Short Take: Yeah, it’s the same old, same old situaaaaaaaation…..
Man, I love 80’s hair metal. I’m probably revealing myself as an Old Person, but back in the day, I couldn’t get enough of Poison, Whitesnake, Winger, Warrant and all the rest of them. C’mon… Kip Winger? RAWR. Jani Lane in white leather pants? Yes please.
But all of those guys, as sexy but “dangerous” as they were, were tame compared to the boys in Motley Crue. And during my naive-but-headbanging youth, I had no idea exactly how wild those Crue boys could be.
Usually, in this part of a review, I describe the plot of a book, but do we really need it for this one? Rock star recovery books have become so common at this point that they are a cliche. I’ve read more than a few of them, heck, even some written by other people who are in Sixx’s book. In a nutshell, every one of them follows the same pattern: the downward spiral of addiction that mirrors the upward climb of superstardom, increasing tension within the band and disintegrating personal relationships, a rock bottom moment, followed by a long recovery with a few setbacks and ultimately triumph over the demons of booze and drugs.
So yeah, the story here is nothing new. What sets this one apart, however, is the WAY it’s told.
As I said, all of the rock star recovery books follow the same story, but also, most of them are told the same way. It’s a single person’s point of view (said rock star), probably with help from a professional writer, and it’s invariably a look backwards, with the narrator trying to gloss over their behavior a bit (“yeah I was a jerk and I beat my girlfriend and set the hotel room on fire, but I was really messed up and never meant to HURT anybody sheesh”), and at the same time, grab their chance to air all their complaints about their former bandmates, crew, managers, whoever. No matter how “uplifting” the story is meant to be, they almost always come across as self-serving, one more chance to be the center of attention now that the spotlight has faded and the stadiums aren’t packed anymore.
Not so much with The Heroin Diaries.
For one thing, the book is made mostly of actual diary entries that Nikki Sixx wrote during the year between Christmas 1986 and Christmas 1987. So instead of “I was really high and hallucinating”, we get things like “There are little people with guns and helmets in my trees.” Instead of “I was really depressed”, we get “I hate myself and what I’m doing to my life”. It feels much more immediate and honest.
The other thing that really sets Diaries apart is its format. Nikki Sixx is the ostensible author, but throughout the book, the other people who were involved weigh in. So we might see a diary entry of a fight that Sixx had with Vince Neil, but we also see Neil’s present-day take on the incident. Sixx writes extensively about his turbulent relationship with Vanity (only people who were around in the 80’s will recognize that name), but the evangelist now known as Denise Matthews also gets to tell her side of it. Her slightly deranged, rambling, mostly incoherent side.
The end result is sort of an oral history of that year that ended in Sixx’s death and resuscitation, followed by a bulleted summary of the past twenty years. It’s a really fascinating story, told in multiple voices and with many different perspectives. It’s visceral. You see Sixx’s actions, and you also see the wounds they left on the people around him. And sometimes the stories contradict each other, but still, everyone has their say. I can’t say I’ve ever read anything quite like it, although, at its core, the story is (sadly) nothing very new or original.
The Nerd’s Rating: FOUR HAPPY NEURONS (and some Aqua Net)