For a band whose ability to survive catastrophe defies any semblance of logic, a full-fledged reunion hardly seems out of the question or even surprising for Motley Crue. What might be a little surprising, however, is that the band’s 2005 Carnival of Sins tour made money hand over fist, filling arenas all over the country without any radio support, controversial sex tape leakage, or exploitative music videos. After years of haughty primness, the musical tide has finally turned back in favor of sleaze, debauchery and excess, which only makes the idea of a Motley Crue concert that much more salacious.
Pegging Motley Crue as fluffy ‘80’s hair metal is only slightly unfair. Yes, the band used excessive amounts of hairspray and make-up in its heyday, but Motley Crue rocked harder, did tons more drugs, and had ten times as much sex as any of its so-called competition. It’s unfathomable to me that any band could rival the depravity of Led Zeppelin’s notorious American tours in the earl to mid-1970’s, but if the Crue’s confessional rock biography, The Dirt, is to be believed, Motley Crue made Led Zeppelin look like momma’s boys. Yeah, Jimmy Page might have had a discreet heroin problem in Led Zeppelin’s later days, but he didn’t overdose, die, get rocked back to life with two steroid shots to the heart, leave the hospital only to go straight home and shoot up again like Nikki Sixx once did. No, it takes a special brand of lunatic to pull that off.
No other “hair metal” band from the 80’s could reunite decades after its peak and have a fourth of the draw that this band currently boasts. Could you imagine if Poison or Warrant or Cinderella tried to tour arenas right now? It’d be a total joke because those bands didn’t have the tunes to back up the mall hair images. Granted, Motley Crue has shoveled its share of shit bombs onto the public in its time, but there’s no denying the energy and raucousness of Too Fast for Love and Shout at The Devil– classic albums by any barometer. Admittedly, the mid-80’s weren’t exactly prolific in terms of quality music for the band, as Theater of Pain and Girls, Girls, Girls had just enough flash to buoy the band through its drunken, smacked-out fog.
It wasn’t until 1989’s Dr. Feelgood that Motley Crue returned to the equal parts ferociousness and catchiness of its early work. Ironically, Dr. Feelgood was the band’s first allegedly “sober” album, yet on the strength of its hooks and snarling guitars it propelled the band to a level of fame that few bands get to experience. Predictably, the “sobriety” was as short-lived as one of Vince Neil’s marriages, and the band plunged back into its vices with renewed vigor. Egos, antics, age, and the pressure to follow up Dr. Feelgood eroded the band’s once-indestructible armor, and things fell apart. The band ousted Vince Neil, breaking rule number one for any successful band: NEVER FIRE YOUR LEAD SINGER. The resulting Vince Neil-less album, 1994’s inappropriately self-titled, Motley Crue, bombed so badly you could smell it rotting on the record shelves.
That’s when the band’s personal lives suddenly became more interesting than its music with drummer Tommy Lee garnering the brunt of the publicity thanks to his marriage to Pamela Anderson and the resulting honeymoon film, which is now owned by the public lexicon. The ‘90’s were not kind to Motley Crue. After the career suicidal decision to replace Vince Neil with grunge fluff John Corabi, Motley Crue half-heartedly (through lawyers, and pressure from record label bosses) roped Neil back into the fold to produce the second worst record of its career, 1997’s Generation Swine– a musically clueless stab at semi-industrial electronic rock that bombed almost as badly as its predecessor. Even Neil couldn’t save those tuneless, pale Nine Inch Nails imitations, and the band fell apart again, even losing its major label support.
Since then, the band has formed its own label, Motley Records, on which it reissued the entire Motley Crue catalogue with demos and bonus tracks, put out a decent record, 2000’s New Tattoo, and finally patched things up between Vince and Tommy. Last year’s compilation, Red, White & Crue took an unabashed look at its entire career, Corabi and all, and the band now seems poised to take on another decade. When you’ve been through as much hell as Motley Crue, both professionally and musically, and live to tell the tale, there’s not much that can stand in your way