Mötley Crüe are known as the world’s most notorious rock band for a reason. Hailing from Los Angeles, CA, the band formed in 1981, with the original members consisting of Vince Neil (vocals), Mick Mars (guitars), Nikki Sixx (bass), and Tommy Lee (drummer).
The band is well-known for their insane antics, and some of the stories floating around are hard to believe. For example, Tommy Lee and Nikki Sixx had a pact that they wouldn’t shower in-between sleeping with groupies. Rumor has it, Tommy Lee once hit on Nikki Sixx’s mother.
More Than Just Antics
But they weren’t just famous for their off-stage antics. The band was notorious for their wild performances on-stage and in the studio too. Mötley Crüe has sold over 100 million albums worldwide, with seven platinum or multi-platinum certifications.
They’d tear it up on stage, often smashing up expensive guitars or even vomiting up there. The band grew to sell-out stadiums, but in the early days it was their DIY energy and androgynous looks that captured the attention of the American public.
Loud, Rude and Aggressive
The band formed in January 1981, with Nikki Six leaving a band called London to join the Crüe. They needed a final member, and found Mick Mars after he advertised “Loud, rude and aggressive guitarist available.” Vince Neal was friends with Tommy Lee from high school, so he was a no-brainer.
The band spent their early years performing on the garage circuit and played their first gig at Starwood nightclub on April 24th. They decided on the name Mötley Crüe after Mars heard someone refer to them as a “motley looking crew.” The umlauts were inspired by the German beer Löwenbräu.
The Early Years
Mötley Crüe seemed like they were aways destined for stardom. They released their first album in November 1981 and called it Too Fast to Love. It was self-produced and self-released on the band’s own label Leathür Records and sold 20,000 copies.
The success of the album got the band signed the following year and although it only reached number 77 in the charts at the time of release, it would later reach platinum status after being remixed and rereleased once the band hit legendary status.
Crüesing Through Canada Tour ’82
The band hit the road for the first time in August 1982, with several incidents kick-starting the band’s wild reputation. The first one was when the band was arrested and then released at Edmonton Airport for wearing their spiked stage wardrobes though customs.
Then Neil was held up for carrying a small catalogue of pornos on board the plane with him. Then, while playing at Scandals Disco in Edmonton, a bomb threat meant the Crüe were on the front page of the Edmonton Journal the next day. Lee and their assistant band manager were interviewed by police.
A Genius Stunt
To top it all, Lee threw a television set out the upper story window of the Sheraton Caravan Hotel, leading the band to be banned for life from Edmonton. The tour ended in disaster and the band lost a lot of money – but they’d certainly built a name for themselves.
They were gracing the pages of magazines in the USA and beyond – which makes sense, seeing as most of the incidents listed here turned out to be PR stunts. The band then switched management, which ended in a long and arduous lawsuit and bankruptcy for the ex-manager.
The Fame Game
After their initial tour, the band quickly became notorious for their bad behavior, a lot of which was wrapped up in drugs and alcohol. Gossip column Page Six claimed the band was caught peeing on the floors of their bedrooms and trashing hotel rooms in Germany.
The band’s performance at the US Festival in May 1983 caught the attention of MTV, and their second album Shout at the Devil was released in September 1983. This was their moment and represented Mötley Crüe’s break-through into the mainstream.
The Devil’s Music
In those days, Satanism was a taboo, which is why the band kicked up a stir with their second album which invoked imagery from satanism. This did impress one rocker though, and the band found themselves opening up for Ozzy Osbourne’s 1984 Bark at the Moon tour.
The band’s backstage antics were becoming more and more publicized at this point. Their clothing was getting increasingly outrageous, their make-up heavier and their abuse of drugs and alcohol seemed to be spiraling out of control. Then, the unthinkable happened.
In late 1984, a band called Hanoi Rocks were in the middle of their second American tour. The band had become friends with Mötley Crüe and spent the day at Vince Neil’s home in Redondo Beach. Hanoi Rocks, Mötley Crüe and a bunch more people spent the day and night partying like there was no tomorrow.
And, tragically, for some people there was no tomorrow. After partying for days, Vince Neil and Hanoi Rocks’ drummer Nicholas ‘Razzle’ Dingley decided to go to the liquor store to stock up on alcohol. Neil was in no state to drive, and the decision had tragic consequences.
