MOTLEY CRUE: Feeling Minnesota (1990)

Published on December 26th, 2012

By STEVE MASCORD

THE mercury in Minneapolis is plunging mercilessly past zero as Middle America wallows in snow. Vince Neil, however, is waltzing down the hotel corridor towards his multi-room penthouse in a sleeveless v-neck shirt and blue boxer shorts.

His dirty blonde hair spews out from under a neatly reversed baseball cap, just like the one he wears in all those celebrity golf tournaments.

The shortish screamer, 28 and one-forth Mexican, is what hundreds of thousands of white teenage males see as rebellion. American-style rebellion, that is. Capitalist anarchism. Or, as Jon Bon Jovi once said of Neil, “the Rolex Axl Rose”.

“What does that mean?” Neil asks when I repeat that quote safely inside his palatial quarters.

Perhaps it means there is some contradiction about singing about rebellion and life on the streets and being filmed riding in a limousine jacuzzi down Sunset Strip with a bunch of bare-breasted models.

“Everybody’s entitled to their opinion. He’s just run out of insults, he’s run out of things to say.”

The nine-year-old Los Angeles-based quartet, of course, hasn’t seen eye-to-eye with Jon Bon Jovi since last year’s Moscow Peace Festival when Bon Jovi used fireworks and the Crue weren’t allowed to.

They axed manager Doc McGhee – a man with a similarly less-than-saintly past – and proceeded to slag off Jon Bon Jovi as a “candy-ass lying asshole” to the world’s music press.

Motley Crue may now be sober and three-quarters married (bassist and founder Nikki Sixx will marry Brandi Brandt in May) but never let it be said they are candy asses.

Didn’t Vince punch out Guns N’Roses’ Izzy Stradlin in at last year’s American Music Awards for pinching his wife on the breast?

“Izzy fucked around with Vince’s wife so he punched him out,” Sixx says, turning his attention to Guns singer  Rose. “And if Axl doesn’t shut up, he’s going to start something too.

“We don’t lie to our fans. We’re an honest band. We keep everything on the table.

“When I heroine overdosed, we told the truth.

“When everything’s gone down, accidents, divorces, bad times, good times, we’ve always told the truth.”

In 1987, the Crue’s severe drug problems forced them to cancel a sold-out tour of Britain that left them hugely out-of-pocket and with a poor reputation in that country.

Clearly, Motley Crue has not ALWAYS told the truth; the band did not admit its drug problems had caused that cancelation until recently.

“Sometimes it’s better not to tell the truth at the time …  solve your problems and then talk about it,” says guitarist Mick Mars.

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NIKKI Sixx is watching the MTV request program like an expectant father. In between trying to guess the bra size of the female VJ, he is wait to see the chart position of the latest Crue single.

Resplendent in a terry-towelling t-shirt and old blue jeans, he gets up from his couch to turn down request number two, KISS’ “Forever”. “This song blows,” he says with disgust.

His disappointment is short-lived, however, with sickly Dr Feelgood single “Without You” topping the chart as expected.

Sixx was born Frank Carlon Serafano 30 years ago in San Jose, California. He grew up with his grandparents after his mother left his father for a musician in Frank Sinatra’s band.

Motley Crue’s founder and chief songwriter, Sixx claims to have got his first guitar by walking into a music store with an empty guitar case and asking for a job. When the manager turned his back to get an application form, Sixx reputedly stuck the guitar in his case.

Though amiable, Sixx is visibly tiring of my line of questioning, about how much of Motley Crue’s success to date has relied on their decadent image.

“The point is, we just got sick of being off-stage what we were on-stage,” he says, earnestly.

“I don’t think we have an image, I just think it’s music right now. ”

But were you, at any stage, more interested in being rock stars than musicians?

“Probably.”

Drummer Tommy Lee would later admit to finding the band’s non-musical influence over its fans somewhat sobering. He comments: “You’ll see a kid with a fag go ‘Crue Rules’ and chug a bottle of Jack. You go to yourself ‘fuck, that kid’s only 15. In two years, he’ll be a basket case’. His dad will beat him for coming home late’. Lee says, however, he’s not responsible for this. “Eveeyone’s responsible for themselves,” he says.

Sixx left LA glam band London in 1981 and set about starting his own band. Lee, who was then a bass player, was the first to come to the party. Next came Bob Deal (aka Mick Mars), who had advertised in a trade magazine: “Loud, rude, aggressive guitarist available”.

The oft-quoted snippet from Sixx, which appears in the band’s biography, says: “We didn’t even have to hear him play. We went: ‘This is the guy, he’s disgusting.’”

As the man who shaped the multi-platinum four-piece’s fearsome image, Sixx is now set on longevity. He sees the success of Dr Feelgood as a sign Motley Crue will now step into some sort of honest rock’n'roll ascention, built by the likes of Cream and Mott The Hoople.

