Mötley Crüe Calls It Quits: A Timeline of the Highs and Low of Their Wild Career

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Photo: PR Newswire

Years ago, a girl friend of mine accused a guy friend of mine of not having enough Crüe in his collection. This, she declared, was an affront to rock n’ roll, for Mötley Crüe were at the forefront of the hair metal revolution. He laughed it off, feeling that the teased hair, rock 'n' roll pyromaniacs were more of a spectacle than anything else. They both were right.

For over 30 years, Mötley Crüe have lived the quintessential rock star existence. With enough sex, drugs, leather pants, overdoses, and loud music for three lifetimes. Along the way, their once admired wild behavior became a parody of itself, as the band deteriorated into the all-too-common story of rock n' roll excess. Yet whenever a member of the Crüe was knocked down, he found a way to dust himself off and sneak back into the spotlight. After 30 years, the band has officially decided to call it quits.

Throughout their colorful career, Mötley Crüe have kept things interesting and often times awful. Here are the highlights of their over 30 years on stage:

 April 1981: After finalizing their lineup, guitarist Mick Mars suggests the name “Mottley Cru.” Nikki Sixx likes it, but decides spelling it “Motley Crue” is way cooler. Their buddy suggests they add umlauts over the “o” so that they’ll appear tougher and pay homage to their favorite beer, Löwenbräu. Sixx does them one better and Mötley Crüe is born. By the end of the month, they open two sold out shows (in the same night) and enter into an exclusive management contact.

June 1981: The Crüe plays their first show at the Troubadour in LA, shattering previous attendance records. Babes abound, lured in by the band’s good looks and wild stage show.


November 1981: The band drunkenly records their first album, Too Fast For Love, over four days. They release it on their own label Leathür Records. KROQ plays the title track on a Sunday night.

February 1982:  Kerrang! magazine prints a full page, color photo of beautiful, blonde frontman, Vince Neil. The Crüe still cannot land a record contract with a major label.

April 1982: Mötley Crüe plays to a sold out house (3,500 seats) at Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Elvira is there.

May 1982: MC signs a 7-year deal with Elektra Records.

Summer 1982: Mötley Crüe tours Canada and Too Fast For Love is re-released by Elektra, coming in at #157 on the Billboard charts. They perfect their look and get tattoos.

Halloween 1982: Nikki Sixx ignites his leather jumpsuit during an encore at SF’s Concord Pavilion. The band is fined thousands for setting the fire and Sixx is extinguished on stage by fire fighters.

March 1983: MC land a gig opening for Kiss on the Creatures of the Night tour but are kicked off the tour by Gene Simmons, citing “bad behavior,” after playing only five shows.

Summer 1983: Nikki Sixx crashes his friend’s Porsche, injuring his shoulder. The hospital prescribes him Percocet, which eventually leads him to a crippling addiction to heroin.

Fall 1983: Shout At The Devil is released and sells 200,000 copies in its first two weeks. It eventually climbs its way to #17 on Billboard. MC appears on MTV for the first time. They embark on a 23-city tour in support of Shout At The Devil.

January 1984: Shout At The Devil goes gold. The next day it goes platinum. Demi Moore suggests Alcoholics Anonymous to Nikki Sixx; he doesn’t listen.

Most of 1984: Mötley Crüe tours extensively in Europe, destroying hotel rooms, breaking hearts and reinforcing negative stereotype of both Americans and rock stars.

December 8, 1984: Vince Neil throws a BBQ in Redondo Beach. Members of glam-band Hanoi Rocks are in attendance, along with other rockers and Hollywood heavies. After days of booze and drugs, Vince Neil borrows his neighbor’s ‘72 Ford Pantera to go to the liquor store. Speeding home with the booze, Neil slips on a wet spot in the road and collides into oncoming traffic at 65MPH. The other driver is put into a month-long coma, her passenger injured, while Neil’s passenger, 24-year-old Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley is killed.

January 1985: Vince Neil is charged with drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter. He spends 30 days in rehab.

Summer 1985: The video for MC’s new single, “Smoking In The Boys Room,” a cover of Detroit’s own Brownsville Station, is shot. This single is their first Top 40 hit. Tommy Lee meets '80s babe Heather Locklear and love is in the air.

Fall 1985: Vince Neil pleads guilty to vehicular manslaughter. He is sentenced to 200 hours of community service, $2.6 million in restitution to Razzle’s family, and 30 days in jail to be served after Mötley Crüe’s world tour ends. The Parent’s Music Resource Center includes Mötley Crüe’s “Bastard” on the Filthy Fifteen list, stating the lyrics were violent and degrading to women. Tommy Lee proposes to Heather Locklear.

Early 1986: Mötley Crüe embark on their first headlining European tour. The band does drugs with famous rockers of the 1970s throughout Europe.

Spring 1986: Lee and Locklear get hitched. Police are called to their honeymoon hotel room to break up a vicious, violent fight between the two. Nikki Sixx learns he is spending $3,500 a day on his drug habit.

Summer 1986: Vince Neil starts his 30 day jail sentence. He is permitted to sign autographs for the guards and even entertains a groupie with a one-hour conjugal visit. He is released after serving 18 days.

