When Motley Crue Reunited With Tommy Lee on ‘Red, White and Crue’
Dysfunctional on their best days, the guys in Motley Crue just couldn't seem to keep it together during the '90s: Vince Neil left toward the start of the decade, and just a few years after he made his way back, Tommy Lee made his own exit from the lineup.
"I started with Motley Crue when I was 17, but I lost my appetite for repetition," Lee told Kerrang! "I couldn’t play the same songs anymore. I couldn’t be creative in the way I wanted to be because I’d bring new songs in or I’d want to take the band in a new direction and between the management and the other band members it’d be like, 'Whoa, that’s not Motley Crue.' And I would always be fighting with everybody saying, 'If the four of us do it, it’s Motley Crue.' But I eventually got tired of fighting."
Referring to his 1998 jail sentence for spousal abuse as "a major, major wake-up call," Lee recalled, "I told Nikki while I was in jail, 'You know what? I gotta quit. I gotta go do something else. I can’t do this anymore.'"
In the short term, Lee's absence didn't seem to slow the band's creative momentum; the year after his 1999 exit, they released their eighth studio LP, New Tattoo, relying on ex-Ozzy Osbourne drummer Randy Castillo to fill the gap – and then turning to Hole's Samantha Maloney for the tour after Castillo fell ill.
Castillo was eventually diagnosed with cancer and passed away in 2002, right around the time the band went on hiatus. For a few years, it seemed like Motley Crue might not find their way back to the studio, with or without all the original members back in the fold. As it turned out, a full album of new music really wasn't close to being on the horizon. But in December 2004, they announced a reunion, and on Feb. 1, 2005, fans got to hear the first results in the form of three new songs tacked onto the Red, White & Crue compilation.
It wasn't as simple as just showing up at the rehearsal hall. Relations between Lee and Neil had grown particularly strained in the years since Neil's return to the band, and most of the guys had dabbled in solo careers, making names of their own outside the Motley Crue banner.
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Before they could get back onstage, agreements had to be brokered, and the new songs were assembled piecemeal, with Neil and Nikki Sixx starting the process in the studio; on one of the new recordings, a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Street Fighting Man," Lee didn't even play.
But whatever it took to get them back together, the members of Motley Crue seemed to have picked up a few new tricks during their years apart – including greater maturity, thicker skin and a healthier perspective on their shared strength as a performing unit.
"Everybody loves being in this band, everybody is getting along," insisted Neil during an interview with Hip Online. "The press made more out of the little fights than we did. Me and Tommy, we’ve been together; we’ve been friends for almost 30 years. Not too many people have friends for 30 years. And believe me, in 30 years you’re going to fight with somebody you know for 30 years. ... We’re the best of friends. We have a great time together, onstage and offstage."
"The only thing people ask us about is if we're getting along. Of course we get along," Lee groused to the Guardian. "Time heals. It's been six years. People change, grow up. I think we all have the attitude now that if we could just fucking get along instead of fucking with each other, we could continue to do this for as long as anybody wants to."
As we now know, "as long as anybody wants" initially turned out to be Dec. 31, 2015, when the band's first farewell tour concluded with a final show in Los Angeles. In the interim, Motley Crue managed to record new music only intermittently, finishing 2008's Saints of Los Angeles and a pair of stray singles. They then announced a perhaps-expected reunion in 2019, jump starting a career that had lasted a lot longer than anyone could have guessed when they crawled out of the Sunset Strip gutter with Too Fast for Love in 1981.
"We lost perspective," Sixx said in 2005, with a chuckle. "We almost didn't survive. But isn't that what's exciting about us? That we almost didn't survive?"
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