This article originally appeared in the January 1990 print edition of SPIN.
If it was a B-movie, this installment of the Mötley Crüe saga would be entitled “Tweaked-out Thrill Freaks Escape from Planet Krell.” Clean and sober for their first time in a decade together, the Crüe are on tour and on top of the world.
“If that’s our plane, Fish-dog, I’m takin’ a cab to Stockholm,” blurts Crüe guitarist Mick Mars from the back of the airport bus. We lurch to a stop on the tarmac next to a small Fokker turboprop with a big bumblebee painted on the side.
“It’s all I could get, dude,” smoothes tour manager Rich Fisher. The custom Mötley Learjet is back home in LA, and the Crüe are using only commercial flights on this Scandinavian leg of the Dr. Feelgood tour. “It’s only a 45-minute hop from Gothenburg.”
“No, really Rich,” says Mars, his voice edgy. “I hate these things. The noise is horrible. They don’t pressurize the cabins sometimes. You have to buy drinks. If I get in that plane, we’re gonna die.”
“This is it,” Nikki Sixx stands and declares to the other 25 passengers. “This is the last flight of Mötley Crüe. Just like Lynyrd Skynyrd. Somebody take a picture.”
We load the Fokker single-file. The pilot has his window open and hangs his arm out like he’s driving a truck. Behind me, Mars is croaking, “We’re gonna die.”
“We’re gonna die,” repeat all four Mötleys in chorus, taking the first few rows of seats. “We’re all gonna die,” they mumble at each passenger squeezing by.
The lone stewardess glares at the Crüe and the six of us in the entourage—Fisher, assistant Mike Amato, security chief Mike Andy, backup vocalists Emi Canyn and Donna McDaniel (better known as the Nasty Habits), and myself. Whispers of Death are very bad form; the Swedes in the rear are visibly freaked. The boys stop and an anxious hush falls over the aircraft. Mars has managed to spread his discomfort over the whole craft. He is triumphant.
“What the hell’re you all afraid of?” he chirps.
Twenty-eight-year-old Nikki Sixx, bassist and songwriter for Mötley Crüe, lays crumpled in a pile on the floor of the Franklin Plaza Hotel in Hollywood, surrounded by a small circle of friends. It is December 22, 1987, and Sixx—off smack for the duration of the aborted Girls, Girls, Girls tour—has botched a heroin fix. His jaw hangs slack, drool running out of his mouth. The used hypo hangs where it stuck in the carpet, leaving a little stain of blood and smack. The room falls silent; Nikki’s friends panic as his breathing falters, then fails altogether. The paramedics arrive. His heart stops.
Mick Mars stands dead still as the lights pour up and the first deafening wail from his mirrored Kramer bounces off the ceiling of the Helsinki, Finland, Jäähalli (literally “Icehall”). It is October 24, 1989. Skid Row has just cleared the stage and the Crüe come out one by one. Mars is the first. Head back, his fiendish little body arched toward the lights, Mars holds the guitar straight up in front of his face and works the tremolo to make the sound of the slow-lifting gears of a Harley. Vari-lights all over the hockey rink track in on him as he jerks the guitar to change gears. Right away you know a Crue show isn’t really about words. And right away it doesn’t matter.
Nikki’s friends are lolling around half-conscious, stunned. Nikki Sixx, however, is dead. Over two minutes pass. He fails to respond to CPR. Nikki and his girlfriend had nurtured a taste for Persian smack that cost them over $10,000 a month. This should have been a routine fix. Maybe the piles of “krell”—cocaine—and the endless stock of Jack Daniels roll him over the white line into death. Within a few hours Mick Mars, Tommy Lee and Vince Neil will each get a phone call telling them that Nikki is gone and Mötley Crüe is finished.
Tommy Lee’s drum cage explodes in lights and he trips a throaty motorcycle sample that runs across the stage in stereo. Vocalist Vince Neil sails across the stage at a gallop and together they launch their set with one of the most locomotive songs on the new album, “Kickstart My Heart.” Hollywood’s quintessential glam-junkie metal band have honed a killer instinct and pushed beyond their redneck American peers to deliver a show worthy of their progenitors—Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, Sweet and Van Halen. European arenas have banned fireworks—and the Crüe aren’t into makeup anymore—so hungry Mötley fans just feed off the sound.
