In the mid-nineties, Mötley Crüe released an EP titled Quaternary. I could have used that as the title for this article, but the meaning of the word isn’t exactly a synonym for quadrilogy. The 2001 autobiography co-written by Neil Strauss is not 100% true, and not just because of the style of storytelling which owes a debt to a Japanese film titled Rashomon (1950). Vocalist Vince Neil didn’t join the band on his own volition…he was hired to, at a fairly impressive monthly stipend. This was left out to maintain the seeming brotherly camaraderie for the book. Another falsehood about Vince is that Nikki Sixx refers to him as owning a Ford Malibu, but Ford didn’t have a Malibu edition; that was Chevrolet. One of the things omitted from the Neil Strauss book, The Dirt, that should have been admitted by Tommy Lee was that he was married to a model named Elaine Bergen before he married Heather Locklear. In an old magazine, Tommy’s first marriage was said to have lasted for 30 days in 1984.
One interesting point that the book doesn’t address is the real age of Mick Mars. Despite the claim that he’s about five years older than the other guys, there’s a persisting rumour among hardcore Crüe fans that he was actually in his early forties when the band fame’s exploded, which doesn’t seem that implausible after all if you look at the photos of Mick in the seventies. This reminds me of a young woman in the MySpace era who claimed to have been his daughter but just wanted to gain some notoriety for herself. Speaking of MySpace, a middle-aged dancer (a former groupie) told me that it was Vince, not Nikki, who was the biggest jerk in the band (“a violent @sshole”). Nikki liked to act like a jerk for the sake of keeping up appearances as a bad boy rocker, but he was actually a real sweetheart.
But even sweethearts can lie. Back in May, Steven Adler (the first drummer for Guns ‘n’ Roses) told an Australian radio station that Nikki lied about his own overdose on December 23, 1987. Steven denied that a dead Nikki was revived by the paramedics via a syringe. He said: “They didn’t do that. I dragged him into the shower with a broken hand and a cast on my hand, I rolled him in, I put the cold water on him in the shower and I started slapping him in the face with my cast. And next thing you know, the purple in his face just disappeared. And then right then, the paramedics came in and they grabbed him out of the shower like a rag doll, dropped him in the living room and they just pumped his chest with their hands. And that was it. But he got a hell of a good song out of it. It is entertainment, after all.”
John Corabi, who temporarily replaced Vince Neil and sang on the aforementioned Quaternary EP, had described Mick Mars as being one of the sweetest people in the music business. Mick is not the most honest…even if it’s strictly a matter of lying by omission. In the book, he seems proud that the initials of his real name spell B.A.D. i.e. Bob Alan Deal. In a Corey Levitan article titled “Meet Mick (from) Mars” for a 1991 issue of Circus, Bob mentioned that he changed his name because he didn’t like his initials. He chose Mick Mars because he liked that Mars was the God of war, although what he didn’t say was that he stole the name from a former bandmate of Whitehorse i.e. Micki Marz. In The Dirt, he never explained why he chose his stage-name or even when he did (23 in case you didn’t know). He also failed to disclose the following things: he started to play the guitar after his mother introduced him to Elvis when he was 10 (not 5), he was 12 (not 14) when he joined his first band (Jades), and his father worked at an electrical wiring company (as opposed to a packaging company).
Speaking of relatives, the book didn’t reveal that his older brother Frank became a highway patrolman or that his younger brother Randy (who was nameless in the book) became a nurse at a senior citizens home. The book didn’t even reveal that Mick’s father was named Frank. I guess that it would have been a case of too many Franks when you consider that Nikki Sixx’s real name is Frank Feranna. There’s also the thorny issue of when Mick married Emi Canyn (they celebrated their first anniversary in 1991). He had three children from previous marriages but the book only mentions the first two and how he avoided getting married again before he met Emi. Seeing as how he named his first two children Les Paul and Stormy, there could have been a really horrible name that either himself or his second wife chose. In the December 1986 issue of Metal Edge, it was revealed that Mick used to work as a security guard before he joined Mötley Crüe. It was also revealed that their drummer Tommy Lee had recently got Mick into jazz and funk, which explains some of the material on their 1989 album: Dr. Feelgood.
