I read Mötley Crüe’s The Dirt about a year or two after it came out and it is a flat-out great read, even for someone who, like me, followed the shenanigans of Nikki Sixx, Vince Neil, Tommy Lee and Mick Mars when they were high atop the metal heap in the 1980s. Back then I read Hit Parader, Circus, even Groove (I only bought a copy in the summer of ’87 because it had the Crüe on the cover and I wanted to read about Girls, Girls, Girls, which I hadn’t bought yet… the magazine was pretty terrible) and repeatedly watched an interview Nikki did with Paul McGrath of CBC’s The Journal, which I taped on Betamax. I even bought the VH1 Behind the Music feature on them in 199something. I thought I was well versed in what they were up to.
Boy, was I wrong.
When you read The Dirt, you get everything, blow by blow (pun intended, in all senses of the word). You come away amazed that they had time to actually play any music, or even just survive.
Which is why it’s surprising that Nikki went ahead with The Heroin Diaries, chronicling a single year of his life, from Christmas 1986 to Christmas 1987 — basically reprinting his diary from the time, with modern-day commentary. I was a little harsh when I got to review this book for the Free Press — because it seemed we’d heard this all before. But the more I think about it, the fact Nikki not only published his diaries, but allowed the people he wrote about to dispute his account of this in the published version, is mind-boggling. It is what makes this different from a lot of other rock bios.
Best (ironic? not sure) line, though, is when Nikki claims Gene Simmons talks about himself more than anyone else he knows. Um, in this book, that’s a bit rich.
The following is republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 7, 2007.
Nikki Sixx has some sober advice for would-be heroin users: This stuff will kill you.
As bassist and songwriter for Mötley Crüe, a legendary rock band in the minds of metal lovers, Sixx should know. He overdosed on heroin more than once and even died from it, before being revived, in 1987.
“Alcohol, acid, cocaine… they were just affairs,” he writes, looking back in this lurid and profane memoir. “When I met heroin, it was true love.”
Sixx was born Frank Ferrana in 1958 and grew up being shuttled between his grandparents in Idaho and his mother in Seattle (among many other places).
His father had left the family when Sixx was very young, and the sense of being deserted by his parents echoes through his diaries.
The story of his addictions at the height of Mötley Crüe’s popularity is told through a selection of his almost daily journals from Christmas 1986 to Christmas 1987.
The entries are complemented by Sixx’s current reflections, as well as many of those he pilloried and praised, including his family, bandmates and management. And surprisingly, Sixx on drugs is a better writer than the 2007 Sixx looking back.
“The rain is making a beautiful rhythm on the roof,” he writes in a February entry. “It’s hypnotizing. Sitting here reminds me of when I was a kid, laying (sic) in bed, listening to the rain, wondering where my mom was, or even if she was coming home.”
But 20 years later, he falls back on clichés: “I need to accept the path I was given and turn lemons into lemonade.”
The entries are filled with graphic detail on his sexual escapades. As far has drugs go, he thinks nothing of spending $35,000 a week, doesn’t care that he’s lost 50 pounds in less than a year — heroin suppresses his appetite — and he goes days without bathing.
He also regularly hallucinates that “Mexicans and midgets” are in his yard. When he calls his security company, he sometimes forgets he has done so and threatens them with a loaded shotgun when they arrive.
As the months go by, Sixx struggles to pull himself together. It’s clear to others that he can barely do his job.
The band’s co-manager Doug Thaler comments, “Nikki was normally a talented and prolific songwriter, but he just couldn’t write enough good songs for Girls, Girls, Girls… Nikki wrote one song in a key that Vince couldn’t even sing, and some of his lyrics were absolute dreck.”
Sixx does make an honest attempt to quit, just before going on tour. But he soon falls off the wagon.
Unfortunately, The Heroin Diaries is a bit redundant. The band’s debauchery, court cases and multiple brushes with death (including Sixx’s) were chronicled at length in the 2001 biography The Dirt.
Like Diaries, it almost completely ignored the band’s music, amplifying the sense that Mötley Crüe’s fame has always derived from their behaviour, not their songs.
So if you’ve ever raised your hands to rock or shouted at the devil, Sixx’s diary is a fascinating read. But for those who remember the band mainly for the umlauts, it won’t do more than leave you with the sense that Nikki Sixx got away with everything — and loved writing about it.
Winnipeg editor and writer David Jón Fuller may have read Circus magazine and bought Dr. Feelgood the day it came out, but he never had a pentagram hanging over his bed.
The Heroin Diaries
A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star
- By Nikki Sixx with Ian Gittins
- Simon & Schuster, 432 pages, $40