Who’s keeping themselves fully up to date on the Motley Crue civil war that erupted in late 2022 between the band and their long standing guitar player Mick Mars? If you’re not, don’t fret, because The Hawk has got you covered.
In this post, we’ll look at how it started, what’s happened, and possibly salivate about the prospect of more dirty laundry being aired in court. That’ll keep us in blogging clover for some time to come.
A Tour Too Many
So, it’s 2022, and Motley Crue have signed on to play a 12 stadium tour with fellow heavyweights Def Leppard – and Crue co-founder / guitarist Mick Mars is fully on board. But Mars knew this tour would be his last. Having struggled since his 20s with Ankylosing Spondylitis (A.S.), a chronic and degenerative spinal condition, he was now prepared to admin defeat, and recognize that his body just wasn’t physically capable of touring any more.
Who can blame him? In The Dirt, Mars had described the pain as being like ‘someone was igniting fireworks in my bones,’ and that was over 20 years ago. Now hitting his 70s, Mars knew that the game was up.
Mars informed the others, and his brothers-in-arms of 40 years responded sympathetically – expanding the tour by a further 24 shows. Mars agreed to the additions and stoically plugged away despite the pain.
By September, it was all over and an announcement was prepared to cover the retirement. And it’s here that 2 sides of the story first emerge. According to Mick Mars, he was clear that he was only ever intending to retire from touring. But he would still remain a member of the band, available for recording, one-off shows and residences.
Mick Mars, co-founder and lead guitarist of the heavy metal band Mötley Crüe for the past 41 years, has announced today that due to his ongoing painful struggle with Ankylosing Spondylitis (A.S.), he will no longer be able to tour with the band. Mick will continue as a member of the band, but can no longer handle the rigors of the road. A.S. is an extremely painful and crippling degenerative disease, which affects the spine.Mick Mars (Partial!!) Retirement Announcement
But over in the Motley Crue camp, things looked a little different, and within 24 hours, they’d released a statement of their own.
While change is never easy, we accept Mick’s decision to retire FROM THE BAND due to the challenges with his health. We have watched Mick manage his Ankylosing Spondylitis for decades and he has always managed it with utmost courage and grace. To say ‘enough is enough’ is the ultimate act of courage. Mick’s sound helped define Mötley Crüe from the minute he plugged in his guitar at our very first rehearsal together. The rest, as they say, is history. We’ll continue to honor his musical legacy.Motley Crue Statement
So that was the start of all the (public) bad blood – there’s been plenty more in private, as we’ll see. According to Mars, the rest of the band then presented him with a separation agreement without prior consultation, offering him 5% of the profits from their next tour (the first one without him), reducing to nothing after that.
They told him that if he didn’t take the offer, they’d take steps to effectively kick him out with nothing. Mars was outraged – he regarded the offer as derisory, and thought the band anyway had no right to kick him out, as he explained to Variety in April 2023. (Unsubtle headline – ‘I carried those bastards!!’)
That’s an insult to me that they’re offering me that. No. It’s my name. It’s Mick Mars, it’s Motley Crew, the four of us that made the band. You would have to have a good reason to be fired. I don’t.Mick Mars
The offer was certainly one-sided – even after cutting off Mars, it would have given the band indefinite rights to use Mars’ name and likeness for publicity.
The band clearly thought they had the power though, and set about testing that. A shareholders’ meeting was called in November, where they voted to fire him as a director, and take back his shares in the company.
Phew. Let’s take a quick break and listen to some Motley Crue.
Mick Fights Back…
This was all too much for Mars, who responded by filing suit in open court, which was where things really started to turn nasty. In addition to the allegations covering the business side, Mars claimed that bassist Nikki Sixx gaslit during the 2022 tour with constant claims that his playing wasn’t up to scratch and was attracting fan complaints – this was, he said, part of a long running plot to force him out and take his shares.
Then, in the most incendiary claims, Mars said that Sixx, on the same tour, ‘did not play a single note on bass during the entire US tour’, and that quite a lot of Tommy Lee’s drums and Vince Neil’s vocals were pre-recorded.
…And so do the Crue
Motley Crue decided to fight fire with fire, issuing the following statement to USA Today in response to the miming allegations.
Mötley Crüe always performs its songs live but during the last tour, Mick struggled to remember chords, played the wrong songs and made constant mistakes which led to his departure from the band. The band did everything to protect him, tried to keep these matters private to honor Mick’s legacy and take the high road.Motley Crue Statement
Nikki Sixx also waded in on twitter.
