The members of the band have often been noted for their hedonistic lifestyles and the androgynous persona they maintained. Following its hard rock and heavy metal origins, the release of their third album Theatre of Pain (1985) saw the band joining the first wave of glam metal. Mötley Crüe's last studio album, Saints of Los Angeles, was released on June 24, 2008. The band's final show took place on New Year's Eve, December 31, 2015. The concert was filmed for a theatrical and Blu-ray release in 2016.
After two-and-a-half years of inactivity, Vince announced in September 2018 that Mötley Crüe had reunited and was working on new material. On March 22, 2019, the band released four new songs on the soundtrack for their Netflix biopic The Dirt, based on the band's New York Times best-selling autobiography. The soundtrack went to Number 1 on the iTunes All Genres Album Chart, Number 3 on Billboard Top Album and Digital Album sales chart, Number 10 on Billboard Top 200, and Top 10 worldwide. The autobiography returned to the New York Times Best Seller list at Number 6 on Nonfiction Print and Number 8 on Nonfiction Combined Print & E-Book.
Mötley Crüe was formed on January 17, 1981, when bassist Nikki Sixx left the band London and began rehearsing with drummer Tommy Lee and vocalist/guitarist Greg Leon. Lee had previously worked with Leon in a band called Suite 19 and the trio practiced together for some time; Leon eventually decided not to continue with them. Sixx and Lee then began a search for new members and soon met guitarist Bob Deal, better known as Mick Mars, after answering an advertisement that he placed in The Recycler that read: "Loud, rude and aggressive guitar player available". Mars auditioned for Sixx and Lee, and was subsequently hired. Although a lead vocalist named O'Dean was auditioned, Lee had known Vince Neil from their high school days at Charter Oak High School in Covina, California, and the two had performed in different bands on the garage band circuit. Upon seeing him perform with the band Rock Candy at the Starwood in Hollywood, California, Mars suggested they have Neil join the band. At first Neil refused the offer, but as the other members of Rock Candy became involved in outside projects, Neil grew anxious to try something else. Lee asked another time, and Neil was hired on April 1, 1981.
I wanted a band that would be like David Bowie and the Sex Pistols thrown in a blender with Black Sabbath.
The newly formed band did not yet have a name. Sixx has said that he told his bandmates that he was "thinking about calling the band Christmas". The other members were not very receptive to that idea. Then, while trying to find a suitable name, Mars remembered an incident that occurred when he was playing with a band called White Horse, when one of the other band members called the group "a motley looking crew". He had remembered the phrase and later copied it down as 'Mottley Cru'. After modifying the spelling slightly, "Mötley Crüe" was eventually selected as the band's name, with the stylistic decision suggested by Neil to add the two sets of metal umlauts, supposedly inspired by the German beer Löwenbräu, which the members were drinking at the time. Other than the periods of February 1992 to September 1996 and from March 1999 to September 2004, the line up of Neil, Sixx, Lee, and Mars remained the same.
The band soon met its first manager, Allan Coffman, the thirty-eight-year-old brother-in-law of a friend of Mars's driver. The band's first release was the single "Stick to Your Guns/Toast of the Town", which was released on its own record label, Leathür Records, which had a pressing and distribution deal with Greenworld Distribution in Torrance, California. In November 1981, its debut album Too Fast for Love was self-produced and released on Leathür, selling 20,000 copies. Coffman's assistant Eric Greif set up a tour of Canada, while Coffman and Greif used Mötley Crüe's success in the Los Angeles club scene to negotiate with several record labels, eventually signing a recording contract with Elektra Records in early 1982. The debut album was then re-mixed by producer Roy Thomas Baker and re-released on August 20, 1982—two months after its Canadian Warner Music Group release using the original Leathür mixes—to coincide with the tour.
