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Mick Mars Paved The Way For MÖTLEY CRÜE’s ‘Rags To Riches’ Story, According To Promoter Steve Quercio

With the ongoing Mick Mars lawsuit against his old band set for private arbitration later this year, there are a lot of fans who are unaware of the pivotal role the 73-year-old guitar icon played in helping get the band to achieve rock stardom. Mick is battling for his musical legacy and is trying to get his stake of 25% reinstated, along with being changed back to an active member of the band, who despite his advanced age, wants to be allowed to participate full time, in terms of songwriting and playing one off historic gigs or a residency.

There are some who think that the co founder Nikki Sixx is the mastermind behind the band’s meteoric rise to the top, when the truth is Mick was magically pulling all of the strings himself behind the scenes to ensure the band he named (not Sixx) would achieve stardom.

As the story goes, MÖTLEY CRÜE landed their first producer Michael Wagener thanks to Mick not Sixx, and that is who engineered the tracks with for what would become the debut “Too Fast For Love” album. Wagener was the original guitarist for the German metal band Accept. He retired from the rock music biz in 2021, but came back out of retirement to work with Mick again on his debut solo album “The Other Side Of Mars” which was released earlier this year on February 23rd. I believe this itself speaks to the loyalty and respect Mick had for Wagener and vice versa, even after forty plus years.

The original version of Too Fast For Love was self-released on the Crue’s own Leathür Records label, in 1981. There were only 900 copies made of that first Leathür vinyl pressing.

The Leathür Records mix is widely considered the “grittier” sounding version. It was mixed by Mr. Wagener, who went on to produce Skid Row, mix both Ozzy’s No More Tears and Metallica’s Master of Puppets.

Car racing promoter Steve Quercio (Paradise Productions) who spoke with me on the phone this past week said at the time of the legendary April 8, 1982 Santa Monica Civic gig (3,500 seat capacity) that he organized, he clearly saw that the rag tag group of misfit glam metal rockers were led by the more experienced Mars, who was over ten years older than the others in the lineup (Lee was still only a teenager), Mars already having paid his dues in the band White Horse. This group is where Mick first got the idea for the name Motley Crue.

Prior to that Vince Neil, Lee and Sixx wanted to name the band Christmas or Stop, believe it or not. Hardly the street tough name they needed. There is no way in hell they could ever achieve any notoriety with those silly monikers. Mick nailed it with naming the band, and in my opinion, this was one of the most important components to the band becoming famous in the first place.

Upon approaching the band after seeing the Crue perform at The Whisky A Go Go, which is a much smaller venue that seats 600 capacity, first time rock promoter Steve Quercio knew he was onto something very special.

Steve set the Crue up with their first 3,500 capacity gig at the Santa Monica Civic Center, where I myself would see the band the very next year in 1983 perform Shout at The Devil concert, promoted by Avalon not Quercio’s Paradise.

The band met its first manager, Allan Coffman, the thirty-eight-year-old brother-in-law of a friend of Mick Mars’s driver. After the Quercio gig, Elektra records signed the Crue and they were next managed by Doug Thaler and Doc McGhee.

This legendary gig Quercio booked for the young largely unknown L.A. glam metal band, without a doubt in my mind, set the stage for a seismic eruption of heavy metal music in America, wherein the mythical status of the band was first achieved. Bassist Nikki Sixx set himself on fire that night, and it was also the live debut of the classic song “Knock Em Dead”. There were only three roadies at the gig, brought over from the previous Whisky shows, and Quercio brilliantly arranged to have his friend John Force, the eventual legendary funny car racer, park his cars on the stage.

The Force funny cars remained on the stage during the show with advertising for KROQ placed on the vehicle. This allowed Quercio to get $25,000 in actual radio advertising to promote the band on the big time rock radio station. Quercio also brought in Elvira Mistress of The Dark to help promote the event. It was like lightning in a bottle.

The entire rock show went off without a hitch and Quercio says it was at this moment that he and the band knew they had finally made it.

Querico also believes that his funny car promotion helped to create the ‘live fast’ motto they were so well known for, and is what became the basis for the Crue’s “Kickstart My Heart” song and video, not Sixx’s supposed heroin overdose, that ex-Crue singer John Corabi says was entirely fabricated for publicity.

“After the show, I handed Mick the band’s payment of $3,500,” says Quercio. What ensued next was a celebration by the members with Quercio and a realization for the first time that they were a legit rock n roll band set to hit the big time for real, thanks to the car racing promoter taking a chance on them.

“I served my mom’s lasagna to the band,” says Quercio, about the historic Santa Monica Civic gig.

The Crue led by Mars and their first time rock promoter had pulled off a rock n roll miracle. They sold out the Santa Monica Civic that night, after not getting any previous radio play on local KLOS and KROQ FM rock radio stations. Once word got out about the Quercio promoted sell out, the word spread like wildfire around the rock industry that the Crue was the real deal, and were a bonafide heavy metal band to contend with. The Crue immediately began to get played on KROQ and KLOS afterward due to the explosive hype Quercio’s show created.

April 8, 1982

(Source: Chronological Crue)
Mötley plays a sold-out show at the three-and-a-half-thousand-seat capacity Santa Monica Civic, which is produced by racing car promoter Steve Quercio, who has seen them play the Whisky and wanted to help get them to the next level …  Mötley shares the stage with a couple of Funny Cars owned by John Force. As they play, they set fire to various instruments and debut their new song “Knock ‘Em Dead Kid.” The performance and number of ticket sales for a local Hollywood club band finally attracts the attention of record labels and the event becomes a turning point for the Crüe.

For more background on this amazing story, go HERE.

#onthisday April 8th in 1982 – Mötley Crüe plays a sold-out show at the Santa Monica Civic. During the set we set fire to various instruments, set off 32 red smoke bombs, and debuted a new song ‘Knock ‘Em Dead Kid’ 

Relive the set list here: