Four decades since they first formed, take a look back at the incomprehensible backstory of the Glam Metal Icons
From their outlandish, unapologetic image to their ability to redefine the Metal scene, there is scarcely a single person who hasn’t heard of the name Mötley Crüe. With smash hits such as ‘Kickstart My Heart’ and ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’, it feels as though the band have lingered for millennia, with it near impossible to imagine a music scene without their influence.
Yet, this week marks an incredible milestone for the band as they celebrate four decades since they first formed. Join us as we take a look at their origins, delving into what it was that first shot the band into stardom and made Mötley Crüe… well, Mötley Crüe.
Redefining what the Metal scene truly meant, Mötley Crüe immediately made a name for themselves with their utter disregard of conventions when it came to both their image and sound. With their androgynous alter egos and no-f*cks-given attitude to how they were received by the public, it comes as no surprise why the band sparked intrigue at every turn and rewrote the entire Metal scene.
Now selling over 100 million albums worldwide and achieving seven Platinum certifications, it is difficult to imagine the band first trying to get their tracks off the ground.
Forming in 1981, the original lineup initially struggled to find a name for the band- almost settling for the name, ‘Christmas’. In fact, it was only when guitarist, Mick Mars, recalled his previous band being referred to as “a motley looking crew” that the band settled for their infamous title- originally written as “Mottley Cru”.
After refining the name, adding the two sets of umlauts, inspired by the band’s favourite choice of beer, Löwenbräu, Mötley Crüe was born, ready to reinvent the direction of the 1980s music scene from then on.
The band immediately began to turn heads from the moment of their emergence. With their high-energy approach to Metal and Glam, Mötley Crüe immediately carved out a name for themselves in the Los Angeles club scene, selling over 20,000 copies of their debut album, Too Fast For Love, and negotiating deals with several record labels desperate to sign them.
Signing to the renowned Elektra Records the following year, the band’s focus shifted from creating new music to making themselves more widely recognised across the industry for their outlandish image and personal lives.
Expanding their bad reputation across the scene, the band orchestrated numerous publicity stunts to gather press over the next year. These coordinated events included the band being arrested at customs for possession of both pornographic magazines (labelled as indecent material), and for their elaborate spiked stage attire (which was considered a dangerous weapon). Similarly, the band staged publicity for a supposed bomb threat at one of their shows in 1982 and for trashing hotel rooms whilst on tour- stunts which led to the band being “banned for life” from the Canadian city, Edmonton.
Despite all of the controversy the band galvanised, with press across the US bringing them to the forefront of media, it wasn’t until their second album, Shout At The Devil, that Mötley Crüe made it big across the globe. Their first mainstream breakthrough, Shout At The Devil crashed onto charts, becoming certified four times platinum and earning them a spot opening for Ozzy Osbourne on his 1984, Bark At The Moon Tour.
However, the controversy was far from over for Mötley Crüe, with this new milestone only serving to fuel their eccentric lifestyles into new, unseen territory. Drawing even more of a crowd with their extreme stage presence, backstage antics and “more-is-more” approach to their image, the band began to spiral ever deeper into their world of endless drug and alcohol abuse.
In the time between 1984 and 1989, the future of the band was resting in the balance as their reckless lifestyles began to take their toll. In just five years, whilst still releasing new albums, the band had already received numerous lawsuits and warrants for arrest. Other issues included multiple heroin overdoses- with one leading to bassist, Nikki Sixx, briefly being declared legally dead in 1987, and the band’s vocalist, Vince Neil, being convicted of manslaughter as a result of drunk driving- serving 18 days in jail and being forced to pay $2.5 million.
With their lifestyles beginning to spiral out of control, the band’s managers called an intervention: refusing the band access to tour Europe until they became sober for fear that some may return in body bags. It was only after this that Mötley Crüe made the collective effort to enter rehab, finding complete sobriety in 1989.
Following their newfound sober lifestyles for the first time in nearly a decade, the band finally reached the peak of their career- releasing their fifth album, Dr. Feelgood. Reaching the No.1 spot and remaining on the Billboard Albums Charts for a further 114 weeks, they had finally reached the pinnacle of their success and were looking stronger than ever.
However, as the 90s began to approach, the emergence of the new Grunge Movement began to kill what remained of the Glam Metal scene. This meant the band’s peak began to rapidly decline, with Vince Neil’s departure spanning from 1992 to 1997 and drummer, Tommy Lee, leaving as a result of inner conflicts and pursuing a solo career in 1999.
Whilst their relevance in mainstream media began to rapidly decline as the 1990s progressed, each new release from the band failed to reach the paramount success of its 80s predecessors- leaving Mötley Crüe forced to release a series of compilation, greatest hits and live albums instead.
It was only as the new millennia approached that the full lineup reunited for their 2004 tour and new album: Red, White and Crüe. Their first album in over a decade to reawaken the world’s interest in Glam Metal, the album signified the monumental comeback for the band- charting at No.6 and going Platinum.
Back with a more unified approach to the band than ever, the band have in recent years gone on to share stages with the likes of Kiss, Steel Panther, Alice Cooper, Rob Halford and Ozzy Osbourne until their short-lived decision to end in 2015.
Now, following their 2018 internationally acclaimed biopic, The Dirt (for which they reunited and wrote four new songs) and the rumours that they would tour with Def Leppard, Poison and Joan Jett, 2021 seems to symbolise another lease of life for the band.
Predicted to embark on a star-studded global tour, bigger and better than ever before once circumstances return to normal, this 40th anniversary of the band holds many fans in the balance of what is yet to come from Mötley Crüe.
What are your thoughts on Mötley Crüe? Let us know via the comment section!