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Motley Crue’s Best Album Covers | The Story Behind The Art

motley crue's best album covers

The lore of Motley Crue is as vast and vivid as the neon haze of their birthplace on the 1980s Sunset Strip. Beyond their reputation for visceral performances and scandalous antics, they were artists crafting aural chaos into melodic mayhem, transposing their wild existence into soundwaves for your aural enjoyment.

Yet, the creativity of the Crue didn’t stop at the auditory level. They extended their vision to their album covers, transforming these blamnk canvases into evocative landscapes that captured their essence, ethos, and evolution.

From the raw, adrenaline-infused debut ‘Too Fast for Love’ to their cheeky, caricature-clad ‘Greatest Hits’, each cover has a story to tell, a peek into the band’s legendary roller-coaster ride.

So, slip on your leather jackets, strap on your bandanas, and join us as we venture into the smoke and mirrors, peeling back the layers of the vinyl vault to delve into the world of Motley Crue’s best album covers.

It’s a wild ride through the tumultuous journey of one of rock’s most notorious bands. It’s a study in symbolism, a testament to rebellion, and above all, a celebration of Motley Crue’s unfading resonance in the landscape of rock ‘n’ roll.

‘Too Fast for Love’, 1981

Label: Leathür Records, later re-released by Elektra Records

motley crue's best album covers

The Sensual Secret Behind The Leather

Motley Crue’s debut album, ‘Too Fast for Love’, is the rock ‘n’ roll equivalent of an adrenaline shot, and nothing screams that louder than its provocative cover. Vince Neil’s leather-clad lower half is the album’s showpiece, suggestively introducing the band’s raw and untamed ethos.

But if you’re seeking hidden meanings or arcane secrets in Neil’s hand gesture on the cover, you might be looking in the wrong place. As Neil himself explained in ‘Tattoos & Tequila’, any rumors of devil horns or secret love messages are pure fan fiction. However, he cheekily left one question dangling – “Why doesn’t anybody think to ask me what my other hand is doing?”

motley crue's best album covers

When Neil’s blond locks disappeared against the white background on the back cover, the photographer promised they could fix the mishap in post editing, but the final product was nothing short of disastrous.

Neil felt like he’d been plopped into Elton John’s eccentric beehive wig! Mick Mars also found himself in an unwanted doppelgänger situation, feeling that his photo uncomfortably mirrored Joan Jett.

RELATED: A Complete Timeline Of Tommy Lee & Brittany Furlan

‘Shout at the Devil’, 1983

Label: Elektra Records

motley crue's best album covers

Motley Crue’s Dance With The Dark Side

While making ‘Shout at the Devil’, the band’s second album, Nikki Sixx found himself ensnared by the allure of satanic symbolism. Initially, he envisioned the album title as ‘Shout With the Devil’, a testament to his deep fascination with the occult.

In ‘The Dirt’, Tom Zutaut, a former Elektra Records A&R executive, recalls Sixx asserting that his motives were merely theatrical – he was simply courting controversy to ruffle a few feathers.

However, following a series of eerie incidents – including witnessing a fork and knife levitate and puncture a ceiling – Sixx thought better of his original name and opted for the less confrontational ‘Shout at the Devil’. Zutaut, to this day, remains spooked by the supernatural occurrences surrounding this album.

motley crue's best album covers

Despite the rebranding, ‘Shout at the Devil’ remained in hot water. With a pentagram boldly adorning the front cover, the album became a target of Christian and conservative groups. Bowing to the pressure, Motley Crue released an alternate cover, employing the individual photos initially featured in the original gatefold. The new cover proved to be a masterstroke, subtly thumbing their noses at their critics while preserving their rebellious aesthetic.

RELATED: Have You Met Mick Mars’ Wife Seraina Schonenberger?

‘Theatre of Pain’, 1985

Label: Elektra Records

motley crue's best album covers

Meet Melpomene (Tragedy) And Thalia (Comedy)

On their 1985 album ‘Theatre of Pain’, Motley Crue explored the concept of duality. Inspired by the “Comedy and tragedy / Entertainment or death” line from the song “Keep Your Eye on the Money,” the cover featured happy and sad drama masks, eloquently encapsulating the highs and lows of the band’s journey.