1987: Mötley Crüe hangs out with Jon Bon Jovi a lot. They shoot the “Girls Girls Girls” video, which is later banned by MTV due to its topless ladies and general strip club theme. They are sued by a fan who claims she sustained serious hearing damage after attending one of their shows in the front row.

1988: Tommy Lee checks himself into rehab and soon the rest of the band joins him, determined to clean up their collective act. Meanwhile, a 12-year-old fan from Florida sets his legs on fire attempting to imitate Nikki Sixx from the Mötley’s "Live Wire" video. The band issues a “don’t try this at home” statement.

1989: Nikki and Tommy form a music production company called The Terror Twins. This is also the nickname the duo has earned through years of their debaucherous hijinks.

Pretty Boy Floyd releases a cover of MC’s “Toast of the Town.”

Vince Neil gets plastic surgery citing a deviated septum.

Dr. Feelgood is released and becomes the band’s first Top 10 hit.

Vince Neil punches Guns N’ Roses’ Izzy Strandlin in the face at the MTV Video Music Awards as payback for an altercation between Izzy and Neil’s then-wife. Thus began the infamous hair metal feud between Guns N’ Roses and Mötley Crüe. Axl Rose challenges Neil to a fight, Neil accepts the challenge, but so far it hasn’t happened.

Dr. Feelgood goes #1 on Tommy Lee’s 27th birthday.

1990: Dr. Feelgood goes triple platinum. Tommy Lee moons an audience and is charged with indecent exposure. Nikki Sixx marries Brandi Brant.

1991: Nikki Sixx and Brandi Brant have a son. Mötley Crüe wins an American Music Award. The band releases a greatest hits record, Decade of Decadence.

1992: Wild front-man Vince Neil is fired from the band after they grow weary of his consistently obnoxious behavior. John Corabi, singer of the band The Scream, signs on to front the Crüe. The Crüeball game is released for Sega Genesis.

1993: Heather Locklear files for divorce from Tommy Lee. The Vince Neil Band attempts to make a name for itself.

1994: Mötley Crüe is released and while it charts in the Top 10, it’s not nearly as popular as Dr. Feelgood. This is blamed on the new guy and the band’s attempt at embracing a new, more alternative sound. Tommy Lee meets Pamela Anderson at the Sanctuary Club.

1995: Tommy Lee marries Pamela Anderson in Cancun. Vince Neil’s daughter, Skylar, loses her brutal battle with cancer. After her death, Neil checks in to the Betty Ford rehab center. A tape filmed on Pam and Tommy Lee’s honeymoon is stolen from the couple’s home. It quickly circulates the internet, launching the most infamous of the now very popular celebrity sex tape and catapulting Pam and Tommy into the tabloid spotlight.

1996: Pam and Tommy Lee file a $10 million lawsuit against Penthouse and its executives as they claim the magazine was about to publish stills from the stolen honeymoon video. They do not win.

They have their first child, Brandon.

Pam plans an elaborate, headline grabbing birthday party for Tommy called Tommyland.

John Corabi is ushered out of the band as Vince Neil re-enters the fray. Corabi stays on in the background to help with recordings and to teach Neil the new songs.

Pam files for divorce after 21 months of marriage.

Pam and Tommy then renew their wedding vows on Christmas Eve. It’s a roller coaster of love.

1997: Tommy Lee gets his eyebrow pierced. Generation Swine is released and lasts only one week in the Top 20. Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee spend lots of time at MTV events.

1998: Tommy Lee gets into a physical fight with wife Pamela Anderson. She calls 911 and Lee is arrested and charged with spousal abuse, child abuse, and possession of illegal firearms. He is sentenced to six months in prison. He is released after 16 weeks. Mötley Crüe releases another greatest hits album called Greatest Hits.

1999: Tommy Lee quits the Crüe after 18 years behind the drums.

 The 2000s:

Nikki Sixx and Mick Mars performing in 2005. Image via Wikipedia Commons.
Nikki Sixx and Mick Mars performing in 2005. Photo: Wiki Commons

Mötley Crüe continues to release new albums and tour extensively through the early aughts. In 2006, VH1’s Greatest Songs of the '80s lists "Dr. Feelgood" as #41.

In 2008, they are nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance.

Vince Neil begins participating in a number of celebrity reality shows including The Surreal Life and The Remaking of Vince Neil special, which sadly displayed the once gorgeous man-child struggling to stay relevant.

Nikki Sixx plays in three other side project bands throughout the early aughts. He gets clean and even dates tattooer Kat Von D for a while.

Tommy Lee also seeks the limelight of reality television, giving us the gem of an NBC show, Tommy Lee Goes to College, in which Lee comically attends the University of Nebraska.

Poor Mick Mars spends much of the early 2000s battling ankylosing spondylitis  -- a chronic form of arthritis affecting the spine and pelvis. He also struggles with mental health issues.

So after over 30 years of wildness, Mötley Crüe has decided to disband. For “all bad things must come to an end,“ Sixx said...but not before rocking the faces off 72 cities on one last tour.


Mötley Crüe’s Final Tour makes its way to Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View on July 23, 2014. Lawn seats are a mere $25, if this blog wasn’t enough Crüe for you.