In Corey Levitan’s other 1991 article for Circus (“Nikki Sixx’s Tortured Creativity”), Nikki was in more bands than he let on. Before hitting it big with MC, he was in Forced Entry, Sleaze and Baby Jane; but the biggest revelation was that Nikki had made an unsuccessful bid to replace Quiet Riot’s first bass player (i.e. Kelly Gami). Most unforgivable is the creation of his stage-name. Instead of stealing the name from a friend’s ex-boyfriend who was also in a band, the article simply revealed that Nikki was inspired by the first two characters on his California driver’s license, N6. The article also took away from Nikki’s street cred by giving him a corporate rock origin story. Nikki got into rock music when his uncle, Don Zimmerman, sent him a catalogue of Beatles albums since Zimmerman was president of Capitol Records at the time. In the book, Don’s gifts are made out to be an afterthought where Nikki was already knee-deep into his immersion in the genre.
As far back as 1991, Nikki had been jotting notes for his autobiography. It’s a shame, then, that the book doesn’t reference this or even the fact that his top three favourite authors are William Burroughs, H.P. Lovecraft and Roald Dahl (especially since Nikki is the band’s chief lyricist). Since he was interviewed for the book, Corabi was asked for his opinion of The Dirt circa 2005. His opinion was: “It’s OK. I like the book. It’s well written, I think it was a little bit colored to make it a little more exciting, but I think all writers kind of take liberties that way. It’s like you’re a writer, you want people to read your stuff, so you kind of elaborate a little bit, make it more interesting for your reader.”
This would explain why biographer Neil Strauss was contractually forbidden to talk about the book. In his September 13, 2007 review on Amazon, Samuel Weiland had this to say about Strauss in the grand scheme of his bibliography: “While a brilliant writer, he tends to make things larger than life and more polished than they really were (read The Game especially for examples of this). Some things in the book seem a little too “neatly” described and he glosses over some of the more negative aspects of Motley Crue (and I grew up with them and obsessively followed their press since I was in middle school).”
In an old issue of Metal Edge, Nikki corroborated this by saying: “We’ve been sued by a lot of girls. Quite a few times, girls have been raped at our concerts. Some have claimed to have gone deaf while we were onstage. Someone lost their eyes in a fight. Tons of paternity suits – I’ve had more paternity suits from girls I’ve never even met.”
When this book was published in 2001, there was talk of there being a film adaptation with Val Kilmer playing David Lee Roth and Christopher Walken playing Ozzy Osbourne. It’s going to be a tough sell since even Sixx had recently admitted that much of what was written in The Dirt is questionable. One of the most important rules of a writer is what you don’t say. In 1989, the Rip magazine had an issue devoted entirely to the Crüe (Volume 2, No. 1). In the interview with Mick, he claimed that this birthday is April 3 (whereas the official birthday online is May 4). He claimed to have changed his name around 1976 or 1977, which would have made him either 25 or 26 instead of 23 as was reported in Circus. He did admit to being a few years younger than U.S. vice president Dan Quayle, who was born in 1947 and had attended the same school as Mick. It’s thanks to the reporting of Charrie Foglio that I know that Mick moved to California at the age of 8.
The magazine which has done the most prolific reporting for the band was Kerrang. Ironically, they are not an American publication. The May 9, 1992 issue is a crucial example of why Kerrang was the best. Although The Dirt purports to be an equal tell-all where all voices tell, Vince never really got to explain his side of the story about how he was no longer with the merry band of Mötley men other than a vague reference which makes it seem like it corroborated Nikki’s version of events. In a book where even producers and managers are interviewed, this is something of a poor show. In the aforementioned issue, Vince’s version of events contradicts what was said about himself not being present when the decision was made in a formal setting.
As Vince said: “I showed up for rehearsal one day and went into the studio room and I go Where is everybody? to one of the crew guys. So he told me Oh, they’re upstairs. So I went upstairs and the band are setting there with our manager, so I knew something was gonna happen but I didn’t know what. Nikki said We’re thinking about getting a new singer. So I said to them Well, that’s your prerogative, it’s three against one and if that’s what you want then that’s what you want, but why? What’s going on? And they said to me You’re just not into the music. I said Yeah, I’ve been trying to tell you I’m not into the music because this isn’t Mötley Crüe. I don’t like f**king keyboards, not for our band anyway, and finding more back-up singers…”
Reporter Steffan Chirazi brought up the use of keyboards on Dr. Feelgood, to which Vince said: “But all the songs on Feelgood are guitar-oriented, but when we were working recently, the keyboards were out-front; the songs are written around the keyboard now.”
