Classic Rock

10 Crucial Events That Ruined Motley Crue’s Image

todayMarch 15, 2024 1

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Forget the squeaky-clean pop stars of today. Mötley Crüe were the real deal – the bad boys of rock who lived life on the edge, both on and off stage. Younger generations might recognize them from the outrageous exploits depicted in their Netflix biopic, The Dirt, while for older fans, their music was the soundtrack to their own rebellious youth.

One thing’s for sure – Mötley Crüe, with its iconic lineup of Vince Neil, Mick Mars, Nikki Sixx, and Tommy Lee, were never known for angelic behavior. Their reputation for off-stage antics rivaled, or even surpassed, their chart-topping hits.

Their wild lifestyle is well-documented, not just in The Dirt biopic but also in their own tell-all memoir and even a song – all aptly named after the chaos they reveled in.

This penchant for trouble led them down a long road of controversies. From outrageous public behavior to personal struggles, Mötley Crüe has seen its fair share of scandals. Let’s delve into 10 of the most crucial events that cemented their image as rock and roll’s most notorious bad boys.

Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee’s sexual assault on a woman

The Dirt autobiography is notorious for its unflinching portrayal of the band’s wild lifestyle. Filled with stories of drug and alcohol-fueled debauchery, the book pushes the boundaries of rock and roll excess. However, some accounts go beyond mere partying and into disturbing territory.

One particular incident involving Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee detailed a sexual encounter where Sixx allegedly switched places with Lee mid-act without the woman’s knowledge.

When the story resurfaced before the release of the The Dirt film adaptation, Sixx claimed the book was embellished and written during a period of relapse. Fans were skeptical, believing Sixx was backtracking due to the negative light it cast on him in the #MeToo era.

Vince Neil’s drunk driving that killed Razzle Dingley

Mötley Crüe’s hard-partying lifestyle had a devastating consequence in December 1984. Following the success of their album Shout at the Devil, the band threw a party where Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley, drummer for Finnish glam rockers Hanoi Rocks, was a guest.

Fuel running low, Vince Neil took Razzle for a liquor store run in his Ford Pantera. However, the intoxicated Neil lost control, crashing into oncoming traffic. Razzle died instantly, while others were seriously injured.

The incident cast a dark shadow on the band. Despite Neil serving only a minimal jail sentence, the bigger blow came from the lack of remorse. Hanoi Rocks guitarist Andy McCoy revealed Neil never apologized, even decades later. This lack of empathy, coupled with the tragic death of a young musician, solidified Motley Crue’s reputation for reckless and dangerous behavior.

Vince Neil’s long-standing childish feud against Axl Rose

Mötley Crüe wasn’t shy about taking aim at fellow rockers. While Nikki Sixx had his share of feuds, Vince Neil’s war of words with Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses takes the cake.

It all began in 1989 with an alleged altercation between Izzy Stradlin, Guns N’ Roses guitarist, and Neil’s then-wife. Neil retaliated by punching Stradlin at the MTV Video Music Awards, sparking a brawl that involved both bands.

The animosity continued for years. Interviews were filled with insults, and Neil even challenged Rose to a televised fistfight at an arena. Thankfully, the fight never happened. But their inability to let go of the grudge ultimately made them look immature and petty, a far cry from the tough-guy image they cultivated.

Mötley Crüe’s bad attempt at grunge

The departure of Vince Neil left a gaping hole in Motley Crue’s sound. John Corabi, Neil’s replacement, brought a completely different vocal style to the band. Their 1994 self-titled album marked a significant shift away from the glam metal anthems of the 80s, embracing a grungier sound.

Reviews were mixed. Rolling Stone praised Corabi’s powerful vocals but found the music monotonous. AllMusic was harsher, criticizing Corabi’s lack of stage presence and the band’s attempt to mimic grunge without capturing its essence. The album lacked the catchy hooks and riffs that defined classic Crüe, ultimately landing as their weakest effort.

Their follow-up was an even worse disaster

Following the dark and unified direction of Mötley Crüe, the band’s next album, Generation Swine,” left fans scratching their heads. Released in 1997 with Vince Neil back on vocals, the album careened wildly between genres, lacking any sense of cohesion.

Rolling Stone’s Jon Wiederhorn slammed the album’s inconsistency, pointing out the jarring shifts between whiny ballads, hardcore beats, and forced sentimentality. He singled out “Brandon”, a song by Tommy Lee for his son, as a particular misstep.

