5 Reasons Why Mötley Crüe Makes for Glorious, Notorious Rock and Roll Legend

If there’s a band that’s lived out “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” to a T, it’s heavy metal’s Mötley Crüe. Often dubbed the world’s most notorious rock band, Mötley Crüe continues to hold its own as an in-demand live commodity, especially. Comprised of lead singer Vince Neil, guitarist Mick Mars, bass guitarist Nikki Sixx, and drummer Tommy Lee, the band has chalked up over 100 million album sales, seven RIAA-certified platinum and multi-platinum records, and three Grammy nominations to date.

While Mötley Crüe debuted to some fanfare with Too Fast for Love in 1981, it wasn’t until their sophomore record, Shout at the Devil, that the band notched breakthrough success. Following this were three wildly successful albums—Theatre of Pain (1985), Girls, Girls, Girls (1987), and Dr. Feelgood (1989). Theatre of Pain spawned the Sixx- and Lee-penned “Home Sweet Home,” which showcased to fans a more vulnerable side of the outfit. Their self-titled album in 1994 was the first project without lead vocalist Neil, but Generation Swine (1997) marked a moderately successful return to the original lineup.

Here are just a few reasons why, even with all the sensationalistic fanfare that has little to do with their music, the guys in Mötley Crüe are still going to go down in history as bona fide rock ‘n’ roll legends.

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5. EPIC outfits! Gaudy makeup!.

One thing’s for sure, you’ll never spot the Crüe onstage in t-shirts and jeans. It started right away, with the band donning makeup that was half glam and half macabre, black and/or red leather clothes with spikes and fringe, and big hairdos before ’80s glam metal became “hair metal.”

They were made fun of for dressing like women, but then their collective personae had them representing as tough street thugs, too. It’s hard to not give them credit—it was certainly a way to stop people in their tracks and give the band a good look, be it in awe or bewilderment. Would Mötley Crüe have stood out if they hadn’t burst onto the scene with their over-the-top visuals? Probably, but not to the extent they did.

Mötley Crüe 1997 (Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images)

4. Mötley Crüe’s show is a transcendent experience.

If you’ve been to a Mötley Crüe show, you know it’s not a sit-down, sit-back-and-relax kind of show. As soon as the band hits the stage, there’s only one speed from that point on—full steam ahead. The band is decked out in full leather gear, except for drummer Lee, who at times doesn’t appear to be wearing anything at all.

Often accompanying them on stage are scantily clad women who are half background singers, half gentlemen’s club-style dancers. Beyond that, expect big shout-along vocals, bombastic pyrotechnics, lots of head-banging, and of course, Sixx’s flame-throwing bass and some version of a wacky Tommy Lee roller coaster ride (literally) during his drum solo. The action’s toned down a bit these days—after all, they did officially and very publicly become retirees, signing a literal “contract” with their audience that a long-ago tour would be their last. But, they fairly swiftly broke that contract, and…no one seemed to care. The Crüe still tours—at time of publication with guitarist John 5 in place of Mars—and the fans still show up.

3. Their catalog includes both uplifting anthems and, unfortunately, truly gross, sexist imagery.

Mötley Crüe did not only defy conventional dress codes; they defied what was supposed to be allowed in terms of popular music bands and their lyrics. “Girls Girls Girls” is an autobiographical anthem that celebrates their promiscuous, female-obsessed ways. “Kickstart My Heart” was inspired by Sixx’s near-fatal heroin overdose in the ‘80s. And the extra-sordid “Live Wire,” the band’s first single, no less, was one of many tunes on Mötley’s first two records, especially, that blatantly painted vivid pictures of street punks with violent streaks that could even be aimed at women: I’ll either break her face or take down her legs / Get my ways at will / Go for the throat, never let loose / Goin’ in for the kill.” Not great!

However, not all their songs were scandalous. Once it was clear that the big money was getting both guys and girls to the shows, the emphasis shifted to making girls swoon rather than submit in whatever sick way lyricist Sixx was implying on “Live Wire.” “Home Sweet Home” (1985) was a pleasant-sounding piano ballad that gave a glimpse into a more tender, personal, vulnerable side to Mötley Crüe. It was an enormous hit with a video that was an MTV all-timer. It even resonated enough with country star Carrie Underwood that she would cover the tune nearly 35 years later.

2. They’re outlaws in every other sense of the word, too.

Mötley Crüe’s known for living up to the “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” lifestyle; it’s something they proudly embrace as probably the very biggest part of their identity. During their heyday, womanizing, throwing wild parties on and offstage, and writing explicit “love” songs made the Crüe the Crüe.

While there’s been much chart success and sold-out tours, their career’s also been plagued with numerous controversies, backlashes, and criticism from all sides and angles. One of many instances: Sixx’s jail time in Japan in 1987 after he “accidentally” hit and injured a passenger onboard a bullet train while lashing out at Mars.

1. Decades on, the Crüe remains in-demand all across the world.

Mötley Crüe’s founding members may now be in their 60s, but they’re far from truly retired (with the exception of 72-year-old Mars). Following a career resurgence after their acclaimed 2019 Netflix biopic, The Dirt, Mötley Crüe launched a co-headlining tour with Def Leppard in 2022, which continued into 2023 with the simple moniker of The World Tour.

The global trek has landed them in packed arenas and stadiums in the U.S., Mexico, Brazil, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Ireland, Japan, Australia, and beyond. Since Mars’ retirement in October 2022, John 5 has stepped in as guitarist, continuing Mötley Crüe’s unshakable legacy as one of the greatest bands—or at the very least, the greatest sleaze-rock band—in popular music history.

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

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