Motley Crue Cover Songs Ranked
Motley Crue's decision to record a version of Madonna's "Like A Virgin" isn't all that surprising when you realize how prevalent cover songs have been throughout their career. It was a cover of Brownsville Station's "Smokin' in the Boys Room" that gave the band its first top 10 hit after all, and three of their first four albums included a song first made famous by one of their musical heroes. Here's how a baker's dozen of the best cover versions by the band and its various solo projects stack up against one another. Together they shed light on Motley Crue's diverse influences.
13. The Rolling Stones, "Street Fighting Man" (Covered on 2005's 'Red, White & Crue')
This is some sacred ground to be treading on. Motley Crue bravely try to shake things up, speeding up the tempo, replacing the original acoustic guitar textures with an insistent (some might say grating) electronic guitar figure and devoting the final third to a big rave-up that the proceeding two minutes don't exactly earn.
12. Sex Pistols, "Anarchy in the U.K." (Covered on 1991's 'Decade of Decadence')
Successfully melding punk's blunt approach with metal riffs was an important part of Motley Crue's early formula, so this makes more sense than skeptics might allow. As with their Stones cover, the flagship song choice seems a bit odd -- to say nothing of the incongruity of a bunch of millionaires from sunny Los Angeles singing altered lyrics inspired by class rebellion in rainy England. Who knows? Maybe that makes it the most punk thing they ever did.
11. Gilbert O'Sullivan, "Alone Again (Naturally)" (Covered by 58 on 2000's 'Diet for a New America')
"The tune was so bizarre to begin with that the idea of making that fit onto our record was a bit of a challenge," Nikki Sixx told the Seattle Weekly of this particularly unexpected cover choice. Taken from the only album by Sixx's side project with producer Dave Darling, "Alone Again (Naturally)"'s kitchen-sink approach on this track is far from Motley Crue's usual territory -- with distorted guitars all but replaced by dance beats, pop background vocals and even a few rap verses.
10. Madonna, "Like a Virgin" (Covered on 2019's 'The Dirt' Soundtrack)
Points for ambition, at least? Nikki Sixx admitted that a part of him thought this cover was a "really horrible idea," even though he thought of it. There's just an awful lot to process here, with chugging Metallica-inspired guitars mixed with Evanescence-style strings, and a big dramatically slowed chorus that strips away much of the pop appeal of the original version.
9. Elvis Presley, "Jailhouse Rock" (Covered on 1987's 'Girls, Girls, Girls')
Always suckers for a song about rebellion, Motley Crue added a fun if slight live take on Presley's chart-topping 1957 smash to 1987's Girls, Girls, Girls -- which, oddly enough, shared its name with a different Presley movie, this one from 1962. It takes a fair bit of vamping and crowd participation to get this one over the four-minute mark.
8. David Bowie, "Fame" (Covered by Tommy Lee on 2002's 'Never a Dull Moment')
This is less a cover than a mash-up. About half of this infectious, adventurous track is easily recognized as a techno-dance update of Bowie's 1975 classic, but it adds a repeated "Do what you like / Do what you want to do" chant that takes up nearly as much space.
7. The Cars, "Drive" (Covered by Sixx:A.M. on 2014's 'Modern Vintage')
"I have a handful of songs that I wish I had written. 'Drive' by the Cars is one of them," Sixx said on Sixx:A.M.'s Facebook page to announce the release of this cover. "This is a song probably only an insane artist would try taking on because, to be honest, it's pretty much perfect." To their credit, Sixx:A.M. didn't play it safe, adding electronically processed vocals, cranking up the drama to 11 and capping it all off with a guitar solo straight out of DJ Ashba's Guns N' Roses days.
6. Chicago, "25 or 6 to 4" (Covered by Vince Neil on 1995's 'Carved in Stone')
Maybe some day Vince Neil will get his own cover-songs list. On various solo projects over the years he's tackled favorites made famous by Sweet ("Set Me Free"), Rod Stewart ("Blondes Have More Fun"), Iggy Pop ("Lust for Life") and the Ramones ("I Wanna Be Sedated"). That doesn't even include 2010's cover-dominated Tattoos and Tequila LP. This is the most unexpected and oddly compelling song of the bunch: a horn-free but otherwise faithful take on Chicago's 1970 hit "25 or 6 to 4." This shouldn't work nearly as well as it does.
5. Tommy Bolin, "Teaser" (Covered on 1991's 'Decade of Decadence')
Motley Crue celebrated their first-ever greatest hits album by paying tribute to one of their lesser-known heroes -- former James Gang and Deep Purple guitarist Tommy Bolin -- with a faithful and loving cover of the title track to his 1975 solo album Teaser. "Tommy was one of my favorite artists," Sixx enthused years later on social media. "His guitar playing on Deep Purple’s Come Taste the Band brought out a funky side to that already amazing band."
4. Brownsville Station, "Smokin' in the Boys Room" (Covered on 1985's 'Theatre of Pain')
Already riding a massive groundswell of support on the road, Motley Crue reached back to 1973 for their big commercial radio breakthrough, with a rambunctious cover of Brownsville Station's Top 5 smash giving them their own first Top 10 hit. A quick lyric change allowed Vince Neil to name-check each of his bandmates personally (branding!), and the song's humorous subject matter was perfectly suited for a successful MTV video.
3. The Raspberries, "Tonight" (Covered on the 2003 Reissue of 1981's 'Too Fast for Love')
Low-fi? Low budget? Crude? However you want to describe the production of Motley Crue's first album, it fit them like a glove and added the perfect amount of grit to this long-shelved cover of the 1973 Raspberries gem. Years later, Sixx would marvel at the "insane hooks" Eric Carmen and his bandmates crafted. "At the time of our first album, I was really influenced by power pop," he said. "And the Raspberries, to me, were one of the premier songwriting bands."
2. The Tubes, "White Punks on Dope" (Covered on 2000's 'New Tattoo')
Whoever had the idea for Motley Crue to cover the Tubes' 1975 ode to aimless drug-addled rich kids gets a gold star. The music is fitting, and by this point the band had come out the other side largely intact after its own struggles with substance abuse -- which added some wisdom to the delivery of the song's bluntly sarcastic lyrics.
1. The Beatles, "Helter Skelter" (Covered on 1983's 'Shout at the Devil')
Sacrilege alert: Motley Crue do this song better than the Fab Four. In fact, it's such a perfect fit that it almost makes you wonder if the Beatles wrote this just hoping the Crue could cover it two decades later. For all we know, Paul McCartney has already called Nikki Sixx to say, "Yes, yes, that's exactly what I was trying to do, but couldn't say quite correctly. Cheers, lads!"