Motley Crue, Def Leppard, Poison and Joan Jett’s 2020 Tour: A Tale of the Tape
In one corner of the ring, we have Motley Crue, the band that famously swore off touring in a highly publicized press event at the outset of 2014 before destroying its "Cessation of Touring Agreement" shortly before this upcoming jaunt was announced.
In the opposite corner is Def Leppard, one of the most durable bands on the touring circuit; they recently completed a residency in Las Vegas. To their left is Poison, whose penchant for dirty talk and fallen angels still resonate with audiences today. And last but certainly not least, we see Jett, a former Runaway-done-good whose career has spanned more than four decades.
But exactly how do the four acts stack up against one another? Let's take a look at a Tale of the Tape.
Motley Crue: Vince Neil (vocals), Nikki Sixx (bass, vocals), Mick Mars (guitar), Tommy Lee (drums)
Def Leppard: Joe Elliott (vocals), Phil Collen (guitar, vocals), Vivian Campbell (guitar), Rick Savage (bass), Rick Allen (drums)
Poison: Bret Michaels (vocals), C.C. DeVille (guitar), Bobby Dall (bass), Rikki Rockett (drums)
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts: Joan Jett (vocals, guitar), Dougie Needles (guitar), Hal B. Selzer (bass), Thommy Price (drums)
Motley Crue: 1981, Los Angeles
Def Leppard: 1977, Sheffield, England
Poison: 1983, Mechanicsburg, Penn.
Joan Jett: 1979, Long Beach, N.Y.
Formed at the outset of 1981, Motley Crue was originally the brainchild of bassist Nikki Sixx, drummer Tommy Lee and guitarist Greg Leon, who was replaced by Mick Mars just months later. Singer Vince Neil was initially reluctant to join the group, but when the band he was part of decided to embrace a New Wave direction, he signed on.
Originally known as Atomic Mass, the band that would become Def Leppard was formed in 1977 by Rick Savage, Tony Kenning and Pete Willis while they were still students at Tapton School in Sheffield. They soon recruited singer Joe Elliott, who suggested a new name of "Deaf Leopard," which was subsequently changed, Led Zeppelin-style, to Def Leppard.
Poison got their start in Mechanicsburg, Penn., in 1983 when they went by the name Paris. "We were glam from the start. People used to throw rocks at us, but we didn't give a shit. We had a vision. We didn't care what people thought of us," Bobby Dall recalled. Not long after, Paris set off for the bright lights and big dreams of California, where, after losing their guitarist, Bret Michaels, Rikki Rockett and Bobby Dall met guitarist C.C. DeVille, and Paris became Poison.
Following the dissolution of the Runaways in 1979, Joan Jett recorded a solo album in Europe before eventually moving to New York, where her producer, Kenny Laguna, was based. She auditioned the band that became the Blackhearts in Los Angeles, inspired by the energy of the city's punk scene. After completing a tour of the U.S. and Europe, the band settled in Long Beach, N.Y.
Motley Crue: April 24, 1981, West Hollywood, Calif.
Def Leppard: July 18, 1978, Sheffield, England
Poison: 1983, Santa Monica, Calif.
Joan Jett: The Runaways - Aug. 12, 1975, Torrance, Calif. / The Blackhearts - 1979, Huntington Beach, Calif.
Motley Crue's first show was a gig opening for Y&T. Helping the band secure the prestigious slow was the fact bassist Nikki Sixx worked at the venue and begged his boss to give them the slot. Recalling the gig in the group's autobiography, The Dirt, Vince Neil said the band hadn't actually rehearsed a complete show at the time of their debut.
Def Leppard's first public performance was held at Westfield School in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. The band played a 50-minute set for the princely sum of approximately $6.50. Their set included a cover of the Thin Lizzy classic "Jailbreak" and an original song called "World Beyond the Sky."
Poison drummer Rikki Rockett said the group's first show as Poison took place in 1983 at Madam Wong's West in Los Angeles, a venue that had also hosted the likes of the Police, Guns N' Roses and others. Bret Michaels recalled some of the group's earliest shows as being a test of patience and perseverance. "The first year you’re out there, you pay the clubs to let you play,” said Michaels in a 1988 Spin profile. “You rent a depressing room at Club 88, and if you can get 20 people at your show and impress them, they’ll bring their friends next time and there’ll be 40.”
Joan Jett’s first show with the Runaways, whose lineup at the time comprised of Jett, Sandy West and Michael "Micki" Steele (who later joined the Bangles), was reportedly at a Torrance, Calif., house party in 1975. Her earliest known shows with the Blackhearts are believed to have been at the Golden Bear in Huntington Beach, Calif., and at the Whisky a Go Go in Hollywood. After that, Jett and the band embarked on a European tour.
Motley Crue: Too Fast for Love (1981)
Def Leppard: On Through the Night (1980)
Poison: Look What the Cat Dragged In (1986)
Joan Jett: Joan Jett (Germany, 1980) / Bad Reputation (U.S., 1981)
Motley Crue first released Too Fast for Love on their own Leathur Records label in 1981, but after reportedly selling upward of 20,000 albums independently, Elektra Records scooped up the album for release the following year.
