The Metal Minute Awarded 2009 Best Personal Blog By Metal Hammer Magazine

Friday, December 26, 2008

Book Review: The Heroin Diaries by Nikki Sixx

The Heroin Diaries - Nikki Sixx with Ian Gittins
Paperback edition 2008 MTV Books / Pocket Books
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



I'm going to be honest; every now and then I suffer from "wannabe syndrome," where I wish the band I was in for maybe three months had somehow pulled itself together and we'd gotten to play some shows, maybe do the unthinkable and hit the road for a month or so. That never happened of course, though my one-time bandmates remain friends for a lifetime, while time itself pushed me away from music for a short spell and into a suit working for less than twenty thou and foolishly thinking I was making big loot.

Funny how disillusioned you are when you're young.

Perhaps Nikki Sixx nowadays might use the same term if you've read his debauched and frequently cryptic memoir The Heroin Diaries. Disillusionment in Nikki Sixx's world as a figurehead of heavy metal was his potential ruin, but his history bears more gaping holes and running tracks from spiking the dragon when he wasn't merely chasing it through Motley Crue's run of infamy during the mid-to-late eighties.

While reading The Heroin Diaries, I put myself into Sixx's time and place, in this case 1987 on the road in support of their commercial hit Girls Girls Girls. More of a bona fide road anthem than a smutty toe-tapper, Motley Crue at this point in time found more willing receptacles to deposit their sperm than even Gene Simmons (whom Sixx has some amusing things to say about) could handle in one evening. I have to admit, had I ever stuck with my drums in the eighties and become part of a national touring act, I doubt highly that drugs would've been my undoing. It would undoubtedly be the sex, and though I'm now 38, married and in care of a foster child, on occasion I wonder what it must be like going into strange towns where you forget the names of people you've slept with.

Completely unnerving, though you might remember how fast or slow it took you to come with that person assuming the face at least registers with you. Look at Nikki Sixx, who describes getting a blowjob by a beautiful redhead, only to forget not only her name, but her actual being to the point she literally haunts him thereafter at his former boudoir of sin in Van Nuys.

Still, is rock 'n roll about sex? Well, yeah, it is, even if you're so serious into your craft you carry the tag of "artiste." Sex is perhaps the ultimate form of self-expression beyond art, thus we're all creatures of varying habit thusly. The key is control, which becomes the operative word to The Heroin Diaries. Nikki Sixx may have been one depraved mofo in 1987, but you can't argue the cat writes some hooky tunes and he's one of the main ingredients to Motley's success stew.

It's hard to imagine past the sneering facade, the sprouty spikes sagging past the brow line and the cheekbone stripes that Nikki Sixx was anything but a highly forward party animal who drank and fucked as good as he toked in carousing spirits via whatever atmosphere accommodated him. According to his blunt Heroin Diaries Sixx was a bona fide junkie and thus internally resistant to social functions. On the other hand, he was a relayed pissant and the guests who testify in The Heroin Diaries (including the other members of Motley Crue, Sixx's family, Slash and record industry names such as Tom Zutaut and Doc McGhee) paint a portrait of--which Sixx himself validates--a complete asshole. Nikki didn't get high to feel good in the company of others, though he frequently woke up next to others without recalling their reason for being there. Asshole? You be the judge.

Nikki Sixx's escapism might've been music while in the creative phase and while slamming bass onstage (and willing ladies backstage), but smack and heroin were the only things able to put Sixx into a proper out-of-body experience, going to such extremes as facing a bona fide exit from this life from which he miraculously returned to testify about. Like his former roommate and close friend Robbin "King" Crosby, Nikki Sixx had nearly let addiction rob him of his fortune and health. I can't help but think of Motley's prophetic "Use it Or Lose it" from Theatre of Pain in this instance.

