. In his place, the virtuosic John 5 has stepped in to pick up the torch, and the results are nothing short of stunning. Sixx says of 5's abilities:
He checks all the boxes. He's an insane player. Has respect for our music, is funny as f*** and has history with us…
The band's live show remains as powerful and captivating as ever, leaving audiences in awe and wanting more. Perhaps it's a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, or maybe it's just rock and roll magic at work. Whatever the case may be, one thing is certain: Motley Crue is back, and they're here to stay.