Stefan must have had a hard time believing that Mick Mars would be okay with that, so he wanted to know what the rest of the band thought. Vince said: “Well, they were just all in it together. Then people started wanting to argue, so I said Hey, I didn’t come here to argue with anybody, I just came here to rehearse and if we aren’t gonna rehearse then I’m gonna leave.”
Weirdly, Vince’s wife was still best friends with Nikki’s wife – Brandi Brandt. Nikki gave Vince a nondescript phone call in the fortnight before the Kerrang interview. According to Vince, Brandi explained that her husband’s therapist made him do it.
Mötley manager Doug Thayer mentioned in the book that the meeting was held on February 12, 1992. Vince’s birthday is on February 8, and something in the Kerrang interview confirmed a rumour about Vince being fired because he was getting into too many fights with people outside the band. Vince said: “I did get into a fight on my birthday – I was with about 10 other people, my wife’s brothers among them, and a bouncer was pickin’ on one of them. I told the bouncer Knock it off, man, he’s only f**king 18 years old! And then he started fighting with this other guy and I got caught up in it all. I didn’t do anything but just because I’m me, they go Oh, Vince Neil did this… But there were 20 people fighting. That’s the only time in a long time that’s happened, but nobody ever mentions the other times that other people in the band have gone out and done it.”
In the February 19, 1994 issue of Kerrang, Nikki Sixx claimed that Vince willingly left the band. He also said: “There was a rumour going around that I had this masterplan and that even before Decade of Decadence, I knew all along that we’d get rid of Vince Neil and that he was just used to sign a new label deal, after which we fired him. None of it’s true. Vince could’ve been a wonderful singer, but I always had this feeling of impending doom every time we went to play. Was he going to rise to the occasion, not as a frontman but as a vocalist? That feeling kinda ate away at me. I really believed that the band would just keep on going with Vince and we’d just self-destruct.”
If you thought that Nikki showed his true colours there, wait till you get a load of this: “I was real adamant that there would be no pussy songs on the album. I wrote those not for me, but for Vince. If you look back at our albums, they’d always be split down the middle. There would be the pussy stuff and then there would be others with more of a serious touch to them. To be honest, after She Goes Down, I found it hard to look at my face in the mirror! It was an easy transition, cos it was what I always did better anyway on stuff like Wild Side. I mean, even Girls, Girls, Girls was about the darker side of that subject.”
Reading old issues of Metal Edge, Rock Scene and Rip helped to add pieces to the band’s puzzle – a metal mosaic if there ever was one. Tommy Lee learned a lot about drumming by going to tap dancing classes as a boy. He did this from the ages of 9 to 11. He liked it because he got to dance with girls but he stopped going until a photo of him was printed in the local paper, and he got teased at school as a result. He didn’t regret going because he learned “patterns, rhythms and coordination at a young age.”
Embarrassingly, the reason why Tom Werman didn’t come back for the final `80s album was because of creative differences over a song (Powerful Stuff) that was to be provided for a Disney movie starring Tom Cruise i.e. Cocktail (1988). The song would eventually be recorded (or should that be re-recorded?) by The Fabulous Thunderbirds. An additional point of potential emasculation was that, when they first started out, Mötley Crüe had played at some gay bars in Canada before fights got them kicked out of the country. More frustrating is that The Dirt never acknowledged the influence that MC had on Guns ‘n’ Roses. The idea to record a woman having sex in Rocket Queen came from MC’s Ten Seconds to Love. Nikki talked about the song which was on MC’s first album (Too Fast for Love): “It was inspired by some wild women we had in the studio. We were jamming…getting down and dirty, and the groove just came together. In fact, you can even hear little noises and moans in the background if you really listen for it.”
Mötley Crüe have often been described as having a negative influence on their young fans and for good reason. The January 1986 issue of Spin is the best example of that. It was revealed that Deborah Frost was horrified when she interviewed the band for People magazine during the summer of 1984. The interview was so controversial that it didn’t get published until the following summer in another periodical entirely i.e. Village Voice. Deborah said: “In one sentence, Tommy would talk about sticking a firecracker up a cat as a kid. Then in the next sentence he’s bragging about doing a similar trick with a champagne bottle to some girl.”