“What ever happened to those bands?” he asks rhetorically. “What ever happened to the Stones, Aerosmith, Mott The Hoople, old Queen? What ever happened to the real shit, living and breathing for one thing that was most important in your life and that was rock’n'roll?

“What’s going on in the music business? Why is everybody so into this, the money, money, money, greed, greed, greed shit?

“It’s so sad, so fabricated, so corporate.”

While his statements appear somewhat shallow in the light of Motley Crue’s shamelessly exhibitionist past, Sixx seems an important difference between his band and other pop-metal acts, like Bon Jovi.

“We never sold out,” he aserts. “It’s never been, like, ‘let’s get in Desmond Child and write a hit single’ As far as we’re concerned, using outside writers is a sell-out. ”

To some Motley Crue fans, however, sobriety is a sellout in itself. American rock fanzines have been flooded with letters from teenagers disillusioned with idols who inspired them to drink in the first place now giving up the habit.

Sixx says staying sober has so far been ‘a breeze’ and he has no trouble with the image of going home after a gig with an orange juice. “An orange juice in a tight black dress,” he smirks.

“If it’s three naked hookers and a fucking midget and three porno movies running simultaneously in our dressingroom that keeps us going crazy, if that keeps us sober, then that’s what we do.

“Just because you’re sober, doesn’t mean you have to be normal. We’re not normal people, we’re a little off the deep end anyway.

“We don’t let those – what we consider – boring people backstage, the people with the drugs, the fucked up chicks that are slurring and can hardly walk.”

Nevertheless, Motley Crue’s image amongst the sober is not being helped by quotes from Sixx like: “This is a male-dominated world and we’re dominant males”. He looks surprised when I tell him some people may find this offensive. “Do they?”

“It’s only my opinion. Women, they have more power and more strength than any man. This is still a male dominated world, man always comes first. Conflict is so fucking important. It creates everything: good, bad, man, woman…”

He will marry his girlfriend, Bandi Brandt, a model he started dating before travelling to Vanvouver to record Dr Feelgood, after the Australian tour in May.

“It’s cool but I’d rather not say too much about it,” Sixx says coyly. “Who told you about it anyway?”

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“NIKKI is getting married in May,” Vince Neil says early in our interview the day before. in a southern California drawl that threatens to add “dude” to every sentence.

“Just because you’re married doesn’t mean you can’t rock’n'roll.”

Neil has been married for two years to an LA mud wrestler known mainly as Sharise. Some time ago, it is alleged Guns N’Roses Stradlin accosted here at a famous LA club called the Cathouse.

By means of retribution, the blond frontman approached Stradlin after last year’s American Music Awards and punched him.

Neil: “We never ever said shit about other bands cause we like everybody. But when people start pushing your buttons you have to react. I think it’s pretty immature of bands to do that.

“I only speak out against people who fuck me over, whereas you take someone one like Axl, he gets on the soapbox about everything and everybody in the world.

“When I punched Izzy, Axl made a whole bunch of lies about it and made a big deal out of the whole story, put out a press release that was a complete lie.

‘Funny thing was, you never heard from Izzy. Izzy never put out a press release because he knew exactly what happened.

‘Now Axi has said a bunch of stuff about Nikki. It’s a shame, Axl used to be a nice guy.”

Nell says he is excited about going to Australia, but Sixx claims his singer feels uncomfortable outside the US. “Vince and Mick are American guys, they like their hamburgers at 12 o’clock every day. I like to experience other cultures more.”

According to Vince, 1987’s drug problems not only cost Europe the chance to see Motley Crue live, it also cost Australia.

“We were gonna go on the Girls, Girls, Girls tour and we ended up cancelling the last part of the tour. We were going to go to Australia after Europe. It’s like everybody’s been there  but us.”

Neil became withdrawn, grew a beard and pulled out of from public life after his December 1984 accident, which killed Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle and seriously injured two others.

Neil, who had been driving a Ford Pantera back from a beer run, was convicted of vehicular manslaughter while under the influence of alcohol.

He was forced to pay $2.6 million  in settlements, do 200 hours of community service and spend 20 days in jail.

Part of his probation was that he was to stay straight on the following tour, the Girls, Girls, Girls tour, but he now admits he was “more fucked up than anyone on that tour”

“At the end of that tour, nobody talked to each other, “he says. “We’d see each other at the gigs and then we’d all go our separate ways.

“It came to the point where we were gonna break up  because we  just couldn’t go on doing what we were doing and be successful.”

He glares at the ceiling and lets out a light chuckle when I ask if there’s any truth in the rumour he had a luxury jail cell and was visited regularly by Playboy bunnies, compliments of Hugh Hefner.

