Sixty-third installment in a series exploring very important people in my life.
Let me start explaining how this will work: I listed 65 idols of mine. Every Friday (with the exception of those reserved for the Rock Chain posts) I’ll draw one of the names (following a system that it’s really not important to be explained here) and talk about it.
Therefore, the order in which the names will appear doesn’t necessarily shows where they rank in my preference.
As a final introductory note, this is also not a biography article. I’ll just write how I feel about people represented in it, their talent and their importance in my life.
You could argue that what makes a band really tick is its singer. I mean, a bad singer can fuck-up the best of bands (Blaze Baily on Maiden, anyone?). However, there is the exception to the rule.
And the exception to the rule is Mötley Crüe. Vince Neil is a terrible singer (even in the studio) but not only that doesn’t matter, when he exited the band a better singer like John Corabi couldn’t fill his shoes. The band seemed worse.
But it’s not only because of Vince bizarre but peculiar voice that Mötley thrives. It’s mainly because of the quality of their songs, all written by Nikki Sixx.
Nikki Sixx was born Frank Carlton Serafino Feranna Junior on December 11, 1958 in San Jose, California. In a classic tale of great Rockstars, Nikki was also abandoned by his father and raised by his mother and grandparents. Then, his mother also left him and he went to live with his grandparents.
Sixx was raised in Jerome, Idaho and listened to Deep Purple, T.Rex, The Beatles, Slade, Queen, Elton John, David Bowie and The Rolling Stones, while becoming a teenage vandal.
He moved to LA when he was seventeen and worked odd jobs, while auditioning for bands. He played in a band called Sister with future Wasp leader Blackie Lawless.
It was also around this time, that out of hate for his parents for having left him, that Frank Feranna changed his name to Nikki Sixx, after seeing a story about the original holder of the name on TV and liking it.
He left Sister and formed London also with Blackie Lawless, with whom he recorded a demo tape. The band lost its singer and upset with the difficulty of finding a replacement, Nikki left London.
And then he met drummer Tommy Lee (with whom he would form the greatest Glam Metal rhythm section and then be recognized as The Terrible Twins for their off-stage antics) and formed Mötley Crüe. They rounded up the line-up with Mick Mars (who they found through a music paper ad) and Vince Neil, with whom Tommy had gone to school with. Mick Mars didn’t want Vince in the band. As told in the delicious, lewd and magnificent band biography The Dirt he would have said: “He can’t sing.” To which Nikki replied: “Yes, but did you see how the girls were crazy for him?” Vince was in and the rest is Rock and Roll history.
Nikki was so crazy with drugs during the first years of Mötley, he OD’d fatally two times: once in Japan and another time at his home in Van Nuys, California. Both because of heroin. In his book where he tells all his travails with drugs, The Heroin Diaries, he describes his relationship with the drug: “Alcohol, coke, acid… those were all affairs. With heroin, I found true love.”
Just to be clear, I don’t condone what Nikki Sixx had done regarding drugs. It was stupid. But I admire him picking himself up and above all his wonderful artistic production all his life.
Let me be clearer: to me he was the greatest Eighties Hard Rock songwriter by a landslide. Mötley songs from the first five albums are certified anthems of an age and soundtrack to a whole movement. It was Desmond Child – himself a certified hitmaker – that stated: “Nikki Sixx had that pop songwriter ability that very few have.” I won’t be the one to contest Desmond Child.
As a final note, his adventures with girls are worth mentioning. Let’s face it: Lita Ford, Brandi Brandt, Donna D’Errico, Denise Richards, Kat Von D and Courtney Bingham look good in any man’s resume.
For all that, Mr. Sixx, be strong and laugh and enter the Hall of Idols.
Mercury: An Intimate Biography of Freddie Mercury – Lesley-Ann Jones
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