Mötley Crüe has parlayed an image of fast-living, hard-driving postadolescent reprobates and fast, pummeling songs into platinum-level heavy-metal superstardom, topping the charts with Dr Feelgood (#1, 1989) and coming close with Theatre of Pain (#6,1985), Girls, Girls, Girls (#2, 1987), and a greatest-hits collection, Decade of Decadence--‘81- ‘91 (#2, 1991).
Nikki Sixx was a member of locally successful Los Angeles metal band London when he decided to form his own band. Tommy Lee came aboard as drummer, and they decided to call themselves Christmas. Guitarist Mick Mars was discovered through a classified ad reading "LOUD RUDE AGGRESSIVE GUITARIST AVAILABLE." That he used the same hair dye as Sixx cemented the relationship. Vocalist Vince Neil was plucked from a Cheap Trick cover band. Mars came up with the new, strangely accented name, inadvertently becoming father to a thousand umlauts. Their eponymous, independently released debut was picked up by Elektra and retitled Too Fast for Love (#77, 1983).
Shout at the Devil (#17, 1983) with its canny hints of Satanism followed, but the band did not catch on in a big way until Theatre of Pain (#6, 1985). Fueled by a cover of Brownsville Station’s anthemic "Smokin’ in the Boys Room" (#16, 1985) and "Home Sweet Home" (#89, 1985), considered to be the first "power ballad" played on MTV, the album sold over two million copies.
For all the album sales, Crüe was known as a live band, playing rock versions of a Vegas review, a leering embrace of all things hedonistic, with elaborate sets and lighting, revolving drum sets, pyrotechnics, and dancing girls. Girls, Girls, Girls (#2, 1987) and Dr. Feelgood (#1, 1989) continued their streak of platinum albums, selling two million and four million copies respectively. Decade of Decadence ‘81 -- 91 (#2, 1991) included new material, such as their misguided cover of the Sex Pistols’ "Anarchy in the U.K."
Mötley Crüe lived the rock & roll lifestyle to the fullest, with celebrity marriages -- Tommy Lee to Dynasty and Melrose Place star Heather Locklear in 1986 (they divorced in 1994) and Nikki Sixx to former Prince protegee Vanity in 1987 -- drugs, and scrapes with the law. Sixx spent over a year addicted to heroin. In 1986 Neil was convicted of vehicular manslaughter, the result of a 1984 drunken accident that killed Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas Dingley and seriously injured two others. He served 20 days in jail, performed 200 hours of community service, and was assessed $2.6 million in damages.
In 1992 Neil was replaced by John Corabi. He filed a $5 million wrongful termination suit, which was unresolved as of late 1994. He formed the Vince Neil Band, which includes ex-Billy Idol sidekick guitarist Steve Stevens, bassist Robbie Crane, drummer Vik Foxx, and guitarist Dave Marshall, and released Exposed (#13, 1993).