Mötley Crüe’s roots date back to 1981 when bassist Nikki Sixx (Frank Ferrana Jr.) hooked up with drummer Tommy Lee, a fellow Californian and another second generation European émigré. Indiana born Mick Mars (Robert Deal) and Vince Neil completed the line-up adding their guitar and vocal skills to a sound that was initially based around Aerosmith, Judas Priest and AC/DC with a side order of Kiss thrown in for the camp side of their act, involving heavy make-up, high heeled boots, wild stage clothes and enough of the obligatory after show antics to make any promoter’s hair curl. Hey, that’s close enough for rock and roll.
Debut album Too Fast for Love was self-produced and self-financed and appeared on their Leathur label. Rare enough at the time it will be picked up by Elektra and can now be found on Music to Crash Your Car to: Vol 1 (2003) a compilation box containing their first four discs. The lead-off single “Live Wire” came in a picture sleeve depicting the Mötley Crüe boys in full big hair and slap regalia, somewhat like Japanese samurai, and made sufficient impact to rate high on the VH1 list of greatest metal tracks of all time.
The noted metal/rock producer Tom Werman (Cheap Trick, Blue Oyster Cult) manned the boards for Shout at the Devil, the disc that made them famous. It broke through in 1983 thanks to “Looks That Kill” and “Too Young to Fall in Love”, a cunning combo of over the top commercialism and cult punk attitude reminiscent of the New York Dolls. Just to prove they knew their stuff they also included a snappy take on The Beatles “Helter Skelter” and sent themselves up with warnings about subliminal messages on the cover. Who could resist?
Theatre of Pain (1985) saw them hit the charts for good with Werman dragging a better sound and tight performances on their version of Brownsville Station’s “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” and the power ballad “Home Sweet Home” which found an unlikely admirer in American Idol’s Carrie Underwood in 2009. Justin Moore has also graced it in country circles; he duetted on the cut with Vince Neil for the 2014 album Nashville Outlaws: A Tribute to Mötley Crüe. That is also highly recommended, as are the Remastered Editions of Pain proper since you get demos and alternates and a peek at the original music video.
With the glam side of life sewn up Mötley Crüe began to examine their legend on Girls, Girls, Girls where decadence and depravity are put on a pedestal but then knocked down with considerable relish. “Wild Side”, the title track, “You’re All I Need” – praised by Jon Bon Jovi for its chord progression and as the best song in the Mötley Crüe canon (a matter of opinion, mind) and a crazy jump on “Jailhouse Rock” – yep, the Elvis tune are as good as the genre gets.
Canadian Bob Rock sat behind the faders for the great Dr. Feelgood disc (1989) and while he tut-tutted at the boys antics he worked up a record that sold over 6 million copies and gave us the glitzy “Kickstart My Heart”, “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)” and the stage showstopper “Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)” where all those formative years checking out AC/DC came good. Totally commended for discovery. So good in fact that Metallica praised it to the hilt and nicked Rock to produce their self-titled album. Again look for the Remastered and 20th Anniversary Edition Double CD Deluxe Edition for the demos and the Live Around the World tour tracks. Guests on this Mötley Crüe masterpiece include Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander and Rick Nielsen, Skid Row, Bryan Adams and Steven Tyler. Imagine that lot in one studio!
To bring us up to speed Decade of Decadence (1991) is the first of many greatest hits compilations. Notable for an outstanding version of the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the U.KK.” and a flash guitar blitz assault on Tommy Bolin’s “Teaser” this disc is now replaced by Greatest Hits (1998) and the 2009 reissue. For further insights into this period also check out Supersonic and Demonic Relics – fine rarities and unreleased tracks – and the overriding Music to Crash Your Car to: Vol 2, another 4-CD box of delights.
Neil briefly left before Mötley Crüe (1994) being replaced by John Corabi but he will return for Generation Swine (1997). Despite a hectic workload and untold disasters in the background the band survived as usual and did well again on the Billboard 200 (reaching #4) and picking up a year-end Gold disc. Often regarded as their power pop album because of the influence of Cheap Trick on the overall sound this is one that we love.
Luckily someone was savvy enough to tape their shows circa 1982-1999 and so Live: Entertainment or Death emerges as their first stage act document, albeit with a few additional tricks – but who cares?
The new millennium is greeted with New Tattoo and a new drummer, Randy Castillo replacing Tommy Lee. Boasting a great version of The Tubes classic “White Punks on Dope” and archetypal ravers “Hell on High Heels”, “Porno Stare” and "Dragstrip Superstar” this is Mötley Crüe’s glammest effort in ages. Available as a Remastered Edition this disc saw the boys embracing full-on digital editing and the album made #3 on the Billboard Top Internet Albums.