Four minutes without breathing or a pulse is as long as a body can go without irreversible brain damage. In a fit of desperation, one of the paramedics in Nikki’s room produces a hypo with a five-inch needle, loads it with pure adrenaline, and plunges it into the dead rocker’s heart. The other charges up the cardiac defibrillator to 300 joules and they blast him. They kick-start Nikki’s heart. It picks up the beat again and he gets another chance—at everything. Hours later, Nikki calls the rest of the Crüe, interrupting their shocked mourning like a voice from the tomb to tell them he wasn’t, in fact, dead.
Mötley Crüe are by now legendary for their idiotic courtship with violence and the Grim Reaper. Now celebrating their 10th anniversary, Mötley Crüe have cleaned up and gone on the wagon. They’ve shrugged off a squalid mojo of DUIs, high-speed car wrecks, VD, vehicular manslaughter, gun threats and years of coke and alcohol abuse to finally grab rock’n’roll by the short hairs. “Now I have the fire again, but in a different way,” says Nikki. Dr. Feelgood, their first album in three years, went number one and double-platinum only two months after its release in September. “I’d never even thought about things like number-one albums. We were told we were gonna go number one last time out, and then Whitney Houston fucking debuted at number one. Nobody debuts at number one. I was pissed. Not because Bon Jovi and Poison went number one, but because of the industry. I felt I needed revenge.”
“This album was recorded on Foster’s Lager, Budweiser, Bombay Gin, lots of Jack Daniels, Kahlua and Brandy, Quackers and Krell, and Wild Women! THE CRÜE”—note on the back cover of 1983’s Shout At The Devil
“Dudes, I’m surprised that the manager of this hotel has been so cool,” Tommy muses over minestrone and coffee at the Strand Scandinavia in Stockholm. He wears only a rose-embroidered vest over his 6’4″, razor-strop torso, and the full-sleeve Japanese tattoo-work on his right arm shines in the candlelight. “Last time we were here we destroyed this place. We fuckin’ threw something on this bogus art over here. . . . ”
“Oh, yeah!” starts Nikki, his shock of black hair humming, a black sweatshirt pulled over his own gorgeous tattoos. He was the first Crüester to get tattooed. “I sat at that bar over there with Malcolm Young [of AC/DC] on the Monsters of Rock tour and he was all rotted. Fuck, we all were. I was full of about a pound of krell and Halcyons [a short-acting sedative, like Valium]. He said, ‘I’ll punch your head off,’ and I said, ‘Well, I’ll rip your fuckin’ head off and put my fist down your neck, you little midget,’ and took a swing.”
“I was all rotted that same night,” Tommy continues, like he’s remembering his favorite movie, “and we went to the Cafe Opera. It’s all beautiful inside, like a castle, and I was like ‘Mmnnneeeaygh.’ This guy was in my face and I just peeled off a ‘fuck you’ and spit a big hocker right in his face, man. Within milliseconds some big gorilla had my fists together behind my neck and he picked me right up off the ground and threw me out in the cold rain like that. Then there’s this girl riding by on her bicycle and she sees me laying there and she says ‘stupid American.’ I lurched over there and punched this little girl right off her bike!
“Then I was surrounded by these pissed-off people from Stockholm ’cause I’d decked this girl. They were circling in like a pack of wolves for the kill, dude. The security guy saw me from inside and he hauled my ass outta there and barricaded me in a phone booth. In there, I was all paranoid and I was trying to call my mom at home and shit.”
“We used to concoct up a little mix of Halcyon and cocaine, crushed up,” Nikki explains, “then snort that shit all night and by 2 a.m. you’d be totally blitzed—but still awake. We were the bodies that would not sleep.”
“You guys remember when Tommy and I bought those flare guns and set our room on fire in France?” chimes Vince, cracking a pained smile behind his dark shades and Don Johnson shave. “We didn’t know what the fuck they were, but we’re total gun freaks and they had these little cartridges you drop in them. So we both stood over the bed and popped them off and—whang!—these big balls of fire were bouncing all over the room and they landed in the middle of the bed and—whump!—they ignited! The fire just ate everything we threw on top of it. We split in a panic, without the key, and the door locked behind us.
