Like so many rock stars who survive into their 40s, Mötley Crüe front man Neil has produced an autobiography. Raised in Compton, Calif., just as gangs were starting to take over, Neil turned multiracial good looks and a bad attitude into a career singing for the leading hair band of the 1980s. Mötley Crüe embraced the values of rock star excess and garnered fame as much for their drunken exploits as for their music. In one grim episode, an inebriated Neil crashed his Ford Pantera into a Volkswagen, killing his passenger and critically injuring two others. Later, Neil was ejected from the band but eventually returned. Today, he lives in Vegas, making music and running several businesses, including a chain of tattoo parlors. Neil makes no pretense of being thoughtful or reflective, but with Sager’s help he’s done a more than adequate job of representing himself. Much is said about all the women he’s had, all the drugs he’s done, all the nice cars he’s owned, and all the celebrities he’s met. Yet within the rock-star braggadocio lies an entertaining story of a handsome, insecure guy with a lot of energy who got really lucky. Interviews with friends, business associates, and ex-wives bring much-needed depth to the narrative. To his credit, Neil deals honestly with the suffering he’s caused.
Much of Vince Neil’s life has centered on booze and babes, so it’s not surprising that his autobiography, “Tattoos and Tequila: To Hell and Back with One of Rock’s Most Notorious Frontmen,” is heavy on those subjects. But it’s what the ladies in Neil’s life have to say about the bleachy rocker that makes “Tattoos and Tequila” such a gripping read.
Women of a certain age and rock enthusiasts of any age should know who Vince Neil is: As frontman of ’80s glam band Motley Crue, Neil was a pouty-lipped, leggings-clad rock god, a singer with enough soul to deliver ballads like “Home Sweet Home” and enough swagger to make “Girls, Girls, Girls” a charming hit for strip-club jukeboxes for all time. In “Tattoos and Tequila,” set for release on Thursday, Sept. 23, the singer gets a chance to tell his side of the story about the Crue’s successes and excesses. This is accomplished with assist by Mike Sager, a former Washington Post reporter and contributing editor for Rolling Stone.
Tattoos, tequila and related topics were already covered at length by fellow Crue members Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee in their own books, 2007′s “The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star” and 2004′s “Tommyland,” respectively, and in the band’s group autobiography, “The Dirt,” in 2001. Neil has no problem calling out inconsistencies in portions of those books — perhaps to save face, or maybe as a genuine effort to tell what really happened. Anything is possible, especially because Neil’s memory is so admittedly hazy.
“Tattoos and Tequila” starts from the beginning, from Neil’s childhood growing up in Compton, Calif., to the frenzy of touring with Motley Crue to his present life as a businessman on his fourth marriage. The book is divided into 10 chapters, including “Nobody’s Fault” (about how Compton grew progressively worse as the Neil family lived there and how Neil discovered sex), “No Feelings” (which focuses on how he became friends with Tommy Lee, became a father in his early high school years, and started on heavy drugs) and “AC/DC” (which concludes with him getting kicked out of the band and deciding to strike out on his own), but the bulk focuses on Neil’s early life.
As the book plods on, the endless discussion of partying and girls gets a little old (the tidbits about threesomes, foursomes, porn stars and Playboy bunnies run together), and it seems there’s something missing — especially as Neil rants against Sixx, Lee and guitarist Mick Mars for their treatment of him. When he notes that the three never contacted him during the death of his daughter Skylar from cancer, it’s understandable why he would hate them, but the details of what led the bandmates to that point are lacking.
It’s upsetting, because Sager allows others to have their say, in interviews from all four of Neil’s wives, his two children, his parents and sister, former bandmates and managers and Sixx — the only Motley Crue member who agreed to be interviewed. So when Neil glosses over why a marriage fell apart, his wife is there to give the real story (endless cheating with groupies, of course). Or when he talks about deciding to leave his first successful band, Rockandi, group founder James Alverson weighs in. But all Neil’s allegations about Motley Crue aren’t addressed, because Mars and Lee refused to be interviewed, and Sixx’s portion — while it acknowledges a love-hate relationship between the two men — doesn’t cut it.
For the most part, “Tattoos and Tequila” is an interesting read just to appreciate the insanity of the ’80s, before AIDS, before people knew how addictive cocaine was and before Internet blog culture tracked every celebrity’s move. Oh, and for the dating tips Neil offers up: After catting around with groupies, the band would cover their tracks by wiping egg burritos over their business before going home to their girlfriends. Rock history, ladies and gentlemen.
