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The dark side of Mötley Crüe and glam metal

It’s no secret that glam metal had a problem with sexism and misogyny. Even though it was the 1980s, it remains relatively difficult to fathom from today’s lens of a more gender-balanced future that anybody would have ever bought into bands such as Poison, Mötley Crüe and Twisted Sister. The music is tacky as hell, even for back then, and lyrically, I’m afraid to say, it is total garbage. 

The band’s who made up the scene were well known for their excessive lifestyle, leading to many of the scene’s most prominent figures resembling the hollow caricature of the washed-up rock star that, even by that point, was incredibly well-worn. 

The most notorious story has to be when a couple of members of Poison assaulted Elektra staffer Sherry Ring at a party. After slightly smirking at bassist Bobby Dall for being upset by an article in Hit Parader in which Guns N’ Roses member Slash called the band “posers”, he threw his drink in her face and then jammed the cup on her head. 

When leaving the party, she was again approached by Dall and Poison frontman Brett Michaels. Reflecting later on the incident, Ring told Variety: “One held my arms back and the other threw a tub of melted ice water over my head. Then a couple of security guys from the venue came up to say I was leaving, grabbed me under my arms and carried me out to the parking lot, locking me out for ‘bothering’ the Poison guys”. Luckily, Ring sued the pair, and was compensated handsomely. 

One of the most notorious outfits of the scene was Mötley Crüe. In the widely panned 2019 biopic, The Dirt, the film features a scene in which bass player Nikki Sixx tricks a woman into thinking she was having sex with him when, in reality, he’d swapped places with drummer Tommy Lee. You’d go to prison for that today.

People were under the misconception that much of the debauchery in The Dirt was exaggerated or made up, but it wasn’t. Mario Ferrero, the owner of Adrenaline PR who has worked with some of metal’s biggest names, was there at the time. She claimed to Variety that the film’s depiction of events was actually “super-accurate – it’s really the way it was”. 

It’s these kinds of gross stories, particularly in the age of the MeToo movement, that makes Mötley Crüe and their ilk so detestable. Sexism was endemic, and as whole, the scene gave platforms to people who did not deserve it. In an October 2021 interview with Classic Rock, Sixx gave his thoughts on the scene. 

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During the conversation, Sixx admitted that the band were “most probably” sexist in their earlier, more raucous days. It is important to note that by all accounts, in the 1990s, when their influence was waning, the band had calmed down and were nothing like their former selves. 

In the interview, Sixx explained that it was a “different time” during the ’80s, and that “everybody” was sexist. But, of course, that simply doesn’t qualify as a reasonable excuse. Looking back with today’s lens, after the fallout of the MeToo movement, Sixx answered the question of whether Mötley Crüe were sexist by saying: “In today’s environment, most probably. ​As was everybody. In the ​’70s, when I grew up, it was just the messaging that came through, and you were emulating your heroes”.

Sixx explained that hearing Aerosmith‘s Steven Tyler use the term “slitty licker” on ‘Pandora’s Box’ enthralled him with its overtly sexual nature. He said: “I was like, ‘Wow, that’s fucking rad!’ It was dangerous, y’know? When someone is talking about guns and sex and drugs, you’re like, ‘This is fucking dangerous, man. This is not mom and dad’s music.’ So it was a different time. You can’t rewrite history, man”.

When you listen back to any of Mötley Crüe or their peers’ music, it sends a shiver down the spine. It’s not in the least bit nostalgic, and thank God Kurt Cobain and the grunge pioneers were right around the corner, ready to knock them off their perch and help to bring music and culture into a much more balanced future.

Watch Nikki Sixx: Live Through This below.