“We looked under the door and we could see flames leaping. We were flapping around, goin’, ‘Fuck!’ So we got the manager and he brought this huge necklace of keys. I think we were all fucked up and we got Rich to take the manager away while we opened the room ourselves. Smoke and shit was billowing into the hall. We put it out and ditched the bedding and I guess they just thought we stole it or something.”
“Dean,” Nikki says, peeling off his prescription shades, shaking his head slowly, “it was like that every day for years, man. It only got worse.”
Much worse. While recording Shout at the Devil, Nikki smashed his Porsche into a telephone pole at 70 mph, requiring a major operation to reconstruct his right shoulder. Just before that, Tommy rolled his 280-Z seven times off a California freeway at 90 mph, totalling the car, but escaping injury.
But the rock’n’roll charm ran out when it was Vince’s turn at the wheel. On the night of December 8, 1984, Vince and pal Nicholas Dingley, the drummer for Hanoi Rocks, were out in Neil’s ’72 Ford Pantera for a beer run in Redondo Beach. Vince took a left-hand turn at speed, drifted over the line into traffic, and front-ended a Volkswagen driven by 20-year-old Daniel Smithers. Smithers took a devastating blow to the head and his passenger, 18-year-old Lisa Hogan, was in a coma for 28 days. Dingley—who called himself Razzle—was dead. Neil was found to be legally drunk at the scene and later pleaded guilty to charges of drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter.
Plea bargaining didn’t keep Vince out of jail. He was sentenced to 30 days for the County, five years probation, and ordered to pay $1.8 million to Lisa Hogan, $571,000 to Smithers, $200,000 to Razzle’s estate, and to do 200 hours of community service. Today, Vince says the accident cost him well over three million dollars.
These three accidents led to taped public service announcements, benefit concerts and appearances where the band said things like, “Dude, don’t drink and drive.” They made hefty donations, like the $75,000 they gave to the Palmer Drug Abuse Program in LA. Nikki, Tommy and Vince made spotty, brief calls at rehab houses and AA, in between which they’d lapse straight back into the coke and Jack Daniels. Even then, Mars—conspicuously absent from this mayhem—was calling it “mouthwash.”
“You’ve got to be really sincere about that anti-drug shit,” said Vince at a press conference in Helsinki. “I never stopped doing ads and stuff, but I did some of them loaded. That’s the worst.”
I‘m in the hall backstage at the Oslo Skedsmohallen, jabbering with the black-shirted security guards from Pro-Sec, when the Crüe burst out of their dressing room and head toward the stage. They get vitamin B-12 and B-6 shots for energy and stamina.
“These shots hurt tonight,” whines Nikki. “I’m feelin’ kind of sick now.”
“They hurt?” shies Vince.
“It’s the B-6; it’s like thick.”
“On the last tour I used to get steroid shots before each show,” says Vince. “I was at the point where I was mainlining these fuckin’ steroids. I didn’t need it. If I didn’t get it I’d just bitch and moan and whine. After a while, every time I’d ask for it, they’d have a doctor just come inject me with water! I would be very happy because I thought I got my fucking drugs!”
All the Mötleys are ringed with eyeliner, though only Nikki continues to sport a minimum of leather straps and studs. He shed over 30 pounds in order to go shirtless on this tour, casting a furtive eye over at Tommy, clad only in Converse Chuck Taylors and the skimpiest of bikini briefs. Vince and Mars wear basic leathers, vests and T-shirts. The days of Kiss adulation are over, though Mick says he puts a little pancake on to cover the broken veins in his nose and Nikki dabs on a little white to make himself look more sick, “more Mötley.”
Nikki is looking past me, clenching my hand, his eyes blazing with an almost supernatural lust for the stage. Suddenly they clear, focusing on my head.
“What the fuck is this!?” he bellows, grabbing my hair. He looks serious as death. Tommy roars in anguish and grabs the other side of my head. I’m pushed back against the wall by the entire band, eight hands groping at my head.
“EARPLUGS!?!?” Tommy shouts. “No way, dude.”
Nikki laments, “Aw, man, we thought we let this cool, long-haired rocker hang with us. Dude, you take those out or you’re outta here. No way.”
“You see any of us wearing fuckin’ earplugs, man?” asks Vince.
