Motley Crue's Top 10 Songs
Few bands are as polarizing as Motley Crue. Formed in 1981 by bass player Nikki Sixx, drummer Tommy Lee, lead guitarist Mick Mars and vocalist Vince Neil, they’ve sold over one hundred million albums worldwide. That’s not a typo.
The band that led the headfirst charge into the hair metal explosion of the early 80s has sold over a hundred million albums, is still touring, and is regularly dismissed as being awful, terrible, washed-up, overrated, and everything in-between In the mid-80s, it was cool to like them - you almost had to if you wanted to be cool. Once we flipped our calendars into the 1990s, it was almost hard to find someone who would admit that they still loved Motley Crue.
Today, critics shake their heads, wondering what happened during those years when Crue was dominating and selling millions and millions and millions of albums. The first album I heard, start to finish, was ‘Dr. Feelgood,’ and it wasn’t released until 1989; I enjoyed it. I was aware of their large investment in Aquanet, fishnets, and spandex prior to that, but I was a couple of years too young to really care. Over the years, I’ve listened to their entire discography multiple times.
Here are the Top 10 Motley Crue Songs:
10: “Looks That Kill” - ‘Shout At The Devil’
Their second album, ‘Shout At The Devil,’ was Crue’s breakthrough album, and “Looks That Kill” was a hit, along with “Too Young To Fall In Love.” The black, pentagram-clad album cover caused a media stir, feeding into the “Satanic panic” nonsense that gained traction starting in the early 80s. Bands like Motley Crue leaned right into it, and it most certainly helped their career.
‘Shout At The Devil’ sold two hundred thousand copies in the first two weeks after release, aided by the video for “Looks That Kill,” which was getting heavy rotation on MTV. It changed the game for them and set the path to terrorize parents and authority figures for the next few decades.
9: “Shout At The Devil” - ‘Shout At The Devil’
The ‘Shout At The Devil’ album bought Motley Crue a ticket on the 80s hair metal rocketship and gives some insight into the band’s consideration of the name ‘Xmass’ before settling on Motley Crue. The album’s title track whipped the religious, censorship-loving crowd into a frenzy. It was all done for shock value, of course; it preyed on the fears of the foolish. Even the lyrics are underwhelming in making a case for the promotion of Satanism: But in the seasons of wither, we'll stand and deliver / Be strong and laugh and shout at the devil. Crue has performed “Shout At The Devil” an estimated fifteen hundred times - more than any other song in their catalog.
8: “Smokin’ In The Boy’s Room” - ‘Theatre Of Pain’
1985 marked Motley Crue’s full embrace of the glam metal scene, taking the harder metal edges off their music and recording ‘Theatre Of Pain.’“Smokin’ In The Boy’s Room” helped their third album reach double-platinum status, just as ‘Shout At The Devil’ had.
Written by Brownsville Station in 1973, Crue’s cover of it will live on in infamy as an example of what was happening during the glam era in the 80s.
7: “Girls, Girls, Girls” - ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’
Needless to say, this song was meant for MTV. Filmed at a strip club and sanitized for television, the band drank and partied while filming. Vocalist Vince Neil owned a strip club in Japan named ‘Girls, Girls, Girls,’ and has a matching tattoo. On a list of recognizable songs, this one is one of their most identifiable. Producer Tom Werman says: “Because “Girls, Girls, Girls” has such an up-front guitar lick, it was pretty much there from the start. It was a very straightforward song rhythmically, too: just four on the floor, bang, straightaway. Excellent song. We had a lot of fun doing it.” They had a lot of fun pissing people off too.
Like their previous two records, the ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ album would achieve quadruple platinum status, selling over 4 million copies and reaching number two on the Billboard 200.
6: “Wild Side” - ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’
One of the Crue’s most straight-ahead and upbeat tracks that will be forever tied to the music video with Tommy Lee’s spinning drum kit, “Wild Side” is certainly a top-shelf Motley Crue track. In his autobiography, Nikki Sixx explained that he was dating a Catholic schoolgirl, and one day after listening to her recite the Lord's Prayer, he made some changes to it, and the result was “Wild Side”: Our father / Who ain't in heaven / Be thy name on the wild side…
5: “Live Wire” - ‘Too Fast For Love’
The opening track from their debut album is one of my absolute favorite Crue songs. A heavy, raw track that announces the band’s intentions perfectly. The production is lacking, and there’s really no polish at all, and that feeds the atmosphere of the song. The band directed the video themselves, and it included Nikki Sixx setting himself on fire and Mick Mars drooling blood. In a 2019 interview, Nikki revealed that “Live Wire” is about domestic violence and specifically, his experience of having to deal with it growing up.
4: “Kickstart My Heart” - ‘Dr. Feelgood’
By the time ‘Dr. Feelgood’ was released in 1989, Motley Crue was an established juggernaut in the music industry. Bob Rock produced the ‘Feelgood’ album and had each band member record their parts separately because he said they were: “..four L.A. badasses who used to drink a bottle of wine and want to kill each other.” Nikki Sixx claims “Kickstart My Heart” was written in response to the paramedics having to shoot adrenaline into his chest to revive him after he overdosed. However, former Guns N Roses drummer Steven Adler has publically claimed the story isn’t true. During an interview with a radio station in 2018, he said:
“He wrote it about the paramedics took that syringe and did that 'Pulp Fiction' thing to him. But they didn't do that; they didn't do that. I dragged him into the shower with a broken hand and a cast on my hand, I rolled him in, I put the cold water on him in the shower, and I started slapping him in the face with my cast. And next thing you know, the purple in his face just disappeared…and then right then, the paramedics came in, and they grabbed him out of the shower like a rag doll, dropped him in the living room, and they just pumped his chest with their hands. And that was it. But he got a hell of a good song out of it. It is entertainment, after all.”
“Kickstart My Heart” was the second single released from the album and reached number twenty-seven on the Billboard Hot 100.
3: “Dr. Feelgood” - ‘Dr. Feelgood’
They were already established industry superstars by the time ‘Dr. Feelgood’ was released, but they reached greater heights after the world was introduced to their fifth album. Motley Crue’s popularity peaked with the album’s release becoming their only number-one album, and it occupied space on the charts for more than two years. The album’s title track is their only single to reach gold status in the US, and in 2009, VH1 ranked “Dr. Feelgood” the fifteenth greatest hard rock song of all time.
Staying true to the brand, Nikki Sixx wrote the song about an L.A. drug dealer providing him with his heroin fix.
2: “Piece Of Your Action” - ‘Too Fast For Love’
The original production quality of this song could be matched or bettered with a couple of mics and a smartphone, but that somehow adds to the song and to the album as a whole. “Piece of Your Action” is a standout song for Mick Mars’ guitar playing, which is rarely mentioned as being special in any way. It’s incredibly sleazy and simple, like the band performing it, and it’s my favorite Crue song.
1: “Home Sweet Home” - ‘Theatre Of Pain’
We have to go back to 1985’s ‘Theatre Of Pain’ to find Motley Crue’s best song. It’s undoubtedly “Home Sweet Home.” It was a major change-up for the band, and it certainly wasn’t planned. A departure from writing songs “wrapped in leather, dripping in bodily fluids,” “Home Sweet Home” was anti-Crue. It opened their catalog to fresh eyes and changed the way hard rock bands would present themselves moving forward in the MTV generation.
According to Nikki: “...when ‘Theatre Of Pain’ got turned in, with “Home Sweet Home” on it, they rejected that album. They said, 'This is horrible, and you have to take that song off the record. You guys aren't a ballad band.’” They kept it on the album, and it changed the game.