Formed in 1980, Mötley Crüe started off with Nikki Sixx (Real Name: Frank Faranna; ex-London; bass) who recruited Tommy Lee (drums), Vince Neil (Full Name: Vince Neil Wharton; ex-Rock Candy; vocals) and Mick Mars (Real Name: Bob Deal; guitar) who was added after Sixx and Lee answered a classified announcing, "loud, rude, aggressive guitarist available". Their first single was released on their own 'Leathur' record label in 1981 and was titled Stick To Your Guns/Toast Of The Town. It was quickly followed by their debut album, Too Fast For Love (1981). The album was amateur but nonetheless a cult classic; to their credit there was much worse on the market at the time. In 1982, however, their self-publishing days were over when 'Elektra' signed them and immediately remixed and re-issued the album that August.
Shout At The Devil (1983) came the next year. It boasted pseudo satanic imagery and beefed up the guitars, all on the backdrop of their Glam appearance. It saw minor controversy, but Venom they were not. They supported it with a tour with Kiss. The album managed their first charting with a U.S. 17.
Just as things were looking up for them, Vince Neil was involved in a serious car accident on Dec. 8, 1984 with Nick "Razzle" Dingley (drummer for Hanoi Rocks), who was killed, with two others injured. Vince was sentenced to 20 days in jail and ordered to pay $2.5 million in compensation for vehicular manslaughter. This incident overshadowed the Theatre Of Pain (1985) release. This album ended off selling more than two million copies, and charted in both the U.K. and U.S. (36 & 6 respectively). The album also boasted the powerful ballad Home Sweet Home; the track would become an MTV favourite later that year. Their biggest moment, however, was the album Girls, Girls, Girls (1987) which saw them hit the highest Metal slotting at launch time on the Billboard chart since The Song Remains The Same by Led Zeppelin in 1976. Here they incorporated harmonicas, organs and pianos into their music, taking them in a new direction and moved them up from club sized Glam Metallers to stadium sized Rock 'n' Rollers. Musically, it was a marked improvement and it's lyrical content ensured they would keep their image as 'bad boys', despite the songs being collegiate, silly or risqué in meaning (such as the title track).
Mathew Trippe came into the picture in 1988 when he sued Motley Crue alleging he played the part of and wrote songs as Nikki Sixx while Sixx was recovering from the 1983 car accident. Although there's still some question, mostly due to some pictures from the time showing Sixx with a bloated face resembling that of Tripp's, the case was thrown out.
Speaking of Mr. Sixx, after he recovered from a near death experience over a heroin overdose, he and the cleaned up band, launched Dr. Feelgood (1989). It reached 4 in the U.K. and a solid 1 in the U.S. The album was also boosted by their appearance at the Moscow Peace Festival. Dr. Feelgood, and its associated singles, especially the title track, would be the last stand for the 'Crue in their prime as Glam was fading fast, and the 'Crue would soon make headlines for their private affairs more then their music.
Neil would leave shortly after Decade Of Decadence (1991; mostly a compilation of their greatest hits) over words with Axl Rose (of Guns N' Roses) that made it into the media. The band briefly split for other projects but rejoined with John Corabi replacing the departed Neil in time for the self-titled Motley Crue album in 1994. The situation was not helped by the disastrous excuse for a North American tour that followed.
During this time Vince Neil started his own self-titled side project featuring himself with Steve Stevens (guitar/bass), Vik Foxx (drums), Robbie Buchanan (keyboards), Robbie Crane (bass), Dave Marshall (guitar), Tommy Funderburke, Timothy B. Schmidt, Donna McDaniel and Christina Nichols (back. vocals) to release Exposed (1993) and Carved In Stone (1995).
After releasing the solo album of his own in 1993, Neil and the boys patched their differences and he would return for the 1997 album Generation Swine, an album that gave them a #4 in the U.S. During the late 1990s, it would be Tommy Lee who faced the wrath of the press when he married actress Pamela Anderson (he had been previously married to Heather Locklear in 1985 but it didn't last long). This marriage only lasted a few years and their sexual fantasies and acts were splashed all over the scandal sheets. He would later do time for wife beating, with a temporary replacement taking his duties in the band. Meanwhile Mick's 1987 marriage to one-time Prince girlfriend, Vanity, was stable, while Nikki also hitched up and married playboy centerfold Brandi Brandt.
The best of album The Best Of Motley Crue (1998) followed and made 20 in the U.S. with the follow-up studio album New Tattoo in 2000 featuring Randy Costillo (ex-Ozzy Osbourne) to replace Tommy Lee who left to form his own act Methods Of Mayhem, an act featuring Rapper Tilo with Ken Andrews and Danny Lohner (guitar), Scott Kirkland (keyboards), Chris Chaney (bass) as well as guest performers Chrystal Method, Fred Durst, Lil' Kim, Kid Rock, Snoop Dogg, George Clinton and Mixmaster Mike who produced one self-titled album this far in 2000.