“It was Helsinki,” I protest, ripping the plugs out and throwing them on the floor. “I couldn’t sleep, my ears rang so bad.”
“Empty earholes, dude,” Tommy grins, waving a hand on the opposite side of his head as though I could see all the way through.
“You hear what we hear, Dean,” says Nikki, oddly glazing and blazing again. “Every night. Let’s do it, boys.”
To all CRÜE fans: If and/or when you drink—Don’t take the wheel. Live and learn—so we can all fuckin’ rock our asses off together for a long, long time to come. —note on the sleeve to 1986’s Theatre of Pain
Eventually, even “partying in its place” dumped the band into a state of brain-constipation and abject misery. “One time I just woke up in the rehab,” says Vince sourly. “I went to a fuckin’ Lakers game and that was the last I remember . . . I was in and out of there so many times I can’t really remember . . . and I’d stay in there like a month.”
“When we were on the [1985-6] Theatre of Pain tour, I’d been doing heroin off and on during breaks,” says Nikki. “When I came home off the tour, I remember I had just bought my first house, my girlfriend met me at the airport with syringes and I said, ‘Right on! Let’s fuckin’ party!’ After that I never did stop shooting heroin until I got into rehab like months later . . . I remember at Tommy’s wedding [May 10, 1986] I didn’t shoot any drugs that day and I was going through withdrawal at his wedding, because I would have felt so bad if I was high during his wedding.”
Krell, Halcyons, whiskey and smack buried the Crüe’s Girls, Girls, Girls tour just after it left the US for Japan. “It had gone from what everyone thinks rock’n’roll is,” says Nikki, “like the Small Faces all drinkin’ at the bar and pickin’ up chicks and going back to the hotel room and fucking—to just out and out no-fun; hardass drinking, fistfights, grumpy people all the time, looking like shit.”
“Tommy and Nikki got thrown in jail there for throwin’ Jack [Daniels] bottles on the bullet train,” remembers Vince. “I almost got shot. I drank like 10 pitchers of kamikazes in this club called the Lexington Queen in Tokyo—and I don’t remember any of this shit—and they said I just walked over to these Japanese businessmen, picked up their table, and fuckin’ threw it at ’em, with all their drinks and shit. The guy who was sittin’ there, though, was the son of the head of the Japanese Mafia and those were all his security guys. They drew all their fuckin’ guns on me—they were gonna kill me.
“Our security guys jumped on me and drug me out. There were a fuckin’ thousand people around—the place was packed to the gills. I lost a fuckin’ diamond Rolex watch that night. I woke up naked on the floor of my hotel room, not knowing what the fuck happened.”
A couple days after the group returned from Japan, Nikki O.D.’d and their management, McGhee Entertainment, pulled the plug on the European leg of the Girls tour. The band called a somber meeting with management, backup singers the Nasty Habits, road crew—everyone—and asked for help. Everyone had to stop, which proved to be easier said than done—”a few weeks later I’d end up in the Rainbow with my shorts on from the beach, drinking these things called Quaaludes,” burps Vince.
“I was the first to come forth and say, ‘It’s over for me, man,'” says Tommy, his face darkening. “I said, ‘I’m fuckin’ young, and I don’t want this to end. I’m havin’ the best time of my life, and if I continue to do this it’ll be over.’ And I was fuckin’ very sad. I was cryin’.”
Within a few months everyone had wrestled the problem down and put a big rock on it.
At 2:30 a.m., Tommy, Nikki and I are crammed onto a pair of tables at Helsinki’s Metropole nightclub with eight girls who scrambled into the band’s custom van from an earlier backstage party. Forty fans clamor at the door outside; the girls jockey for position around the table. Buster Poindexter and his Banshees of Blue packed the house here a few hours earlier.
“The New York Dolls were one of the main reasons I got into rock’n’roll,” Nikki hollers over a warped, pounding Abba tune. “Remember that shit? I love it.”
“I’m in hell!” whines Tommy, his hyperthin, but muscled, frame all but swallowed by his hair. “I’m in a club with chicks, listening to fuckin’ disco and I can’t even drink.” He, like Nikki, nurses a tall mineral water with orange juice. Tommy, however, is less able to cover his distaste for the straight life. “Dean, when I get off this goddamn tour I’m gonna get all fuckin’ rotted and you’re invited.” He puts his hands up like he’s describing a marquis. ” ‘Tommy Gets Rotted, rated triple-X. Invitation only.’ ”
Then he motions to Nikki. “Let’s bail.”
