Does anybody remember that time round about 1989 when Guns 'n' Roses frontman Axl Rose challenged Mötley Crüe's Vince Neil to a fight at Madison Square Gardens? I seem to recall it had something to do with Izzy Stradlin trying to pull Vince's wife, but it escalated into a ridiculous public slanging match between the two bands, conducted through the all too willing medium of rock magazines.
I always think it's a pity that the fight never took place, because, petty squabbles aside, it would have decided once and for all one of the most significant questions in rock. No, not ............. (insert your rock question of choice here - answers on an email to the address below). No, THE question, which can only be...
'Who is the most dangerous band in the world?'
Well, I'll fight the GN'R corner on their page. Meanwhile, here's the Crüe's claim to the title...
In 1981, Vincent Neil Wharton, Frank Carlton Serafino Ferrana, Thomas Lee Bass and Bob Allen Deal - a.k.a. Vince Neil, Nikki Sixx, Tommy Lee and Mick Mars, a.k.a. Mötley Crüe - hit the rock scene running, and haven't slowed down since. A typical sleazy L.A. bar band, they quickly made a name for themselves playing clubs on the Strip, enjoying debauched nights with strippers, drinking themselves into the ground and taking copious amounts of drugs. They wore ludicrous Adam Ant-style make-up, spandex, fishnets, stiletto boots and a LOT of studs and they wrote hard-hitting, boogie-tastic, uncompromising songs about sex, sex and, er, more sex. And somewhere along the line they became fabulously rich and successful, with a string of platinum albums and sell out tours to their name.
Their first album, Too Fast For Love (1981), sounds as if it was recorded in a bathroom (which, in fact, it probably was - as it is, it only took three days to record) and has some distinctly dodgy trax on it (e.g. 'Starry Eyes', which sounds like an early Madonna song) but nevertheless, with its brash, f*** you attitude, widdly guitars and undeniably catchy hooks, it blew a breath of fresh air into the turgid world of heavy metal.
Their second offering, Shout At The Devil (1983) was slicker, heavier and a lot more musically proficient, and it was at this point that they really began to make a splash on the music scene, touring with the likes of Saxon and Ozzy (imagine the backstage (and onstage) shenanigans on that one if you dare...) and opening at Donington in 1984 (one of only three gigs they've ever played in the UK. Bastards).
Then, in December 1984, things went badly pear shaped when a drinking spree with Finnish glamsters Hanoi Rocks, who were over in the States to promote their album Two Steps From The Move, ended in the death of their drummer, Razzle, in a drunken car wreck. Vince was at the wheel. He was convicted of vehicular manslaughter, imprisoned for 30 days and fined $2.6 million. He was also sentenced to 200 hours community service, which principally involved fundraising for anti-drug and alcohol abuse charities and making public service announcements about the evils of drink and drugs. So no cleaning out the toilets at old people's homes for Oor Vince then. Which is probably just as well for the old people... Still, it's all very well to be cynical, but the death of Razzle signified the death of Hanoi Rocks, whilst Crüe were still very much alive...
1985 saw the release of their third album, Theatre of Pain. It's all very slick and well-produced and it does contain two of their biggest singles, 'Home Sweet Home' and 'Smokin' In The Boys Room', but, well, I think it's a bit crap. So, moving swiftly on to their next release...
Never exactly renowned for their subtlety, Mötley Crüe really excelled themselves this time, with the guitar squallin', kerb-crawlin' paean to strippers and sex that is 1987's Girls, Girls, Girls. It's sexist, stupid and includes a truly awful cover of 'Jailhouse Rock' but all the same, I love this album. It's great.
Although perhaps not quite as great as their follow up, Dr Feelgood (1989), which has to be one of the best metal albums ever recorded. From the pure rock adrenaline rush of 'Kick Start My Heart' to the glorious sleaze of 'Slice Of Your Pie', the tongue-in-cheek humour of 'Don't Go Away Mad' and unashamed sentimentality of 'Without You' (which contains one of my favourite ever slushy lines - the one about 'Only you as I grow old'. Aw) there is not a bad track on the whole record. Except possibly 'Time For Change', which has a touch too much of the Michael Jacksons about it for my taste. Although less of the Pepsi and more of the Coke, perhaps...
Yet speaking of coke, perhaps it isn't by chance that the making of Crüe's best album yet happened to coincide with the Mötley ladz cleaning up their act somewhat. Dying of a heroin overdose and being brought back to life by paramedix was clearly not enuff of a warning to Nikki in 1987: he hitch-hiked home from the hospital and took more drugs. By 1989, however, things had got so bad that the band were shooting up on stage just to get through the night. As Michael Jackson would say, it was time for change.
And so it was a new improved Crüe who celebrated ten years on the scene with the release of a 'best of' album, Decade of Decadence (1991), a high-octane mix of past hits, live tracks and new stuff. But shortly after the release of the album, Vince fell out with his Mötley chüms - whether through 'musical differences' (as he claimed) or because he was devoting too much time to motor racing and not enuff to the band (as the others claimed) we shall probably never know.
For whatever reason(s), the band split up. And that's the Crüe story, really.
Except of course it isn't, because the band struggled on, replacing Vince with poodle-haired rocker John Corabi and releasing another album in 1994 (the pointedly titled Mötley Crüe). After hearing their first Vince-less outing, 'Hooligan's Holiday', however, I kind of neglected to buy it. I mean, it's okay, 'Hooligan's Holiday', in a boring, pounding sort of way, but it just ain't Vince.
