With a gritty reputation that was arguably equaled only by Guns N' Roses, Mötley Crüe's infamous antics made them a force to be reckoned with in the '80s. As one of the first and most influential hair metal bands of the '80s, Mötley Crüe had a series of hit albums, the biggest and most noteworthy being 1989's Dr. Feelgood. The band continued to court controversy into the next decade, even when their recording career took a downturn through a series of well-publicized mishaps and run-ins with the law. Mötley Crüe's beginning can be traced back to 1981, when bassist Nikki Sixx (born Frank Ferrana) and drummer "Tommy Lee" Bass decided to leave the bands they were in at the time and pursue a new project together. Bob "Mick Mars" Deal was hired to play guitar and "Vince Neil" Wharton was added as vocalist. The band went through several name changes before Mars presented them with Mottley Krue, recalling a time when his previous band was described as a "motley looking crew." After agreeing on this name and altering the spelling somewhat, the newly formed group began to play at local clubs and soon became cult favorites, known for their unique stage theatrics.
The band soon met up with Allan Coffman, who financed their first album, Too Fast for Love, on their own small, independent Lethur Records label; the record sold a surprising 20,000 copies. After signing to Elektra Records, the band released Shout at the Devil in 1983, which featured the hit video "Looks That Kill." The record went platinum, but the band's success was temporarily brought to a halt when Neil was involved in a deadly automobile accident on August 12. Driving under the influence of alcohol, Neil crashed into another car, killing his good friend and passenger Nicholas Dingley of Hanoi Rocks; the other victims emerged with broken bones and brain damage. Neil was found guilty of vehicular manslaughter and driving while intoxicated, and was incarcerated for 30 days in 1985, in addition to performing community service and paying a large cash settlement. By the time Neil had been sentenced, however, the band's newest record, Theatre of Pain, had already been released and soared up the charts, making the band stars and producing their first Top 40 hit with a cover of Brownsville Station's "Smokin' in the Boys' Room."