For those who are catching up or looking for a capsule introduction we advise a quick visit to 20th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of Mötley Crüe.
After an extended break they return with the anthologies Loud as Fuck and Red, White & Crüe that preface a reunion with Tommy Lee for Saints of Los Angeles, a rollicking rockumentary-cum-homage to the city that inspires the band.
And so we rock up at The Final Tour: All Bad Things Must Come To An End, with those final five nights in El Lay. Shed a tear, smudge your glitter but remember you can still delve into the wonderful world of Mötley Crüe at your leisure. Excellent band.
Words: Max Bell
Shout at the Devil displays Mötley Crüe's sleazy and notorious (yet quite entertaining) metal at its best. When compared to its predecessor, Too Fast for Love, one can see that the band's musical range certainly widened over the course of its first two albums; the record features catchy, hard-rocking songs, but also includes an instrumental ("God Bless the Children of the Beast") and a powerful cover of the Beatles' "Helter Skelter." While such later albums as Dr. Feelgood would achieve a higher amount of critical acclaim, no Mötley Crüe album surpasses the quality of Shout at the Devil. [In 1999, the Crüe remastered and reissued Shout at the Devil on the band's own Motley/Beyond label with four bonus tracks: three demos, including versions of the title track and "Looks That Kill," and a previously unreleased song.]
Words: Barry Weber
On their debut album, Mötley Crüe essentially comes across as a bash-'em-out bar band, making up in enthusiasm what they lack in technical skill. Yet that's part of the appeal of Too Fast for Love, a chance to hear the band without the glossy production of their later, most popular work, showcasing their down-and-dirty roots. The fact that pop-metal songwriting was not really a consideration helps the album come off as more genuinely trashy and sleazy, celebrating its own grime with exuberant zest. This is the Crüe playing it lean and mean, effortlessly capturing the tough swagger that often came off a bit more calculated in later years, and it's one of their most invigorating records. [In 1999, the Crüe remastered and reissued Too Fast for Love on their own Motley/Beyond label with four bonus tracks: three interesting previously unreleased songs and a version of the title track with a different intro.]
Words: Steve Huey
Girls, Girls, Girls continued Mötley Crüe's commercial hot streak, eventually going quadruple platinum as its predecessor, Theatre of Pain, had; meanwhile, the title track brought them their second Top 20 single, and "Wild Side" became a popular MTV item. In general, the Crüe really plays up the sleaze factor on this album, trying to recapture some of the street-tough grittiness that fueled Too Fast for Love -- even appearing on the cover astride motorcycles and wearing leather; this time around, the influence of Aerosmith is felt to a much greater degree. The production is too polished to really give the record a raw, dirty feel, but the raunchiness comes through all the same. Again, there's a bit of filler, as though the band knew they didn't have to make a completely consistent record to maintain their popularity, but there are enough high points along the way to make Girls, Girls, Girls an entertaining party-metal platter. [In 1999, the Crüe remastered and reissued Girls, Girls, Girls on their own Motley/Beyond label with four bonus tracks: instrumental mixes of three selections, plus the previously unreleased song "Rodeo."]
Words: Steve Huey
Backing away from the mild pseudo-Satanic posturing on parts of Shout at the Devil in favor of a more glammed-up image, Mötley Crüe really began to hit their commercial stride with Theatre of Pain, which broke them on MTV with the power ballad "Home Sweet Home" and a remake of Brownsville Station's "Smokin' in the Boys' Room"; the latter also landed them on the Top 40 singles chart for the first time. Overall, the guitar riffing sounds less heavy metal and more pop-metal; similarly, the sound of the record is slicker and more arranged, polished for mainstream acceptance and airplay. A higher percentage of dull filler has crept into the songwriting, but there are still enough high points to rescue the album's momentum. [In 1999, the Crüe remastered and reissued Theatre of Pain on their own Motley/Beyond label with five bonus tracks: demos of "Home Sweet Home," "Keep Your Eye on the Money," and "City Boy Blues," plus rough mixes of "Smokin' in the Boys' Room" and "Home Sweet Home" (the latter an instrumental).]
