The end of Mötley Crüe looks a whole lot like the beginning: Four guys in the green room of the Whiskey-a-Go-Go, cracking jokes at each other’s expense. The decades-old venue is where they first began peddling their fast and loose brand of L.A. Metal to the hairsprayed populous in 1981. These days instead of swilling Jack Daniels and popping pills, they’re sipping Starbucks, talking about vegan avocado mousse, and waiting to con-vey the news of their demise to a painfully handsome morning-show reporter. Drummer Tommy Lee, who is always equal parts easygoing and excited—and completely impossi-ble to not like—is concerned about having to talk about the legalities of the band’s split on television.
“No one wants to hear me talk about that shit. I just want to talk about the music.”
Just as it was before, the music is all that matters. Even amongst the women and the end-less substances, the band-mates recall that most of their debauchery was usually centered around 11- to 12-hour rehearsals. The band has always worked as hard as it’s partied, and for a band that partied as legendarily as Mötley Crüe, that translates to a whole lot of working.
If you’re wondering how deep the influence of Mötley Crüe is, just type their name into your iPhone and watch as it adds the two most famous (and grammatically useless) umlauts in music history. Since the band broke onto the L.A. metal scene with a self-released and mercilessly tenacious debut in Too Fast For Love, they’ve sold more than 80 million records, more than almost any other band in history. Throughout the 80s they cranked out the hits, scaring parents with Shout at the Devil, regressing slightly with Theatre of Pain, coming back hard with Girls, Girls, Girls, and releasing their best album, Dr. Feelgood, in 1989.
Excess came down hard though; throughout the release of these four albums the band endured failed interventions, savage in-fighting, numerous overdoses (including one in which majority songwriter and bassist Nikki Sixx legally died), and a vehicular manslaughter charge and ensuing jail time raised for front man Vince Neil, just to hit the highlights.
“The miracle of Mötley Crüe is that the members are even alive,” says Neil Strauss, who documented the band’s happy and unhappy union in The Dirt. “These are guys who would be handcuffed to their bed and beaten by their road managers so they wouldn’t go out and destroy things. Guys who would lift up some guy’s girlfriends skirt and have unprotected sex with her while she was on her period. Guys who would tragically drive drunk or guys who would just rent a Ferrari and smash it into a wall for fun. Anyone of us normal human beings who just does one of these things will probably be dead or incapacitated for life, but these guys, they didn’t live life in three acts, they lived life in like 35 acts.”
This tour is meant to be final act. The group has made public their decision to sign an agreement to make the band’s name and trademark unavailable for shows after this tour, unless all four members agree to come together and revive it. The band is trying to avoid the standard that mega-groups such as KISS (who have more farewell tours than Cher) and Guns n’ Roses (who currently tour with a butchered lineup) have set by wearing out their welcome on the touring circuit. In an interview they gave after the announcement, Sixx and Neil discussed how ironic it would be if the entire band was killed in a plane crash at the peak of their fame, after dodging death so many times at the hands of drugs, alcohol, and obsessed groupies. Gallows humor to be sure, but also eerily similar to what the band is trying to accomplish with this agreement: a swift and definite finale. Mötley Crüe is closing the book in what seems to anyone who knew anything about their often unhappy union to be the most unlikely way: intentionally.
Still, “What’s next?” is a question the members halfway dodge. Sixx defaults to his side project Sixx AM. Lead guistarist Mick Mars, who has roots in blues and jazz, hopes relocating to Nashville will bring musical fulfillment. Vince references his solo projects and other ventures, and Tommy “has a bunch of surprises in the works that I can’t talk about just yet.” Not much about their future seems clear besides the fact that these four men are sharks, incapable of stillness. Which makes the fact that they are hanging up the leather right now even more impressive.
Beecher’s Madhouse, a theatre at the Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood that usually plays host to a twisted burlesque show, is packed with journalists and a small number of lucky fans all waiting to hear the band’s official announcement. Sixx acts as the unofficial mouthpiece, gracefully imparting the details of the band’s breakup and fielding most of the questions hurled during the four-hour post-announcement round of interviews with domestic and international press (most of the metal variety). He only briefly shows a bit of raw nerve at the endless wave of journalists asking about the money they are leaving on the table. And with good reason; the concept of going out with dignity is tested with every reference to the fact that they have chosen not to bleed the Mötley-Crüe name dry for monetary gain.
The aforementioned press conference was outfitted with the requisite Mötley Crüe insanity. The band rolled up to the hotel in hearses, with beautiful Goth girls who shielded them with umbrellas while exiting their rides. The stage was adorned with tombstones bearing the name of each member of the band. Mötley Crüe announced their final tour’s opening act (the Godfather of theatrical metal Alice Cooper, who they have somehow never shared a stage with), and then headed out to appropriately-loud Dodge Challengers that were preloaded with beautiful and scantily-dressed women to usher them from the valet circle of the hotel to the Jimmy Kimmel Live backlot a few blocks away, where they would give their final TV performance.
When they arrive, the always-measured Sixx is flanked by his bandmates. Though Mars tops the rest of the band in age and is left hunching from a medical condition, he still seems more like a brother than a father to the band, making fart noises and cracks about the fifth member of Mötley Crüe residing in Lee’s pants. The owner of those pants, Lee glides seamlessly among them, with an all-access pass granted by his infectiously playful personality. While the rest of the band is not optimistic about the hands in which they are leaving rock music, Lee seems zealous in seeking out the next wave of new sounds, made evident by his turns with projects like Methods of Mayhem and The Bloody Beetroots. The outside of the group, Neil is reserved and short when asked his thoughts about the band’s demise, which is not to say that his curtness isn’t justified; the questions are repetitive at best.
Catching the four of them in the same place at the same time can be a bit of a rarity; though that mostly can be attributed to the taxing schedule and endless moving parts of the Mötley machine, as opposed to a rift between them. Despite the stress of being prodded by interviewers and posed by photographers, the bond created by surviving three decades of fighting, drinking, traveling, quitting, patching up, and bailing out seems unshakably strong. But then again, on the edge of disbanding the gang you’ve known longer than anyone else in your life, would you expect any different?
“We just wanted to be the biggest metal band in L.A., and it’s awesome that we did that,” Sixx said.
Their current tour is in some ways, their biggest spectacle yet—a three-hour funeral service, full of enough singles, women, and pyro to properly herald the end—garnering positive reviews from Billboard, the L.A. Times, and hundreds of thousands of fans that would likely punch you out if you try to convince them that metal is dead.
At one point during the long day of interviews at the Roosevelt, Mars is asked about how he hopes his legacy will reverberate.
“When I’m walking down the street and I see Jeff Beck or Jimmy Page, I’m totally speechless. It would be cool for someone to be like that for me.”
Walking down Hollywood Boulevard among the Crüe fans lined up to try to bear witness to the group’s funeral procession, you can spot several hundred people that would almost certainly give Mars the reaction he desires.