Most disturbing is the revelation that the record label, Elektra Records, had threatened to fire employees if they spoke to the press about Vince Neil’s fatal car accident which cost the life of his friend (Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle) and destroyed the lives of two people in another car (a driver named Lisa Hogan and her passenger named Daniel Smithers). While Vince was quoted in the book as saying he paid 2.6 million dollars to the families of the victims, it wasn’t specified as to how it was broken down. In the Spin article, Vince was said to have paid $1.8 million to Lisa, $571,000 to Daniel and $200,000 to Razzle’s parents.
Speaking of remuneration, touring the Dr. Feelgood album wasn’t the most rewarding of endeavours despite it being their most profitable album. Fans and security guards clashed at an arena in Milwaukee. The Bradley Center was rewarded $5,000, which was going to be donated to a charity. As such, Vince wasn’t arrested for inviting fans to rush the stage. In the grand scheme of fans, this was a small price to pay in comparison to Guns ‘n’ Roses who had to pay multiple times for curfew violations when they toured their 1991 double album, Use Your Illusion. In actuality, Dr. Feelgood wasn’t that profitable. Nikki predicted that the album would sell 6 million records, but it went on to only sell 4 million.
In the August 1990 issue of Blast, Nikki revealed that he actually wanted Quincy Jones to produce the album instead of Bob Rock. Quincy produced Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1982), which spawned the rock music equivalent in Def Leppard’s Hysteria (1987). When talking about the rationale to go for Quincy, Nikki said: “I thought he would have been really good for us because we wanted to go into a really heavy funk direction. The band started maturing more to the style we found – this really aggressive, heavy metal guitar mixed with those rhythms, which was just really outrageous, and no one’s done it in quite a long time.”
Nikki didn’t disclose this in the book or even why Quincy didn’t get to produce it. It’s unfortunate that this didn’t happen because it may have improved race relations in metal since black fans and artists haven’t always been embraced. Perhaps black acts like King’s X and Living Colour would have gained much mileage with a powerhouse like Quincy having metal street cred as a by-product of working with MC. Certainly, we would have gotten more funk metal bands and rap/metal crossovers regardless of who’s black, white or whatever. There was a black female singer on MC’s 1987 album, Girls, Girls, Girls. Phyllis St. James was not only under-represented but she was misrepresented because either the label or management had decided to hire white back-up singers on tour. The Caucasian women, Donna McDaniel and Emi Canyn, were nicknamed Nasty Habits. Karma exists since Whitney Houston’s second album, Whitney, stopped GGG from going #1.
Finally, I should include an anecdote which should serve as a stark reminder of Vince Neil’s vehicular recklessness. In an issue of Circus, Nikki talked about touring with Whitesnake in 1987. The latter were promoting their self-titled album whereas MC were promoting GGG. This was before Guns ‘n’ Rose took over as the openers for MC’s headlining tour. Nikki said: “I’m riding my Harley around the parking lot, and right as Whitesnake goes on, I get pulled over by the police and I don’t have a driver’s license because mine was suspended for reckless driving. California just passed a law that if you drive without a license, you go to jail instantly. He goes Let me see your license. I said Officer, I’m playing here tonight, and see those 400 kids rushing towards us right now? We’re gonna be in big trouble if we don’t get inside the Forum, like, RIGHT NOW!”
The cop told him to get off his bike. Nikki threw up his hands and teasingly said “Okay” in a “I warned you” tone. Nikki told the journalist: “About two minutes later, all these kids just hit and they almost knocked the cop over and knocked me over and the bike over. I said Follow me. I’ll take you in the back. He said You follow me. Right now! I’ll arrest you right now! and he goes to drive through the kids in the front of the Forum. I thought I’m not gonna do this because there’s 2,000 kids sitting out there and with the cop there trying to arrest me, I see all sorts of sh!t. So I say F**k you and I take off towards the Forum.”
You can see why this anecdote wasn’t included in the book because it sort of approves rebelliousness towards the police, especially since it ended with the band’s management allowing the show to go on with Nikki not excluded (money talks?). Coincidentally, Nikki was originally going to publish a book called An Education in Rebellion. Anyway, back to the story: “He’s after me with the lights and the siren and he finally gets me under the Forum and throws me up against the wall. I can hear Whitesnake doing Here I Go Again, which is their second song, and he’s going Let me see your license. You’re going to jail. I thought Ohhhh, God. I don’t want to go to jail again. Then he said he was gonna impound my bike. By now, Whitesnake is halfway through their set and I was thinking There ain’t gonna be a show tonight.”