The Story Behind the Motley Crue Logo: A Brief History

Motley Crue

Motley Crue Who? Yes, we’re asking that question tongue-in-cheek. Most everyone born in my era is more than aware of exactly who the ‘80s hair-metal band is, not to mention each and every one of the member’s names, and probably some unsavory (and savory, too) facts about their lives. This is an eyeliner-era band that has been around the block, back again, and then took over the block. Many of their hits are hits today, anthems of a party-hard time when the men had better hair than the women and there was a super-shortage of AquaNet hairspray. The band was first formed in 1981 by bassist Nikki Sixx, who came together in a red-hot collaboration with singer Vince Neil, guitarist Mick Mars, and drummer Tommy Lee. In the decades since their initial union the band has sold more than 100 million albums around the world, breaking records and gathering fans, which is still going on as of this writing. Those of you who are familiar with Motley Crue likely have fond memories backed with their music as the soundtrack; those who are not likely have a lot of questions. “What songs did they do?”, or “Why does one of them have bleached-blond hair?”. Or maybe you’re asking the same question we found ourselves asking: “Where did Motley Crue get that kick-ass logo?” As a matter of fact, we were so curious about that particular question we decided to find out the answers and share them with you. So, where did Motley Crue get their logo? Here’s what we came up with…

What IS the Logo?

So, you’re not sure what the Motley Crue logo even looks like? Well, you must be a newer fan. It’s easy enough to describe, however: The logo is simply the words ‘Motley Crue; sometimes it’s written in Gothic-style lettering, sometimes a cursive font, but ALL the time it has ‘umlauts’, or double dots, over the ‘o’ in Motley and the ‘u’ in Crue. In other words, you may see ‘Motley Crue’ in a variety of fonts, but the use of the umlauts is a very important part of their branding. Now you may be asking what the definition and purpose of umlauts could be. According to Merriam-Webster, an umlaut is ‘a diacritical mark placed over a vowel to indicate a more central or front articulation’. The umlaut is typically used in the German and Hungarian languages to show that the vowel should be pronounced differently that it would be without it. Yes, it’s a vague definition, but we now have a somewhat better understanding of what the umlaut is supposed to do. But why would a west-coast-based American heavy metal band use German or Hungarian punctuation? Let’s look a bit closer at the reason.

‘Looking’ European

We all know that Motley Crue is an American rock band, so the use of umlauts in their logo is curious indeed. Why would a band made up of men who are from the United States us something in their logo that we can make no earthly sense out of? Well, according to Antimusic.com, the band didn’t even know what umlauts were. In the article Vince Neil shares that in the very beginning the four guys from the band were sitting around drinking beer (Lowenbrau, to be exact) when they noticed the use of them in the Lowenbrau logo. Neil told Antimusic.com, “…we put some umlauts in there because we thought it would make us look more European”.

More European? Yes, that’s what he said. But…WHY? The piece above really doesn’t expand on the motivation behind the European thing; perhaps they thought it would make them more popular, or maybe they guys figured it made the actual band name look cooler than it normally would. It’s even cornier to think that when the band first went to Germany fans were shouting ‘Mutley Cruh!’, which they couldn’t figure out, and by the time they did it was too late. Back to the name. Think about it: Motley Crue is really nothing more than ‘motley crew’ with a slight skew on the word ‘crew’. And a motley crew is nothing more than ‘an unusual mixed group’ (which could also explain why Vince was a blonde). Anyway, with such a normally mundane-sounding name, the umlauts could only help…right?

Well, as you can see here on Fandom.com, the Motley Crue logo has really changed only in font over time, and only slightly in its humble beginnings. Fandom shows the changes in the logo with the passing year, which is interesting, but not interesting enough to keep the same-old same old permanently. In 1985, for the ‘Theatre of Pain’ release the lettering began to lean more toward the Goth in appearance. Then, on 1987’s ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ album they shifted to a graffiti-type cursive font. ‘Dr. Feelgood’ had what appeared to be a cross between calligraphy and cursive in 1989, In 1994 the logo took a turn on the ‘Motley Crue’ LP, appearing to be spray painted with stencils, featuring sloppy smears and all…super-fitting for the band, if you ask me. The ‘Generation Swine’ album from 1997 looked like a magazine clipping-inspired ransom note, while 2000’s ‘New Tattoo’ logo put out a heavy Asian vibe. The ‘Saints of Los Angeles’ logo from 2008 was in heavy Old English lettering, and finally in 2012 their logo for the single ‘Sex’ was done in a racy chrome with block letters. Versatile? We’d say so. We all have to keep up with the changes around us, right? Motley Crue is not different, and to be honest, they’ve managed to keep things fairly fresh over the last 39 years. We all have to give credit where it’s due.

In A Nutshell

So, there you have it: The history of the band logo of one of the most iconic heavy metal bands in the history of rock and roll. It was just about as we would have expected: A handful of drunk guys sitting around trying to think up the name of a band without really having any idea what they were doing. But it certainly worked out well in the end, to the tune of millions. Can’t do much better than that. Rock on, Motley Crue…the umlauts DID make it look cooler, by the way.


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