40 Years Ago: Motley Crue Is Born With ‘Live Wire’
One of glam metal's biggest acts made their presence known on Aug. 16, 1982, when Motley Crue released the single "Live Wire."
The group had formed a year prior. Bassist Nikki Sixx left his former band, London, and began working with drummer Tommy Lee. An advertisement in The Recycler landed guitarist Mick Mars in the group. The final piece was vocalist Vince Neil, though it took some effort to get him on board.
“I listened to them, and tried to keep from vomiting or laughing,” Neil recalled of the first time he listened to the group’s demos. “There was no way I was going to play with this lame band, if you could call them a band.”
Still, Lee, who knew Neil years before they collaborated together, was incessant in recruiting the singer. Neil eventually agreed to join the fledgling group for a rehearsal. Even in that unrefined environment, the band that would become Motley Crue had obvious sparks.
“[Neil’s] squeaky high-pitched voice combined with Nikki’s ratty out-of-time bass playing, Mick’s overamped guitar, and my way-too-busy-and-excited drumming. And it sounded right,” Lee recalled. “On the spot, Nikki started rewriting his songs for Vince’s voice, and the first result was ‘Live Wire.’”
Listen to 'Live Wire' by Motley Crue
Though the song, with its blitzkrieg of guitars and pulsating drums, was an onslaught of rock energy, its inspiration came from a much darker place.
“The song is actually about domestic violence,” Sixx explained in 2019, noting that the song stemmed from his “relationship with my mother and these stepdads that used to beat me.”
Motley Crue’s debut album, Too Fast for Love, initially got a limited release via Leathür Records in 1981. The group eventually signed a deal with Elektra in 1982, who, after some remixing and adjusting to the tack list, agreed to give Too Fast for Love a wider release. The re-released album’s first single was “Live Wire,” unleashed Aug. 16, 1982. Though the group would go on to have many bigger hits, none carried more significance.
“We were Motley Crue right then. At that fucking moment,” Lee declared of the day “Live Wire” came together. “We created one of our classic songs five minutes into our first jam with Vince.”