A Head-On Collision
Vince Neil was wasted, and on the way back from the store he lost control of the car. He hit another vehicle with such impact that the two people inside were seriously injured and suffered brain damage. Razzle did not get off so lightly, however, and Neil found himself in handcuffs.
Tragically, coroners found that Razzle died instantly upon impact. It was December 8th, 1984, and he was just 24 years old. Hanoi Rocks was a Finnish rock band who formed in 1979. At the time of Razzle’s death, their star was firmly on the rise.
‘80s Glam Rock Kings
Hanoi Rocks was riding the wave of ‘80s glam rock and were the first Finnish rock band to make the charts in the UK. The band broke up after Razzle’s death; however, the band still sold between 780,000 and 1,000,000 albums during their lifespan.
Hanoi Rocks formed in Helsinki, with a rotating line-up at first. They made a name for themselves on the Finnish club circuit, playing original songs and covers of music by Cheap Trick, The Police and MC5. The band clearly had potential, because their first show was a game-changer.
Masses of Potential
That show was attended by Seppo Vesterinen, a manager who brought huge artists including Iggy Pop and Frank Zappa to Finland. When he saw Hanoi Rocks perform, he knew they had a bright future ahead of them. So, Seppo suggested the band move to Stockholm.
The band worked their way up from zero to hero in Stockholm, and eventually embarked on their first tour in January 1981. The tour was 102 days long – the longest in Finnish history. It was on this tour that the band developed their high-energy, erratic performance-style.
The Big Move
After building a name and reputation for themselves, the band moved to London in September 1981. Here they recorded their second album and performed at the infamous Marquee Club in London. Their album made number five in the Finnish album charts.
That’s where Razzle stepped in. He was the drummer for London punk band The Dark, but after he attended a few Hanoi Rocks show he decided to switch allegiances and asked to be the band’s drummer. It was good timing. Their current drummer, Gyp Casino, was causing problems.
The band fired Casino for his repeated drug use, depression and suicidal tendencies and replaced him with Razzle. The band then released their third studio album Self-Destruction Blues with the single Love’s an Injection which spent a week at number one in Finland’s charts.
On a roll, the band then signed to a Japanese record label called Nippon Phonogram. The band had long been popular in Japan, but this contract took them to the next level. They went on a tour of Asia in 1983 which was covered in lots of British magazines.
Breaking Into Hotels
The band kicked off their tour in Bombay and won over the hearts and ears of fans in Hong Kong and Japan after that. In fact, they were so loved that fans even tried breaking into their hotel rooms to see the musicians. The band’s shows were selling out and they were charging premium rates for tickets.
The band returned to London in April to record their fourth album, and from there went to Israel where they did not receive a warm welcome. The lead singer had a problem leaving the hotel because people thought he was an improperly-dressed woman and spat on him, while audiences didn’t like their aggressive playing style.
Back to Mystery City
The pan-Asian tour was a huge success, and in 1983 the band released their fourth studio album Back to Mystery City. After that, they signed with record label CBS for a deal of £150,000. In August 1983, the band released the single Until I Get You / Tragedy.
This catapulted the band’s popularity into the strategy and caught the attention of Lick Records which re-released the band’s first three albums. Around the same time, it was becoming clear that some of the band members’ alcohol and drug intake was getting out of hand.
Two Steps From The Move
1984 was going to be Hanoi Rocks’ year. They were well on their way to superstardom, with a mega record deal from one of the world’s biggest labels and a reputation for straddling rock and roll and the glam rock era.
They were even getting compared to Mötley Crüe. In 1984, the band recorded Two Steps From the Move, with artists from Mott the Hoople and Cream helping song-write. The record was released in April to critical acclaim, which led to a second tour in Bombay and Japan.
An Unstoppable Force
Even their Finnish fans were confused by the band’s popularity in Japan. They were followed everywhere by devoted fans, who couldn’t get enough of the Finnish glam rockers. When they returned, the band went on tour in England and Scotland.
After that tour, Two Steps From the Move hit the big-time. It entered the charts at number 28 and was the band’s most successful album. Their singles − Underwater World and Two Steps From the Move − nabbed them a tour with American artist Johnny Thunders.