In 2004 Motley Crue made the tabloid press again when a former Moonlite Bunny Ranch prostitute filed a lawsuit against Vince Neil seeking unspecified damages of at least $20,000 for lost wages and other costs stemming from a 2003 incident in which Neil allegedly assaulted her when she and another prostitute refused to have sex with him until he paid $4,000 for each woman - Neil pleaded no contest to misdemeanor battery in the incident. In early 2005 Motley Crue released another best of compilation and tour for Red, White And Crue (2005) featuring the band members' favorite original songs plus three new tracks, If I Die Tomorrow, Sick Love Song (co-written by Sixx and James Michael), and a cover of The Rolling Stones' classic Street Fighting Man.
In 2006, a lawsuit was filed by Neil, Mars and Sixx against Carl Stubner, Lee's manager. The three sued him for Lee's contract to appear on two unsuccessful reality shows the band claim hurt its image; it was subsequently settled.
The lawsuits were not over, however, for on June 11, 2008, the band and manager Burt Stein filed suit against each other. Stein was Vince Neil's personal manager and also, according to the band and rival manager Allen Kovac, served as the band's manager once upon a time ago. The suit, filed in L.A. stated that Stein was not entitled to a cut of the band's earnings, but Stein did not see it this way and on the same day (in Nashville), sued claiming he was entitled to 1.875% of the band's take. Other litigation between the parties also ensued in Nevada. In July 2009, lawyers for both sides announced that the disputes had been "amicably" resolved via a global settlement (the settlement would end all suits simultaneously).
Mötley Crüe's ninth studio album, titled Saints of Los Angeles, was released in Japan on June 17, 2008 and in America on June 24, 2008. Originally titled, The Dirt, as it was loosely based on the band's autobiography of the same name and released, in the US, by 'Eleven Seven Music', who also took over their back catalog.
In the summer of 2008, Mötley Crüe headlined their own 'Crüe Fest' music festival, which included opening acts Buckcherry, Papa Roach, Trapt, and Nikki Sixx's own side project, Sixx:A.M.
The band made a guest appearance in the season finale of "Bones" on May 14, 2009 entitled "The End in the Beginning", performing Dr. Feelgood". Mötley Crüe headlined the Crüe Fest 2 festival, which ran from July to September 2009. Supporting them were Godsmack, Theory of a Deadman, Drowning Pool, and Charm City Devils. In addition to performing a set featuring material from Saints of Los Angeles, the band also celebrated the 20th anniversary of Dr. Feelgood by performing the album in its entirety on each night of the tour and re-releasing the album as a special 20th anniversary deluxe edition.
Mötley Crüe headlined Ozzfest in 2010, along with Ozzy Osbourne and Rob Halford.
Mötley Crüe co-headlined a mid-year tour with Poison and special guests New York Dolls in 2011 for the band's 30th Anniversary and Poison's 25th anniversary. On August 30, 2011, Mötley Crüe, along with co-headliners Def Leppard and special guests Steel Panther, announced a UK Tour commencing in December 2011. In March 2012, they then announced a tour co-headlining with KISS. The tour kicked off July 20 in Bristow, Virginia and ran through September 23.
The track sex track was released July 16, 2012, on their website.
In February 2013, the band then announced their biggest ever Canadian tour, with more US dates expected to be announced soon after the aforementioned KISS tour ran through Australia in March.
On January 28, 2014 at the conference inside Beacher's Madhouse Theater in Hollywood, the band announced the full details of their retirement, including a tour initially spanning 70 North American dates with Alice Cooper playing as a special guest. The tour commenced in Grand Rapids, Michigan on July 2, 2014. The band members had signed a "cessation of touring agreement" which prevented them from touring under the "Mötley Crüe" name beyond the end of 2015. The tour also served to promote the country-music album Nashville Outlaws: A Tribute to Mötley Crüe, which was released in mid-2014. It also served to promote their movie The Dirt (based on the book), due for release in 2015 by Focus Features.
In a later interview, Nikki Sixx talked about the possibility of releasing new music, saying that "We have music written, [but] it's not put together yet". He also speculated that the band would release it in a song-by-song format as opposed to a full-length album format.
On September 19, 2015, the band played the Rock in Rio festival on the main stage.
The band performed for the very last time at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on December 31, 2015.
Footnote: Tommy Lee was also featured in a 2005 Reality TV show depicting him as a University Student.