I am going to be very honest. I really dislike hair-metal bands.
I had the unfortunate luck of attending a predominantly white, affluent suburban high-school in the late 1980s when bands like Poison, Cinderella, Queensryche and The Scorpions dominated airplay at all major radio stations and music video channels.
Don’t get me wrong, I like some hard rock. Sometimes when you’re driving along a lonely highway in the summer and all the windows are open, the best thing on earth is to have the likes of AC/DC or pre-1985 Van Halen blaring out of the sound system at full blast. (There are different types of heavy metal and Sam Dunn’s documentaries “Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey” and “Global Metal” delineates them masterfully.)
Out of all the hair-metal bands, by far Mötley Crüe had the most notorious, debauched, craziest reputation of the lot. Voted by UK’s Smash Hit’s magazine as the band which readers would most love to see stranded on Mars for 5 years in a row, the Crue polarized music listeners everywhere. People who loved them, REALLY loved them, and people who really hated them did everything they could to get away from their music.
Having said that, one night I was watching an episode of “Richler, Ink” on BookTelevision with Daniel Richler and the genre under discussion that evening was the rock autobiography. Surprisingly, for such a high-brow show, the panel were discussing the Mötley Crüe autobiography “The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band”. It was unanimously praised, not so much because of the anecdotes of the Crue’s unbelievable excesses and antics involving drugs, drink, women and more women, but mostly because of the candor, brutal honesty and the very high toll the four band members individually paid the devil along the way. If anything, the book is a sobering reminder of what the rock’n roll lifestyle will do to you if you don’t set any limits.
It is an excellent, hilarious and at time difficult read. Apparently when Gene Simmons of KISS finished reading it, he literally dropped everything and ran out to buy the film rights, it’s *that* crazy (and for a womanizer like Gene Simmons to do that, is really saying something…). It’s one of those books, you just need to read in order to believe the rumors circulating around the band. (Note to self: Never drink around Ozzy Osbourne especially when Sharon isn’t around. Never, ever play with the Ouija Board with knives laying about and Mick Mars is a surprising source of wisdom with hilarious thoughts on reincarnation.)
Nikki Sixx, the bassist, was by far the one who was most popular with the ladies, but also suffered the most from drugs and heroin addiction. The fact that he’s even alive is a bit of a miracle. What I also find compelling about Nikki’s narrative, is that it’s quite clear Nikki is one insanely smart dude, a very compelling writer and at the end of the day, a very decent fellow who has his heart in the right place and means well.
If you ever toyed with the idea of doing heroin but chickened out but are nonetheless curious to know what living through a heroin addiction is like, mentally, spiritually and physically, then Nikki’s book “The Heroin Diaries” should be at the top of your list. It’s a harrowing read and one that you won’t easily forget. The book cumulates to the night of December 23, 1987, where Sixx was declared dead for two minutes after a heroin overdose, only to be revived by paramedics with two shots of Naloxone. In an interview, Sixx states that after he was declared dead, the ambulance arrived and one of the paramedics in the ambulance was a Mötley Crüe fan. “Apparently, the paramedic took one look at me and said, ‘No one’s gonna die in my ambulance.’” He also recalled having an out-of-body experience while being revived. When Nikki came into the hospital, he ripped the tubes out of his nose and escaped into the parking lot where two female fans gave him a ride home wearing just a pair of leather pants.
