Merrill’s Musings...Motley Crue
Welcome to Merrill's Musings...Put your seatbelts on, this one's gonna be a wild ride.
Back in the early 80s, my stepsister Dee would come and spend weekends with us. She was four years older than me and I worshipped her. She’s been my sister since I was 2 and she was 6 and she is the best big sister you could hope for. Well, except for that time at Disneyland... Beautiful, funny, and totally sophisticated (she had better hair than Farrah Fawcett and wore her makeup like a super model), Dee brought magic into our house in the form of a little plastic rectangle with two holes and a ream of tape. Berlin, The Scorpions, Black Sabbath and AC/DC...I was terrified, enthralled and desperate for more! I frequently used my little sis wiles to get her to loan me her cassettes until the next visit. I still have Berlin and Van Halen’s 1984. But one she would not part with no matter how I tried? Shout At The Devil by these super evil guys called Mötley Crüe. It scared and excited me and I couldn’t get enough. By 5th grade I had my own recording of my cousin and I singing Home Sweet Home in the Booth at Great America.
Between dance lessons, my mom’s 8-Tracks and vinyl, and Solid Gold, Music was my life. I got my very own first cassettes in early elementary school from my father who bought me my first boom box. Adam Ant Friend or Foe was the first one that was mine... until I “borrowed” Dee’s anyway. I bought Pyromania somehow and a teacher bought me The Police Synchronicity for winning some award. Music covered my walls, moved my spirit, and filled my soul.
Fast forward through middle school (rap), early high school (modern music/new wave), late high school (classic rock) to college and I was in love with metal and the guitar player I lived with. Nights were filled with all the songs he taught himself or shows with his band. Days were filled with learning. In between was fighting, heart break and pain. Mötley Crüe’s Dr. Feelgood had been out for awhile by then but it was definitely one of the CDs I got through my BMG Music Club. I was experiencing the Midwest equivalent of living with the broken but brilliant musician, until I had to leave...That’s another story.
After college I came home desperate to start a new life and career. It was lonely for a few years...teachers I knew didn’t go out because we worked all the time. My bestie found me and we hung out when we could, but she waited tables nights and weekends when I was free. We went dancing when we could, hung out whenever possible, and then she flew away. No, really. She’s a pilot. And a damn good one!
And then the love of my life invited me into his and I found my home. Awww, Sweet huh? We really are pretty disgusting after nearly 20 years of marriage. It’s awesome, our kids hate it! But when we started dating, Mr. Ro was into country and hair metal. Yep. Meanwhile Ro was into Tool and Rage Against The Machine. But we had common ground in Metallica and of course, the Crue. We went to shows with our best friends because we finally had a little money, and one of the shows we went to was Crüe Fest at Shoreline. Trapt opened, then Sixx:AM, Papa Roach, Buckcherry (which Mr. Ro does not recall at all) and finally Mötley Crüe took the stage. God, they made it feel good to be alive, to throw the middle fingers to the sky, to reach up that right hand and rev your motorcycle engine... Yes the 80s were full of debauchery, but we were too young then to really get it and only knew what we saw on MTV News. Now? We were all working for the man and needed to cut loose.
Then came babies. My crazy smart daughter with a mouth on her just out of the womb and then nearly four years later, her bro, who I’ll talk more about in a minute. I refused to listen to “kids’ music” so it was all metal and show tunes all the time. My daughter went through her Phantom of the Opera stage, which was rad, then we delved deep into the Crüe’s catalog. When she was around five, my husband came home from work to hear Mötley Crüe blaring from her bedroom. She came running down the hallway with a scowl on her face, her horns up, wearing a pink ballet skirt and a Wonder Woman belt for a headband. That’s it. He followed her to her room when she ran and found her rocking out, jumping on her bed. She swore she was going to marry Vince Neil. We don’t talk about that in front of her very often.
The Dirt came out and blew me away. Their story was all the insanity I felt I’d missed out on (I was completely square in high school and college) and there was this broken guy from the broken home who fell into bed with heroin and died, only to be brought back with a chance to make things right. It was so similar to my college boyfriend’s life...I was grateful small-town Iowa wasn’t rolling in more than beer and ditch weed at that time because I really might not be here writing to you tonight. But that’s another story.