It's utterly heartbreaking to read in The Heroin Diaries that Crosby, beloved guitarist of Ratt, dwelled on the streets of LA after his band--as nearly all bands in America usually do--tanked on the rock circuit in the early nineties. Terrible to imagine that towering axe slinger reduced to a shriveled caricature, junked-out, penniless, unrecognizable and eventually taken from this life by AIDS courtesy of used needle sharing. To read Nikki Sixx's morose description of Crosby's downward spiral and gradual demise is enough to make you scream frustratedly at the Sixx of '87 as you read each journal entry where he describes his torment at needle's point.

To put it into a personal perspective, Girls Girls Girls hit a sour note with me in 1987. I was a pissed-off metalhead teenager struggling between antisocialism and a desire to fit in with the student body, but only without changing who I was. In 1984 I ran a gauntlet of peers who called me "devil worshipper" for wearing my Motley Crue Shout at the Devil t-shirt. Despite being a then-devout Catholic who prayed at least three times a week (not bad for an adolescent whispering the chorus to Maiden's "Number of the Beast" well over quadruple the amount of times), I have to admit, you want to call me a grit or call a scumbag, no worries...I took those as a compliment.

Devil worshipper, though; that was personal, and I grew even more incensed when the same popular in-crowd were parading around school in 1987 wearing Girls Girls Girls shirts. "Hey, Ray, check out what I'm wearing!" I heard quite often, as if they were joining my club instead of vice-versa. How could I overlook such hypocrisy, particularly when the album that won their favor is, in my opinion, the band's weakest effort and hardly worthy of bestowing my approval to a crowd I then perceived as sellouts?

I was 17, dating a girl completely my opposite, skulking around the mall with my middle finger in the air at passersby, preaching the elitist "more metal than thou" ethos and somehow working myself into the jock crowd courtesy of weightlifting. A weird time but in retrospect, some of the happiest times of my life despite my incessant anger and surviving a proving ground almost as bad as the one I'd fought my way out of in middle school. At the time, I considered Girls Girls Girls an insult to myself and Motley's original fans who paid everyone else's dues, while the band themselves had already paid their own dues and were rewarded passage into a rock 'n roll babylon as decorated Caligulan generals.

Funny how much I was pissed at the Crue in 1987 (as I was at Metallica later on after the immaculate three), only to return to them with Dr. Feelgood and beyond. Hell, I was one of the few who supported the self-titled Motley Crue album featuring John Carabi. Not so funny, however, is to read how much pain Nikki Sixx was in at a time I dismissed his and his band's one album I couldn't get past. "Wild Side" was and still is a cool track admittedly, but to discover one of the lyrical voices behind that pumping cut was jabbing liquid death into his arm (even his penis at times), pissing anywhere but in toilets, refusing to shower, wishing his mother dead and throwing chicks out on their asses after drilling them as part of a bizarre preliminary ritual just to get to the grand finale of the evening, a drug fix... I mean, wow...

Kind of selfish of me, I guess, to cast such scorn but yeah, we original Children of the Beast exchanged gross stories of Motley Crue parading their cranks out of their leathers (sometimes slapping them on tops of bars and lighting them on fire, as testified by Sixx in this book) and part of it cheesed us off royally since the music took a back seat to the Crue's instant grafication whims. On the other hand, we envied these dudes, despite the fact Vince Neil had already done time for vehicular manslaughter. He was forgiven by the rock society at large, mostly because rock and metal needed a Motley Crue to check the deluge of pop hairball metal that was killing the scene. Nevertheless, we could see the arrogance written on three of the four Crue faces, while we accurately pinpointed Mick Mars as a recluse, albeit we had no idea the reason was due to tremendous pain.

The Heroin Diaries is a bitter pill from start-to-finish as Nikki Sixx bravely puts his most notorious year as a rocker into the public forum. From day to day we can begin to see that Elektra Records (whose reputation is frequently marred by its spiteful former roster, many of whom I've listened to personally) had pushed Motley Crue onto their path of destruction by recognizing addictive personalities at the gate. Feed them the money, grant them access to all that dirty young men crave at the height of their insecurity as individuals, and it's not hard to see why Sixx and the Crue fell for the dangling hook. When that hook has a discarded bra and an acid pack dangling from it, it's pretty easy to chase the line and fall into the proverbial net of addiction.

