Some time ago, The Hawk wrote an article looking at the bad boy antics of heavy metal Wildman Ozzy Osbourne. The idea was to figure out how much of that reputation was true and how much hype. (Spoiler alert – Ozzy mostly lives up to the hype).
But what about Motley Crue controversy? It struck me that a similar article about the Glam Hair Mtal kings and hedonistic sometime junkies themselves would be in order – they’ve had just as many wild stories following them around over the years. So here we go again – Motley Crue controversy – fact or fiction? (And there’ll be the usual sprinkling of musical distractions from the Crue. So, strap in, and we’ll get right into it.)
The biggest question for any article on Motley Crue controversies (and given we’re not trying to write a whole novel here) is which ones to choose. There are so many – but here we’re looking for the genuine alleged bad boy antics – so not the carefully stage-managed spats with other metal bands, which anyone can whip up. No, we’re looking for the real deal stuff here, and like most Classic Metal Hawk articles, we’ll be focusing on the 1980s, which is when most of that went down. Though 1990s not off limits by any means.
So here’s a run down of 7 famous Crus controversies, with The Hawk’s Bad Boy Rating for each, to reflect whether the incident was all hype, or whether it was giving Ozzy a run for his money.
1. Arrested in Japan
On that note, let’s start out in Japan, where Motley Crue are on the latest leg of the Girls! tour in 1987. Things got off to a rocky start the police found pot in drummer Tommy Lee’s kit, and promptly arrested him. Whatever could have aroused their suspicions? Whatever, Lee was bailed out by the local promoter so that the tour could continue.
Did they learn their lesson and rain it in? What do you reckon? A few days later they were all on the bullet train from Osaka to Tokyo. Lee and Bassist Nikki Sixx got wasted again, this time ending with Sixx throwing a bottle of whisky at a Japanese businessman. Blood was drawn, and this time there was a welcoming committee of riot police waiting for them at the station.
This time, Sixx and manager Doc McGhee were arrested and hauled off to jail. (McGhee loathed the band on a personal level, spending virtually the entire tour either keeping them out of trouble, or bailing them out, so the incident did nothing to repair relations. The band eventually fired him, accusing him of promoting another of his bands, Bon Jovi, up the bill at their expense at the Moscow Peace Festival in 1989.
McGhee presumably had mixed feelings about this – relief at being to get him life back and look at future Motley as a mere outsider heavy amongst them.
‘Mötley Crüe are savages with cash who care nothing about nobody, even each other.’Doc McGhee (Motley Crue Ex-Manager)
Bad Boy Rating: 4/5
2. Shout at the Devil
Motley Crue successfully stirred up controversy with their second album, ‘Shout at the Devil’, released in 1983, mainly because of its Satanic imagery and lyrics. People were having panic attacks about the moral depravity of allegedly devil-worshipping heavy metal bands at the time, especially in the US, so the timing was perfect.
It’s lucky because, according to The Hawk, ‘Shout….’ Is a crappy album with few redeeming features. But, with a bit of controversy, plus the band really locking in their big-hair glam image at the same time, it sold quite well.
And the bad by image was coming to the boil nicely by now. Before recording the album, they’d been kicked off a K.I.S.S. tour after only 5 shows for bad behaviour. During recording, Nikki Sixx totalled a Porsche, and injured his shoulder – he was prescribed an opioid painkiller containing oxycodone, which proved the gateway to heroin use later on.
On the tour in support of the album, they got into a violent dispute with Van Halen (biting involved, as well as a fist fight with Dave Lee Roth) which almost led to them being kicked off the Monsters of Rock bill. Hotels routinely demanded a $15,000 deposit before accepting a reservation for the band, to cover expected damage. Doc McGhee could see by now what he’d let himself in for and made band members submit a list of damaged items every time they checked out.
‘You apologized every day.’Doc McGhee (again)
Still, the antics soon came to the attention of Ozzy Osbourne himself, who was delighted to invite his fellow bad boys on tour. They took debauchery to a whole new level, including that famous incident where Ozzy snorted a line of ants from the ground when he realized he was all out of cocaine.
Bad Boy Rating: 3/5
3. Generation Swine Riot
Moving forward to 1997, and here are Motley Crue playing a show in Phoenix, in support of their latest album, ‘Generation Swine.’
Towards the end, they ‘invited’ the crowd to join them onstage, without having bothered to inform the venue management in advance of this plan. The sight of hundreds of fans surging up to the stage naturally caused some consternation among security staff, who struggled to keep order. The band themselves, realizing things were getting out of hand decided to pour more gas onto the fire.
‘The band incited the crowd and taunted them to get up on stage. Two of the band members, Lee and Sixx, tried to overpower the security guard, and assaulted him. They kicked him, punched him and spit at him.‘Mike Torres, public information officer for the Phoenix Police Department.
The security guard in question was only 18 years old at the time, and to make a bad situation worse, damage was done to the arena. Lee and Sixx spent that night in jail before being bailed.
Bad Boy Rating: 2/5
4. Tommy / Pammy Sex Tape
This incident barely gets a mention – sure Tommy Lee made a sex tape of himself, and his then wife and Baywatch beauty Pamela Anderson. But he never intended for it to be stolen and then publicly released, in an early example of viral porn. This was quite a scandal at the time.
However, Lee did assault a passerby who made a derogatory and lewd comment about Anderson in the street and had to pay $25,000 to settle the matter. Bad boy defends his wife’s honour!