Listening to Queen inspired Mötley Crüe to work with Roy Thomas Baker on Too Fast for Love. He would come in, "Hello Darlings ..." and listen for maybe thirty minutes or so and leave. And we're like, "What?! Where's he going?". But he produced Queen, so, man, we had to have him produce us, too
During the "Crüesing Through Canada Tour '82", there were several widely publicized incidents. First, the band was arrested and then released at Edmonton International Airport for wearing their spiked stage wardrobe (considered "dangerous weapons") through customs, and for Neil arriving with a small carry-on filled with porn magazines (considered "indecent material"); both were staged PR stunts. Customs eventually had the confiscated items destroyed. Second, while playing Scandals Disco in Edmonton, a spurious "bomb threat" against the band made the front page of the Edmonton Journal on June 9, 1982; Lee and assistant band manager Greif were interviewed by police as a result. This too ended up being a staged PR stunt perpetrated by Greif. Lastly, Lee threw a television set from an upper story window of the Sheraton Caravan Hotel. Canadian rock magazine Music Express noted that the band was "banned for life" from the city. Despite the tour ending prematurely in financial disaster, it was the basis for the band's first international press.
In 1983, the band changed management from Coffman to Doug Thaler and Doc McGhee. McGhee is best known for managing Bon Jovi and later Kiss, starting with their reunion tour in 1996. Greif subsequently sued all parties in a Los Angeles Superior Court action that dragged on for several years, and coincidentally later re-surfaced as manager of Sixx's former band, London. Coffman himself was sued by several investors to whom he had sold "stock in the band", including Michigan-based Bill Larson. Coffman eventually declared bankruptcy, as he had mortgaged his home at least three times to cover band expenses.
1983–1991: International fame
The band became rapidly successful in the United States after playing at the US Festival and also with the aid of the new medium of MTV. They then gained the attention of heavy metal star Ozzy Osbourne and found themselves as the opening act for Osbourne on his 1984 world tour. The band members were well known for their backstage antics, outrageous clothing, extreme high-heeled boots, heavily applied make-up, and seemingly endless abuse of alcohol and drugs as well. As for their recordings, their mixture of heavy metal and hard rock stylings with influences by AC/DC and Aerosmith and guitar picking style of Judas Priest produced several best-selling albums during the 1980s, including Shout at the Devil (1983), Theatre of Pain (1985), and Girls, Girls, Girls (1987), which showcased their love of motorcycles, whiskey and strip clubs, and which told tales of substance abuse, sexual escapades and general decadence.
The band members have also had their share of scrapes with the law and life. In 1984, Neil was driving home from a liquor store in his De Tomaso Pantera when he was in a head-on collision; his passenger, Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas "Razzle" Dingley, was killed. Neil, charged with a DUI and vehicular manslaughter, was sentenced to 30 days in jail (though he only served 18 days) and received a $2,500,000 fine. The short jail term was pleaded for by his lawyers, enabling Neil to be able to tour and pay the fine. The album Theatre of Pain (1985) was dedicated in Dingley's honor, and it started a new glam metal phase in the band's style. The band would also later release two box sets titled "Music to Crash Your Car To".
On December 23, 1987, Sixx suffered a heroin overdose. He was declared legally dead on the way to the hospital, but the paramedic, who was a Crüe fan, revived Sixx with two shots of adrenaline. His two minutes in death were the inspiration for the song "Kickstart My Heart", which peaked at No. 16 on the Mainstream U.S. chart, and which was featured on the 1989 U.S. number one (their first) album Dr. Feelgood. From 1986 to 1987, Sixx kept a daily diary of his heroin addiction and eventually entered rehab in January 1988. In 2006, Sixx published his diaries as a best selling novel: The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star, and in 2007, Sixx's side project band Sixx:A.M. released The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack as a musical parallel to the novel.
In 1988, controversy again hit the band in the form of a lawsuit by Matthew Trippe. Trippe claimed that Sixx was hospitalized in 1983 after a car crash involving drugs and that he had been hired as Sixx's doppelgänger. The suit was regarding the loss of royalties from his time in Mötley Crüe and the case was not closed until 1993 when Trippe dropped his charges and disappeared from public view.
Their decadent lifestyles almost shattered the band until managers Thaler and McGhee pulled an intervention and refused to allow the band to tour in Europe, fearing that "some [of them] would come back in bodybags". Shortly after, all the band members except for Mars underwent drug rehabilitation; Mars cleaned up on his own.
