Why Motley Crue’s Label Didn’t Want to Release ‘Home Sweet Home’
When Motley Crue presented their record label with an album that included a sentimental ballad, the label rejected it outright. But the band pushed for “Home Sweet Home” because the members knew fans supported songs by power-charged rock groups that slowed down for big emotional payoffs.
The track was a reaction to Crue’s experience during their 1983 tour in support of that year’s Shout at the Devil album. “It was our first time,” Nikki Sixx said in the documentary included with 2016's The End – Live in Los Angeles. “A tour bus picked us up at our little tiny apartments and we took off to go play some shows, and 18 months later we got dropped back in our little apartments.”
Finding themselves bewildered with culture shock, Sixx noted, “We didn't know what to do, so we started writing songs for Theater of Pain, and ‘Home Sweet Home’ started to come out. The lyrics came out of that feeling of being gone so long and wanting to come back, which is ironic … because all you ever want is to get in a band and go on the road, but then you’re on the road and you want to come home.”
Singer Vince Neil once discussed how it was written, noting that he remembered "like it was yesterday, sitting in the recording studio when Tommy [Lee] came up with the piano chords, and I almost immediately started humming.”
They believed in the song from early on – but when they first presented Theater of Pain to Elektra, they received negative feedback. It wasn’t the first time. “We were always at war with that record company,” Sixx recalled in 2012. “They never really believed in us. ... When [Theater of Pain] got turned in, with ‘Home Sweet Home’ on it, they rejected that album. They said, ‘This is horrible, and you have to take that song off the record. You guys aren't a ballad band.’”
But the band uncovered a cheat code for the label execs: Motley Crue threatened to take their business elsewhere. Even though the LP was released as the band wanted, and “Smokin’ in the Boys Room" did well as the first single, the band was denied financial support to release “Home Sweet Home" as a single. "So, we funded it, we shot the video ourselves, went on MTV and the rest is history," Sixx said.
The track offered fans the opportunity to see Motley Crue from a different perspective. "Home Sweet Home" has been covered dozens of times – notably by Carrie Underwood, Linkin Park and Justin Moore with Neil guesting – and it’s been used in a number of commercials over the years. The band itself even released a new recording in 1991 and a retrospective version in 2019 for their move The Dirt.
Watch Motley Crue's ‘Home Sweet Home’ Video
It was also the last song Motley Crue played at their 2015 farewell show, which was intended at the time to be their last musical word together (although those plans eventually changed).
Looking back, Sixx argued they weren't the first to pull the fast-band-slows-down trick, but their profile at the time meant the risk was significant. “It's interesting how a song resonates with an audience, but that definitely doesn't always resonate with business people,” he said. “They look at things like Aerosmith, and they go, ‘Oh, this is your first record. You don’t wanna have a ballad on it.’ But [‘Dream On’] was the song – that was the jewel of that first Aerosmith record. ‘Home Sweet Home’ is such a jewel in our career, just as ‘Stairway to Heaven’ is [for Led Zeppelin].”
He also argued in a different interview that "bands didn't have a power ballad and MTV as a vehicle to have a hit. … After ‘Home Sweet Home,’ every band had the one ballad that came as their second or third single.” Sixx reflected that while the song threw Motley Crue into the mainstream, “none of us had the foresight to see that.”