list compiled by Michael McCarthy, Jay Cavalon, Amy Akbar and G. Monkey
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 20 years then chances are you know who Mötley Crüe are. And chances are that you either love them or hate them. Unfortunately, many of their fans aren’t very familiar with their extensive catalog of songs. Sure, everybody knows the hits, which are almost exclusively what they play on tour, but there’s so much more to them than that. In fact, we dare to say that many of their best songs aren’t hits. Furthermore, many of them weren’t even released as singles. We realize there’s nothing we can do about that, but we thought we’d present you with a list of our favorite, most under-rated Crüe tunes so that fans with a casual interest in the band might dig a little deeper and become further invested in the band’s lengthy body of work. We also figured that there must be other people out there who wish more of the band’s lesser known tracks weren’t so, well, lesser known, and chances are they’ll appreciate this list, too.
15. “ANARCHY IN THE U.K.”
In 1991 Mötley Crüe released their first greatest hits type of release, Decade of Decadence. Although it was more like a rare tracks compilation than a hits collection, if you ask us, as it compiled songs the band had released on soundtracks and other compilations along with new versions of two songs, a live track and three brand new tracks, this along with some of their biggest hits. One of the brand new tracks was this cover of the Sex Pistol’s “Anarchy in the U.K.” We recall magazines calling it “unnecessary,” but we’d highly disagree. While the Sex Pistol’s version is undeniably a classic, the Crüe’s version was even better. We’re sure some people would say it was too polished, but to our ears it’s just polished enough, still sounding pretty darn raw. More importantly, it was actually heavier than the original and Vince Neil’s snarl functioned perfectly here. Plus, there had always been a punk element to the band’s sound, so it was only fitting that they should cover a punk tune here.
14. “TOAST OF THE TOWN”
This track from the Too Fast for Love era was originally released on a 7″ along with another great track called “Stick To Your Guns.” But that came and went long before the band had their breakthrough single, “Looks That Kill,” from the following album, Shout at the Devil. In any case, there was a widely-circulated tape that fans traded – mostly with pen-pals – for years that included these two tracks along with a Shout at the Devil rehearsal. And it became a much talked about fan favorite. Eventually, the band released it on CD as a bonus track on the 2003 re-release of Too Fast for Love, much to the rejoice of fans everywhere. As a side note, a glam metal band called Pretty Boy Floyd released a cover of this track in the late ‘80’s on their debut album Leather Boyz with Electric Toyz, but they did not give the Crüe credit, which they caught an awful lot of shit for.
13. “10,000 MILES AWAY”
When the band released their self-titled album with John Corabi on vocals in 1994 they also released an E.P. called Quaternary, which featured each of the members doing an original solo song – they were all fantastic – along with an out-take from the album. The E.P. was eventually released in Japan with a handful of bonus tracks, one of which was this gorgeous ballad that most fans agree should have been on the self-titled album and released as a single. It’s now one of the band’s rarest tracks and that’s really a shame because it’s one of the most touching songs they’ve ever released and it suited Corabi’s raw vocals perfectly.
12. “RAISE YOUR HANDS TO ROCK”
This is a deep cut from the band’s 1985 album Theatre of Pain. Years after that record was released, Nikki Sixx said “if you have it, burn it” in a magazine interview, though we can’t recall which magazine because it was so long ago. In any case, we tend to agree with Nikki, as most of the album was filler and it was such a let down after Shout at the Devil, which is one of favorite albums of all-time. Regardless, there were a few solid tunes on it and one of them was this track. It’s noteworthy for being one of the band’s first tracks to feature acoustic guitar, but, more importantly, it was a great, uptempo summertime anthem and really should have been released as a single. It’s such a shame that they never do this one live because the chorus was just made for fist-pumping.
“Angela” is another one of the three brand new tracks from Decade of Decadence. Nikki Sixx wrote it for his then wife, whose middle name was “Angela.” We’re not sure if the band ever performed it live, but they certainly haven’t done so during the past two decades, which probably has something to do with Nikki’s marriage to the woman ending in divorce. But all that fans should be concerned with is just how insanely catchy the song is. If you like “Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away),” then you’ll love this feel good jam.
10. “RED HOT”
We’ve all listened to Shout at the Devil so many times that it seems unfitting to call any of the songs under-rated. Be that as it may, this track is a die-hard fan favorite that never seemed to hold the interest of the band’s more casual fans. The band still does it live again and anyone who’s ever heard it can attest that it features some of Tommy Lee’s fastest and sickest drumming ever. It over-flows with kinetic energy and we’re hoping they’ll bring it back during the band’s upcoming farewell tour, which we’ve all got tickets for.
