Is what US president Gerald Ford called “our national nightmare” really over? The final show of Motley Crue’s Final Tour came to a chaotic close December 2015 to fulfill the rock prophesy of “Terror in Tinseltown“at LA’s Staples Center. But apparently a little-discussed rock myth of hard rock drummers spontaneously combusting, first documented decades ago in the Spinal Tap movie Smell the Glove, ignited into reality as Motley Crue’s notorious spinning drummer Tommy Lee burst into flames during his last drum solo. When asked why authorities did nothing to extinguish Tommy’s bombastic big beat barbeque, Los Angeles chief Fire Marshall Fred replied,”That’s just rock’n’roll.”But no matter if you weren’t there the last night to witness Lee’s cinder-ella: of course the entire debacle was filmed for showing in theaters and the WWF cable channels. In an alternate universe where being boring and predictable is the Original Sin, Vince Neil, Mick Mars, Nikki Sixx, and Tommy Lee of Motley Crue would be sanctified saints, because they have been waging jihad against the tyranny of the mainstream for a full three decades.
After appearing earlier that afternoon on my Dallas radio show, Motley Crue lead singer Vince Neil was running from side to side at the front lip of their huge stage during a 1989 stop on their Dr.Feelgood tour in front of 18,000 fans, everyone on their feet. Motley Crue ripped through a pile-driving version of “Looks That Kill” (which still makes me reach for the volume knob exactly the same way it first did in September 1983), and from my vantage point on the floor sidestage, Vince ran straight at me out onto a wing which extended almost to the first loge of seats just above my head, occupied by row after row of dancing, innocent-looking young women. Suddenly, as Neil reaches the edge of the stage closest to these wide-eyed young female fans, the girls simultaneously all lift their tops to expose matched pairs of bare breasts. In that instant, Vince Neil dropped the wireless microphone from his face to his side and, looking down at me in breathless bewilderment and amazement, rolled his eyes as if to say,”Can you believe this is my life?” It wasn’t Spinal Tap, it was pure Groucho Marx.
Motley Crue as model citizens? Hardly. Harmless except to themselves ? Certainly not to the friends and family of Hanoi Rocks drummer Nicholas “Razzle”Dingby, who paid with his life for riding with Vince Neil in 1985; or to Tommy Lee ex-wife Pamela Anderson, who was kicked by Lee while she held their infant son (Lee did four months in jail for assault ); nor harmless to the family of 4 year-old Daniel Karven-Veres, who drowned in Lee’s pool during a June 2001 birthday party. Essential to the evolution of rock music? Probably. It’s arguable that without Motley Crue and Guns’n’Roses, grunge bands including Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden would not have had a reason to exist, or at least not in the same rock binge-and-purge role. Likable funny guys? You bet, in that same lovable way that while you scratch a puppy’s ear it pees on your shoe. You’ll see when you listen to Nikki Sixx and Vince Neil with me In The Studio. –Redbeard