After The Dirt I read The Heroin Diaries and I developed a fascination with Nikki Sixx’s journey. How did that crazy guy in the black leather get to be this eloquent, elder statesman of rock? How did he write these hauntingly beautiful songs with his new band? And he’s started a charity through Covenant House to help runaway teens, the population I chose to work with? Genius, brilliant, a true renaissance man who was trying to do something with his life.
Teenie, concert buddy, bridesmaid, and dear friend, called one afternoon while I was at an appointment with Thing one trying to entertain Thing two in the waiting room. “My friend got us tickets and backstage passes for Mötley Crüe. Tonight.” I drop the kids off at grandma’s, thank GOD for my mom and step-dad for so many reasons...definitely a story for another time.
That night we visited Nikki Sixx on his bus. In jeans, a white t-shirt and white athletic socks with painted black nails, he joked with us about his current relationship status, talked recording equipment with Teenie’s co-worker, and then received a phone call and was sorry to say goodbye “but he had to be dad now.” It was a moment I’m sure was just one more meeting with fans for him, but in this twisted mind, the roots of stories began to take hold. I had so many questions: was this what rock stardom looked to a guy in his late forties, early fifties?
The real rock ‘n’ roll moment came when we were led over to Tommy Lee’s and Mick Mars’ camp. Complete with couches and a stripper pole. We said hello to Mick, but the poor man looked to be in so much pain. I can’t even imagine what he’s been through physically. Tommy poured us all shots of Jager (square chick here in her school marm khakis and Dansko clogs passed on the Jager) took pictures with us and gave hugs, then it was time for the show!
We sat up front and watched Mötley Crüe play and couldn’t believe we were actually there. They co-headlined that tour with Aerosmith and after their set, Teenie and I made our way backstage... and proceeded to have a Spinal Tap moment. We could not find our way back to the camp. Instead we ended up in the parking lot, looked at each other and shrugged, and went home before Aerosmith had finished their set. But the memories.....
You all have heard the story of how I started writing. If not, that will be another post haha. I wrote Haunted in 2012 about a band recovering from the death of their manager in a haunted house in the French Quarter. After that book, the second I’d written, I was taken back to that night on Nikki’s tour bus, him in the tube socks being dad with painted black finger nails. Then I heard radio personality and skater MMA fighter Jason Ellis talking about how hard it was to get your kids to take school seriously when you were illiterate. Then I watched Jacoby Shaddix from Papa Roach talk about his vocal cord surgery and how he nearly lost his voice, and heard Dave Grohl talk about dropping out of high school... And Danny Black was born. So was high school teacher Jesse Martin with rheumatoid arthritis who had to abandon her dance career. Together these two gave me a story that spanned three books, Teacher-The Hollywood Rock ‘n’ Romance Trilogy. They were a labor of love and brought me many of my readers. By this time, Nikki Sixx was heavily into photography, in love with Kat Von D, and starting up his radio gig. Sixx:AM had two albums out, which I loved start to finish, and Mötley Crüe toured with KISS. Loved that show!
When they announced their farewell, I was fine with it. I’d seen them, loved them, met three of them, and had made so many memories. We opted not to take the kids because frankly they were a little burned out by shows at that point and having to carry my sleeping son at a show was getting difficult. Now? My son is the rock star. He attends a local School of Rock franchise, plays a mean guitar, and has a kick ass rock ‘n’ roll voice. His next show is in May, and he’s singing Live Wire. Yeah. Pretty crazy.
Tonight I watched the long-awaited film adaptation of The Dirt and thought about what their story means in the wider lens of today’s world. Vince Neil killed someone drunk driving, lost a child to cancer, started a winery, and has had at least one more DUI since then. Tommy Lee has had a tumultuous love life, has attempted to explore music of many varieties including the experimental show Rock Star Supernova, which I LOVED. Mick Mars has held it together the best he can. And Nikki? To me, he’s a flawed person who is brutally honest about who he was and who he is now. His candid writings, his song-writing talent, and his artwork have been an inspiration to me, especially as I decided to take a leap and create art of my own.
Whatever you think about Mötley Crue, their music, their story... they are a band who took chances, fought demons, made huge mistakes, and created a soundtrack for a generation. Read the book, watch the movie...or pass. Up to you. Me? Im thankful for the soundtrack, the stories, the inspiration, and the dirt.
Thank you for checking out Merrill’s Musings! Have some thoughts? I’d love to hear from you. Message me on Facebook, post on my page, DM me on Twitter... whatever your poison!!
Stay Tuned for more Rock ‘n’ Romance...
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