And all right, so he may sing like a cat with its tail stuck in a vice, but that's just Vince, isn't it? And somehow Crüe sans Vince just wasn't Crüe.
Meanwhile the blonde bombshell's solo career got off to a flying start (ish) with the success of the oh-so-subtle 'You're Invited (But Your Friend Can't Come)', which featured on the soundtrack of California Man (or Encino Man, if you're American and actually stand a chance of knowing where Encino is. Which is rich, coming from the country where most people think Scotland is in England. Or that Donington is in London. Vince.)
Anyway, surprise surprise, by 1997, Vince was fed up with going solo and wanted back in. So Corabi was slung out and the lovely Mr Neil was welcomed back with open tattooed arms, just in time to record another new album, Generation Swine (1997) and then another best of (1999).
But despite this, the late '90s were a troubled period for the Crüe, with the band remaining in the media spotlight more by dint of Tommy's nefarious antix with the lovely Pamela 'Anderson' Lee than due to any music they were making. And whilst they toured continuously in the States, Japan and Oz, back here in Blighty, they may as well have split up, for all we saw of them. Meep.
But guess what? Suddenly I find that the band I thought were dead in the water are back creating waves in the great sea of rock once more. Vince is back in and Tommy is out (off creating mayhem with his new band called, er, Methods of Mayhem) and they have a new album out called New Tattoo, a fantastic return to form combining everything I love about the Crüe: sex, sleaze, humour and some damned fine tunes. (And those of you who think the Crüe are still stuck in the '80s should check out 'Porno Star', their subtle-as-a-striptease ode to net nooky. Will they be the '1st Band On The Moon'?? Well, I can think of a few people who might pay to see them put there...)
Mötley Crüe: the looks that kill, the music that rocks and the lifestyle that self-destructs. What more can I say? Your place in the hallowed Temple of Glam is assured. Long may you live to abuse it.
Another decade of decadence over so soon? Time sure goes fast when you're having fun, and nobody knows how to have fun better than the Crüe. And if you don't believe me, check out their sizzling autobiography, The Dirt, which hit the shelves in 2002 and is surely the most scurrilous, obnoxious and brilliantly conceived autobiography I've ever read.
If I didn't know it wasn't (mostly) true, I'd have thought it was fiction masquerading as an autobiography, a novelistic answer to This Is Spïnal Tap, for surely four such obsessively selfish, self-centred, self-delusional, self-important individuals couldn't really exist in real life. Silly me...
Sadly, the long promised movie version has yet to materialise but when it does, hold onto your hats and stomachs, cuz it's gonna be one hell of a ride.
In a decade marked by endless spin offs and side projects, from reality telly to clothing ranges, supergroups to cruises, tattoo parlours, porn flicks, vineyards and, um, an erotic bakery (the mind boggles...) it's amazing the band ever found time to play together at all. But in 2004 the four original members somehow managed to bury their differences and take the Mötley machine on tour once more. And where better place to kick off the UK leg but Scotland? Woohoo!
To top the endless remasterings and best ofs already on the market (including the sensitively titled four-disc compilation Music To Crash Your Car To - I bet Razzle saw the funny side of that one) 2005 saw the release of Red, White and Crüe.
A rock'n'roll history rather than a greatest hits compilation (since when was anything off Generation Swine ever a hit?), this album is an object lesson in sticking to your guns and staying true to what you do best, which in the Crüe's case is deeply dirty rock'n'roll. Two discs of hits past and present (but face it, mostly past...) take you on a rollercoaster ride through the Crüe's awesome back catalogue, peaking with the likes of gutter glam classics 'Too Fast For Love' and 'Looks That Kills', the sexed up sleaze of 'Girls Girls Girls' and pure adrenaline of 'Kick Start My Heart', and the unashamedly soppy 'Without You' and delightfully nasty 'You're All I Need' and, er, troughing with the John Corabi efforts. Oh well...
However, we had to wait until 2008 for the new Crüe's first studio album since New Tattoo, Saints of Lose Angeles. And the verdict? Well, the whole of Mötley Crüe has always been greater than the sum of the parts. Vince Neil sings like a vixen on heat, Nikki Sixx's basslines are muddy as a swamp, Mick Mars hardly causes Slash to break out into a sweat and as for Tommy Lee, well, we know for a fact that he can't play drums well enough to get into a college band. And Saints of Los Angeles isn't going to change my mind about this - but like, well, nearly all their other albums, it's a deliciously dirty, sexy slice of piping hot West Coast musical pie.
'I'd Rather Be Dead' grabs you by the jugular right from the start, while 'What's It Gonna Take' continues the belligerent rebellion with lost of 'motherf*ckers' and such like naughty talk.
They're showing their age with 'Down at the Whiskey', a glorious, nostalgic trip down memory lane (although, come to think of it, I'm surprised any of them can remember anything about the good old, bad old LA days...) but the title track is a triumphant battle cry to rally old glams to the dancefloor.
'The Animal In Me' is more an apology than a statement but 'White Trash Circus' is a proud declaration: disorderly and raucous as ever, the Crüe are back to stay.
Since then the band have toured religiously, both as a band and with various side projects, putting in a UK appearance at Download in 2009 and scheduled to play Sonisphere in 2010 (hooray!) - watch this space for a full review. And if you can't wait 'til then - guess what? They've got another Greatest Hits album out. How many versions of 'Girls, Girls, Girls' do we need? Hell, how many ya got?