Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe plays bass guitar as flames shoot out of pyrotechnic stage rigging

Crüe The Years (revisited)

In the summer of 1982, after just finishing our freshmen year in high school, my friends and I were listening to music from bands that were already superstars. In a sense, my older sisters' bands; Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Aerosmith, Queen, AC/DC, Heart. Great music that already influenced a generation. Even Van Halen, while undoubtably ours and setting the bar for next generation, already had four multi-platinum albums in the can with a fifth full of catchy cover songs ready to go mainstream.

Thanks to the import-demo-independent release section at our local record store, 'Mickey Music', we had lots of opportunity to discover new bands. I can only imagine what my friend Mike thought when he came across 'Too Fast for Love' while thumbing through new releases.

Too Fast For Love album cover Too Fast For Love album cover back

I know he had already given the album a spin before showing it to us and we could tell he liked what he heard. With some anticipation, we took it to his turntable to hear for ourselves. Whoever chose 'Live Wire' for the opening track knew what they were doing. In three short minutes Mick Mars introduced us to a simple yet deeply sunk hook, Tommy Lee kicked the crap out of some double-bass drums and struck the most obnoxious stop-time cowbells in history. Vince Neil's high-pitched but somehow tough vocals connected with our emotions. We only found out later that Nikki Sixx, while being the main songwriter, also had a habit of lighting himself on fire while playing the song on stage.

It's difficult for any band to follow up on such a first impression but Mötley Crüe managed to pull it off by mixing attitude, sex, even romance and sentimentality through the remaining songs. That was just the first of hundreds of times hearing that album, which was strong enough to listen through without skipping a track.

British heavy metal was already in full swing and we would soon see Iron Maiden and Judas Priest annihilate the Meadowlands Arena, but at this point we hadn't come across an American heavy metal band that really pushed boundaries. We had found our boys.

…But by no means was it the defining moment. We were about to discover bands like Metallica, Slayer and Exodus. While Mötley Crüe was busy igniting the Sunset Strip, these other California bands headed East to join Anthrax in the New York club circuit. Thrash and Speed Metal was getting our attention by connecting anger and aggression with complex musicality.

The Crüe needed a follow-up album that could compete by pushing their image and their music over the top. 'Shout at the Devil' did that and more.

Shout at the Devil Album cover

Another strong track list worth listening to all the way through. With the help of MTV, both playing their videos and reporting on news, Mötley Crüe blasted the world with songs and stories of hedonism and mayhem that was difficult to ignore. The LA glam metal scene was now producing scores of bands like Ratt, Dokken, Cinderella and Poison with music that was more commercial and images that were less threatening. Our girlfriends' mothers let their daughters listen to these bands.

Uncivilized, Drug Addicts, Womanizers, Criminals, maybe even Devil Worshipers… Mötley Crüe were in a league of their own in the minds of many rebellious teenage boys. But it was not to last…

Theatre of Pain, Girls, Girls Girls and Dr. Feelgood album covers

Beginning with Theatre of Pain in 1985 and ending with Dr. Feelgood in 1989, Mötley Crüe strung together many millions of album sales and countless sold-out concerts. Yes, there were catchy hits that occasionally hinted at their wild side and ballads for the ages, but this was now a band for the masses.

Over the next two decades, I would occasionally check in on what the Crüe were up to. Some of the more interesting things they did were as individuals. Nikki Sixx wrote a really cool autobiography called 'The Heroin Diaries' and hosts an interesting radio show, Sixx Sense. Tommy Lee, despite getting sucked into reality show hell, managed some artistically strong solo material and intriguing collaborations. Vince Neil, while also paying several visits to various reality shows, put out a few good solo tracks and built a racing team. Sadly, Mick Mars seems to have stayed mostly out of the spotlight while struggling with chronic arthritis of the spine and pelvis.

Occasionally the band would reunite to put out an album and tour, but they haven't come close to the magic of the early days.

So when Mötley Crüe announced their final tour, I was first skeptical and second, not really interested. I thank my wife for talking me into going and getting excellent second row seats.

They put together an excellent set list which included several songs from the first two albums with standouts being the aforementioned 'Live Wire', the title tracks form both albums; 'Too Fast For Love' and 'Shout at the Devil' and an outstanding perfomance of 'Too Young to Fall In Love' which really brought me back in time.

I'll let my after concert text to my friend speak for itself: "Probably the loudest, most explosive flaming mayhem I've ever seen."

Update: Since this story was originally published back in 2017, Mötley Crüe has continued to stay relevant.

The Neflix film 'The Dirt' based on the Neil Strauss novel brought the band and their shenanigans back under the spotlight. See our review here The Dirt

Tommy Lee continues to release solo albums and collaborations ranging from metal to hip hop, with his lastest 'Andro' scheduled to be released in the fall of 2020. See more info here Tommy Lee Official Website

The 2020 Stadium Tour has been postponed due to the pandemic but Crüe, Def Leppard, Poison, and Joan Jett are still planning to make the tour happen in 2021, see more info here Stadium Tour 2020