“Nah, it was jail! It was still jail, I mean  it wasn’t like this! I had to feed the other prisoners, clean up the jail cells, wash police cars and stuff like that. I was with two other prisoners. One guy was a Ferrari thief, the other guy was a jewel thief or something like that.”

Neil was even swifter in denying two other rumours — that he takes steroid shots before every show and that all his stage raps are written out for him by Sixx.

“Every audience is different, it’s always all been ad-lib,” he says.

It is hard to imagine how anything in Motley Crue’s state of the art, million dollar arena extravaganza could be ad-lib.

The show begins with a laser image against a suspended screen, the character changing faces from demonic (Shout At The Devil) to theatrical (Theatre of Pain) to sleazy (Girls, Girls , Girls) and finally into a doctor.

Backing singers the Nasty Habits — Donna McDanniel and Emma Canyn — are silhouetted atop the huge catwalks and powerful hydraulic lifts fire the four Crue members up from below the stage.

They kick in with ’Kickstart My Heart, a song inspired by Sixx’s near death, in which Neil sings: “When we started this band, all we needed was a laugh. Years gone by, I’d say we’ve kicked some ass, when I hit the stage, in a fit of rage, adrenalin running through my veins, I’d say we’re still kickin’ ass. ”

At the height of the mayhem, Tommy Lee’s saucer-shaped drumkit rises like a UFO and moves along a ceiling-bound track out over the audience, lowering to within metres of its collective head.

He beats out drum sequences from classic songs by the likes of AC /DC and Cream, and the kit returns to its rear stage slot majestically. Wearing nothing but a studded g-strlng, Lee turns his back to the audience and exposes hs backside.

“I almost got arrested for that once,” Lee, an excitable ball of enthusiasm , says after the show.  ‘It’s just ‘fun.”

Of all the members of Motley Crue, Lee is least affected by superstardom’s trappings, despite being married to an actress.

“Being on the road really makes you want to have a girlfriend,” he says. “And hen you’re out there, I suppose the next best thing is getting laid.”

Motioning towards an old brown suitcase, Lee says: “It’s like, there’s my life. It’s really nice to call home and go how are my dogs, how are you. It’s cool, I really dig being married.”

Born in Athens, Greece, Lee took to only coed volleyball and art at school. He was just 17 when the band formed.
Tapping his knee feverishly, he says it’s the first time he’s ever done an interview after a show.

“I would never have done one before we got straight, but I got so much energy now that I don’t know what to do with it,” he says.

“Not one day goes by when I don’t want to rip the fuckin’  door off and scream ‘give me a fuckin drink’. I swear, every day. It’s a disease.

“When this tour is fuckin’ over, I’m going to get fucked up. I swear. I’ve worked hard.”

Lee is distracted for a minute. “Hey, you know Midnight Oil? Can you go out in the desert like that and drive around in one of those those old trucks?”

Tommy Lee’s birthday is on October 3. Last year he had an unexpected birthday present when Motley Crue went to number one on the US album chart for the first time.

“We get no respect, everyone fuckin’ hates us, the press don’t like us, they say we can’t play. Going to number one was like a big “fukk you’!

“It wasn’t … there’s a lot of this shit that goes on, political buying the number one spot. Anybody can have a number one spot. If your record company pulls out enough dough and pays off the right people, it can happen.”

It is hard to imagine a knockabout skin n’bones joker like Tommy being embroiled in the drug-fuel intrigue that almost killed Motley Crue.

“Me and Nikki were slugging it out in Japan, Vince had a gun pulled on him,” he assures me. “This Japanese mafia guy. This is how fuckod up he was. This Japanese mafia guy was at a table with two nice American blondes on (his) arm. Vince went up to him and said ;fuck you’ and pushed over his table, knocked this bottle of champagne over his girls and him. Vince didn’t know who he was, he thought he was some little Japanese man.

“He reached in his Japanese suit and pulled out a gun. Our security guys dove in and eventually threw him out.

“At that same club, Nikki and I were really drunk, we’d been on tour a long time and we were getting on each other’s nerves. When you’re drinking and been on drugs you snap really quickly. I thought he’d said something to me that he said he didn’t really say. And I fuckin’ punched him, and he punched me. These little Japanese girls are crying, seeing two members of Motley Crue fighting, going no, no. People were going wow, what???.”

The story originally appeared in JUKE Magazine on April 28, 1990

Lee was the mn who allegedly punched former manager Dcc McGhee in Moscow when Bon Jovi’s fireworks went off at the Peace Festival. Jon Bon Jovi, who it was originally rumoured had been punched by Lee, told Juke shortly after: “Not punching me. If he had’ve punched me, I would have belted his fuckin’ head in, he wouldn’t be alive to talk about it.”

Lee has since denied doing anything but pushing McGhee.

“No-one in our camp has changed,” Lee asserts. “And I’ve seen a lot of people change.

