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Motley Crue

+ {Vince Neil}

80s excesses reached rebellious parameters when glam-boy sleaze-rock stars MOTLEY CRUE came to the fore. Like some simplified, new-breed configuration of KISS and NEW YORK DOLLS, these spandex ballet boys of the hair-metal scene swaggered their (s)way to the top of the heap, cementing their reputation with a dollop of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, incorporating “Girls, Girls, Girls” – mostly of the scantily-clad actress variety.
Formed January-April 1981 in Los Angeles, California, MOTLEY CRUE stemmed from various bad-boy acts from the toilet circuit: drummer Tommy Lee was part of Suite 19 (alongside initial Crue guitarist/vocalist Greg Leon), bassist Nikki Sixx (aka Frank Feranna, Jr.) was of locals, London, guitarist Mick Mars (aka Bob Deal) arrived for auditions, and last, but not least, lead singer Vince Neil, was plucked from Rock Candy.
Quick off the mark, the 4-piece self-financed their inaugural 7”, `Stick To Your Guns’ (b/w `Toast Of The Town’), on their own Leathur imprint that summer, suggesting that their manager Allan Coffman was a man of action. Seeking out a further distribution deal at the Greenworld plant, the fall of ’81 heralded the release of the band’s debut LP, TOO FAST FOR LOVE {*6}. From its “Sticky Fingers”-esque, crotch-shot cover, to the low-rent sleaze-rock contained within, the set announced the band’s status as wannabe glam-metal successors to the likes of AEROSMITH, KISS and QUEEN. There were certainly worse reference points to have, and the record was an amateurish, minor classic; the title track, plus `Live Wire’ and `Piece Of Your Action’, pouting highlights.
Selling vast amounts for an independent record (estimated at 20,000), a tour of Canada set up by Coffman’s assistant Eric Greif, and a homecoming return to the L.A. scene helped secure the band a contract at Elektra Records the following April; then home to QUEEN. The Mercury-May connection was solidified when producer Roy Thomas Baker was enlisted to re-mix the “Too Fast” set. Re-released that August, the album’s acumen was such that it finally reached the Top 100 on the back of their second set. Dispensing with Coffman when the management team of Doug Thaler and Doc McGhee offered more than mere press publicity stunts, the Tom Werman-produced SHOUT AT THE DEVIL (1983) {*8} added cod-satanic imagery to their glam fixation, while beefing up the guitars. But VENOM this band were not, as songs like `God Bless The Children Of The Beast’ and `Bastard’ stirred up a wasp’s nest of controversy. If catchy pop-metal such as `Looks That Kill’, `Too Young To Fall In Love’ (or a cover of The BEATLES’ `Helter Skelter’) was the work of the Devil, then God certainly had nothing to fear. Nevertheless, after a nationwide tour supporting KISS, the album hit the Top 20. Things were looking bright for the hard-rock band.
However on December 8, 1984, Vince was involved in a serious car accident; passenger Nick “Razzle” Dingley (drummer of HANOI ROCKS) was killed in the crash, while two others were injured. Drunk driver Neil was subsequently ordered to pay $2.5 million compensation and sentenced to 30 days in jail after being convicted of vehicle manslaughter. The tragedy overshadowed much of the THEATRE OF PAIN (1985) {*6} third album, a record that went on to sell more than two million copies after a spawned cover of BROWNSVILLE STATION’s `Smokin’ In The Boys Room’ soared into the Top 20. The album also boasted the surprisingly poignant power ballad, `Home Sweet Home’, an MTV favourite and minor hit later that year.
Having tasted celebrity life from an early age (his mother was Miss Greece in 1957), the tattooed Tommy “T-Bone” Lee divorced actress Elaine Starchuk in ‘85 and subsequently wed TV actress Heather Locklear the following May (until August ’93); of course his celebrity coupling with Baywatch “bouncer” Pamela Anderson in the mid-90s caught the public’s attention through the tabloids, although domestic bliss was short-lived; the couple divorced while the drummer faced a lengthy jail sentence for wife-beating.
Meanwhile, the old guy of the group, Mick Mars (born Robert Deal) dated PRINCE’s ex-girlfriend Vanity (star of Purple Rain) and duly married for a second time, Emi Canyn, in September 1990; divorced in 1994. Vince Neil has been married four times: Elizabeth Lynn (1981-87), Sharise Ruddell (1988-1993); they had one daughter Skylar who died aged only four, actress Heidi Mark (2000-2001) and Lia Gherardini (from January 2005).
Nikki Sixx finally tied the knot to former Playboy centrefold Brandi Brandt in May ’89; they divorced in November ’96 and he married again, the next month to Baywatch bunny, Donna D’Errico; divorced in 2007, he settled down with high fashion model Courtney Bingham and wed her in March 2014.
Leading neatly into the band’s fourth album, GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS (1987) {*7}, this near chart-topping record and its similarly-titled spawn marked a mighty improvement; the lyrics cementing the Crue’s reputation as the “bad” boys of metal. The music confident and cocksure, they partied like there was no tomorrow, even taking on a version the ELVIS nugget, `Jailhouse Rock’. Tracks like `Wild Side’ showed a newfound adventurism, the first signs that the band were capable of promotion from the metal second division.