We dash through the cold rain and cobblestones to the van where seven of the eight girls are standing at the curb wearing frowns as dismal as winter. Without a word to the chicks, big former football All-American Mike Andy closes the door behind me and flips on the interior light. Three girls from the gig are already inside. We roll for the four-star Strand Inter-Continental Hotel, where the international press corps are gathered for a party—Mikhail Gorbachev is in town meeting with the president of Finland. Nikki grills the girls about Finnish rock’n’roll, especially Hanoi Rocks. Tommy asks whether the sauna can be opened this late.
Andy whips out a walkie-talkie and probes Helsinki for tour manager Rich Fisher.
“Come in, 2. This is 86. Where are you number 2?”
A laid-back, California voice sparks through: “That’s a copy hoppy Moammar Quadaffi. At the 101 and headed for the sauna, 86. Over.”
“At 3 in the morning, number 2?”
“Listen, 86. You and whoever you got with you can come on up. It’s on the eighth floor. I talked to the management and the two wonderful ladies who work the saunas and massages were called back in and they’ll stay for another hour, over.”
This is why the Crüe have clung to Fisher for over eight years already. He facilitates their every wish: wrangles them private dining rooms, pulls the liquor out of the minibars in the boys’ rooms, scratches an itch for any rock’n’roll excess.
The radio codes were worked up by the previous security chief, Fred Saunders. 101 is the hotel; krell is 100; a fine chick, 714; the unfortunate fat bimbo, 747. Number 1 is the band’s general manager, Doug Thaler.
On the eighth floor of the Strand, the two sauna ladies look bleary-eyed, but tickled, in their white gowns and hospital shoes. They usually only work till 10 p.m., but that’s with bitchy Japanese businessmen and drunken Brits, not a gaggle of smiling, sober young bodies like the Crüe and their guests. The full glass roof gives out onto a view of one of Helsinki’s saltwater inlets, and you can see vodka-stunned Finns straggling by in twos and threes under the aspen trees in the plaza. A mob of brave fans are sitting out in the cold. The older woman—later affectionately dubbed “Nurse Ratchet” by the boys—takes Rich into the sauna.
“I don’t let the other girl do it,” she says coyly, “because I’m the motherly type. You are cute boys and she will be tempted.”
Drinks arrive. Beers for the girls and “nonalcoholic” 3.2 beer for the Crüe. We seem to be listening to Abba again.
Shy, leprechaun-like Mick Mars has disappeared to the room he shares with Emi Canyn, one of the Nasty Habits. The two are recently engaged, creating a road arrangement that seems to suit Mars. Unlike the others, he’s not a thrill freak, stays off motorcycles and out of cars, has been divorced twice, has three kids, and says when he drank he was “a closet drunk.” After every show, he jumps in a limo with Emi and Donna—the Nasty’s other effusive bombshell—and dashes out, signing no autographs, meeting no groupies, ducking the limelight.
Tommy’s fidgety, eyeing the beer, overenergized by months of the right food and working out. Two girls—underage—clutch their beers. “We are going to stay and talk with Wince,” they announce.
“Are these girls freaked or what?” Nikki says absently. “Shit, a couple years ago, we’d have everyone’s clothes off and the pool full of chicks.” The two girls come sit down next to him and he blurts out, “I just can’t wait to see my ol’ lady in Paris on Sunday.” Nikki has been living with former Playboy playmate Brandi Brandt, whose 3×2 poster graces the inside door of his wardrobe crate. Vince is happily married, for the second time. Tommy has been married for over three years to former “Dynasty” vixen Heather Locklear.
By 4 a.m. the sauna party is over and the boys have retired. Nurse Ratchet is telling funny stories in Finnish to six girls. Their laughter floats down the hall.
There’s a body lying prone in front of Tommy’s door. Turns out he’s one of the serious people from the press shindig downstairs, still in his three-piece, his tie perfectly ironed and knotted, passed out on the floor, drooling and reeking of that Grant’s bourbon that tastes like lacquer. Inside, Tommy has ordered up breakfast and a VCR and is just finishing his working day, reviewing a rough edit of the new “Kickstart” video.
