By STEVE MASCORD
“I really don’t understand what Mick’s talking about. Maybe he took the wrong pill that day.”
The man at the other end of the telephone is Vince Neil, the 50-year-old singer from Motley Crue. He seems unimpressed with his guitarist, Mick Mars. I am in Philadelphia, at baggage claim. Vince is in Las Vegas, presumably at home. I had interviewed Mick backstage in Melbourne.
Now, I need you to concentrate here. It’s complicated.
I also quizzed Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee – over the phone, even though we were both in Melbourne at the time. And – I’ll say this slowly – I had 15 minutes on the phone with bassist Nikki Sixx, when I was just outside his dressing-room and he was in hotel less than a mile away!
That’s the way the Crue wanted it. Bad Boys. Rock’n’roll.
So as glam metal’s greatest survivors prepare to tour the UK this December with apparently good friends Def Leppard and depends-who-you-talk-to acquaintances Steel Panther, this Classic Rock AOR feature story comes to you after more than a month in the making. To be fair, there were times I was unavailable. There were more occasions, however, on which tracking Vince down looked like it was going to require the Navy Seals.
To explain what a rather surprised and aggrieved Vince Neil is taking about above, we need to go back to back to the start, back to when Mars – sitting adjacent to me in a nondescript backstage room at Rod Laver Arena – had placed his left thumb and index finger on his forehead after a query. “That’s a hard question to answer for me personally,” he had said.
And there had been a pause. A long pause.
Oh no, I thought at the time. I had clearly been stupidly insensitive. I enquired as to whether Mars could see an endless horizon of touring and recording, now that the original Crue were back together and their place in popular culture – not just rock – was enshrined thanks that tome of depravity, Neil Strauss’s The Dirt.
But matters other than popularity and marketability will affect what Mick Mars is doing a decade from now. One, he is 60, easily the oldest member of Motley Crue. Two, though a little more agile than in recent years, the Indiana-born axeman has ankylosing spondylitis, a joint disease which causes him to “seize up” and resulted in a 2004 hip replacement surgery.
It’s a condition I did not take into account when posing my question…
Things had started well when I had been ushered into the room. Mars – clad loose-fitting black with a cap – was initially laconic, until the line of questioning engaged him more. And until what I immediately assumed to be a gaffe, he had been a generous interview subject.
“There’s always room for improvement. You know that,” he said when I commented that the Crue were particularly tight in late September Down Under. “It all depends if we all get together a week or so before we go (to the UK) and get tight again, before they ship all the stuff over there.
“I think every band should do that. I’m sure every band does. Sometimes, we’re lazy and we don’t do it.”