Formed in January 1981, Motley Crue were originally the pet project of bassist Nikki Sixx (born Frank Ferrana), vocalist/guitarist Greg Leon, and drummer Tommy Lee (born Thomas Lee Bass). Leon was a veteran of the Hollywood scene, having replaced Randy Rhoads in Quiet Riot two years prior. He butted heads with the strong-willed Sixx, however, resulting in his departure from the lineup several months later. Local guitarist Bob ‘Mick Mars’ Deal joined in his place, bringing the moniker ‘Mottley Krue’ with him. After altering the name and adding a pair of umlauts (allegedly in tribute to German beer), the trio began efforts to recruit Vincent Neil Wharton, vocalist for the L.A.-based band Rock Candy. Neil initially refused the advances, only joining the band after his Rock Candy cohorts announced their decision to transform their group into a new wave act. With Vince Neil now on board, Motley Crue became a cult favorite on the L.A. circuit, infamously known for such theatrics as setting Sixx’s pants on fire midsong.
The band soon secured management with Allan Coffman, who financed recording sessions for a debut album. Initially released in November 1981 by Lethur Records — a small, independent label launched by Coffman and the band — Too Fast for Love sold a surprising 20,000 copies.
Elektra released the sophomore effort Shout at the Devil in 1983. The video for ‘Looks That Kill’ became an MTV hit, broadcasting the group’s glammed-up theatrics to an audience unfamiliar with M_tley Cr_e’s popularity on the club circuit, and the record went platinum as a result. Shout at the Devil sold an additional million copies in 1984. The band’s newest record, Theatre of Pain, had already enjoyed a lengthy stay on the charts, cementing the band’s mainstream status and producing Motley Crue’s first Top 40 hit with a cover of Brownsville Station’s ‘Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room.’
‘Home Sweet Home,’ a power ballad from Theatre of Pain, yielded another popular music video, while a 44-minute home video cassette entitled Uncensored was issued in 1986 to multi-platinum sales. , Girls, Girls, Girls. Released during the band’s substance-addled heyday in 1987, the album debuted at number two, with the raunchy title track becoming Motley Crue’s second Top 40 hit.
They returned in 1989 with the release of Dr. Feelgood, a muscled album that became Motley Crue’s first release to top the Billboard charts. . After another worldwide tour, the compilation album Decade of Decadence arrived in 1991, propelled to multi-platinum status by a new version of ‘Home Sweet Home’ that became the band’s final Top 40 hit.
In May 2001, the band issued a best-selling, tell-all biography entitled -The Dirt. In late 2004, however, the four original members announced a full-scale reunion tour for the following year, marking their first outing since the late ’90s. The tour coincided with the February release of Motley Crue’s double-disc greatest-hits collection, Red, White & Crue, which went platinum within six months of its release. The reunion tour was further celebrated by the release of a concert album, Carnival of Sins Live, in 2006, while a record of new material, Saints of Los Angeles, arrived in 2008.