Motley Crüe gave the world its first sour whiff of West Coast glam-metal when they tore out a little space on the lunatic fringe of the LA punk scene in 1981. The Crüe, along with Ratt, Quiet Riot and others, started it all. Now the bogus umlauts, scaled-down Kiss wardrobes and war paint (or scaled-up New York Dolls schtick, whatever), and brainless dabbling with satanic pentagrams define the genre, while the Crüe shed most of that pose just about as quickly as they took it up.
The band originally formed in the loud, angry brain of one Frank Carlton Serafino Ferranno, who started calling himself “Nikki” around 1979, when he was a 17-year-old drifter working with an LA glam band called London. Born in San Jose, Nikki’s “wild mom” and migrant farmer grandparents had him living the gypsy life until he landed in Hollywood in ’78.
By 1981, Nikki was finished with London and began to chase down an idea for a new band he wanted to call Christmas, and hooked up with a raw, hyperactive 17-year-old drummer named Tommy Lee. The two of them came across Bob Deal’s ad in the LA Recycler: “Loud, Rude, Aggressive Guitarist Available.” They gave him a call and, true enough, he was loud, clearly a psycho case and about the ugliest guy they’d ever met. The chemistry was perfect and Deal announced he was calling himself Mick Mars (“That’s the name I gave me,” he says when accosted). It was Mars, a born punster, who dubbed the gang Mötley Crüe, and it stuck. Tommy brought in a friend he’d cut high school with in Covina, California, Vince Wharton. The Crüe was complete.
The band came out of their first drunk together working like dogs. They wrote and recorded their first single, “Toast of the Town” b/w “Stick to Your Guns,” before they’d ever appeared together onstage. The leather, lipstick and even the pentagrams were meant to force a first impression; they wanted the fast notoriety gained by the most outrageous punk acts. (“It could have just as easily been a swastika,” shrugs Nikki, “anything to wake people up.”) Early shows were a fracas of demolished equipment and drug-addled antics—lighting themselves on fire, chainsawing the heads off mannequins.
In less than a year, they’d exhausted themselves with low-budget thrills, recorded 1982’s Too Fast for Love for local independent label Leather Records in three days on a $20,000 budget, and squeezed into a contract with Elektra. In 1989, LA bands from Guns N’ Roses to Jane’s Addiction have followed this simple formula: outrageous punk reputation plus independent record equals slick industry contract. Though only a half-dozen DJs in America would spin the remixed version of Too Fast for Love Elektra re-released, the record has now gone platinum, and each successive Crüe record has gone double-platinum with increasing, astonishing speed. In 1989, metal is the preferred poison of blue-collar and mall-rat proles all over the world. Along with rap it dominates MTV and accounts for at least 40 percent of all records sold in the US.
Underneath the Dr. Feelgood stage, underneath the pile of 31 Marshall guitar amps and 11 Ampeg bass cabinets that the Crüe stand in front of every night, is a little room where Vince, Nikki and Tommy go while Mick plays his mid-set 10-minute solo. Mars has never had this spot in the Mötley show before, and probably never wanted it. Clean for the first time in at least 10 years, he’s discovered—not without some pleasant shock—that he can really crank.
Onstage Mars has a rack of three country steel guitars (set up like keyboards) which he uses to play the slide-guitar opening of “Slice of Your Pie.” For his solo, he jumps from one steel to the next, leaving them jangling while he sparks out a blistering riff on the mirrored Kramer around his neck, shredding through five stanzas of too-many-note excess that makes most of the 14-year-olds in the front row clap their hands over their ears. This unnamed solo is Mick Mars’s antidote for years of power chords, his equivalent of Van Halen’s “Eruption.”
It is the change in Mars’s guitarwork, in fact, that makes most of Dr. Feelgood perfectly listenable at home. Mars was the primary author of four of the best tunes on the album, utilizing a year’s time and the physical and psychic space available at Vancouver’s Little Mountain Studio—and the talents of the Cult’s producer, Bob Rock—to wring his own style out of the honest Mötley grind. At Little Mountain, the band had only the company they wanted in the studio, namely Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry (another pair now wielding one of their best albums after a long fight with smack), Cheap Trick‘s Robin Zander and Rick Nielsen, Jack Blades of Night Ranger and Bryan Adams.
