Rock music’s biggest freak show is taking its show on the road.
And the bigger question for Motley Crüe is whether the band known for its excesses (sex, drugs and fighting) can keep it together for a year on tour.
“This tour could last a week. It could last a year. I just don’t know,” drummer Tommy Lee recently told The Associated Press. “But it definitely brings a smile to my face. You know, the danger part of it, the whether these guys are going to make it a month question.”
For the band that gained its rock foothold in the 1980s as a glam metal band, the spotlight will be shining bright on their antics as much as their stage production when they open the U.S. leg of the “Red, White & Crüe Tour 2005 ... Better Live Than Dead” on Thursday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The tour follows the release of “Red, White & Crüe,” a greatest hits album that includes three new songs.
Motley Crüe has reportedly auditioned midgets, contortionists and strange animals as part of the stage production, a 2½-hour show with no opening act.
“It’s a traveling freak show. We’ve always been called that and we said ‘Why don’t we take that and take it to the next level,”’ said bassist Nikki Sixx.
Motley Crüe has always pushed “the level.”
Sordid tale of successFor those who haven’t seen the band’s infamous episode of VH1’s “Behind The Music,” which featured the band’s sordid tale of success, here’s a quick recap:
The band was founded in 1981 when Sixx met Lee. The two answered an ad placed by guitarist Mick Mars (who Sixx described as Cousin Itt from “The Addams Family”) looking for bandmates. Then they were joined by singer Vince Neil. They quickly lit up the Los Angeles club scene and recorded an album, which was released on an independent label. A short time later they were signed by Elektra and released 1983’s “Shout at the Devil” and 1985’s “Theater of Pain.” But it was 1987’s “Girls, Girls, Girls” and 1989’s “Dr. Feelgood,” which debuted at No. 1, that put the band at the top.
Along the way, they were using drugs and drinking and having lots of sex. Neil got into a drunken driving accident that killed Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle. Sixx overdosed on heroin, “dying” before returning to life. Lee married Pamela Anderson and made an infamous sex tape. Mars drank and did drugs.
By the 1990s, the band was falling apart. Neil left (or was fired, depending on who tells the story) the band in 1992. He then reunited with the band for 1997’s “Generation Swine.” Then Lee left in the late 1990s.
The band regrouped a few months ago after Sixx wrote some songs and asked Neil if he would sing them.
But the band says they noticed a resurgence in interest in Motley Crüe several years earlier.
Neil said he was at a mall once when he saw three teenagers wearing old Motley Crüe concert shirts: “I was like ‘How do they know us? Where did they get these T-shirts?”’
Lee also had a similar experience, thinking: “That kid was 2 when we were playing.”
Sixx is a little more philosophical.
“There’s this thing that happens if you stick around long enough,” he said. “One day, you’re a huge band. The next day, you’re off the map. ...Then one day, all of the sudden, it happens. Some 15-year-old kid goes ‘I heard this song.’ The next thing you know, you’re doing a reunion tour.”
Tickets for the tour went on sale in December with some venues selling out in hours.
Why the loyalty?So what is it about Motley Crüe that two decades later seems to grab such fan loyalty?
Part of it is the music and part of it is that most of the band members have continued to be in the spotlight, says Jim Richards, regional vice president of programming for Clear Channel.
“They are celebrities individually, above and beyond their collective band status,” he said.
Neil and Lee have made forays into reality television: Neil on the WB’s “The Surreal Life” and Lee with a new NBC reality show set to air this summer. Sixx, Neil and Lee have continued with solo projects.
But Richards says more than that — there may be a morbid curiosity.
“A curiosity of watching a train wreck. Can they keep it together for a year?” he said. “What sports book in Vegas is accepting bets on this?”
When told of the “morbid curiosity” factor, the members of Motley Crüe laugh. But there is little disagreement.
When asked whether the band plans to follow up the tour with a full-length studio album, Neil doesn’t have an answer.
“We’re really not saying,” he says. “We’re just going to watch and see and see what kind of happens,” he said.
Sixx draws a comparison between a brand new Lexus sedan (“nice, safe, secure,” he says) and a beat-up hot rod. Motley Crüe, of course, is the hot rod. He points out that most hot rods blow a motor.
“If the motor blows, then the motor blows. But I’d rather be standing on the side of the road with a blown motor than riding in the Lexus,” he says.
Lee compares it to a failed marriage.
“It’s kind of like being divorced and then you try to get back together. It’s lovely for a month. Then you find out that nobody is really making the effort,” he said.
Perhaps only Mars, who’s recovering from hip replacement surgery for a degenerative rheumatoid disease, is a little hopeful.
“It’s going to be over the top.”