Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Window into the Theatre of Pain

While waiting for Steve Martin's new memoir to queue up for me at the library, I picked up Nikki Sixx's book, The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star, and have been completely riveted by it. I simply couldn't put it down over the last four days as I ripped through it.

One of my favorite books is Bob Greene's Be True to Your School. Contrasting these two books directly would be futile, but I seem to be drawn to these snapshot, year-in-the-life type diaries. Understanding that things can be sanitized, inflated, and/or manipulated, I still love the window these journals provide into another world on such a personal level.

I haven't listened to Mötley Crüe in 20 years. Admittedly, before I went punk in the late '80s, I was a bit of a metal head in middle school and early high school. I have no desire to revisit that music, necessarily, but I had heard good buzz about the Crüe bassist's story. Once you get past the sometimes challenging page layouts, there is a fascinating first-hand case study of rock and roll excess in there.

The Heroin Diaries chronicles some of the lowest points in Sixx's depression and addictions. These journal entries from 1987 are supplemented with shots of reality (or, at least, the reality a rock star lives in) through present day comments by nearly all of the major players in the tales being told, including Sixx himself, band members and managers, record company reps, Slash from Guns n' Roses, and even Vanity (yes, Prince's Vanity). These comments are sometimes humorous and often provide perspective on what was happening both with the band and the industry during this period.

Vanity (now going by the name "Evangelist Denise Matthews"), who dated Sixx at the time, comes off particularly unflattering -- then as a drug-addled screw-up, and now as a religious wacko -- supplying much of the unintentional humor. Take Sixx's August 16, 1987 entry which reads, in part:

When Vanity came in I was passed out in the bedroom with a needle laying next to me. When I came to she was just screaming at the top of her lungs. She was freebased out her mind and I'm sure it freaked her out, but she wouldn't stop screaming. She kept shouting about the Devil. THAT wasn't much fucking help.
Vanity's current day response to that entry goes something like this:

We go backwards when we should be going forwards, and forwards when we should be going upright. Satan is the principality and power of the airwaves. Ultimately he is stealing our prayer life and we romance his witchcraft, not to mention our children's tiny innocent eyes. Sin breeds sin and it is nothing for us to enjoy. Yes, I had much to repent for.
And, finally, Sixx's present day reaction to that: "Huh?"

But most everyone else paints a picture that backs up not just how messed up Sixx was during that time, but also the overall state of the music industry, clashing egos, and the rampant drugs and sex happening in the scene. Pretty much every expected cliché shows up, but I often found myself reacting with an "oh, those crazy guys…" type of forgiveness.

Throughout The Heroin Diaries you gain an appreciation for just how integral to the success of Mötley Crüe Sixx actually was. He was the driving force behind the band -- its vision, its music, its image. I can step away from any personal feelings about the music genre and admire what he has been able to accomplish creatively, as well as his ability to survive.

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