The Time Motley Crue Told All in Their Book, ‘The Dirt’
By 2001, Motley Crue hadn't scored a major mainstream hit in years. Their last bona fide blockbuster had been Dr. Feelgood way back in 1989, and the ensuing decade had seen nothing but busts (beginning with the group’s 1994’s ill-fated self-titled album) and bust-ups (first Vince Neil was ejected and replaced with John Corabi; then Tommy Lee quit and was subbed for by Randy Castillo).
But when the tell-all band oral history, The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band, was unveiled on May 22, 2001, Motley Crue unexpectedly did score another massive hit -- in the shape of a New York Times best-seller. All they had to do was bare their souls, mercilessly lay into each other and generally describe in rich, gory detail, all of their incredible adventures as one of the '80s most successful and infamous rock bands.
Working with writer Neil Strauss, all four original band members dished out the good, bad and ugly about themselves and each other. Seemingly candid and uncensored viewpoints were also provided by their managers, label executives and even Corabi. Diehard fans and casual observers alike lapped it all up.
One of the book’s most unnerving passages offered multiple accounts of Vince Neil's notorious 1984 auto accident, which took the life of Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas "Razzle" Dingley (and severely injured two people in another car) and not surprisingly threatened Motley Crue’s very career. When Neil got off with a sentence demanding just 30 days in jail and 200 hours of community service (plus $2.6 million to the victims), he surmised that “it was a mixed blessing, because now people hated me even more than they did before.”
For Motley Crue leader Nikki Sixx, whose traumatizing childhood was revealed in heartbreaking detail, perhaps the pivotal drama played out in The Dirt revolved around his substance abuse, culminating in his briefly fatal overdose in 1987. Sixx describes the experience in vivid detail, including the reckless partying leading up to the incident, his out-of-body experience while paramedics tried to revive him, before admitting that he promptly went home and shot up again, but not before recording a new message for his answering machine that said “Hey, it’s Nikki. I’m not home because I’m dead.”
From drummer Tommy Lee, fans got colorful insight into his twin passions for music and women, not necessarily in that order. As well as talking about his first marriage to movie star Heather Locklear, Lee addressed his second to Playboy bunny Pamela Anderson – a relationship that inadvertently transformed him into a tabloid star when the couple’s graphic sex tape fell into the hands of, well, everybody. Although the stress relating to the scandal apparently contributed to the eventual collapse of their marriage, the drummer seemed resigned with the whole affair when concluding, "I finally broke down and watched the thing. I guess if my career as a musician ever fails, I can always be a porn star.”
But it was the band’s normally reserved guitarist Mick Mars who delivered one of The Dirt’s biggest bombshells, when he came clean about in his long term battle with ankylosing spondylitis -- a chronic, degenerative, inflammatory form of arthritis that slowly impaired his ability to move and play his instrument throughout his time in Motley Crue. Explained Mars, “the doctor said it would stop when I was in my mid-thirties. But it still hasn’t gotten any better, and I’m far past my thirties. When I die, I figure my skeleton will be rock solid.” In other words, the fact that Mick refused to let this ailment stand in the way of his rock star dreams proved that The Dirt even had some positive inspiring stories to share.
By collecting these uplifting spots amid Motley Crue’s rampant debauchery and every personal and professional high and low they encountered, The Dirt revived the band’s overall career profile and set a new standard for rock band biographies. Few have since matched it, and many have benefited from its example by encouraging celebrities not to sugarcoat the spicy stories that we actually wish to hear from our heroes.