When one looks back on Motley Crue’s career all of these years and decades later, it becomes immediately apparent that one of rock history’s most notorious ensembles transcended the mere trappings of a rock 'n' roll band long ago, and became a way of life. Or, if you prefer, a multi-sensory symbol of the era they inhabited and helped define for an entire generation of hard rock and metal fans, who turned their attentions to the American west in the early 1980s.

Motley Crue were just one of dozens of rock 'n' roll bands scratching and clawing for a shot at stardom across the Hollywood Hills in the aftermath of Van Halen’s example-setting success, near the end of the ‘70s; but they were the unlikely chosen ones to break through and lead the charge.

With 1983’s Shout at the Devil, vocalist Vince Neil, guitarist Mick Mars, bassist Nikki Sixx and drummer Tommy Lee became the heavily made-up, teased-hair-covered faces of this musical revolution (before that, they’d become its crotch thanks to 1981’s Too Fast for Love), which adapted the look of ‘70s British glam rock to a more masculine aesthetic Americans could finally understand -- with the help of bludgeoning heavy metal to roughen up the soft visual edges and MTV to penetrate every home.

This general formula, further decorated by outlandish bad boy behavior, served Motley Crue well for the rest of the decadent 1980s, though multi-platinum smashes like Theatre of Pain, Girls Girls Girls and Dr. Feelgood didn’t set out to reinvent the wheel, so much as spin it as fast as it could, until one of the spokes – singer Neil – was jettisoned in 1992, and put a dent in many fans perception of the band as a gang of brothers.

Sure enough, Motley Crue’s next, self-titled studio effort, fronted by former Scream singer John Corabi, was a critical favorite but a commercial disappointment – disowned outright by many fans who had no interest in a new, mature Motley Crue seeking to fit in to the then popular grunge sound. Not that this creative crisis was resolved by 1997’s hybrid Generation Swine, even though Neil had been brought back into the fold after experiencing his own career doldrums as a solo artist.

Motley Crue’s career has been a roller coaster ever since (including Tommy’s departure during the New Tattoo period), but the original foursome remained active, more often than not, as a headlining touring force, releasing one more LP, 2008’s Saints of Los Angeles before embarking upon their now concluded farewell tour.

All of which makes this an auspicious time to rank every Motley Crue album in our gallery below, because we can look back on the band’s career with the perspective brought of finality. At least until they announce a reunion, which we certainly wouldn’t bet against – would you?

Motley Crue Albums Ranked

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