Mötley Crüe had a lot working against them when they hit the road in the summer of 1994 to support their new self-titled LP. It had been just five years since 1989’s Dr. Feelgood sold by the millions and generated five hit singles, but it might as well have been 50 considering the tectonic shifts the industry had undergone during their hiatus. Grunge was already on its way out, but it’s brief reign had made every 1980s hair metal group seem like sad jokes from a distant past. Acts that were packing basketball arenas in the late 1980s were now struggling to filly tiny clubs.
If the headwinds weren’t strong enough, the Crüe were playing their first shows without original frontman Vince Neil. To this day, the group can’t agree whether or not he quit or was fired. But it really doesn’t matter. He was out and John Corabi (former of the Scream) was now their singer. They released Mötley Crüe in March and saw it premiere at Number Seven. It was an alternative metal album unlike anything they’d released, and some fans and critics actually were impressed by Corabi’s impressive vocal range and the daring change of musical direction. But it had little staying power on the charts and MTV went nowhere near the videos they made to support it.
The group still had high hopes for the tour. “We were going to tour without pyrotechnics and dancing chicks and spinning drum cages, and still kick the audience’s ass,” bassist Nikki Sixx wrote in the band’s memoir The Dirt. “We were going to show them that without a front man dancing in the spotlight, we could play heavy four-piece rock and roll like never before. And we were going to challenge them with lyrics and images about fascism and stereotyping that would blow their minds. We were going to do whatever we wanted because, after all, we were Mötley Crüe.”
His bubble was burst on opening night in Tucson, Arizona when a mere 4,000 tickets were sold at a 15,000 seat amphitheater. Sixx went onto the radio and promised to give every fan that showed up at the station a free ticket. “If I had said that in 1989, there would have been ten thousand teenagers rioting in the parking lot,” Sixx wrote in The Dirt. “That afternoon, two Mexican kids showed up. And that’s when I realized: It was all over.”
But it wasn’t over. They still had to go out and play concerts for four months straight. It was the summer of Green Day, Nine Inch Nails and Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories. Nothing Mötley Crüe did generated the least bit of excitement, as hard as they tried. Here’s video of them playing “Home Sweet Home” in Salina, Kansas that August. The video quality is far from perfect, but it’s about as good as anything gets from this tour. They weren’t exactly shelling out big bucks to professional film crews at this point. Actually, the band had to write six-figure checks from their own private accounts to keep the show on the road.
It was an untenable situation and the group ultimately called off the final leg of the tour and headed home to figure out their future. As much as it pained them to admit it, the only sensible move was to bring back Vince Neil. There was brief talk of retaining Corabi as a guitarist, but it just didn’t make any sense. He was given his walking papers and Neil joined for the 1997 comeback LP Generation Swine. It failed to make much of a commercial impression. Soon enough, however, 1980s nostalgia kicked in and they milked it for all it was worth until they finally split in late 2015 following a very long and very profitable farewell tour.
At no point on the tour did they play a single song from the 1994 Mötley Crüe album or acknowledge it in any way. John Corabi took a very different approach when he went on a solo tour in 1994: He played the whole damn thing straight through every night. It may have been a disaster for the Crüe, but for Corabi it was a career high point, and he was eager to revive it.