“I remember when Jon Bon Jovi was nothing, nobody knew who the fuck this kid was. He was begging our manager Dcc ‘please, please let me hang out with the Crue, let me spend just a couple of days on the bus. I want to see what a fuckin’ real tour’s like’. So Jonny comes out with us, we show him the ropes of the road, we put him on our bus, get him fucked by this bunch of girls, get him drunk…, show him what the arenas are like, we’re playing these big gigs. He was just like “wow.. .this is great’.

“Then the fuckln’ guy has some success and all of a sudden he won’t talk to us. All of a sudden we’re dickheads. We’re like “fuck that guy, man. We showed that guy what rock n’roll is all about, we took him out and showed him the real shit”. He’s just being too fuckin’ cool.”

Lee’s solo is the highlight of the show. “I always wanted to be a guitar player or a singer- up front. So I decided to take my solo to the people.’

Guitarist Mick Mars, meanwhile, plays a short solo and barely leaves his corner of the stage.

“Mick wanted to do something with holograms where he plays with himself, battles with this image of himself and disappears and shit,” says Lee.

“We never had time to got it together, so maybe next time.”

 

“YEAH, i guess it pisses me off,” Mick Mars says with a warm, almost shy, grin.

Mars, polite and quietly spoken, is not referring to his solo. He’s refering to the fact that a lot of people think he’s a shitty guitarist.

“I had this guy from a guitar magazine do an interview the other day and he says ‘my editor asked why do you want to interview Mick Mars? He’s a shitty guitarist..

“I felt like going ‘fuck you’.”

At 36, Mars has been changed the most by not drinking. Sitting between two guitars on a sofa, he explains that this is the first tour on which he hasn’t been drunk before taking the stage. He also explains that while the other members of Motley Crue deny that Dr Feelgood was a deliberate attempt a having a hit album, it WAS the goal.

“For me, it was a chance to prove I could play,” he says. “I may not be the fastest guitarist in the world but I do what I do and I do it well.”

Underneath the Dr. Feelgood stage is a small room where the three of them disappear while Mars does his ten-minute solo spot. He’s never been given his solo spot before, and he now realises that he can play well.

Onstage he has a rack of three country-steel guitars set up like keyboards, which he uses to play the opening slide rift of “Slice Of Your Pie”. His love for ‘60s white blues guitarists like Michael Bloomfield, Paul Butterfield, Leslie West and Alvin Lee of Ten Years After has always been there, but it took producer Bob Rock to wring it out during the Feelgood sessions, giving the entire LP a definite punch. Mars was responsible for four of the best tunes on the album.

Although he grew up in California, he was born in Huntington, Indiana. Today, when you drive into town, you’ll see a sign proclaiming Home Of Mick Mars. Another famous person from that town is US Vice-President Danforth Quayle.

Married three times already, he dates Canyn, one of the backing singers. He’s the only one of the four who prefers cars to bikes. He drives a Corvette. The others move around mostly in Harley Davidsons.

Mars and Sixx first hit it off because they shared the same hair dye.  Mars’ slide work sounds very much like Peter Wells. He says he hasn’t heard Rose Tattoo records, and that it goes back further to blues guys like John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters.

“Without being egotistical, hopefully I can use whatever position I have, to turn our fans in that direction.”

Three years ago he could not be animated without alcohol. Nowadays he looks at anyone whos strung out on dope or drink and think “they’ve copped out of life.”

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AS HE sprints from his limo into the 16,000s eat arena that plays host to Motley Crue tonight, a T-shirt falls from the air and lands on Nikki Sixx’s head. Glancing upwards, he sees three pubescent girls grinning and screaming.

“Here” he beckons “you want it back?”

“Only if it’s been touched by you” the blonde in the middle yells back.

In the dressing room, as he warms up to go on. Vince Neil laughs about the incident.

“I don’t think anyone in the band thinks of themselves as rock stars,” he says. ”Pretty much every night we wonder ‘is anyone going to show up tonight.’ I still think of us as the same bone- heads that played the Whiskey A Go Go club.”

In the dressing rooms, all the four put on eyeliners. Nikki, who shed 30 pounds before the tour so he could go onstage shirtless, is the only one who wears leather and studs. Mick and Vince were T-shirts and vests, Tommy a brief bikini and torn off gloves. A string vest is all that covers his 6’4” body. The Japanese tattoo on his arm catches the dressing room’s fluroscent light and looks magnificent.

Outside, the crowd roars louder. The air of excitement thickens. “OK boys” Nikki calls out “lets go and do it”.

They stumble through the darkness, helped along by roadies with torches, up the stairs and then, whooosh!, the spotlight hits, and the crowd’s screams are mesmerising. It’s the ultimate thrill, a moment that the four keep trying to recapture in their lives away from the stage…

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