9. “IF I DIE TOMORROW”
The band was broken up, or inactive anyway, during the early ‘00’s. But whenever concert promoters polled concert goers, Mötley Crüe repeatedly topped the list of bands that audiences wanted to see live. So, it was under the pressure of these promoters that the band decided to get back together in 2005, at which time they released a two CD anthology called Red, White & Crüe, which featured a few new tracks. One of these was “If I Die Tomorrow,” which was released as a single and performed pretty well, summoning a whole new legion of younger Crüe fans. With lyrics like “You’re my everything / You make me feel so alive,” the song felt like a tribute to their fans and got them the most radio airplay they’d had in years. Subsequently, the band performed it live during their comeback tour, but during recent years it’s been missing from their set lists and it seems to have been forgotten by many of their fans, which is a shame because it’s truly one of their best songs ever. Among the many reasons to love it is the fact that it has beautiful, upbeat lyrics but the music is rather melancholic. Also, usually the band does up-tempo rockers and down-tempo ballads, but this tune is decidedly mid-tempo. But is it a rocker or is it a ballad? We couldn’t agree on this point, so we’ll just say that the song walks the fine line between the two perfectly.
8. “FIND MYSELF”
“Find Myself” is the opening track from 1997’s Generation Swine album, which is probably the most misunderstood album the band has ever done, even more so than the self-titled album with John Corabi. The thing about this album is, the band began working on it with Corabi, with the album title Personality #9, but there was immense pressure from the label and fans for the band to reunite with Vince Neil. So, they got back together with Vince and finished the album with him. But to show that they were doing so begrudgingly, Nikki and Tommy each sang lead vocals on a song and Nikki sang co-lead vocals on this track with Vince. Basically, Vince sang the vocals like a traditional Crüe tune while Nikki did the chorus punk style. To that end, we’d probably even classify this one as a punk tune with its sarcastic lyrics declaring things like “I gotta sniff myself some glue” and “I’m a pusher, I’m a shover.”
7. “M.F. OF THE YEAR”
In 2008 the band released what will probably be their final studio album in the form of Saints of Los Angeles. After the New Tattoo album being too wishy washy for some fans – like us – and Generation Swine being too experimental and offbeat for others, it only made sense for the band to do an album that was like a first cousin to their biggest album ever, Dr. Feelgood. Some fans have argued that this isn’t a proper Mötley Crüe album because Tommy couldn’t be bothered to co-write any of the songs and Nikki wrote most of them with his Sixx A.M. bandmate James Michael, but we say an amazing album is an amazing album and we love the sucker. In fact, most of us agree that there isn’t a bad song on the record. One of the highlights is this single, “Mother Fucker of the Year,” which split the difference between a Feelgood era Crüe song and a grinding modern rock tune (circa 2008). However you look at it, it’s a blast and it went over beautifully when the band was doing it live for a while there.
“Afraid” was the lead single from the Generation Swine album and one of its more experimental tunes. It opens with a delicious bass riff and has an uber-catchy chorus. Hell, it even got the band some radio airplay and this was 1997 when heavy metal bands were treated like outcasts and generally laughed at. One of the song’s more interesting characteristics is its subtle electro flourishes. You might have to listen to it a few times to really notice them, but they’re there. And it’s not surprising because at the time Nikki, who wrote it, was heavily into Garbage, who twisted rock songs with lots of loops and electro-tinkering.
5. “DOWN AT THE WHISKY”
This infectious cut from Saints of Los Angeles pays homage to the Crüe’s early days in Los Angeles. As you probably aren’t aware, that album was written as a companion to the band’s raunchy autobiography, The Dirt, which they’re forever talking about making a movie of, and it’s lots of fun to hear them rejoicing about the good ol’ days here. “We were bonafide / And we were getting high / Living out our dreams down at the Whisky.” Oh, and as you have probably guessed, The Whisky is an actual club and it was crücial to the band getting their first record deal as they sold out night after night at the joint, catching the attention of record company bastards everywhere. The club is still there today; several years back Michael finally saw Helloween there.