Def Leppard's full-length debut followed a well-received self-titled, three-song EP. The band ended up re-recording two of the EP's three tracks ("Overture" and "Getcha Rocks Off") for On Through the Night.
Poison's Look What the Cat Dragged In was far from an immediate smash. The first single from the group's debut, "Cry Tough," stalled on the charts, but following the release of "Talk Dirty to Me," the album eventually found its way to multi-platinum status.
There was initially little to no interest in Jett's solo debut in the U.S., so the record was released in Germany before she and producer Kenny Laguna decided to put it out independently in the U.S. She eventually secured support from Boardwalk Records, which re-released it under the title Bad Reputation.
Motley Crue: Shout at the Devil (1983)
Def Leppard: Pyromania (1983)
Poison: Open Up and Say ... Ahh! (1988)
Joan Jett: I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll (1982)
Too Fast for Love might have introduced Motley Crue to the masses but it was Shout at the Devil that took the group to another level, and helped define the burgeoning Los Angeles glam-metal scene.
Def Leppard's first two records, On Through the Night and High 'N' Dry sold respectfully, but Pyromania was the band's coming-of-age moment. Three singles from the album -- "Photograph," "Rock of Ages" and "Foolin'" -- made the Top 40, while another four tracks were also rock radio hits.
Poison found moderate success with their debut album but it was their second, Open Up and Say ... Ahh!, that cemented their stardom. The album spawned four Top 20 singles, including the No. 1 "Every Rose Has Its Thorn."
In early 1982, Jett’s cover of the Arrows’ “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” could be heard coming out of every jukebox, basement stereo and car radio throughout the country. The single sent its titular album rocketing to the No. 2 position on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
Motley Crue: Five
Def Leppard: Six
Joan Jett: Two
When it came to album sales, Motley Crue could do no wrong in the first decade of their career. Each of the group's first five albums have been certified platinum, with 1989's Dr. Feelgood selling the most at 6 million.
After Pyromania made Def Leppard stars, the band's next three records, including 1993's rarities-and-outtakes collection Retro-Active, went platinum, with 1987's Hysteria being their best-seller at 12 million copies. That success subsequently sent fans back to the band's first two albums, which also eventually went platinum.
Each of Poison's first three albums, including 1990's Flesh & Blood, have been certified for multi-platinum sales for a total of more than 11 million copies.
TOP 10 SINGLES
Motley Crue: Two
Def Leppard: Five
Joan Jett: Three
Motley Crue's album sales are remarkable, but only two of their singles have cracked the Billboard Hot 100 Top 10: "Dr. Feelgood" peaked at the No. 6 position in late-October 1989, while "Without You" topped out at No. 8 in 1990.
Def Leppard didn't crack the Top 10 until Hysteria's title track reached No. 10, followed by their next three singles: "Pour Some Sugar on Me," "Love Bites" and "Armageddon It," all reached No. 3 or better; "Love Bites" is Def Leppard's only No. 1.
Poison have the most Top 10 singles of all the acts hitting the road together this summer. "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" is the group's only No. 1, but "Unskinny Bop," "Something to Believe In," "Nothin' but a Good Time," "Talk Dirty to Me" and their cover of Loggins & Messina's "Your Mama Don't Dance" each found various positions within the Top 10 as well.
Joan Jett hit No. 1 with “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” That chart-topper was followed by a cover of Tommy James and the Shondells’ “Crimson and Clover,” which peaked No. 7, while her third and last Top 10 single was 1988’s “I Hate Myself for Loving You," which topped out at No. 8.
ROCK AND ROLL HALL OF FAME
Motley Crue: No
Def Leppard: Yes
Joan Jett: Yes
Even though Motley Crue have been eligible for entry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 2006, bassist Nikki Sixx claimed the HOF has stated the band's past behavior will keep it from ascending to the institution. Def Leppard were inducted into the Hall in 2019, 14 years after they were first eligible, while Poison has yet to receive the nod. Joan Jett was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
MOST RECENT ALBUM
Motley Crue: Saints of Los Angeles (2008)
Def Leppard: Def Leppard (2015)
Poison: Poison'd (2007)
Joan Jett: Unvarnished (2013)
Motley Crue spent years touring on the back of their hits, which helps explain the lack of regular studio output after the turn of the century. Eight years lapsed between the release of 2000's New Tattoo and Saints of Los Angeles, but the band did contribute four new songs to the soundtrack of the 2019 group biopic The Dirt.
Joan Jett's latest offering is Unvarnished, which gives listeners an abundance of crunchy guitars, pounding drums and attitude.
RECENT TOUR GROSSES
Motley Crue's Final Tour, which touched down in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia, reportedly sold upward of 1.3 million tickets. Demand for the tour was high in many markets since it was billed as their farewell. But, as we've come to see, goodbyes aren't always forever.
With the exception of two Canadian shows, the entirety of the Def Leppard-Journey tour was U.S.-based and sold more than 1 million tickets. Not only did the tour touch down in arenas in many markets, it also filled stadiums such as Boston's Fenway Park and Target Field in Minneapolis.