–The Washington Post Express
I bought The Dirt, Mötley Crüe’s 2002 autobiography, the day it was published. I got home from the store, sank to the floor, had a nice cry (it had been hot out and my finger hurt), and started reading. Ten hours later, I’d finished. I was starving, but my heart beat with the joy of life itself. Despite the idiocy and misogyny (from naming groupies “dick buzzards” to casual references to spouse abuse), the colossal self-regard, and the accounts of pointless hedonism (Vince Neil favored booze and a sleeping pill; Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee preferred cocaine mixed with Halcion — huh?), the band exuded a rare appetite for life. Any callousness — and there was plenty — seemed ascribable to their disarming capacity to live entirely in the present, without shame or a plan for tomorrow. It was exhilarating, and the Crüe appeared less wicked than bracingly alive, even charming. Zen Masters who might go to jail, and who regularly needed shots of penicillin in their weeping groins, if you will.
Neil’s Tattoos & Tequila isn’t the same. Many of the stories are familiar from The Dirt: success, sex, and drugs; Neil’s vehicular manslaughter of his friend, Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle Dingley; Nikki Sixx’s overdose; family tragedy; divorces; subpar solo careers; the band’s revival; etc. The difference is that, in The Dirt, if someone said he didn’t remember something, it sounded like a genuine drug blank. In Neil’s book, it looks like lying, neurosis, or — worse — grandpa having trouble recalling whether he likes tomatoes.
The reason for this is that Tattoos & Tequila is not only a very heavily ghostwritten (by Mike Sager) autobiography, it’s brilliantly ghost-assembled to set Neil up. Interspersed with the singer’s moaning about managers and band members, in between feeble blandishments about his “demons,” there are interviews with Neil’s ex-wives, neglected kids, and sundry pissed-off others. We’re informed repeatedly that no rock stars would agree to be interviewed — including Lee and Mick Mars. Only Sixx chips in.
From the start, Sager makes it clear that it would have been hard for Neil to avoid becoming anything but a complete dick: “Try to imagine what it was like to be that guy — a rock star, rich, achingly beautiful . . . before AIDS, when cocaine, Quaaludes, Jack Daniel’s, and wild consensual sex were the equivalent of karaoke.” Neil didn’t have to act responsibly, and the world didn’t mind. But he still comes off as a dick. He whines incessantly — meanly, too — about how first wife Beth had “germ-phobia” and drove him crazy with her anti-fun ways. She explains, however, that she ignored Vince’s monumental adultery until she got pregnant: “I’m like, ‘Vince, I’m pregnant. You can’t come home with all kinds of diseases.’ ” Plus, “the whole HIV thing was just blowing up.” She even mentions “times when they’d have a tattoo guy come backstage . . . and he’d give everyone tattoos with the same needle.” It’s a wonder Vince survived — this is a man, after all, who says Mel Gibson’s “a cool guy.”
Yet Tattoos & Tequila doesn’t make Vince look monstrous. As he’ll admit himself, he’s not deep. I can cope with the tantrums, the violence, the lack of self-awareness, the dumb behavior. (He and his instructor “ran out of beer” during a flight, so Neil landed a helicopter in Sixx’s garden.) But the assholish vim of The Dirt is gone. Neil likes betting on sports nowadays, reckons the guitar-shaped furniture in his bar is super-cool, and has a lucky shirt with a pizza stain.
–The Boston Phoenix
In a lyrical prologue, this autobiography’s co-author, Mike Sager, recreates the feel-good, do-wrong ’80s rock scene, adding the disclaimer: “Much of the information gathered for this book comes from sources who may have been using substances or undergoing other duress at the time of many of the events discussed … Like they say about the eighties, if you remember them clearly, you weren’t there.”
Sager meets with Neil at Feelgood’s rock bar and grill – a Mötley Crüe-inspired eatery – to flesh out the golden, albeit often missing, years. Neil’s memory lapses are profound, prompting Sager’s question, “What person doesn’t remember why he moved out his parents’ house at seventeen?” Indeed.
This glam-cock-rock Caligula is narrated through Neil’s drug-fucked stream of consciousness, but his reveries are supplemented by a chorus of dissonant voices – friends, family, ex-wives and ex-Mötley Crüe members. Due to the excesses of the ’80s, everyone involved is an unreliable narrator. Most memorable are Neil’s wives (all scarily prosthetic Franken-blondes, who are infinitely more interesting and incisive than Neil), who point out his tendency to ‘omit the truth’ and/or feign drink-and-drug-addled amnesia at convenient points.
It’s clear that Neil wants representation after the 2001 bestselling Mötley Crüe biography The Dirt, from which he was excluded. Now sober, Neil the man is a brand, an entrepreneur, with a hand in flogging everything from tequila to tattoo parlours, alongside fiscally motivated reunion tours with Mötley Crüe and his own solo career (the Vince Neil Band).