Nikki brutally describes his highway to heroin hell and what got him there in the first place:
“It was on the Monsters of Rock and Iron Maiden tours that the tedium began. In Hollywood, gigging was a way of life. But gigging was not the same as touring. When you gig, you get to go home afterwards. Touring is an endless parade of anonymity: faceless people, identical hotel rooms, and indistinguishable cities, always changing but always the same…On past tours, I would sit in my hotel room and write postcards to my grandparents in Jerome, Idaho…telling them how lonely it was…But after my reunion with my mother, I did not want to go home anymore, I became crazier and more reckless, subconsciously putting myself on the same self-destructive path my mother had been on. My rock-and-roll fantasy wasn’t just about success and decadence and rebellion anymore, it was also about pain and death…I had always thought that age and success had enabled me to overcome the shyness and low self-esteem I had developed from constantly switching homes and schools as a kid, but in reality I hadn’t changed at all. I had just drowned those feelings in heroin and alcohol. As a human being, I had never really learned how to act or behave. I was still the kid who didn’t know how to play normal games with his cousins….When I rewound everything – running away from my mother, stealing a homeless girl’s clothes, fighting with cops outside the Whisky (a-Go-Go), overdosing at the Franklin – all that misanthropy and self-destruction came down to the same thing, a massive chip I had been carrying on my shoulder because my father had abandoned me “.
After numerous stints in rehab and even more stints of falling off the wagon, Nikki eventually married Playboy Playmate Brandi Brandt and fathered three beautiful children. That was when he completely became besotted with his kids and wanted to do the right thing for them and for himself and stop the patterns of his past from being passed on to his kids. And that’s when he decided to clean up for real.
“It was my first step toward straightening out all the crooked roads of my past. I never realized before that I had the power to break the chain of secrecy and dishonesty and irresponsibility that I had inherited. And I could do that simply by having a solid relationship with my wife and family, so that my children wouldn’t spend their lives lost and hiding from everything, like I had.”
By the end of “The Heroin Diaries”, Nikki comes to this final conclusion:
“What I’ve learned in this life so far is to let the little things go as much as possible and try to swerve to miss the big things. Life is like a long ride to nowhere in particular. We’re bound to get a flat tire somewhere along the journey and it’s never a good time for it to happen…in fact, it’s usually pouring rain or a blizzard when you feel the car jolt from the tire that just blew out underneath you and ripped away at your safety and support. But we don’t have a choice really. We have to get back out, fix the flat, get back in the car and head back out on the highway of life.
There are a few sayings I used to loathe that I now cherish:
1) You gotta give it away to keep what you got.
2) Let go and let God….
Let me explain…
1) To keep my happiness, I’ve got to give away as much as I can. It works. Amazing. A guy who mostly consumed, took and would go out of his way to bust people’s balls using this as a mantra. Amazing.
2) I never thought there was a God (well, maybe I thought I was him), but I know now there is a power greater than myself and that has been a huge part of my sobriety. So I let shit go, and let the man upstairs deal with it. A guy who was a complete control freak, letting go as a way of life…Amazing.
Addiction was my downfall and yet it’s the very thing that has given me a spiritual connection and awareness that I never thought existed. Quitting drugs and alcohol was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and has given me the most satisfaction. I’m actually glad I’m an addict, ’cause through recovery I have the ability to give back.”
Nikki has since branched out from his Motley Crue activities and found other, healthy outlets for his creativity. He teamed up with Covenant House and created the charity “Running Wild in the Night” to help benefit kids who had run away from troubled homes and are living on the streets and are involved in drugs. Running Wild into the Night also provides a creative arts and music program, allowing the kids in this program to discover an alternative to their problems that is better than drugs. Sixx has campaigned for other musicians and other music industry insiders to provide the program with musical instruments and software and has arguably prevented thousands of potential under-aged drug users and rehabilitated teenage addicts from continuing to dabble in the world of drugs, as Covenant House helped almost 78 000 youth at risk last year alone. He’s also dabbled in fashion design, art photography and hosted a number of radio shows.
I think Nikki’s story is really about growing up and growing out of yourself and realizing that life isn’t just about you anymore, but rather our lives are like interconnected circles. One affects the other and that if one circle goes awry, it affects everyone else, like the ripple effect. That patterns of the past don’t have to define our future and that we all have the ability to move forward and that anger and resentment only ends up hurting ourselves.
But…once a rock-and-roll bad boy, always a rock-and-roll bad boy, eh?