This folks, is not a Cinderella story it's a Rock`N' Roll story which means that there are plenty of overly loud music, sex, drugs, alcohol, bad marriages, porn actresses, conquests, tragedies, overdoses and revival, tears, tragic death, car crashes, breakups and reunions and swear words. If you don't wish to encounter such tales move along this isn't the book you are looking for because the above description represents almost the totally of Motley Crue's existances. However if you're a Hard Rock/Metal/Motley Crue fan, enjoy honest and sometimes shocking biographies or anything interesting, you'd be well advised to pick up The Dirt if you haven't yet. The highs were high and the lows were low, in this book lays all the dirt.
There are three unofficial "acts" in The Dirt as I see it. The first is the band members getting together, recording their first two albums and basically being kids enjoying all the excess and debauchery that comes before fame, earning local recognition and realizing they were going to be the biggest band in the world. The second act sees the band achieving worldwide success and their struggles with celebrity, Nikki's drug overdoses, Vince Neil `s car crash and jail stint, failed weddings and excessive touring. In the third act the band's popularity wanes as we reach a new decade, the 1990's and they lose momentum with the new Grunge/Alternative music scene, splitting with Vince Neil and being dinosaurs without an audience to play to. In this act the original lineup gets back together and Tommy Lee departs and there are more failed weddings. The Dirt gets it right because band members get pretty much equal coverage, some are more detailed and talkative like Nikki Sixx and some are more quiet and brief like Mick Mars but it's all good. What I thought was fantastic is how every period of the band is covered adequately and nothing is left behind, album or tour and approximately the same amount of space is spent everywhere making it without a doubt the most balanced bio I've read. Some books give higher coverage of the highs and the success and try to build up the legend; The Dirt is an honest coverage of the Motley Crue journey from then to its release date.
The main subjects of interest here are obviously the four and original members of Motley Crue; Nikki Sixx, Mick Mars, Vince Neil and Tommy Lee. You might have heard of them over the years on tabloids and hum... adult videos. Nikki was the mastermind behind Motley all along, the lyricist and soul of the band hiding an addiction to heroin. Mick was the old school blues-obsessed guitar player older than the rest of the band that barely seemed human and hid in alcohol. Vince Neil was the womanizer who killed his best friend and was constantly with women. Tommy Lee was this trippy, happy-go-lucky, hopelessly romantic and childlike "dude" as he would say. Put those four different personalities in one band, add drugs and alcohol and you have 1) a recipe for disaster and 2) a really captivating story for a book. Nikki's chapters were the most interesting because they are so intimate and personal and I feel he reveals the most. What we learn from Mick is interesting because unlike the rest of the band, he seems to have a smaller ego and doesn't need or directly pursue attention as much. Tommy is this really lucky kid who got to live his dream and marry Hollywood actresses. The most heartbreaking chapter award goes to Vince Neil. The way he talks about his four year old daughter Skylar dying of cancer is saddening and very emotional and it's clear that this was a tough time for Vince. He has a son that he barely talks about and he makes it clear that when he lost Skylar his entire world changed, he didn't seem to care about anything at all except his daughter that is. I liked reading about Vince's career once he went solo and all the happened in between his departure and reunion with the band. Same with Motley, their short period with Corabi was interesting to read about. One of my favorite parts was reading about Vince Neil's car crash that killed his best friend and everyone's angle on this sad story, no doubt Vince must deal with a lot of guilt even today. Then there's Nikki's OD where everyone thought he was dead. It's hard to pick favourite moments because Motley Crue, just like this book, is just one wild crazy ride from begging to end.
Neil Strauss is a master of the biography genre, already had made an impression on me with some of his previous work notably Marilyn Manson's The Long Hard Road Out of Hell and he was obviously an important part in putting and assembling this book together and making coherent the way it is. What works so well with The Dirt is how the stories are told by individual members in an honest way, each taking turns to describe the events as they happened. What helps the book even more is the entourage of the band chiming in to tell their own stories. I can think of manager Doc McGee, whose contributions were highly readable. Or Doug Thaler, A&R man Tom Zutaut who got the band signed. Even John Corabi who replaced Vince Neil for the self-titled album and toured with the band gets a few chapters in the book and his story is just as interesting to read his perspective of someone joining an already established band that was in peril at the time. One of the best things of the book is the total honesty that lies in from cover to cover. Nikki's youthful hate and his resentment towards his parents is wholeheartily felt, Vince's chagrin over his daughter's death, band members hating each other, opinions, punches thrown.... The only mystery that remains at the end of the book is how those guys managed to get through the 80's and beyond and are still together. Oh, and Mick Mars! If there is one thing that could have made the book better it would have been more Mars, who is a highly secretive, solitary person and this book is the only insight fans are allowed in his life.
As I recall The Dirt was one of the very first Rock biographies I have ever bought and it set a high standard for every musician bios that came after it. It was more than ten years ago and through the years it remains my favorite out of all the music related work I own. It seems to me that ever since this book was released, everyone who's ever been in a band has released or is writing one, The Dirt wasn't the first bio that went to the extend and earned as much success as it did (*That would probably be Stephen Davis's "Hammer of the Gods" on Led Zeppelin although it doesn't have any input from the band itself. Therefore the first rock bio to earn that title would be Aerosmith's "Walk This Way") but I think it has to take credit for the abundance of books on the band and the subject that have come out since. It's more than just a tale of decadence and rock and roll there's also a very human side to it and to see four individuals who seemed for quite a long time indestructible tell all about their fascinating lives and stories makes us realize how they really aren't so different from us regular/normal people.
If there was sixth, seventh star I would give it to The Dirt, this book was a big part of my rock'n'roll education and the blood, sweat and tears found in this book are highly entertaining. I read this as an impressionable teenage fan of the band so, there you go. I think even someone who is not into Motley Crue the band could enjoy the book but may end up being shock or think it's a just a "let's make a band, get drugs, party, tour, have groupies, record etc. and repeat" or a typical rock journey which is not the right attitude to approach reading this book, it's really unlike anything or any bio you've read previously. As a fan of the band and the music I enjoyed this book tremendously, what can I say it is a page turner whether you like them or not, approve of them or their actions or not. Fantastic read, if that's what you're looking for. The highest recommendation possible.