Much of Vince Neil’s life has centered on booze and babes, so it’s not surprising that his autobiography, “Tattoos and Tequila: To Hell and Back with One of Rock’s Most Notorious Frontmen,” is heavy on those subjects. But it’s what the ladies in Neil’s life have to say about the bleachy rocker that makes “Tattoos and Tequila” such a gripping read.
Women of a certain age and rock enthusiasts of any age should know who Vince Neil is: As frontman of ’80s glam band Motley Crue, Neil was a pouty-lipped, leggings-clad rock god, a singer with enough soul to deliver ballads like “Home Sweet Home” and enough swagger to make “Girls, Girls, Girls” a charming hit for strip-club jukeboxes for all time. In “Tattoos and Tequila,” set for release on Thursday, Sept. 23, the singer gets a chance to tell his side of the story about the Crue’s successes and excesses. This is accomplished with assist by Mike Sager, a former Washington Post reporter and contributing editor for Rolling Stone.
Tattoos, tequila and related topics were already covered at length by fellow Crue members Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee in their own books, 2007’s “The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star” and 2004’s “Tommyland,” respectively, and in the band’s group autobiography, “The Dirt,” in 2001. Neil has no problem calling out inconsistencies in portions of those books — perhaps to save face, or maybe as a genuine effort to tell what really happened. Anything is possible, especially because Neil’s memory is so admittedly hazy.
“Tattoos and Tequila” starts from the beginning, from Neil’s childhood growing up in Compton, Calif., to the frenzy of touring with Motley Crue to his present life as a businessman on his fourth marriage. The book is divided into 10 chapters, including “Nobody’s Fault” (about how Compton grew progressively worse as the Neil family lived there and how Neil discovered sex), “No Feelings” (which focuses on how he became friends with Tommy Lee, became a father in his early high school years, and started on heavy drugs) and “AC/DC” (which concludes with him getting kicked out of the band and deciding to strike out on his own), but the bulk focuses on Neil’s early life.
As the book plods on, the endless discussion of partying and girls gets a little old (the tidbits about threesomes, foursomes, porn stars and Playboy bunnies run together), and it seems there’s something missing — especially as Neil rants against Sixx, Lee and guitarist Mick Mars for their treatment of him. When he notes that the three never contacted him during the death of his daughter Skylar from cancer, it’s understandable why he would hate them, but the details of what led the bandmates to that point are lacking.
It’s upsetting, because Sager allows others to have their say, in interviews from all four of Neil’s wives, his two children, his parents and sister, former bandmates and managers and Sixx — the only Motley Crue member who agreed to be interviewed. So when Neil glosses over why a marriage fell apart, his wife is there to give the real story (endless cheating with groupies, of course). Or when he talks about deciding to leave his first successful band, Rockandi, group founder James Alverson weighs in. But all Neil’s allegations about Motley Crue aren’t addressed, because Mars and Lee refused to be interviewed, and Sixx’s portion — while it acknowledges a love-hate relationship between the two men — doesn’t cut it.
For the most part, “Tattoos and Tequila” is an interesting read just to appreciate the insanity of the ’80s, before AIDS, before people knew how addictive cocaine was and before Internet blog culture tracked every celebrity’s move. Oh, and for the dating tips Neil offers up: After catting around with groupies, the band would cover their tracks by wiping egg burritos over their business before going home to their girlfriends. Rock history, ladies and gentlemen.
Written by Express contributor Roxana Hadadi
Photo by Paul Brown