Words: Steve Huey
Mötley Crüe (also known as 1994 or Mötley Crüe with John Corabi) is the eponymous sixth studio album by heavy metal band Mötley Crüe. It was released on March 15, 1994. It was the band's first and only album released with singer John Corabi, and was the first album of new material released by the band since their 1989 album, Dr. Feelgood. The album, which was recorded under the working title of Til Death Do Us Part, was the first release by the band after signing a 25-million dollar contract with Elektra Records Following the success of the Dr. Feelgood and Decade of Decadence albums and tours, the members of Mötley Crüe were tired and needed to take a break from the non-stop pressures of the road. Instead of being given a break, the band, then consisting of singer Vince Neil, bassist Nikki Sixx, guitarist Mick Mars, and drummer Tommy Lee, had returned to the studio to begin work on the follow-up album to their 1989 album Dr. Feelgood on a two week on - two week off schedule. While working on new material in the studio in early '92, Sixx, Mars and Lee had a falling out with Neil that led to the singer quitting or being fired from the band, effectively leaving Mötley Crüe without a frontman. Meanwhile, John Corabi was the vocalist of the Los Angeles-based hard rock band The Scream when he read an interview that featured Sixx in an issue of Spin magazine. In the interview, Corabi found out that Sixx was a big fan of The Scream's first record, Let It Scream. Corabi wanted to get in contact with Sixx and thank him for the compliment, as well as possibly opening the door for collaborating with Sixx on material for the next Scream album, so he had his manager get the number to Mötley Crüe's manager, Doug Thaler. After speaking to Thaler's secretary, Corabi was told to leave his phone number so that Sixx could get in contact with him. Not thinking much of it, Corabi left his number and continued with his responsibilities with The Scream. After receiving a phone call from Sixx and Lee, where they informed Corabi that Neil was no longer in the band, he was invited to audition. After a couple of sessions, the band told Corabi that he was their choice for Neil's replacement, but told him to keep quiet about it until they were able to work out some pending legal technicalities, as Elektra Records could have possibly reneged on the band's new contract if the label knew Neil was gone] During the recording of the album the band committed itself to sobriety, with a strict regimen of no drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, red meat or caffeine. The band worked with a physical trainer each morning, and took vitamin pills to keep their bodies nourished. Although there were occasional slips off the wagon, the members were determined to repeat the success of Dr. Feelgood. The recording sessions proved to be fruitful, with a total of 24 songs written and recorded over the 10-month recording span. Mötley Crüe received mixed reviews. In general, critics remarked how the band had adapted their trademark sound to the new trends of alternative metal. According to Neil Arnold of Metal Forces, this change of style misrepresents the band, which maybe "should have gone under a different name" for this album. New vocalist John Corabi's vocal range and soulful performance are generally praised, as they are more suited to the new sound of the band. For Katherine Turman of The Los Angeles Times his "voice is meatier and more appealing than predecessor Vince Neil's" and may be responsible for the shift in focus towards a less flashy style.
Packaged as a double-disc set but priced as a single disc, Live: Entertainment or Death features performances of many of Mötley Crüe's best-known songs, covering (almost) their entire career both in terms of song selections and concert dates. In general, most of the performances here took place either in the first half of the '80s or in 1998-1999, and it might have been nice to hear the group at their Dr. Feelgood-era peak instead; there are also no songs from the Vince Neil-less era, but that's a wiser choice, and helps present a more consistent, good-time atmosphere. There aren't really any new revelations here, either concerning the band or the material; it's exactly what you'd expect Mötley Crüe to sound like in concert, and even if the visual aspects of the stage show are lost, it's still an entertaining listen for fans.
Words: Steve Huey
Since their last hit record, 1989's Dr. Feelgood, Mötley Crüe fans have endured countless live albums, "greatest-hits" collections, reissues and B-sides packages, a record with John Corabi on vocals, one with Randy Castillo behind the kit and one with the original lineup that sank with barely a trace (1997's Generation Swine). The most successful thing the band produced in those ensuing years was its tell-all autobiography, The Dirt, a story so drenched in sex, drugs, and rock & roll that it elicited a venereal disease and a contact high just through picking it up. That book is the impetus behind Saints of Los Angeles, the first record to feature the group's original lineup since Swine, and it's a welcome -- though spotty -- return to form for these aging miscreants. The Crüe are at their best when they mine the manic, punk-infused glam metal of the pre-saturated, mid-'80s Sunset Strip, something they get right on opening cut "Face Down in the Dirt," complete with a Shout at the Devil-era, "In the Beginning"-inspired intro. "Down at the Whisky" echoes the West Coast excess of Girls, Girls, Girls, managing to wax both nostalgic and devious while dutifully summing up the band's rise from local pranksters to international bad boys, while the rousing title cut, though a bit forced, manages to drum up the kind of chest-thumping bravado that sparked some of the best metal anthems of the late '80s. Like all Crüe albums, things start to go south about halfway through, and while the performances and subject matter are as raucous and sadistic as the book upon which they're based, it's all a bit too deliberate. Mötley Crüe have been trumpeting their hedonism for so long and so loudly that it's become more of a caricature than a way of life, and while Saints of Los Angeles is the best thing they've laid to tape since their codpiece heydays, it's more of a walk down memory lane/Sunset Strip than a legitimate call to arms.
Words: James Christopher Monger