Their First American Tour
1984 was going so well. By November, the band had sold over 200,000 copies of their album, and their singles were entering the charts all around the world. They went on a tour of Sweden and when they returned arranged their first USA tour.
The first date was planned for November 19th in Syracuse, New York. However, the vocalist Michael Monroe fractured his ankle on-stage, so several dates had to be cancelled. Their Los Angeles show sold out in less than 30 minutes, showing just how popular they were.
December 8th, 1984
Attendees of Mötley Crüe’s party have sketchy memories of the time. However, many say that they partied for three to four days. It was December 8th when they realized their supplies were depleted, and that’s when Vince Neil decided to go on a booze run.
At this point, both Mötley Crüe and Hanoi Rocks were battling severe addictions. That fateful day of December 8th, 1984, was supposed to be a celebration of the band’s unstoppable global rise, but it ended in tragedy.
The Wrecked Car
Tommy Lee and Andy McCoy became concerned when their friends hadn’t returned an hour later, so they went to find them. That’s when, with a sinking feeling, they saw the wrecked car, and Vince Neil in handcuffs next to Razzle’s lifeless body.
It wasn’t just Razzle’s life that was destroyed that day. Vince Neil was arrested and questioned. The police discovered that after leaving at 1:38 p.m., Vince Neil lost control of the car and swerved into a stationary fire truck, going at 65 mph in a 25 mph speed zone.
The car then ricocheted into the oncoming traffic and hit two other cars. One of the drivers was Lisa Hogan, who was 18 years old. She was rushed to hospital in critical condition and was in a coma for a month.
When she woke up, she had a broken arm, two broken legs and brain damage so serious she’s been liable to psychomotor seizures ever since. Daniel Smithers, 20 years old, was Lisa’s passenger and suffered a broken leg and some brain damage too. The driver of the other car was uninjured.
A Rock and Roll Miracle
Miraculously, Vince Neil came out of the accident without any serious injury – just a couple cracked ribs and cuts on his face. Razzle was pronounced dead at 7:19 p.m. at Redondo’s South Bay Hospital. Vince Neil, meanwhile, was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving.
That wasn’t all. He was also arrested for vehicular manslaughter; however, he was released on bail for just $2,500. Although you can serve up to 30 years for manslaughter, after Vince Neil was convicted in July 1985, he only served 20 days of jail time.
A Big Bill and Community Service
Vince Neil was ordered to pay a total of $2.6 million to the injured parties, and he was also forced to complete 200 hours of community service and educate himself in schools and lecture halls on the perils of drug and alcohol abuse.
Afterwards, it was revealed that Vince Neil’s alcohol reading was 0.17, well over the legal limit of 0.10, and it emerged that neither Vince Tel nor Razzle were wearing seatbelts at the time of the incident. The impact of these events is still felt today.
A Remembered Conversation
Andy McCoy was the lead guitarist and songwriter for Hanoi Rocks. 19 years later he recalls the headspace the band was in at that time. He said he remembers the band getting totally out of control. He was trying to clean up his act, while they were simply getting worse.
He remembered Razzle being on a mission to get as drunk and high as possible at all times. Andy McCoy said he remembers their manager Zeppo telling a drunk and despondent Razzle, “You’re gonna kill yourself if you keep partying this way.”
I Don’t Care if I Die
Razzle’s response was ominous. He looked Zeppo straight in the eye and said “You know, I don’t care if I fucking die. I just want to get to LA.” His wish certainly came true, but tragically he wouldn’t be able to enjoy it or anything else thereafter.
Andy McCoy says that the memory that still haunts him from 1984 was identifying the body of his friend and bandmate. He said he had to call his manager to tell the band to get to hospital. Andy McCoy identified him to save the others from seeing the horror of his caved-in head.
Rest in Peace
When the band finally arrived at the hospital, Andy broke the news that their bandmate had passed away. He said the only comfort he could give them was that he felt no pain and died instantly. “May he rest in peace,” Andy said.
Even 19 years on, Andy says he still mourns the loss of his friend. He says he does resent the fact that Vince Neil never served his time. “He got away with a misdemeanor. If he would have been a broke Afro-American guy or Latino, he would have been doing life in San Quentin.”