After finding sobriety in 1989, Mötley Crüe reached its peak popularity with the release of their fifth album, the Bob Rock produced Dr. Feelgood, on September 1, 1989. On October 14 of that year, it became a No. 1 album and stayed on the charts for 114 weeks after its release. The band members each stated in interviews that, due in no small part to their collective push for sobriety, Dr. Feelgood was their most solid album musically to that point, and indeed, it was their best selling album to date. The title track and "Kickstart My Heart" were both nominated for Grammys in the Best Hard Rock Category. The band did find some success at the American Music Awards, as Dr. Feelgood was nominated twice for Favorite Hard Rock/Metal Award, losing once to Guns N' Roses' Appetite for Destruction, but winning the following year, beating out Aerosmith's Pump and Poison's Flesh & Blood. Mötley Crüe was also nominated twice for Favorite Hard Rock/Metal Artist.
In 1989, McGhee was fired after the band alleged he had broken several promises that he made in relation to the Moscow Music Peace Festival, including giving his other band, Bon Jovi, advantages in terms of slot placement. Thaler then assumed the role of sole band manager.
On October 1, 1991, the band's first compilation album, Decade of Decadence 81-91, was released. It peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 album chart. It was reportedly designed as "just something for the fans" while the band worked on the next "all new" album.
1992–2003: Years of turmoil
After Decade of Decadence, Neil left in February 1992, at a time when other bands in the 1980s glam metal scene (Ratt, Stryper, White Lion, Winger, Europe, and Britny Fox) broke up amid the advent of grunge. Controversy persists over whether Neil was fired or quit. Sixx has long maintained that Neil quit. However, Neil insists that he was fired. "Any band has its little spats," Neil observed in 2000, "and this one basically just stemmed from a bunch of 'fuck you's in a rehearsal studio. It went from 'I quit' to 'You're fired' ... It was handled idiotically. The management just let one of the biggest bands in the world break up."
In the running for the vacant frontman position was Kik Tracee vocalist Stephen Shareaux. Ultimately Neil was replaced by John Corabi (formerly of Angora and the Scream). Although Mötley's self-titled March 1994 release made the Billboard top ten (#7), the album was a commercial failure. It also prompted negative reactions from many fans due to Neil's absence and its sound. Corabi suggested the band work with Neil, believing the latter would always be seen as the voice of the band. This eventually resulted in his own firing in 1996. Corabi spoke about his time with the band and his thoughts on the first record with Mötley Crüe. Corabi said: "my record was the first record that they had done that didn't go platinum, didn't make some sort of crazy noise, and everybody panicked".
The band reunited with Neil in 1997, after their current manager, Allen Kovac, and Neil's manager, Bert Stein, set up a meeting between Neil, Lee, and Sixx. Agreeing to "leave their egos at the door," the band released Generation Swine. Although it debuted at No. 4, and in spite of a live performance at the American Music Awards, the album was a commercial failure, due in part to lack of support from their label. The band soon left Elektra and created their own Mötley Records.
In 1998, Mötley's contractual ties with Elektra had expired, putting the band in total control of their future, including the ownership of the masters of all of their albums. Announcing the end of their relationship with Elektra, the band became one of the few groups to own and control their publishing and music catalog. They are only one of a handful of artists to own the masters to their material and reportedly did so by being the biggest pain they could be until Elektra got fed up and handed over the rights in order to get the band off their label. In 1999, the band rereleased all their albums, dubbed as "Crücial Crüe". These limited-edition digital remasters included demos, plus live, instrumental, and previously unreleased tracks. Mötley released their compilation Greatest Hits in late 1998. With two new songs – "Bitter Pill" and "Enslaved" – it served as an updated version of Decade of Decadence.
In 1999, Lee quit to pursue a solo career, due to increasing tensions with Neil. "All we got was a call from his attorney saying he wasn't coming back," recalled the singer. "He wasn't into rock 'n' roll anymore. He even said that rock is dead ... It all happened during a void in Mötley. We weren't even rehearsing, so it was no big deal."
