It’s probably the understatement of the century to say there’s never been a dull moment with Mötley Crüe. The notorious foursome who would become ’80s rock biggest incendiary device let off bombs of controversy with every move they made. You name it, and they’ve done it. Copious amounts of drugs, overdose, death, reincarnation, vehicular manslaughter, sex videos, swallowing lightbulbs, watersports with Ozzy Osbourne and, of course, that press conference. The list is infinite.
Quite simply, this is a band that wrote their own rule book, and if you didn’t like its contents, you most likely had it wedged up a dark orifice. And it was that attitude that heralded an avalanche of commercial success in the ’80s.
Mötley Crüe – Crücial Crüe: The Studio Albums 1981-1989 (BMG)
Release Date: 17 February 2023
Words: Brian Boyle
Never was a band name so apt. You have the resurrected Nikki Sixx, knuckleduster Vince Neil, the wise council of Mick Mars and, of course, the weapon of mass destruction himself, Tommy Lee.
And the noise they made was sensational. This five-album collection takes us right into the heart of one of the most explosive acts in music. 1981 saw them burst out of their vermin-infested lodgings, hot-headed and horny, setting the Sunset Strip ablaze with their cocky debut album Too Fast For Love.
Containing one of their live staples Live Wire, other standout tracks like Piece Of Your Action, Public Enemy #1 and the ageless title track helped lay the foundations of the ’80s Hair Metal genre.
Visually, they looked like bargain bin drag queens, but they didn’t care. They had unleashed a shin kicker of a record that marked everyone’s card. But that was only the beginning. Two years later, they went up another level and backed up their reputation with the scorching Shout At The Devil. With 200,000 copies shifted within its first month, Crüe were now after a bigger slice of the pie.
Mammoth tuneage like Looks That Kill, Too Young To Fall In Love and, of course, the ritualistic title track propelled the album to a healthy No 17 peak position on the US Billboard Top 200. And the hilarious reaction from Christian groups surrounding the use of the pentagram on the album cover just enhanced the band’s selling power as Shout At The Devil went on to hit four million plus sales.
While hugely successful, the follow-up Theatre Of Pain was, in comparison, all bark and no bite. It did spawn two of their big guns in Smokin’ In The Boys Room and the power ballad Home Sweet Home. But the troubles that hit the band in the lead-up to the album’s recording didn’t help matters much.
With Vince Neil facing a prison stretch following a car accident which claimed the life of Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle and Nikki Sixx falling under the spell of heroin addiction, a dark cloud was hovering precariously over the band. But the Mötley Crüe juggernaut of sin just kept on rolling. Even protests from parent activist group PMRC who got hysterical over the band’s video for Smokin’ In The Boys Room couldn’t quench the band’s relentless fire.
The much anticipated fourth album Girls Girls Girls, was a case of a fur coat and no knickers, but it still produced two of their biggest hits that were lapped up by the MTV generation. How can we forget the promo video for the title track with the guys recklessly riding up the Sunset Strip on Harley Davidsons, then causing mayhem at a strip club, slapping bald men on the head and slipping 20 dollar bills down young lady’s undergarments?
Then there was Wild Side, where we saw Tommy Lee harnessed into his seat and taking flight in a rotating drum kit. A sturdy supporting cast of You’re All I Need, Dancing On Glass, and a boisterous live version of Jailhouse Rock still didn’t give the album proper muscle. But only for America’s darling Whitney Houston, the band would have scored their first number-one album.
The quest for the top spot came with 1989s Dr Feelgood. Rightly regarded as their finest album, it shifted six million in the US alone. Not too shabby for a record that’s recording was fraught with tension amongst the newly sober foursome. Legendary producer Bob Rock worked them like they had never worked before, and the results were sublime. The pounding Dr Feelgood, the full-throttle Kickstart My Heart and the warm and fluffy Don’t Go Away (Just Go Away) were all evidence of a band reborn.
It didn’t stop there. Same Ol’ Situation(SOS), Rattlesnake Shake, Slice Of Your Pie and Sticky Sweet were a million miles away from being half-hearted fillers. The album also features some high-profile guest appearances, including members of Skid Row, Bryan Adams, Robin Zander and Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick, Steven Tyler, who was recording Pump with Aerosmith in the same building, all dropped by to lend backing vocals.
Whether it be sobriety, the newly found work ethic or something in the Vancouver air, the Crüe struck oil with an album that was probably always in them.
They came, they saw, and they kicked everyone’s teeth in. From 1981 to 1989, Sixx, Lee, Neil and Mars were the key holders to the greatest madhouse in rock n roll.