“There’s a lot of things that’ve come out that were dormant, drunk, in the back of my mind,” eases Mick, slowed by a dose of tryptophan, an amino acid he uses to relax and refrain from drinking.
“I’ve always tried to be a different type of guitar player; I’m not a technical wiz or a speed master. I try to do melodic solos. Granted, a lot of them aren’t real good, but they’re memorable. These new songs have more of a blues kind of feel. I’ve been doing that stuff for a long time before Mötley—back when I was a kid listening to Paul Butterfield and Michael Bloomfield, Leslie West, Ten Years After.”
Though Mars did most of his growing up in California, he was born and raised in Huntington, Indiana—a hometown he shares with Vice President Danforth Quayle. Today there’s a sign on the edge of town that reads: “Home of Mick Mars.” Just goes to show that Midwesterners sometimes know where to place their loyalties.
True to the band’s dark, otherworldly roots, Mars would someday like to write and direct B-grade horror movies.
Tommy is loping around his room in the Helsinki Strand, his mouth frozen in a demented grin. He’s registered in the hotel as Peter Goesinya. The Swedes don’t get the joke.
“Look at some of this good shit I bought in Amsterdam, Dean.” He holds up an 18-inch plastic cock that weighs about four pounds and must be 10 inches in circumference. “Heather’s gonna freak when she sees this, man.” He jacks a cassette into the VCR he’d ordered.
“See that, dude? That’s piss. She’s hosin’ that guy’s piss off the fuckin’ picnic table.”
“What, he peed on her?”
“Nikki, man, that’s not the best part, yet. Check out this fuckin’ poop. You are gonna flip right the fuck out.”
“T-Bone, I don’t think I can watch this. I gotta eat soon.”
“Dude, stick it out. It’s worth it.”
“What’s the password?”
“O.K., come on in.”
“Amato, dude, he’s poopin’ like real soon, guy.”
“Where’s the Mars-man? And Fish and Andy? ”
“I thought she liked piss. Now she’s washin’ it all off.”
“They’re really hygienic in Amsterdam, Dean.”
“Look at her suck that hog, man.”
“Check out his fuckin’ leg, man. He been bangin’ that smack or what? There’s little blue tracks all up the inside of his leg.”
“That what those are? They are blue. He looks like he’s had some tattoos taken off—there’s some bare, discolored skin up there.”
“These people are probably dead by now.”
“It’s the service girl, man. They want to change the fuckin’ sheets.”
“Is she cute?”
“Dudes! Somethin’s happening! He’s gonna do it!”
“Tell her to go away!”
“It’s Vince Montana!”
“Awesome! Vince, dude, you’re just in time for poop! . . . aww, it’s so bogus and I AM SO INTO THIS!”
“Tommy, this is fuckin’ revolting.”
“I know! But check it out! He’s squatting! He’s gonna launch a fuckin’ load right on her tits!”
“Listen to him grunt!”
“AAAAAAAAAWWWWWVVVVWWWWWWW! NOO! FUCK NOOO! I DON’T BELIEVE IT! I CAN’T WATCH ANYMORE T-BONE! THIS IS FUCKED UP!”
“Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Wait! You hear the sound he made? I’m gonna play the video back again so we can hear the sound!”
DING! DING! DING!
“You sick motherfuckers!”
“Marsy, it’s a fuckin’ POOP PARTY!”
“I ain’t watchin’ no goddamn poop. I came down to see the new video for ‘Kickstart.’ ”
The Crüe can buy into any cheap thrill they want these days. Which means that they just generally want more. Bigger. Faster.
“Just in search of a rush, man,” sighs Tommy. “Those fuckin’ poop vids and shit. I mean, TV’s boring. The news is depressing. Besides, I haven’t seen my old lady in over a month.
“I’m just always searching for the ultimate thrill. We’ve been doing this racing circuit, these Dodge Daytona cars, Vince and I. We got dirt bikes and we’re always tryin’ to hurt ourselves. We got some kind of death wish, I guess.”
Vince and Tommy collect weaponry as a hobby and give each other machine guns for Christmas. Tommy has an Uzi, an AK-47, a Belgian FNC, and an assortment of handguns. During breaks in their schedule, Vince and Tommy head down to Skip Barber’s School of Racing in West Palm Beach, where they learn how to come out of a slide at 150 mph and live. Next is drag-racing school.