Lee was replaced by former Ozzy Osbourne drummer and longtime friend of the band Randy Castillo. The band released New Tattoo in July 2000. Before the ensuing tour commenced, Castillo became ill with what was later determined to be cancer. The band brought in former Hole drummer Samantha Maloney as Castillo concentrated on his health. However, he lost his fight with cancer on March 26, 2002. Soon after, the band went on hiatus.
While the band was on hiatus, Sixx played in side projects 58 and Brides of Destruction. Neil was featured on the first season of VH1's reality show The Surreal Life, and had his own special titled "Remaking Vince Neil", which focused on his solo career. Mars, who suffers from a rare hereditary form of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis, went into seclusion in 2001 dealing with health issues. Lee went on to form Methods of Mayhem and also performed as a solo artist during this time.
Nikki Sixx and Mick Mars performing onstage with Mötley Crüe, on June 14, 2005 in Glasgow, Scotland
A promoter in England, Mags Revell, began clamoring for a Mötley Crüe reunion, ostensibly presenting himself as the voice of anxious fans waiting for more from the band. After meeting with management several times, in September 2004, Sixx announced that he and Neil had returned to the studio and had begun recording new material. In December 2004, the four original members announced a reunion/final tour which began February 14, 2005, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The resulting compilation album, Red, White & Crüe, was released in February 2005. It features the band members' favorite original songs plus three new tracks, "If I Die Tomorrow", "Sick Love Song" (co-written by Sixx and James Michael), and a cover of the Rolling Stones' classic "Street Fighting Man". A small controversy was caused when it was suggested that neither Lee nor Mars played on the new tracks (duties were supposedly handled by Vandals drummer Josh Freese). However, a VH1 documentary of the band's reunion later showed that Lee did indeed play on some of the tracks. The Japanese release of Red, White & Crüe includes an extra new track titled "I'm a Liar (and That's the Truth)". Red, White & Crüe charted at No. 6 and has since gone platinum.
In 2005, Mötley Crüe was involved in an animation-comedy spoof Disaster!, which was written by Paul Benson and Matt Sullivan and which was used as the introduction film to concerts on their Carnival of Sins tour.
In 2006, Mötley Crüe went on the Route of All Evil Tour, co-headlining with Aerosmith and taking performers from Lucent Dossier Experience on the road with them. This was another well-attended tour following the Carnival of Sins tour of 2005. In June 2007, Mötley Crüe set out on a small European tour. A lawsuit was filed by Neil, Mars and Sixx against Carl Stubner, Lee's manager. The three sued him for contracting for Lee to appear on two unsuccessful reality shows the band claim hurt its image. It was later reported on Motley.com that the lawsuit had been settled.
2008–2010: Saints of Los Angeles
On June 11, 2008, the band and manager Stein filed suit against each other. Stein was Neil's personal manager and also, according to the band and rival manager Kovac, served as the band's manager at one time. The band and Kovac sued in Los Angeles County Superior Court, claiming Stein was not entitled to a cut of Mötley Crüe's earnings. Stein sued the same day in Nashville's federal court, saying he was entitled to 1.875 percent of what the band makes. Other litigation between the parties also ensued in Nevada. In July 2009, lawyers for both sides announced that the disputes had been "amicably resolved" through a "global settlement".
Mötley Crüe's ninth studio album, titled Saints of Los Angeles, was released in Japan on June 17, 2008, and in America on June 24, 2008. The album was originally titled The Dirt, as it was loosely based on the band's autobiography of the same name, but the title was later changed. In the US, the album was released by Eleven Seven Music. Eleven Seven also took over US distribution of their back catalog.
In mid-2008, Mötley Crüe headlined the popular 'Crüe Fest' music festival, which included opening acts Buckcherry, Papa Roach, Trapt, and Sixx's successful side project, Sixx:A.M.
The Dirt, a movie based on the book written by Mötley Crüe and Neil Strauss was announced in 2009 but it was not released until 2019.
iTunes picked "Saints of Los Angeles" in their "Best of 2008" in the Rock category as the number one song; the song was also nominated for a Grammy Award in the "Best Hard Rock Performance" category. The song was released in the music game series Rock Band as downloadable content the day the single was released. Additionally, the entire Dr. Feelgood album was released as downloadable content in Rock Band, excluding "T.n.T. (Terror 'n Tinseltown)".