The bitterness of being fired from Mötley Crüe several years ago is palpable, and although Neil takes several acerbic serves at Tommy Lee and Nikki Sixx for being egomaniac, blabbermouth starfuckers, it’s clear that there is a lot of wounded love between them. Thirty years of music-making creates a family: a highly dysfunctional family, as Sager points out.
A portrait of the artist emerges in the conversational anecdotes that follow, and it’s not necessarily sympathetic: Neil’s working-class childhood and early parenthood; his four wives; and his career with the Crüe, who were thigh-high in groupies and up to their elbows in booze and drugs in their early twenties.
Although there’s a prevailing nostalgia for the orgy of success, sex, drugs and rock’n’roll without consequence, Neil shows a genuine sense of reflection on the ramifications of his alcoholism, including a vehicular manslaughter charge, for which Neil served (brief) time. His young daughter’s death from cancer provokes a few hundred words of sensitivity and insight into fatherhood… which, unsurprisingly, leads into an anecdote about lending out his Malibu mansion to pornographers.
This brings us to Neil’s primary drug of choice: women. I’m no mathematician, but the words ‘pussy’ and ‘rack’ are mentioned so many times in the book they could become Boolean operators.
If you can ignore the unreconstructed rock-star shtick and swallow the glorification of womanising and objectification of girls, girls, girls, well, good on ya – enter the hot tub time machine. Some of the tour anecdotes of drug-addled excess are terribly funny, but this is definitely a cock-rock fan’s read. Or a diehard Mötley Crüe fan’s tour of duty.
Motley Crue singer Vince Neil says he has “never really had a voice” in all the tales of his three decade career fronting the hard rock band.
But his attempts to finally set the record straight in an autobiography chronicling years of sex, drugs, plastic surgery and numerous arrests, have already landed him back in trouble.
Neil, 49, lashes out at bandmates and attempts to settle old scores with rock rivals in “Tattoos and Tequila”, to be published on Thursday.
He has also set off a new feud with music manager and “America’s Got Talent” and “X Factor” judge Sharon Osbourne, the wife of former Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne.
“It really sickens me today to watch everybody fawning all over Sharon Osbourne,” Neil writes in the book, recalling a 1984 tour when Motley Crue opened for Ozzy and Sharon was running an especially tight ship.
“This is the most evil, s——– woman I’ve ever met,” he added.
Osbourne shot back with some choice words of her own.
“He (Neil) has murdered somebody in a car,” Sharon Osbourne told the New York Post last week. “He crippled two other people and he is still driving drunk. And that is why I used to keep my husband away from him.”
Hanoi Rocks member Nicholas “Razzle” Dingley was killed in Neil’s car when Neil was driving drunk in 1984, for which he served a jail term.
Neil was arrested again in June in Las Vegas on suspicion of drunk driving, a week after he released a solo album, also called “Tattoos and Tequila” — a set of classic rock covers.
HARSH WORDS FOR BANDMATES
Neil told Reuters he doesn’t like talking about himself. But he wanted to give his side of the storied history of the band, which has sold about 25 million albums in the United States alone.
Motley Crue released a best-selling band biography called “The Dirt” in 2001.
“There’s been so much written about Motley Crue. I’ve never really had a voice”, Neil said of his autobiography.
“This was my experience with Sharon 25 years ago. She was not very kind to Motley Crue,” he added in an interview.
Osbourne is not the only target.
Neil, who split from Motley Crue in 1992 and rejoined in 1997, keeps some of his harshest words for his bandmates, whom he has compared to siblings with whom he feuds.
He faulted bassist Nikki Sixx, drummer Tommy Lee and guitarist Mick Mars for not supporting him following the 1984 car accident, and disputed their account of the events that led to his 1992 departure.
The book also seeks to settle scores with old foes such as Guns N’ Roses singer Axl Rose. Neil reiterates a challenge to Rose to a boxing match that he issued in 1989 after an infamous backstage brawl at the MTV Video Music Awards.
On the sleeve of his book, Neil wrote, “Old rock stars fall hard.” But Neil said the hard living has been worth it — with the exception of the shame he feels about Dingley’s death.
“I don’t have any regrets. Anything that I’ve done wrong, I’ve learned from,” Neil said.
Neil will spend the fall on tour in support of his solo album and the book. He said Motley Crue plans to start rehearsals early in 2011 for its Crue Fest 3 festival but has no immediate plans for a follow-up to its 2008 hit album “Saints of Los Angeles.”
Mike Sager has done an admirable job getting Neil’s story down on paper, especially given Neil’s reluctance to recount much of his past. And the contributions from former wives, Neil’s own children, family members, managers and band members adds a sense of realism to Neil’s life that otherwise might have been lacking in any real substance without a different perspective…an entertaining read, perhaps the closest any members of Motley Crue have come in terms of telling the story about their own life.