Early in ‘88, Matthew Trippe sued the Crue for royalties, alleging he masqueraded and wrote songs as Nikki Sixx, while the bassist recovered from a car crash in ‘83. This was later proved to be false in ‘93 when the case was closed, although there was still much speculation on how Nikki’s face was bloated on some mug pics. Having survived a near-death experience after a heroin o.d. in December ‘87, Sixx entered rehab and documented his daily intake by keeping a diary; it was later (2007) made into a novel and a soundtrack by his own SIXX: A.M.
On the other end of the spectrum, manager McGhee avoided a lengthy prison sentence after being convicted of smuggling 40,000 pounds of marijuana, by instigating an anti-drug campaign. This more or less kept MOTLEY CRUE out of further run-ins with the law, while a tour of Europe was cancelled just in case they were tempted out of a self-imposed rehabilitation.
Sixx and the newly cleaned up Crue delivered a fifth album, DR. FEELGOOD (1989) {*7}, which duly topped the charts (while hitting Top 5 in the UK). With Bob Rock at the mixing desk, the record’s infectious array of mainstream monsters such as `Kickstart My Heart’ (in honour of Nikki’s couple of minutes in o.d. purgatory), `Dr. Feelgood’, `Without You’, `Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)’ and `Same Ol’ Situation (S.O.S.)’, hooked in fans of all ages.
A “greatest hits”, DECADE OF DECADENCE (1991) {*8}, was to be VINCE NEIL’s parting shot, the singer ousted in February ‘92 following media overkill on his war of words with GUNS N’ ROSES frontman Axl Rose. With glam-metal eaten up by the grunge movement, it was indeed a time for reflection. When NEIL’s solo album, EXPOSED (1993) {*5}, did little but hit the Top 20, the remaining Crue team recruited a new frontman, John Corabi (ex-The SCREAM), and released the eponymous MOTLEY CRUE (1994) {*4}, which found few takers outside their usual suspect fanbase who bought enough copies to bounce it in and out of the Top 10 (Top 20 in Britain); check out the UK-only volley, `Hooligan’s Holiday’.
When NEIL’s CARVED IN STONE (1995) {*4} failed to dig its way out of a critical ditch and into the Top 100, and with Corabi being fired for suggesting that Vince might be better off back at the helm, the original alumni duly patched up their differences. Sadly, 1997’s GENERATION SWINE {*4} was another damp squib, although it gave them a return to the Top 5. With Vince back in the fold it must’ve seemed a good time to capture some of their rekindled stage fire; LIVE: ENTERTAINMENT OR DEATH (1999) {*5} featured a clutch of latter day tracks and a far larger whack from the halcyon days of yore… we’re talking early 80s here.
If that wasn’t enough to please the band’s diehard fans, then NEW TATTOO (2000) {*5} saw MOTLEY CRUE returning to their bad old days in fine style. Out went the half-arsed attempts at alternative metal and serious subject matter; in came scuzz-rock and such time-honoured lyrical themes as, well… sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, basically, the nastier and filthier the better. They even signed off with a rendition of The TUBES’ `White Punks On Dope’, a somehow more appropriate choice of cover than their other past renditions.
With Randy Castillo, who, himself, had replaced Lee in ’99, passing away from cancer on March 26, 2002, the subsequent tour saw ex-HOLE sticks-woman Samantha Maloney recruited as a fill-in. The Crue subsequently went into hiatus as NEIL performed solo (ONE NIGHT ONLY – LIVE AT THE WHISKY (2003) {*4} covering Crue tunes) and SIXX surfaced with both 58 and Brides Of Destruction. While the Crue’s sales had been disappointing of late, all the band needed was the right cultural conditions: they came in 2004 as the post-nu-metal/80s revival climate was ripe for a full-on MOTLEY CRUE reformation. A reunion tour – featuring all four original members – cleaned up on the nostalgia market to the tune of a cool $33 million, the band’s popularity boosted by best selling autobiography, The Dirt (published 2001).
Coming on the back of a raft of compilation albums, RED, WHITE & CRUE (2005) {*8} was the most high profile (US Top 10), creaming off the best of the band’s albums and adding three new tracks, one of which, `Sick Love Song’, scraped the UK Top 75. Available as both a hits-orientated single disc and more exhaustive double disc set, the record also featured a cover of The ROLLING STONES’ `Street Fighting Man’.
The inevitable live album, CARNIVAL OF SINS (2006) {*5}, featured another Crue-by-numbers cover in The SEX PISTOLS’ `Anarchy In The U.K.’, while a co-headlining tour alongside AEROSMITH kept their profile on a high. In the midst of other lawsuits and the usual stir of controversy from the tabloids, SAINTS OF LOS ANGELES (2008) {*5} smashed into the Top 5. Based on “The Dirt”, the mini-story concept unveiled a same old/same old ripened and rampant Crue, spraying out dirges like `The Animal In Me’, `Face Down In The Dirt’, `White Trash Circus’ and `Mutherfucker Of The Year’.
Nikki continued upwards and onwards with his SIXX: A.M. band, releasing “This Is Gonna Hurt” in 2011. The previous year, it was the turn of VINCE NEIL to unleash his third studio set, TATTOOS & TEQUILA (2010) {*6}, a worthy attempt to fit a couple of fresh songs (including the title track and `Another Bad Day’) alongside a string of covers, namely `He’s A Whore’ (CHEAP TRICK), `AC/DC’ (SWEET), `Nobody’s Fault’ (AEROSMITH), `No Feeling’ (SEX PISTOLS), `Long Cool Woman’ (The HOLLIES), `Another Piece Of Meat’ (SCORPIONS), `Who’ll Stop The Rain’ (CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL), `Viva Las Vegas’ (ELVIS PRESLEY), `Bitch Is Back’ (ELTON JOHN) and `Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers’ (ZZ TOP).
© MC Strong 1994-2006/GRD / rev-up MCS Mar2014

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