When it came to decadence, Mötley Crüe had few peers – not for nothing was their drug’n’booze-soaked biography called The Dirt. The godfathers of the Sunset Strip scene, their hedonistic outlook was perfectly distilled in a set of songs that hitched rock’n’roll attitude to classic songwriting, combining elements of glam rock, metal and punk and laying down the template for much of the 80s rock that followed. Having played a final show at the end of 2015, Crüe are seemingly no more – but their greatest songs stand among the very best of the genre they helped to create.
10. Saints Of Los Angeles (2008)
They might have been approaching middle age when they recorded their ninth and final studio album, Saints Of Los Angeles, but the Crüe were still capable of showing the kids how it should be done. Bristling with arrogance and attitude, the title track bites down hard and spits out the gristle.
9. Red Hot (1983)
Heading off on a charge from Tommy Lee and a fretboard stretch from Mick Mars, this is a typical Mötley anthem from the Shout At The Devil era. Nothing is held back, as the riffs blaze, the lyrics threaten and the whole song has the feel and movement of a streetwise foursome on the prowl and on the pull. It’s speed metal, with the emphasis on speed, straight up the nostrils.
8. Home Sweet Home (1985)
Led by some surprisingly deft piano touches from Lee, Theatre Of Pain’s epic power ballad about life on the road and how empty it can be is Mötley Crüe at their most sensitive. That’s not to say Home Sweet Home has a marshmallow centre: Vince Neil may get close to crooning, but there’s a glint in his voice. The wistfulness can’t quite hide the fact the band still love the bacchanalian lifestyle.
7. Wild Side (1987)
They may have moved into the superstar bracket by the time of the Girls, Girls, Girls album, but Mötley Crüe hadn’t lost touch with their roots. The opening track is a snapshot of the mean streets of LA, packed with ‘Hollywood dream teens and yesterday’s trash queens’ and oozing rock’n’roll bravado (‘I carry my crucifix under my death list’). But this is no rose-tinted view of things: Wild Side is as sneering and cocky as the Crüe get.
6. Live Wire (1981)
The song that introduced the world to Mötley Crüe. Part Slade, part Sex Pistols, part Motörhead, this debut single is basic, brawling rock’n’roll, but what it lacks in subtlety, it makes up for with a kick-ass mentality. Live Wire immediately marked them out as a band from the wrong side of the tracks; it’s lost none of its immediacy and impact today.
5. Kickstart My Heart (1989)
Nikki Sixx had cleaned up his act in time for 1989’s Dr Feelgood, but his out-of-control past was still close enough to draw on. Kickstart My Heart was inspired by an incident in December 1987 when the bassist ‘died’ for two minutes, only to be saved by a quick thinking paramedic who gave him an adrenaline shot. The result is as celebratory as it is regretful.
4. Shout At The Devil (1983)
The title track of the band’s second album caused controversy with some erroneously claiming it encouraged devil worship. In fact, it’s about dealing with temptation. Or, in the case of the Crüe, embracing it. The riff grinds and the whole atmosphere is almost menacing. The performance is tight, but still allows for a sense of loose limbed spontaneity, and Lee’s drumming throughout is an object lesson in less is more.
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3. Girls, Girls, Girls (1987)
Arguably the definitive strip club anthem – and its appeal is obvious. A hymn to erotic dancers – and, let’s face it, the delights on offer to any touring band – Girls, Girls, Girls exudes sleazy charisma, namechecking some of their favourite strippers in the process. There’s zero pretense here – this is as honest a snapshot of life as a member of Mötley Crüe as you’ll find. A sybaritic sin-phony.
2. Looks That Kill (1983)
The riff nags away with a persistence that makes it a defining moment of the early 80s. And this song from Shout At The Devil was written by Nikki Sixx, dealing with the fatal attraction of that person or activity you just know is wrong. But then, the mere fact it will end badly makes it so enticing. The line ‘She’s gonna turn on our juice, boy’ sums up the philosophy of the song, and its timeless appeal. A glorious homage to the dark side.
1. Dr. Feelgood (1989)
There’s no hiding the admiration the band express the street corner drug dealer of the title. But then, that’s because it’s based on characters they knew so well. The title track to Mötley’s first US No.1 album gets to the heart of the junkie lifestyle – a lifestyle they lived until the kicked their appetites for destruction. At once romantic and cautionary, this is the ultimate Mötley Crüe song.