–Justin Donnelly, Mediasearch, Australia
The rain is pouring down in Camden, New Jersey, and inside his trailer, Vince Neil and I are staring deeply into each other’s eyes. That’s because Neil–the Mötley Crüe front man who, when his hair was big and “Girls, Girls, Girls” was on the charts, bedded “thousands” of groupies (according to his soon-to-be-released autobiography, Tattoos & Tequila)–clearly fighting his natural inclination to stare at the chest of the woman he is talking to. In turn, as he tells me about his recent separation from his fourth wife, I am making a concentrated effort not to stare at his face, which has, since those halcyon days, been subjected to so much plastic surgery and tanning that it is as smooth, buttery, and beige as the leather couch we’re sitting on. The result of this not-staring contest has been nearly unwavering eye contact for the past fifteen minutes. He breaks first.
“You know, we’d been together for ten years,” he says, eyes flicking briefly downward. “It was a long to me.”
I nod empathetically. His nose is odd-looking.
“All of a sudden you feel like you’re roommates–you’re not husband and wife anymore.”
It’s like the tip was lopped off, then reattached.
At a slight angle.
“Sometimes you just drift apart.”
Neil isn’t the only bandmate who is newly single. Bassist Nikki Sixx–who is joining up with Neil at Ozzfest, which is why they’re in Jersey–just got dumped by tattoo artist Kat Von D. “He took her to Europe, and she broke up with him on the flight home.”
No matter. They’re on tour, and he’ll find a new one. “There’s always girls around,” Neil says.
So far, the longest relationship any of Mötley Crüe’s members have had is with one another. Next year the band will celebrate its 30th anniversary. Not that the union has always been blissful. In Neil’s book, Sixx “likes to portray himself as the Messiah,” and Tommy Lee is “an egomaniac.”
Over time, they have learned to accept or bury these resentments. (Neil has apparently also done this with Sharon Osbourne, whom he ran into in the parking lot. “Sharon,” he said, embracing her. In the book, she is “the most evil, shittiest woman I’ve ever met in my life.”)
They have to: They’re completely co-dependent. No one has had a solo career to match the success they’ve had as Mötley Crüe. But keeping the band going allows them to indulge outside projects. For Neil, those include a bar chain, Feelgoods; a tequila brand, Tres Rios; and two tattoo shops. And now there’s Vince Neil Aviation, the private-jet company he launched this year “kind of out of necessity,” thanks to the travel needs of his two cocker spaniels, Cakes and Crackers. “I was chartering airplanes, but it got real expensive,” he says, scrolling through his iPhone for pictures of the dogs. “And I realized it was actually cheaper to buy a plane. And then I got two, so…”
Though the hope is that his will become the chosen airline of rock stars (Jay-Z has shown interest), currently the jets are leased out to whomever his partners–”a couple of really smart guys” he met at a Crüe show–can find. “Lately we’ve been doing some flights running raw gold from Colombia to Atlanta,” he says. “Like, we pick up like 400 pounds of gold and fly it to Atlanta. They refine it, and then fly it all up to Montreal.” Oh.
Tattoos & Tequila the book (there’s an album of the same name) is compelling, not only because it contains many disgustingly fascinating details of how teenage boys behave when they become rock stars, but also because of its subject’s willingness to appear, well, the way he is. “You can’t sugarcoat your life,” Neil says. “If you were an asshole, then you have to own up to it. I was an asshole. There’s a lot of things that I’ve done bad.”
Of these things, the most famous was his 1984 drunk-driving incident, in which Neil’s friend Razzle Dingley was killed. This past June, Neil was arrested for DUI in Las Vegas, where he lives. “I was at the Emmys, somebody handed me some Champagne, and I was like, ‘All right.’” He shakes his head. “At the after-party I was talking to Susan Lucci and I just kept telling her how pretty she was…”
His manager pops in–it’s time for Neil to get ready. I ask if I can see the rest of his trailer.
“There’s just the bedroom.” Neil opens its door. A cloud of perfume wafts out, along with a chorus of feminine voices. Hiiiii. The bedroom is literally full of girls, lolling about on the bed, texting, straightening their hair. Between the mirrors and the smallness of the space, it seems there must be twenty of them, but in reality there are three: two blondes, one brunette, all in their twenties. Allie, Zella, Izzy. They’ve been quiet as church mice the entire time.
He cocks his head, and for a second, he looks like the old Vince Neil. “Like I said,” he says, grinning. “There’s always girls around.”
–Jessica Pressler, New York Magazine