Tommy, Vince and Nikki drive big Harley hogs: Tommy, an ’86 Springer Softail, stroked out to over 90 cubic inches, custom chrome. Nikki has bikes for two personalities—a cream-and-green-colored ’86 Heritage with an FLH front end and knucklebars; and an ’89 Springer Softail with a tiny tank, ape-hangers, a sissy-bar, and turned-up pipes, painted white with flames. Vince, the standard chromed Sportster, which is basically a huge engine with wheels. Mars drives a ‘Vette.
“I get really amped before I play my drums,” bubbles Tommy. “But a drummer, man, I always think there’s something wrong with the cat, because he beats the shit out of something for a living. So I always wonder about myself, like, ‘Man, am I sure I’m O.K.? I sure am taking a lot of aggression out on my drum kit every night.’ ”
“If anything, rock’n’roll is the answer,” says Nikki. “That hour and 45 minutes onstage is the best that my life ever is. It’s complete.”
Tommy goes on. “I been tryin’ to work on it, but I have real low self-esteem. I’m such a fuckin’ perfectionist that I don’t seem to impress myself, then my self-worth goes to fuckin’ shit . . . I been doing a lot of soul-searching. I’d always break shit before. Why do I react like that? Why do I fuckin’ freak out when we have a bad show?
“I’m not into killing shit. I’m not violent with people. It’s this drum thing; it’s smashing, pounding, breaking, exploding. When we do our show in the States, we have this fuckin’ psychotic pyro show. And we’re all way into the pyro thing . . . the whole stage just goes BOOOOMM! and, man, I just lose my fuckin’ mind! I love the sound of exploding or breaking! It’s like your motorcycle; it ain’t fuckin’ happening if it’s not fuckin’ loud. If not, why bother? That’s why people get a bike—for the vibrations, the sound, the fuckin’ fire shootin’ out the pipes—the fuckin’ shit!”
Nikki and I are in my room at the Sheraton in Gothenburg, Sweden, sharing a tête-á-tête with two of the loveliest girls I’ve ever seen in my life. The topic, of course, is drugs. As the drinks are paid for Nikki suddenly dives toward the TV and cranks it all the way. “(If You See Me Gettin’ High) Knock Me Down” is on, the new Red Hot Chili Peppers video.
“I am so into this!” Nikki practically screams, his eyes bugging out. The girls are forgotten. “Dude, the story is the guitar player was hooked on smack, and then, like, the guy O.D.’d. The band felt like total shit. But look at them, man!! Total abandon!” Nikki clenches his fists and rolls his eyes toward the ceiling. You can see right through to his bones. THIS is what he wants—what all of the Crüe want. Time out of mind. Oblivion. On the screen, Anthony Kiedis and the Chilies are not only bouncing off the walls like hornets, but they all look like punk bodybuilders on speed, like bulked-up Tommy Lees.
Nikki unconsciously grabs his own junkie-thin midriff.
“That is so tuff! I want to look like that. I’ve always had this fire. I could never get rid of it. I was always so tight, man! I drank and took drugs so I could just chill out.
“I’m this guy who finds romance in prostitutes, when I talk to them. I really relate to junkies and street people. And I’m not from the street anymore. I live in a really beautiful house, I have a nice car, a beautiful life . . . I will find myself drawn towards people who’ve had a harder life than I have. I almost resent people with the candy-coated life.”
“Because you had it pretty tough?”
“Yeah. And not as hard—believe it or not—not as hard as maybe I would have liked it. And people go, ‘Well, how much harder could your life have been?’ And I go, ‘I don’t know, maybe I could have come from a worse place, to make it.’ Sometimes that fire is also a wall; I’m just learning, at 30 years old, to put my wall down and let people in.
“So many people, that rebellion in them is like all the way up till college—even yuppies, let’s say—then they’re, like, castrated by society. Then they’re like castrated dogs; they’re calm and they do as they’re told to do. That fire is just pushing you. I don’t know what’s at the end of the tunnel. I don’t know what’s in the light. If I knew, maybe I’d be castrated. Maybe there is no answer; it’s just unused aggression.”