Mötley Crüe's Final Tour has a subtitle: "All Bad Things Must Come to an End." It's the band's acknowledgement that its road to rock 'n' roll glory was paved with debauchery and decadence.
While racking up 22 top 40 rock hits and six top 20 pop singles, the crude Crüe also built a reputation for booze, drugs, porn stars, car wrecks, fistfights, groupies, arrests, trashed hotel rooms, overdoses, sex tapes and arrogance befitting rock stars who defy rules and moderation at every opportunity.
Has that rap sheet overshadowed Mötley's music?
"Absolutely," says drummer Tommy Lee. "I understand that. People gravitate toward the crazy, like going to a car race to see a crash."
The band attributes media fixation on the band's hedonism in part to critics' dismissal of its music.
"Critics always hated us, and they were always wrong," singer Vince Neil says. "No one's ever had a good thing to say about us, but people still buy the records."
Wild antics could not have sustained Mötley's career, bassist Nikki Sixx argues. "If you're the most outrageous act on Earth and you don't have the songs to back it up, you won't last," he says. "We're still on the radio 30 years later.
"We'll play to 25,000 people and it's the greatest Tuesday night of their lives. And in the paper next day, it says we're the worst. You have to chuckle."
Mötley Crüe hopes to get the last laugh with the Final Tour, an over-the-top spectacle of big hits. The players won't divulge specifics, though Lee insists his newest drum roller-coaster is "an insane game-changer."
Known for effects-laden solos and tricked-out drum rigs, Lee was inspired to carnival heights by his days as a fan.
"I'm 15, 16, watching everyone leave during the drum solo," he says. "The drummer is kicking (butt) and nobody can see because he's covered with drums. I decided one day I'd change the perspective so people would have a bird's-eye view."
Fans will get a close-up view of Mötley as the tour winds down next year and the film version of 2002's best-selling band biography The Dirt hits screens. The biopic is being directed by Bad Grandpa's Jeff Tremaine, "who understands what it's like to work with a band of misfits, wrap his hands around chaos and turn it into a singular message," says Sixx, who envisions a tone akin to Boogie Nights or Goodfellas. "It's a story of brotherhood and survival. It takes brutal honesty to show the warts and all."
The band has closely tracked script rewrites and casting and plans to lure the project's unknown actors to the road to get a sense of Mötley mayhem.
The group has been less hands-on, but no less enthusiastic, regarding Nashville Outlaws: A Tribute to Mötley Crüe, a shotgun wedding of hair-metal and twang, out Aug. 19. Country stars such as Rascal Flatts, Florida Georgia Line, Darius Rucker and LeAnn Rimes tackle Mötley hits that range from Looks That Kill to Dr. Feelgood and Girls, Girls, Girls.
"We weren't involved in picking songs or artists or micromanaging any part of it," says Sixx, noting that Outlaws is aimed at country fans. "When we sat down in Nashville and heard it for the first time, our jaws dropped."
"Everyone was a little hesitant, and I couldn't picture it in my mind," says Neil, who added vocals to Justin Moore's Home Sweet Home, the single that's out this week. It's the only Mötley input. "I was pleasantly surprised. Some of them made these songs better than the originals."
Guitarist Mick Mars, recalling how rock audiences once embraced such countrified acts as 38 Special, says: "I wasn't sure it would cross over, but I think it will transfer well to rock fans. There are so many great country players that people don't know about."
The tribute album, an affirmation of their musical moxie, moved Mötley, but not enough to stop them from moving on.
"Let's put a nail in this coffin," Lee says. "We all feel like we've accomplished what we set out to do. It's time for people to take other journeys."
For Lee, that means "going in 400 different directions." Billy Corgan enlisted him for the upcoming Smashing Pumpkins record. In addition to founding bands Methods of Mayhem and Rock Star Supernova, Lee has recorded with Nine Inch Nails and toured with EDM DJ Aero.
"Side projects have been enjoyable but frustrating," Lee says. "You can't give it 100% of your love and energy when the mother ship keep pulling you back to make a new record and tour. So your solo efforts are sometimes self-sabotaged. The idea of being freed up is exciting."
Sixx, already hosting his nationally syndicated Sixx Sense radio show and fronting band Sixx A.M., is plotting a new solo album, a photography exhibit based on homeless addicts in Canada and a Broadway production of his gritty 2007 autobiography The Heroin Diaries.
"Nobody's going to sit on the couch surfing channels," he says. "Mötley has been the love of my life, but I'm looking forward to jumping off the 13th floor with my eyes shut."
Neil has a full plate of music and business interests, from his solo band to a tequila brand and minority stake in the Jacksonville Sharks arena football team. He's looking at starting up a Quickie Burger joint, a Lamborghini dealership and fresh musical pursuits.
"It will be about new beginnings," he says.
Mars has been writing songs for a solo project and mulling ideas for his memoirs. Suffering since his teens from the chronic inflammatory disease ankylosing spondylitis, he'll miss performing with Mötley but not the rigors of touring. A recovering addict, Mars declines pain pills and takes only non-steroidal medications.
"When I'm on stage, it's like great therapy," he says. "I don't really feel broken. But I am broken. I'm not a youngster anymore. I have to deal with this for the rest of my life."
Mötley Crüe's decision to exit has been met with mixed reaction from fans and peers.
"The general consensus among performers is that it's honorable and cool and that more people should do it," Lee says. "Of course, a few of them are going 'Are you nuts? You can make millions if you keep touring.'
"I don't see fans posting anything like 'Finally, they're out of here.' The fans seem happy to have had a fun ride with us. There will be new rides with new people."
Who could supplant these metal marauders of the Sunset Strip?
Lee is stumped. "I don't hear that next big thing. The world is definitely lacking rock stars who sound original and bring something unique to the party. But you can bet there's some kid jumping up and down on his bed figuring it out."