Andy McCoy says that Vince Neil never apologized for what happened that fateful night. And they’ve never really spoken since. Andy says that every time he comes across Vince Neil, he runs away. The other members of the band apologized, but Vince Neil never did.
Apparently, the band members were so devastated by Vince Neil’s actions that Mötley Crüe almost broke up that day. Tommy nearly beat the shit out of Vince, Andy recalls. But the truth is, nothing will bring back Razzle, and for Hanoi Rocks it would never be the same again.
We Lost Millions
After the loss of their drummer, Hanoi Rocks was unable to pick themselves back up. The band could have sued Vince Neil and received millions; however, Andy McCoy decided against that, for moral reasons mostly.
Andy McCoy said “How the hell can we put a price on a brother, a family member? There isn’t enough money, you can’t put it in money. Let him live with it, let karma get him.” And in many ways, karma did get Vince Neil. He hasn’t been able to stay out of trouble since.
We Didn’t Care Anymore
After that fateful day, the band lost their place in the universe. McCoy said he just didn’t care anymore and was so lost and upset he got into drugs and started taking them to cope with his grief. The band was in shock and had no idea how they’d move forward.
In early 1985, Hanoi Rocks played a couple of gigs in Razzle’s memory. The first was in Finland – a live, continent-wide, televised gig which was supposed to be the band’s triumphant return to Helsinki but ended up being a homage to their dead bandmate.
For those performances, Terry Chimes who was the drummer for The Class and Generation X took a seat behind the kit, while a devastated Michael Monroe performed with a fractured ankle, holding back the tears from his agonizing loss.
Onlookers noted that the bandmates didn’t even make eye contact, as it seemed like a shared glance might make them burst into tears. This would also mark the bassist, Sam Yaffa’s final performance with the band. He had announced his plans to leave before Razzle’s death.
With Razzle dead and Sam Yaffa out of the band, Hanoi Rocks collapsed. The emotional toll was too much for them to continue, and the band broke up in 1985, shortly after their live performance. The members spent the next 15 years in various short-lived projects.
The band spent the next 15 years dabbling in music, even hitting the studio on various projects with artists like Iggy Pop, Steve Stevens, Little Steven, Joan Jett and Guns N’ Roses, but they never achieved the level of success they had with Hanoi Rocks.
Theater of Pain
Meanwhile, Mötley Crüe were essentially continuing their lives as normal. In June 1985, they released their third album Theatre of Pain which they dedicated to Razzle’s memory, which led the band into their glam metal phase, resembling the sound of Hanoi Rocks.
The album was a commercial success and reached number six on the Billboard album charts and was eventually certified quadruple platinum status. However, the recording of the album was fraught with tension. The bandmates were furious with Vince Neil and Nikki Sixx’s drug and alcohol dependency was spiraling out of control.
A Near-Fatal Overdose
While Hanoi Rocks fell apart, Mötley Crüe prepared for a world tour to support the album made in Razzle’s honor. In February 1986, Nikki Sixx overdosed on heroine and almost died. The person who sold him the drugs dumped his body in a bin.
The band was becoming increasingly out of control; however, they kept on touring and making music. They released Girls, Girls, Girls in 1987 which debuted at number two in the charts; however, later that year Nikki Sixx suffered another overdose.
This time, Nikki Sixx was declared clinically dead for two minutes. However, a paramedic, who was a Mötley Crüe fan, revived him with two shots of adrenaline. This incident inspired Nikki to write Kickstart My Heart for their 1989 album Dr. Feelgood.
Mötley Crüe’s decadent lifestyle was crippling the band, so their managers staged an intervention and refused to let them tour Europe. They collectively entered rehab in 1989, in an attempt to save their own lives and keep the band going. And the result was phenomenal.
By 1989, Mötley Crüe had been through a lot – and they’d put other people through a lot as well. Drugs and alcohol were responsible for Razzle’s death and for the demise of many relationships. So, when the band members entered rehab, they intended to get sober and stay that way.
When they emerged, they were feeling fresh, creative and focused for the first time in many years. They flew to Vancouver to record Dr. Feelgood, with the band recording each of their parts separately to reduce fights and focus on their own performances.
Their First Number 1
The result was their first number 1 album, and it stayed in the charts for 114 weeks. The band members credited the album’s success with their new-found sobriety, and Kickstart My Heart was nominated for a Grammy and many more awards in the following years.