Bad Boy Rating: 1/5
5. No More Razzle Dazzle
In 1984, Finnish metallers Hanoi Rocks were on an American odyssey. They’d recorded an album, ‘Two Steps From The Move’ in New York, and following a tour in Europe and Asia, were going ending with a triumphant swing across the US.
They made it all the way to LA, and an early Christmas party at the home of Motley Crue’s Vince Neil. It was quite a shindig, until on the fourth day, the booze ran out. ‘No worries,’ says Neil, I’ll handle this, and he piles into his much-prized 1972 Ford Pantera with Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle.
It didn’t end well. Returning from a liquor store (all of 2 blocks away) with a carload of beer, Neil lost control, crossed the center line, and ran headlong into another car. Razzle was killed instantly in the crash.
The 2 occupants of the other car were badly injured, suffering broken limbs and brain damage. One of them, Lisa Hogan was in a coma for a month, and suffered seizures afterwards.
Neil himself miraculously escaped serious injury, with some cracked ribs and cuts to his face. He blew a breath test reading on .17, not far off twice the legal limit, and was arrested and hauled off to a cell, leaving others to clean up the mess. Andy McCoy, the rhythm guitarist in Hanoi Rocks had to go to the hospital to identify the body of his now dead band mate.
Neil was eventually convicted of vehicular homicide, with a sentence of 30 days jail, 5 years’ probation and $2.6 million in compensation to his victims. He walked after serving 18 days, out early on parole thanks to (oh the irony) good behaviour.
McCoy remained incensed for years afterwards that Neil never even offered an apology for what he did, even complaining at one point that Lisa Hogan’s parents ‘looked at me like I was Satan’ during a court hearing. Did he expect them to ask for an autograph?
Bad Boy Rating: 5/5
6. Second Coming
Back to the Girls! tour now, and Nikki Sixx is disintegrating before everyone’s eyes, his existence nothing but a constant search for his next drug fix, with a couple of hours on stage in between. Almost every penny he earned went on drugs – but not quite – there was a little left over for prostitutes as well.
They raised hell at a club, then scored some heroin and took it back to a hotel. By this point, Sixx was too wasted to inject himself, so got his dealer to do it for him. He lost consciousness, and, lucky for him, somebody was still aware enough to call for an ambulance. At this point, Sixx claims to have had an out of body experience, rising from his own body, and looking down at himself, at the ‘filthy, tattooed container that had once held me.‘
Who knows if that’s yet another Motley Crue tall story, but anyway, Sixx was clinically dead for a couple of minutes, before he came to with a couple of large adrenalin needles sticking out of his chest. The paramedic was a Crue fan and had managed to avert the near disaster.
He was checked over in hospital, discharged, and got a ride home with a couple of fans. On the way, radio stations were reporting his death from heroin overdose. Upon arriving safely at home, Sixx immediately shot up with heroin yet again, still unable to confront his addiction even after his short death. In a hilarious twist, he changed the voice message on his answering machine:
‘Hey, it’s Nikki. I’m not home because I’m dead.‘Nikki Sixx Answer Machine Message. Honk!
He did finally go into rehab a short time later though, along with the rest of the band. McGhee had refused to sanction another European tour – he figured someone would come back in a body bag and didn’t want to take responsibility. And, in the moments of clarity following that, the band produced one of their rare good albums – ‘Dr. Feelgood’ in 1989. The highlight being the Sixx-penned track ‘Kickstart my Heart’, covering his brush with the reaper.
Bad Boy Rating: 4/5
7. Guns n Roses Feud
Phew – let’s end on a lighter note. Look, I know, The Hawk promised no band feuds in this article, but this one (almost) came to violence, so just about makes it in. Early in their careers, Motley Crue and Guns n Roses got along like a house on hire, no doubt helped by their shared love of getting wasted in all ways known to man.
But then things turned sour. Vince Neil accused Guns n Roses guitarist Izzy Stradlin of assaulting his wife Sharisse at a club in LA in 1988. It all went downhill quickly, and at an MTV awards show in 1989, Neil charged the stage and tried to punch Stradlin who was up there accepting an award. He was quickly restrained by security, and not much damage was done. But Axl Rose was sufficiently outraged to issue a challenge to settle the matter in the time-honoured way.
‘Anytime he wants it, Atlantic City; I Don’t Care, We’ll put money on it. ‘Axl Rose
Neil responded in a similarly eloquent way:
‘Axl if you are watching this, I want to challenge you to a fight. I’m gonna give you time and I’m gonna give you the place. There’s no backing out now buddy. It’s time to put up or shut up.‘Vince Neil
OMG! Have you ever heard of a sorrier pissing contest in your life? (Tell us in the comments if so).
Unfortunately, the fight never happened, and after a few years, the bands resolved their differences. Pity.
Bad Boy Rating: 0/5
So, there you have it – a run-down of some selected Motley Crue bad boy antics. And to be fair, they have been genuinely out of control at times. For The Hawk, Ozzy remains king when it comes to this kind of thing, but the Crue certainly ran him close for a time.
Let’s close with a classic Crue number from way back when – 1981 – a time when the music was more a focus than all the other noise. Enjoy.
Who’s your king of the bad boy brigade in heavy metal? Ozzy? Motley Crue? Or someone else entirely? Let us know in your comments, along with your favourite Motley Crue controversies.