Wiederhorn mocked the lyrics and Lee’s attempt at singing, highlighting the lack of focus that plagued Generation Swine throughout. Even YouTube critic Todd in the Shadows remarked that while Neil might not have been the perfect fit for the album’s style, at least he could actually sing.

Nikki Sixx’s racist tirade against a security guard

Concert security can be a delicate balance. While maintaining order is important, overzealous guards can create unnecessary tension. However, there’s no justification for a musician responding with racial abuse.

During a 1997 concert in Greensboro, North Carolina, bassist Nikki Sixx took things too far.  Witnessing a security guard, who was Black, allegedly act aggressively towards fans, Sixx launched into a verbal tirade.

While criticizing the guard’s behavior was one thing, Sixx crossed a line by using racial slurs and inciting the crowd to attack the guard. Multiple fans corroborated the security guard’s mistreatment, but Sixx’s racist language and encouragement of violence overshadowed any valid criticism. 

Tommy Lee’s disastrous marriage to Pamela Anderson

Tommy Lee’s marriage to Pamela Anderson in the 90s was tabloid fodder, but for all the wrong reasons. Their highly publicized relationship took a dark turn in 1998 when Lee was arrested for spousal and child abuse. 

Allegedly, he attacked Anderson while she was holding their young son. This incident shattered their marriage, with Anderson filing for divorce shortly after the arrest.

Lee was sentenced to jail time and required to attend anger management classes. The judge presiding over the case condemned Lee’s violent behavior, highlighting a troubling pattern.  Even today, fans express their disapproval of Lee and Motley Crue on online forums, citing his history of domestic violence as a factor.

Their alleged bullying of an opening act

Even past their prime, Mötley Crüe’s reputation for bad behavior persisted. In the mid-2010s, the band allegedly subjected their opening act, The Raskins, to a brutal hazing campaign during a 2014 tour.

The lawsuit filed by the twin brothers detailed months of abuse, including getting hit by equipment and being sprayed with urine-filled water guns by crew members.

The Raskins further claimed they were forbidden to sell merchandise and forced to play short, poorly attended sets due to delayed venue openings. Seeking $30 million in damages, the lawsuit painted a picture of a dream gig turned nightmare, with the headlining act’s “pranks” escalating into cruel bullying.

Vince Neil losing his vocal prowess

Fan accounts and concert videos paint a concerning picture of Vince Neil’s recent vocal abilities. A January 2023 performance captured by a fan shows Neil struggling with pitch and breath control, even resorting to singing gibberish during a verse in “Shout at the Devil”. Another YouTube user humorously captioned a live rendition of “Kickstart My Heart”, highlighting Neil’s unclear vocals.

Disappointed fans have taken to social media to express their concerns. Many point to Neil’s apparent lack of physical conditioning and weight issues as contributing factors. One Redditor compared him to legendary performers like Axl Rose, Mick Jagger, and Bruce Springsteen, all older than Neil, but still delivering strong vocals during lengthy live shows.

They were accused of using pre-recorded tracks during live performances

Fan concerns extend beyond Vince Neil’s vocals. Many suspect the band relies heavily on pre-recorded tracks during live shows, raising questions about the authenticity of their performances.

There have been some glaring examples. During a 2023 performance of “The Dirt”, Neil finishes a line, closes his mouth, and lowers his mic stand, yet his vocals continue. This raises suspicion that his voice was being supplemented by a backing track.

Similarly, Tommy Lee was caught rushing to his drums at the start of “Looks That Kill” in a 2022 show, yet the cymbal crash plays flawlessly. These moments, along with Nikki Sixx seemingly playing bass without actually strumming his instrument, have fueled accusations that the band prioritizes spectacle over live musicianship.

They unceremoniously ditched Mick Mars

Mötley Crüe fans were heartbroken but unsurprised when Mick Mars announced his retirement from touring due to chronic pain from ankylosing spondylitis. However, the story took a nasty turn when the band filed a demand for arbitration against Mars, questioning his status as an equal partner. Mars countersued, insisting his retirement shouldn’t affect his rights in the band.

Accusations flew in both directions. Mars claimed his bandmates gaslighted him into doubting his memory during his final years. He also felt insulted by their initial offer of a meager “severance package.”

Adding to the controversy, Mars denied relying on backing tracks, insisting he played everything live despite suspicions to the contrary. With both sides slinging mud, the once iconic band’s future remained uncertain.

Written by: Best Classic Bands Staff

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