Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The perils of rock and roll decadence

I used to think that I could not be shocked by tales of celebrity shenanigans. Well, I was wrong. After a few recommendations I read The Dirt, the story of Motley Crue. For most of their career, the behavior of these people (Mick Mars excepted) is flat out appalling. As Nikki Sixx notes, if they were not famous they would have been in jail. I'm pretty sure that if you saw any of these people in their heyday, you would hate them immediately.

If it was written in the 80s, it would probably have been unreadable. As it was written after the end of their Crue career, the tone is more reflective. With the help of Neill Strauss, each chapter is written by a band member or a hanger-on. This was a great choice. For one, we often see where band members have different takes on the same event, or they think the other guys were unaware of behavior. Mick Mars, for example, states that no one knew he was really drinking large glasses of vodka, instead of water, pre-show. In the next chapter, another members notes that Mick always pretended to drink water. The narrative approach also humanizes these freaks. You can hear Tommy Lee talking with his frequent "It was all good, dude."

There is self-criticism among the bragging and celebration. You get a sense they are looking for absolution. One of the more despicable members, Nikki Sixx, attempts to atone for his awful behavior to nearly everyone around him. Vince Neill is more like Lars in Some Kind of Monster, less reflection and a lot less growing up. That may be a defense, as he has some of the worst overall experiences. All of the band members face a heavy personal cost for their fame, and that provides some level of sympathy for them.

Some people will be repelled by the book, but I found it fascinating. This is what Behind the Music would have been like if HBO did it, instead of VH1.

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