I can imagine the internal revulsion Nikki Sixx must've felt when reading his memoirs of 1987. Not everyone can say they had a relationship with one of Prince's former flings Vanity (now known strictly as Evangelist Denise Matthews), but at the time both Vanity and Sixx were at their lowest point as human beings and thus inseparable despite the hatred that both glued and separated them. Sixx's treatment of Vanity is simply crass, while her insane ravings under drugs made you wonder how much exploitation she'd undergone herself in Vanity 6 to delve towards such a loathesome state.

As Sixx describes what it feels like to be on drugs and off in failed attempts to get clean on a monster world tour that demands you keep pace with its sordid details, if this doesn't serve as a warning manual to how closely you can destroy your entire life with junk, you're missing the message.

Sure, Sixx was already in a fragile mental state from a confused childhood where he read the actions of one side as abandonment while embracing the only family he knew while growing up, his grandparents. Even the principals in the war over a young Nikki Sixx block the truth from each other, leaving Sixx to sort through his anger. Was he left behind from a jilting father and an assumedly footloose mother or did his loving grandparents twist and contort the facts to lure him to their side? Only the truth is known amongst them, but the speculation is left to Nikki Sixx and that speculation created such instability even when he reached the pinnacle of mainstream success that he was doomed to lash out via drugs, alcohol and sex. Of course, during the Girls Girls Girls recording process, Sixx lost his beloved grandmother Nona, who was the recipient of a brief tribute song on the album. Alas, Sixx was so dependent upon his drugs he was too ashamed to show up at her funeral.

As Sixx has now forgiven his mother and most importantly, forgiven himself for his past atrocities, he continues to reap a fortune (though smaller these days in light of a tougher economic and music distribution climate) via Crue's resurrection and tell-all books and albums. Saints of Los Angeles is primarily soundtrack to the band's best-selling book The Dirt, and also this one with the song "Chicks = Trouble," which becomes a mantra in The Heroin Diaries. Meanwhile, this book has a soundtrack of its own courtesy of Sixx: A.M., Nikki's side project, which features two of the best-written songs to his association: "Life is Beautiful" and "Pray For Me."

Nikki may have recently gone through soured marriages, brief relapses and harsh times in his adult life, but one thing's for sure: meeting Death at the taut knot of the gallows gave Nikki Sixx some proper perspective and the one-time agnostic now opens channels with The Almighty.

In this very intense story, I found forgiveness for Motley Crue and the Girls Girls Girls album. It's not my business to tell anyone what to do with their lives, merely to express my opinion or critique bodies of work which readers can take to heart or dismiss. I simply do my job and let its value go to the wind. At the time, Motley Crue recorded Girls Girls Girls in 1987 and as you can read in The Heroin Diaries, it was done well under the influence. The album is a reflection of those wild child personalities and honestly, so long as Motley Crue had new product to pimp so they could get out on the road (in the eyes of their management and Elektra Records), then all was as it should be, Too Fast For Love worthy or not.

The Crue hit the bricks with Whitesnake and a newly-discovered Guns n' Roses on the Girls tour and it might surprise you reading The Heroin Diaries how much venom Nikki Sixx at that time begrudged towards one and held an embracement of the other as younger, corruptible brothers (one of whom pissed in his guest bed). It might surprise you to read that Sixx had intimate relations with a highly-respected metal vocalist's then-wife, though Sixx today disclaims the advancement was on her part and he was unaware of the connection.

The sins of the past remain the past and the rudeness extolled between members of a lurid rock society is hopefully rectified and atoned for now at a time where politeness of exchange allows them all to return to the scene in the hopes of a second chance. Nikki Sixx knows all about second chances...

44 comments:

Metal Mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Metal Mark said...

Wow, Ray is this review actually longer than the book?

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

You like that, eh? :)

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