Mötley Crüe co-headlined a mid-year tour with Poison and special guests New York Dolls in 2011 for the band's 30th Anniversary and Poison's 25th anniversary. On August 30, 2011, Mötley Crüe, along with co-headliners Def Leppard and special guests Steel Panther, announced a UK Tour commencing in December 2011. In March 2012, Mötley Crüe announced a tour co-headlining with Kiss. The tour kicked off July 20 in Bristow, Virginia, and ran through September 23.
In early 2012, the band announced they were recording a sex tape that is now on pornhub titled "Motley Crue Looks that kill." 
In February 2013, Mötley Crüe announced their biggest ever Canadian tour, with more U.S. dates expected to be announced soon after The Tour with Kiss ran through Australia in March 2013. During the Australian leg of The Tour with Kiss, a rumor was circulated that the members of Mötley Crüe had discussed the band's retirement and had also agreed upon when it would be, supposedly being sooner than most had anticipated.
On January 28, 2014, at the conference inside Beacher's Madhouse Theater in Hollywood, Mötley Crüe announced the full details of their retirement, including a tour initially spanning 70 North American dates, with Alice Cooper playing as a special guest. The tour commenced in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on July 2, 2014. The band members had signed a "cessation of touring agreement", which prevented them from touring under the Mötley Crüe name beyond the end of 2015. The tour also served to promote the country-music album Nashville Outlaws: A Tribute to Mötley Crüe, which was released in mid-2014, and their movie The Dirt, based on the book The Dirt, due for release in 2015 by Focus Features and directed by Jeff Tremaine.
In a later interview, Sixx talked about the possibility of releasing new music, saying that "We have music written, [but] it's not put together yet". He also speculated that the band would release it in a song-by-song format as opposed to a full-length album format, elaborating with "It's hard, to be honest with you, to spend six [or] nine months to write eleven songs—all those lyrics ... everything ... the vocals, the guitars, the bass, the sonics, the mixing, the mastering, the artwork. ... You put it out and nothing [happens], because now people cherry-pick songs. So we go, 'Why don't we write songs and find vehicles to get one, two or four songs to ten million people rather than eleven songs to a hundred thousand people." However, Sixx later announced that the band will not be releasing another album before their retirement.
During the tour, they played a new song "All Bad Things" over the speakers throughout the venue before they took the stage. On November 22, 2014 in Spokane, Washington, at the Spokane Arena, the band played the final concert of the first North American leg of The Final Tour.
On January 15, 2015, it was announced that the band's career would end with international concerts in Japan, Australia, Brazil and Europe before heading out for a second leg of North American concerts throughout 2015, ending with a concert at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on December 27, followed by three concerts at Staples Center on December 28, 30 and 31, 2015. In May 2015, The Crüe and Alice Cooper himself announced a set of 12 concert dates for Europe at a conference in London.
On September 19, 2015, the band played the Rock in Rio festival on the main stage.
The band performed for the last time at Staples Center in Los Angeles on December 31, 2015. The band reported that their New Year's Eve show was going to be released in 2016. The movie was titled Motley Crue: THE END.
2018–present: Reunion, The Dirt autobiography, film and new music
On September 13, 2018, frontman Vince Neil announced on his Twitter account that Mötley Crüe was recording four new songs; this was later also confirmed by bassist Nikki Sixx, who said that the new material was recorded for the film adaptation of the band's biography, The Dirt. Neil also clarified that, though the band has signed a contract to no longer tour, they still plan to continue putting out new music for the future.
The first new song from the soundtrack was "The Dirt (Est.1981) (feat. Machine Gun Kelly)" and it was released on February 22, 2019. The band wrote two other new songs, "Ride With The Devil" and "Crash And Burn", and covered Madonna's "Like A Virgin", on the album. The soundtrack additionally included fourteen classic Mötley Crüe songs. It was produced by Bob Rock who helmed their hit Dr. Feelgood album, and was released on March 22, 2019 on Mötley Records and Eleven Seven Music.
Rolling Stone wrote that The Dirt is "a truly debauched movie that delves deep into their rise from the early Eighties Sunset Strip metal scene to their days as arena headliners."