Long Term Bullying?
So who’s propping up who? Mars now claims that the Sixx gaslighting has been going on for years – complaints of poor playing as a ruse to force him out.
Those guys have been hammering on me since ’87, trying to replace me. They haven’t been able to do that, because I’m the guitar player. I helped form this band. It’s my name I came up with [the Motley Crue moniker], my ideas, my money that I had from a backer to start this band.Mick Mars
And there’s a certain amount of contemporaneous support for this – for instance in his autobiography, ex-Ozzy Osbourne band member Bob Daisley said the others approached him on a tour bus once to ask for advice on how they might fire Mars.
So, truth is: I want to retire from touring because of my AS I don’t have a problem remembering the songs. But I do have a problem with them, constantly, the whole time, telling me that I lost my memory. No. Wrong. That’s wrong. Absolutely wrong.Mick Mars
What About the Miming Claims?
Looking at the whole miming / sync – ing thing, that’s obviously a whole wider debate going on in the world of music, with heavy metal being no exception. Lots of bands play gigs with backing tapes, and don’t try to hide it – it elevates the sound and makes for a better overall performance – especially on songs that have a lot of different elements going on in the studio.
The question is where do we draw the line? For The Hawk, it’s simple enough – have a backing tape if it makes for a better show. But don’t mime. Don’t pretend to play when all the audience is hearing is from the tape.
We’re still none the wiser on whether that’s what Motley Crue were doing, of course, so bring on the litigation on that one. Though of course, fans can judge the evidence of their own eyes, and there have been a few clips circulating on social media in recent months of the supposed fakery. Many of them are convincing – there are definitely tapes playing on these shows. Question is whether there are live instruments as well. Here’s an example.
The band are certainly getting themselves lined up, even gathering statements from 2022 roadies that he messed up all the time, playing wrong chords, solos or arrangements.
For his part, Mars is basically calling sabotage – yes, he screwed up at times, but it was because he couldn’t hear on his own feed when he was supposed to come in, with his cues drowned out.
Anyway, that was the worst 36 gigs ever had with the band. I don’t know, and I can’t say I positively know, but I have a pretty good feeling that they wanted me gone anyway. Because they’ve been wanting that since forever. It’s just frustrating for me. I’m pretty upset that they’re even pulling this crap, when I carried these bastards for years.Mick Mars
Who’s Side Are You On?
So that’s where we are, and it seems nobody has much more to say whilst the legal gears are grinding. Motley Crue say you can’t be a member if you can’t tour. Mars says he can’t be kicked out of his own band. The last The Hawk heard, there was due to be a hearing in July 2023 to start arrangements for the trial, so bring that on.
Safe to say though, that there’s no way back for them as a 4-piece, and we won’t see any Vegas residency gigs with the old line-up back together.
The whole thing has certainly polarized the heavy metal community, people coming in with support for one camp or the other. Team Mick? Or Team Motley Crue? Choose your side.
The Hawk has more sympathy with Mars, TBH, mainly because he was always the musically talented one in the band. None of the others will individually ever come close to topping a ‘Best of’ poll.
‘The best ever metal bass player is … Nikki Sixx’Said by literally nobody, ever!
Wheels in Motion
But The Hawk also suspects that, as so often with these things, people will come to regret the rush to litigate. Mick Mars was always somewhat the old dude in the band, quite a bit older than the rest, and deserves a dignified retirement. John 5 has certainly injected some energy into Motley Crue since joining, so they’re not any worse off. And as a founder member, Mars doesn’t deserve to be frozen out financially forever – they could have negotiated a settlement, and presumably can afford to.
So that would have been the cool headed, rational view to take. But now the wheels are spinning in the opposite direction, so we’d better all take our ringside seats. The last the court heard, a case management conference was scheduled for July 23, which should give us more on the next steps at least. More on this blog as the story unfolds.
In the meantime, let’s play out with more classic Crue. Maximum cheese here, as Motley pretend to be tough bikers, staking their claim to the best table at a strip joint. I know this type of glam isn’t to everybody’s taste, but you’d need a heart of stone not to smile at this effort.
So, time to take sides. Are you Team Mick? Or Team Crue? Are you quietly salivating at the prospect of a mud slinging court confrontation? Or should they resolve things like grown-ups? Let’s hear it in the comments below.