Formed in 1981 in LA by Nikki Sixx after he left the band London, with Tommy Lee the other member in from the start. The band predated the rise of Hair Metal and have often claimed credit for it, although it’s just as true that the band changed direction to become more commercial, starting with their third album. Their fifth album, Dr Feelgood, was their biggest hit, and afterwards the band fell apart, eventually regrouping for nostalgia tours and patchy new music before calling it a day in 2015.
Listening to the first Motley Crue album, it’s clear their biggest early influence was The Sweet. Motley was always Sixx’s band, and as a heavy rock bassist, it’s unavoidable that he was influenced by Michael Anthony. His other influences included Mott the Hoople, T-Rex, AC/DC and Aerosmith.
Classics (the albums even a casual fan owns)
Shout at the Devil (1983):
This may be the perfect Motley Crue album, especially for Metal fans. It really does represent the state of Metal at the time, from the single in ‘Looks that Kill,’ to the aggression of ‘Red Hot’ to the cover of ‘Helter Skelter.’ This is also the album where the band went over the top on leather and make-up. Every song on this album is a stone-cold classic, with highlights including ‘Ten Seconds to Love’ and of course, the title track.
Too Fast for Love (1981):
Like all first albums, this one lacks the polish that was evident later on. What’s clear on this album is how much Sixx loved The Sweet. Of course, ‘Live Wire’ was the single, and the most aggressive song on offer, but the rest of the CD is power pop gold. Tracks like ‘Piece of your Action’ and ‘Too Fast for Love’ helped set Motley Crue on their way. In the 80s this was available at a cut price, which also got a lot of people to give it a try. It didn’t disappoint.
Dr Feelgood (1989):
When this album was made, Motley Crue were in decline, having released two disappointing albums that managed just a couple of strong songs. The whole band was also strung out on drugs, and before making this album, they got sober and brought in Bob Rock to produce. With his hand at the wheel, Motley were forced to focus on the details and it really shows. The title track raced out of the gate and was a massive hit, and songs like ‘Kickstart my Heart’ and ‘Without You’ followed, the album eventually generating five hit singles. The B-sides were also great, with ‘Slice of your Pie’ and ‘She Goes Down’ being particular fan favourites. Released at the height of Hair Metal, it was the ultimate Hair Metal album and it’s almost certainly still paying for Vince Neil’s steak dinners to this day. This is without doubt their best-selling album.
Next Steps (One step below, but these albums still shine in the catalogue)
Girls, Girls, Girls (1987):
After the disappointment of Theatre of Pain, Motley Crue needed to make a powerful statement. Sadly, they were all out of their minds on drugs. Sixx died of a heroin overdose during this time. Motley Crue had been kings of their scene for some time, but Appetite for Destruction was released the same year and seemed to be another sign that the Crue were in decline. In truth, there’s only three great songs on this CD, being the title track, ‘Wild Side’ and All in the Name of…’ Elsewhere you get Elvis Presley covers and one minute tracks about Sixx’s grandmother. Worth owning for the few good tracks, but definitely not a CD you’ll play often.
Decade of Decadence (1991):
After the success of the Dr Feelgood album, the band did a big tour, which proved to be their undoing. Before Neil left, they threw together a greatest hits package. Basically a better proposition to get the two decent songs on Theatre of Pain, this CD also included some new tracks, including the outstanding ‘Primal Scream.’ The cover of ‘Teaser’ harks back to Sixx’s 70s predilections, and is a lot better than the ‘Anarchy in the UK’ cover. ‘Angela,’ the other new song, is forgettable. Nevertheless, it served as a reminder for how much good music this band had created in a decade, even if they were a bit patchy at times.
Fan Favourite (The one that wasn’t a hit but real fans love)
Motley Crue (1994)
With Neil gone, Motley Crue brought in John Corabi, an excellent vocalist and capable guitarist. A bomb at the time because it sounded nothing like Motley Crue, to some discerning fans, this is the band’s finest work. Certainly, with Bob Rock still in the producer’s chair, they created a strong hard rock album whose only sin was not sounding much like Dr Feelgood.
Controversial (The one fans disagree on)
Theatre of Pain (1985):
Motley Crue always played with different looks and different sounds. With this album, they went full-on over-the-top glam, and a more commercial sound after the Heavy Metal of ‘Shout at the Devil.’ Sadly, the result was a mess. Most of this album is flat-out phoned in, and it’s not surprising that very few tracks from this album survived in their live sets. On the other hand, ‘Home Sweet Home’ basically invented the 80s power ballad and was so popular, MTV had to introduce a rule that songs could not be voted on after a period of time. Their cover of ‘Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room’ was also well received, and for some fans, these strengths are enough to remember this album fondly. Sadly, the rest of the album just doesn’t stand up.
Buy this last (Not all bands have a ‘bad’ album, but this is the worst of them)
Generation Swine (1997):
After the failure of the self titled album, Motley Crue broke up. A reunion was inevitable, and like many bands of that vintage, a comeback album soon followed. Sixx has stated that he fears that everyone was walking on eggshells and scared to criticise any ideas put forward. Motley Crue would release several more albums, some okay and some forgettable, but none as bad as this. The only decent track on this album is a cover of ‘Shout at the Devil.’
Playlist (a killer playlist for your phone)
‘Live Wire’ (Too Fast for Love)
‘Too Fast for Love’ (Too Fast for Love)
‘Piece of your Action’ (Too Fast for Love)
‘Shout at the Devil’ (Shout at the Devil)
‘Red Hot’ (Shout at the Devil)
‘Ten Seconds to Love’ (Shout at the Devil)
‘Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room’ (Theatre of Pain)
‘Home Sweet Home’ (Theatre of Pain)
‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ (Girls, Girls, Girls)
‘All in the Name of…’ (Girls, Girls, Girls)
‘Wild Side’ (Girls, Girls, Girls)
‘Dr Feelgood’ (Dr Feelgood)
‘Kickstart my Heart’ (Dr Feelgood)
‘She Goes Down’ (Dr Feelgood)
‘Same Old Situation’ (Dr Feelgood)
‘Slice of your Pie’ (Dr Feelgood)
‘Primal Fear’ (Decade of Decadence)
‘Uncle Jack’ (Motley Crue)
‘Hooligan’s Holiday’ (Motley Crue)
‘Smoke the Sky’ (Motley Crue)
‘Hell on High Heels’ (New Tattoo)
‘Punched in the Teeth by Love’ (New Tattoo)