4. “ON WITH THE SHOW”
This beautiful ballad closes out the Too Fast For Love album. While you could argue that most of Mötley Crüe’s songs don’t tell stories about characters, this one does, spinning the tale of Frankie, who “Died just the other night / Some say it was suicide / But we know how the story goes.” As it turns out, Frankie was murdered by some damn punk with a switchblade knife. It’s hardly an inspiring story, unlike Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer,” or is it? While the verses are a bit of a downer, the chorus is hugely uplifting: “Well, on with the show / Going on with the show / C’mon baby, no, no, no / Oh my, my, my, my, my.” OK, so those aren’t complicated lyrics, but the message is clear: in the face of tragedy, we must carry on. The show must go on, too!
“I….I’m feeling rot / I’m feeling rotten today.” Before there was “If I Die Tomorrow,” there was this track from Generation Swine, which is another mid-tempo sort of ballad. Only it’s not a love song so much as a suicide song. Yes, suicide. Where most bands are always too afraid of being blamed for someone’s suicide and getting sued to actually do a song that revels in feeling suicidal, Mötley Crüe were never afraid of being sued, so nothing could stop them from coming up with this masterpiece about wanting to die. “Someone tell me why / I’m feeling broke inside / Do I wanna / Do I wanna die?” asks one of the choruses. Does that not sound suicidal enough for you? Check out this bit from the bridge: “So long to pain / So long to hate / So long / Say goodbye.” Perhaps we’re sounding a little too cheerful about this one, given the subject matter. But the fact of the matter is that hearing songs like this and knowing somebody else can relate to what they’re going through can actually help prevent someone from committing suicide. Think about that. Finally, we have to point out that Nikki Sixx does some of his career best bass playing in this one. In fact, guitars take a backseat with bass actually playing the lead here. Not too many songs you can say that about.
2. “BLACK WIDOW”
This Shout at the Devil out-take has been the talk of fans for years. In fact, it was one of the tracks performed on that famous Shout at the Devil rehearsal tape that fans copied and copied and re-copied back in the day. It finally saw release as the only previously unreleased track on the band’s boxed set Music to Crash Your Car to: Vol. 1. in 2003. (As a side note, we have to point out how twisted it was for the band to name their collection that by reminding everyone that Vince Neil actually killed a good friend – Hanoi Rocks’ drummer Razzle – in a drunk driving accident. And he was lucky enough to basically get off with doing a public service commercial because he was rich and famous. So, to get such luck and then call your boxed set this is like a slap in the face to the people who let you off easy. More importantly, it’s a major fucking insult to Razzle’s family and friends.) Anyway, getting back on track, the band eventually released this on the much less expensive Red, White & Crüe anthology in 2005 and we really appreciated that. But we would have been even happier if they would have released it as a Shout at the Devil bonus track on the remastered edition of the album half a decade earlier. Better still, they should have actually put it on the original Shout at the Devil album where it would have fit in perfectly! Suffice to say, this is one of the very best songs from the sessions of one of the very best heavy metal albums of all-time!
We can already imagine the comments we’re going to get from die-hard Vince Neil fans who’ll be pissed at us for naming one of the Corabi songs number one here, but obviously we don’t care. And, really, we can’t see how anyone could listen to this song and not think that it’s one of the most under-rated songs, ever, by any band. Lyrically, it tells the stories of people who’ve had an unfair time in life. “Oh, life’s misunderstood me / So I close my eyes and dream of better days,” begins the relatable chorus. Musically, it starts off nice and mellow with gentle guitars and then gradually builds and builds until it explodes with massive strings, heavy as hell drums and some spookily intense vocals by Corabi. Clocking in at just under seven minutes in length, it’s truly epic, right up there with your classic Zeppelin songs in our never humble opinions. Honestly, some of the melodies and arrangements, especially during the song’s mellow conclusion, remind us of The Beatles. If you think we’re over-selling it, go listen to it and then tell us that. Because some of us still play this song to people who don’t even listen to heavy metal and watch as they’re blown away by what they’re hearing. It’s one of those incredible songs that will change your life. We know people who hate Mötley Crüe who actually love the self-titled album. And it’s not just about Corabi’s vocals. It was probably the time when the band was their most experimental and artistic. And “Misunderstood” is arguably the most experimental and artistic song on the album. Such a shame it didn’t perform well as a single. But what do you expect when you release a seven minute single? Well, OK, they did release a shortened version of it to radio, but grunge had fully taken over by that time, so it’s not surprising that they didn’t play it. Although, in hindsight, that might have been a good thing because it would have been a shame if the shortened version had become famous. This is one track where you need the original, full-length version to fully appreciate its emotions and majestical musicianship.
We found all but two of these tracks on Spotify and made a playlist. Check it out! Motley Crue: Most Under-rated