Mötley Crüe Biography

This heavy rock band was formed in 1980 by Nikki Sixx (Frank Carlton Serafino Ferranna, 11 December 1958, San Jose, California, USA; bass) and comprised former members of several other Los Angeles-based outfits. Tommy Lee (b. Thomas Bass, 3 October 1962, Athens, Greece; drums) was recruited from Suite 19; Vince Neil (b. Vince Neil Wharton, 8 February 1961, Hollywood, California, USA; vocals) from Rocky Candy; while Sixx himself had recently left London. Mick Mars (b. Bob Deal, 3 April 1956, Terra Haute, Indiana, USA; guitar) was added to the line-up after Sixx and Lee answered an advertisement announcing ‘Loud, rude, aggressive guitarist available’. Their first single, ‘Stick To Your Guns’/‘Toast Of The Town’, was issued in 1981 on their own Leathür label, followed by their self-produced debut, Too Fast For Love. The band signed to Elektra Records in 1982, and the album was remixed and reissued that August. The following year they recorded a new set, Shout At The Devil, with producer Tom Werman. He stayed at the helm for the two albums that broke them to a much wider audience in the USA, Theatre Of Pain (which sold more than two million copies) and Girls, Girls, Girls, which achieved the highest entry (number 2) for a heavy metal album on Billboard’s album chart since The Song Remains The Same by Led Zeppelin in 1976.

These albums refined the raw sound of earlier releases, without hiding the influence that Kiss and Aerosmith exerted on their work. This change in style, which saw Mötley Crüe experimenting with organs, pianos and harmonicas in addition to their traditional instruments, was described as a move from ‘club-level metal glam’ to ‘stadium-size rock ‘n’ roll’. The band was not without their setbacks, however. In December 1984, Vince Neil was involved in a major car crash in which Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle was killed. The subsequent Theatre Of Pain was dedicated to his memory, and this grim incident helped to inform the mood of the recording. Three years later, Nikki Sixx came close to death after a heroin overdose following touring with Guns N’Roses. Feuds with that same band, particularly between Neil and Axl Rose, later provided the band with many of their column inches in an increasingly disinterested press. They survived to appear at the Moscow Peace Festival in 1989 before more than 200, 000 people, and then issue Dr. Feelgood, which gave them their first US number 1 chart placing. The album also yielded two US Top 10 singles with the title track and ‘Without You’.

Vince Neil was unexpectedly ejected from the band’s line-up in 1992, establishing the Vince Neil Band shortly thereafter. His replacement for 1994’s self-titled album was John Corabi (ex-Scream), although the band’s problems continued with a record label/management split and a disastrous North American tour. Neil was working with the band again in autumn 1996. Lee became the focus of much press attention as a result of his explosive marriage to actress Pamela Anderson. Corabi was sacked in 1996 and the following year instigated litigation against the band members for damages arising from non-payment of monies owed to him. This action was taken as Generation Swine was released. Lee eventually left the band in 1999 to concentrate on his new outfit Methods Of Mayhem. His replacement Randy Castillo (d. 26 March 2002) made his debut on the following year’s New Tattoo. The compulsively readable biography, The Dirt, was published in May 2001. The band’s future was put on hold the following year after Castillo’s untimely death, but fans of the classic Mötley Crüe line-up were delighted when the original members announced they would be touring the world in 2005.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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