The first and last decades of Mötley Crüe are their years of infamy. The '90s and early 2000s were lost to departing band members (Neil, Lee), reality television (Neil and Lee again), jail time (Lee), and solo projects. Ask Lee whether the reunited (as of 2004) Crüe measured up against the record of the band's first 10 years, and he says, "I'd like to think so. Then again, it's weird to have to say it: That first decade really flew by."
It wasn't just the chemicals. Now aged 52 to 60, they were kids then in the first gush of fame in Hollywood in the 1980s. Who wouldn't have partaken? "We blinked, and there went 10 years," says Lee. "It was a whirlwind. Of course, we weren't with it all the time, but the biggest part of the rush was that you couldn't believe it was happening so fast. We just loved being there, wasted all the time, having a blast, as we should."
So what's missing today in rock? Is it the carnality? The drugs? The kind of decadence that defined the Crüe's attitude? Lee says, "There's a gaping hole in the idea of the rock star. There's no one new who can shock, be intriguing, elusive, and sexy, someone you know little of, enough so to freak you out."
Lee blames social media for current rock's scrubbed cleanliness. Too much access. "Everybody has to have their life story on every blog, or their face pressed up to a camera for a selfie," he says, laughing. "There's no mystery, no wonder, no awe. That's why I don't do that many interviews, man. I try to stay out of hype's daily grind. Once they're not curious about you anymore, you've lost them."
Lee knows he has been infamous. He married pneumatic Playboy Playmate Pamela Anderson, and later served four months in jail in 1998 for spousal abuse. He wanted to explore "different brushstrokes, different colors of the palette" on solo projects such as his band Methods of Mayhem. He came to a point in his life, he says, at which he needed to quit everything and break from the world.
"I was spinning out. I should have been the happiest person in the world, yet I was miserable," Lee says, lowering his voice to a hush. "I'll tell you this. Those four months of jail time, sure, I would rather have been in a log cabin in Montana doing some personal introspection. It didn't quite work out that way, but I learned. Solitary confinement gave me the chance to ask myself the questions I needed to and slow it down."
After jail and solo work, Lee had an opportunity to let the heart grow fonder and return to his first love: Crüe. "The mayhem, the music, all that I had hated before I split, I missed. I was drawn to the band I started with Nikki when I was 17." He says the last decade of Mötley Crüe has meant much, as he has been able to appreciate the band's roaring, anthemic sound, and his bandmates: "Sometimes, you've got to say goodbye to something to better appreciate them."
With that, Mötley Crüe bows out, with its members at peak capacity (Mars was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis as a teen, but he has insisted - on social media! - that the painful disease isn't the reason for the finale). "It means the world to us to do it this way," Lee says, "especially since we've watched our peers go from mega-success to playing county fairs. That's not for us. We're going to do what every great athlete should do: Tap out, and let everyone bask in their most amazing memories."
Lee says he and his mates have been discussing ending Mötley Crüe for years and wanted to make it stick.
"It's the back nine," he says. "Besides, I have a bucket list from hell, my man. You should see it."
Mötley Crüe: The Final Tour, with Alice Cooper
7 p.m. Saturday at Susquehanna Bank Center, 1 Harbour Blvd., Camden.
Tickets: $25-$125. Information: 800-745-3000 or www.Ticketmaster.com.