Nikki Sixx once claimed that Mötley Crüe were in secret negotiations with the US State Department to travel to Baghdad during the Iraq War to perform a Rolling Stones song

Motley Crue backstage in 2005
Motley Crue in 2005 (Image credit: Mick Hutson)

As any history buff will tell you, a coalition led by the US invaded Iraq in March 2003. The following month, Baghdad was captured after a six-day battle, and in May George W. Bush famously declared the "end of major combat operations". 

The story wouldn't finish there, of course. The Iraq War continued until 2011, more than two thousand US soldiers remain in the country to this day, and the repercussions continue to reverberate around the globe.

Two years after the invasion, Iraq held multi-party elections, paving the way for Nouri al-Maliki became Prime Minister in 2006. And, around the same time, Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx offered his band's service to the cause, with a little help from a song by the Rolling Stones

"It’s one of my dreams to go to Iraq and play Street Fighting Man for the soldiers," Sixx told Classic Rock that year. "So right now I’m in negotiations with the Defence Department."

The Crüe had covered Street Fighting Man on that year's Red, White & Crüe compilation album, which saw them reunited with drummer Tommy Lee (although current Foo Fighters man Josh Freese played on the track), and a trip to the Middle East would have surely have given the troops a lift as well as generate valuable column inches for the band. Sixx was quick to point out, however, that he was no fan of the war, nor the then Commander-in-Chief. 

"I hate George Bush almost as much as I hate Kate Bush,” Sixx said, rather ungraciously. “And I really hate her! I’m all about standing up for America, but I don’t consider George Bush to be what America’s about. He’s a moron. I don’t know why he’s the president of America, he has done nothing for our country. It was fucked up, what happened with the terrorism, but he overreacted to something that had been brewing for years and went after them for revenge. 

"It just happens that I know a lot of guys who have gone over to Iraq and they’ve told me some awful fucking stories. And they said that what gets them through out there is music. And I got to thinking about what that song, Street Fighting Man, meant when it first came out, when the Vietnam War was happening, and what it means now, and the comparisons between the two. So I thought, if we could find some way to help those guys and funnel some money to the families who have lost their sons and daughters, then it’s not about George Bush and his stupidity, it’s about giving back."

Mötley Crüe never made it to Baghdad, although, ironically, one of their support acts did. In 2009, Floridian rockers Axe – who played with Crüe on the American leg of the Shout At The Devil tour, and are perhaps best known for Rock 'N' Roll Party In The Streets, Billboard's 59th most-played song of 1982 – performed a set at the Al Asad Air Base, 100 miles west of the city.

"I stand here tonight, Al Asad, and I'd like to believe I speak for more than just myself and the band, but for America, when I say that America is in awe of you," Axe's lead singer Bob Harris told the assembled troops. "We come out here, and we just can't help but stand in amazement of how much of a difference you're making in the world today."

Nikki Sixx would surely have agreed.  

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.