In 1989 and 1990, the band went on a massive world tour which left the band feeling burnt out and on the edge. They then released their first compilation album, Decade of Decadence 81 – 91 which reached number two in the charts. What followed, however, were years of turmoil.
A Huge Loss
In February 1992, after a petty studio argument, Vince Neil left the Crüe. He says he was fired, while Nikki Sixx insists he quit of his own accord. At the time, Vince Neil was back on the wagon and his drinking was making him miss important rehearsals and mess up at gigs.
The band felt Vince Neil was holding back, and they blamed the singer’s passion for race car driving, saying Neil was prioritizing it over music. Tommy Lee said Vince Neil was no longer contributing to the creative process and that’s when Neil stormed out. So, was he fired, or did he quit? No one can agree.
Vince Neil went solo almost immediately and released his album Exposed in 1993. This was followed by Carved in Stone, an industrial album produced by the Dust Brothers. The album hit the charts at 139, and because the album sold so few copies his contract with Warner Bros Records was terminated.
Meanwhile, John Corabi replaced Vince Neil from 1992 – 1996. However, it turns out Vince Neil’s leaving the Crüe was only a hiatus. In 1998, Mötley Crüe were back in the spotlight after a Behind the Music episode aired. It seemed the world was thirsty for more Mötley.
The Four Reunited
By 1997, the band’s popularity was declining, and Vince Neil’s solo career wasn’t doing too well either. So, they reunited in 1997, with Vince Neil recalling the band saying, “they couldn’t do it without me.” They released their album Generation Swine, which hit number four in the charts.
But it wasn’t going to last for very long. Long-lived tension within the band soon erupted prompting Tommy Lee to leave the band. He was replaced with Randy Castillo, who recorded New Tattoo in 2000. However, the band went on a hiatus after Castillo passed away from cancer in 2002.
A Hanoi Rocks Rebirth
Around this time, in February 2001, Michael Monroe and Andy McCoy performed together in Turku, Finland, for the first time since 1985. The performance triggered something within them, and they decided to tour together in the summer of 2001 under the name Hanoi Revisited.
The tour was a success, and the pair decided it was time to repair and reform the band. They didn’t see it as a reformation, however, because it would never be the same without Razzle. So, they called it a rebirth instead. And a lot had changed with the other members, too.
The New Hanoi Rocks
They weren’t able to get back all of the members. Nasty Suicide had become a pharmacist and Sami Yaffa had joined another band called Mad Juana and was the bassist for New York Dolls. So, they selected some old friends from other bands to form the new Hanoi Rocks.
Andy McCoy and Michael Monroe made a pact that they’d be equal songwriters, as before it had only been McCoy. By 2002, the pair had written enough new music to release an album, which was a hit in Finland and Japan. However, neither Monroe nor McCoy were happy with the way the album was mixed.
Another Hostile Takeover
The band continued to tour and record over the new few years, hiring and firing new members for various reasons – one didn’t get on with the others, and another wanted to focus on a different band. They recorded the album Another Hostile Takeover in 2004, which got mixed reviews.
Some critics liked the album’s diversity and experimentalism, while die-hard fans found it too left field for their taste. The band went on to tour Europe and Asia in 2005 and 2006, and in 2007 they released Street Poetry, which would be their final album.
The Final Break-Up
On January 25, 2008, Monroe and McCoy agreed that the band’s time had come to an end. Members were leaving, and the two writers weren’t gelling creatively any longer. The pair released a statement saying they’d taken the band as far as they could, and it was time for it to end.
In 2008, an autobiographical book came out entitled All Those Wasted Years, covering the lifespan of the band including rare photos. Although Hanoi Rocks never reached the same level of success as Mötley Crüe due to tragic circumstances, they still left a huge mark in the world of Glam Rock.
The Return of Mötley
Just like Hanoi Rocks, Mötley Crüe also made a comeback. In 2004, they re-formed with Nikki Sixx announcing he and Vince Neil were back in the studio recording. They then announced a reunion tour, which led to a live album and a tour of Australia alongside Aerosmith.
The band continued to work up until 2015. They went out with a bang, touring Japan, Australia, Brazil, Europe and North America, ending their journey with a massive concert at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Their musical career may be over, but their influence on rock ’n’ roll will last forever.