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Rock and Roll Book Club

Rock and Roll Book Club: Motley Crue's 'The Dirt'

Motley Crue's "The Dirt"
Motley Crue's "The Dirt"MPR/Luke Taylor

by Daniel Nass

May 17, 2017

When I was 15 years old, my wardrobe was dominated by jeans and a steady rotation of rock t-shirts featuring the biggest metal bands of the time. And at least three of those t-shirts featured 80s metal giants, Mötley Crüe — the band I would see live for my first arena concert in March, 1990, at Bloomington's now-defunct Met Center. So it didn't take much arm-twisting to convince me to read and review their autobiography, The Dirt, for The Current's Rock and Roll Book Club.

The 2001 memoir's full title is The Dirt: Confessions of the World's Most Notorious Rock Band, and after reading debaucherous story after story (often in gruesome detail), there's little doubt that they've earned that title. It's no wonder the book became a surprise hit, landing on the New York Times Bestseller list.

The biography features first-hand accounts from band members Tommy Lee, Mick Mars, Vince Neil, and Nikki Sixx, beginning with the group's early days and their 1981 debut album, Too Fast for Love. One of the things that the book does really well is giving each member an individual, distinct voice in the tales they tell. For example, when Lee makes his entrance on page 43 and complains that a fellow bandmate has hogged the first 42 pages, you can hear his California surfer accent coming through loud and clear: "Duuuuuude. F*** yeah. Finally. How much room is Nikki going to get, bro? F***."

The book is filled with plenty of stereotypical stories of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and with their Keith-Richards-esque appetite for decadence, you find yourself continually amazed that all four original members lived through it all. Though that's not completely true. In one of the more famous tales of Mötley Crüe lore, their bassist, Nikki Sixx, did die on Dec. 23, 1987 — for nearly two minutes:

"I tried to sit up to figure out what was going on. I thought it would be hard to lift my body. But to my surprise, I shot upright, as if I weighed nothing. Then it felt as if something very gentle was grabbing my head and pulling me upward. Above me, everything was bright white. I looked down and realized I had left my body. Nikki Sixx — or the filthy, tattooed container that had once held him — was lying covered face-to-toe with a sheet on a gurney being pushed by medics into an ambulance."

Two shots of adrenaline later, Sixx came back to life, fled the hospital with the help of two fans, and headed home — to do more drugs. He was so amused by the fact that people thought he was dead, he changed his answering machine message: "Hey, it's Nikki. I'm not home because I'm dead."

The band played their final show on Dec. 31, 2015 in Los Angeles, and unlike many aging bands with their "Farewell" tours (and their subsequent "No Seriously, We Really Mean It This Time" tours), Mötley Crüe signed a formal "cessation of touring" agreement, which prohibits any future live performances under the name "Mötley Crüe." They could, of course, come together and throw the agreement out the window, but in the meantime, there have been rumors of a forthcoming film adaptation of The Dirt. Most recently, Jackass director Jeff Tremaine has been tied to the project, and the movie will reportedly find a home with Netflix. No word on who will portray the band members in the film.