The masks, painted by the legendary David Willardson (who is responsible for more than 150 album covers over his career), offer a look into the band’s ethos of pleasure and pain, and success and ruin. Again there is the use of symbology with the pentagram taking center stage on the forehead of the Melpomene, the muse of Tragedy.

Interestingly, during their initial 3-hour planning meeting, the band members regaled Willardson with tales of their lives, inadvertently giving him a preview of their yet-to-be-released autobiography ‘The Dirt’.

‘Girls, Girls, Girls’, 1987

Label: Elektra Records

motley crue's best album covers

A No-Frills Narrative

By the time ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ was released in 1987, Motley Crue was ready to drop the glam and embrace reality. Tired of the elaborate costumes, makeup, and hairdos they sported on the ‘Theatre of Pain’ tour, they opted for authenticity.

The album cover, depicting the band in their raw element, was a faithful representation of their lives at the time – which Nikki Sixx explained was “…hanging out, playing rock ‘n’ roll, riding motorcycles, and going to strip clubs.” As Sixx explained, the band was merely capturing their lives in their most natural state.

RELATED: Who Is The Richest Member Of Motley Crue?

‘Dr. Feelgood’, 1989

Label: Elektra Records

motley crue's best album covers

The Twisted Caduceus

Originally, the cover for ‘Dr. Feelgood’ was meant to depict the band’s cartoon mascot, Allister Fiend, as a deranged doctor brandishing a large syringe. However, this idea was dropped, rumored to be due to its eerie echo of Nikki Sixx’s near-fatal overdose.

motley crue album art

Instead, the band commissioned tattooist Kevin Brady and illustrator Don Brautigam to devise a darkly reimagined version of the medical caduceus symbol. The result was an unsettling image, perfectly befitting the tumultuous journey behind the album.

RELATED: The Tragic Tale Of Vince Neil’s Car Crash

‘Generation Swine’, 1997

Label: Elektra Records

the best motley crue album art

The Pig-Headed Prodigals

The pressure to bring back Vince Neil was intense, and it’s somewhat fitting that ‘Generation Swine’ hid the faces of the reunited lineup behind oversized pig masks. Despite the album’s assembly from abandoned instrumental tracks and the disjointed creative process, the cover art was nothing short of striking.

Duke Woolsoncroft’s design added his unique version of eccentric charm to the band’s audacious return.

‘Greatest Hits’, 1998

Label: Mötley Records, Eleven Seven Music

motley crue's best album covers

An Homage to ‘Mad’

Graphic artist Erik Casillas was initially tasked with designing a t-shirt design for the ‘Generation Swine’ album tour. After impressing the band by successfully encapsulating their wild spirit in a caricature reminiscent of ‘Mad Magazine’, his creation found a new purpose.

Nikki Sixx delivered the surprise over a phone call, cheekily letting Casillas know that “Yeah dude, we aren’t going to make a poster out of your artwork.” Before revealing that instead,” it would grace the cover of their ‘Greatest Hits’ album. “We want to use it for the cover!”.

RELATED: The Wild Side Of Music – Motley Crue’s Best Albums

Final Thoughts On Motley Crue’s Best Album Covers

In the thrashing, crashing, blazing glory that is rock ‘n’ roll, Motley Crue stands as an unapologetic titan, an icon of all things exuberantly wild and defiantly audacious. Their album covers, much like their music, are epic tales unfolding across the canvas of popular culture.

Through the artistry of their album covers, we’ve navigated the rowdy streets of the ’80s Sunset Strip, felt the heat of the spotlight, and tasted the bitter-sweet cocktail of success and scandal.

And so, as the last chords of ‘Dr. Feelgood’ echo in our ears, let us raise a metaphorical glass (or maybe a tattooed fist) to Motley Crue. To their audacious creativity, their tenacious resilience, and their wild spirit that refuses to be tamed.

Here’s to the band that dared to shout at the devil, making a hell of a ride out of it, their story immortalized one iconic album cover at a time.

Stay wild, stay loud, and keep the Crue spirit alive.