Rock & roll’s all fun and games until the same stripper from the Seventh Veil gives everyone in your band crabs. The cautionary tale of sex, drugs and rock & roll is as old as last year’s fruitcake. But no one wants to hear his or her own obituary on the radio. And no band should ever take advice from a member of Kiss. So in this season of giving, pass on these books — some of which require wearing a hazmat suit while reading — and save a life.
The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star, Nikki Sixx(Pocket Books). Oh, those bed-wetting, penis-injecting, 43-person gangbang days of yore. Sixx’s diary entries aren’t an extended VH1 Behind the Music, though. An absentee dad and neglectful mom made him angry, and Motley Crue made him rich enough to snort, smoke and inject his way through years of rage. So the way Sixx writes it, he spent all of 1987 holed up in the bedroom closet of his Van Nuys home in heroin-induced paranoia, convinced the police and SWAT team were after him. He recounts in gross detail shooting up in the bathroom of the Denny’s on Sunset and Gower using a Pepsi bottle cap, and attending Tommy Lee’s wedding, where he was the best man, with syringes hidden in his boots. And the night he was pronounced clinically dead was actually the second time he overdosed; the year before, he was left for dead in a dumpster in London. If you can find anything amusing here, it’s the time Sixx and Lee got a Toronto radio DJ drunk and high on cocaine live on the air. And there’s some hilarious fire-and-brimstone talk from singer and onetime Prince protégée Vanity (formerly Denise Matthews, currently Evangelist Denise Matthews), Sixx’s then girlfriend and drug buddy, now a born-again. “True happiness comes when you obey the Scriptures,” she preaches.
Did you know? Sixx’s mother dated Richard Pryor. Sixx was approached to produce Appetite for Destruction. Sixx didn’t meet his sister, who had Down syndrome and lived in a sanitarium, until her funeral.
Slash, Slash (Harper Entertainment).With Axl Rose MIA and the other members weary of press, Slash gets to have the last, definitive word on Guns N’ Roses. This is not only the story of a Hollywood street kid turned rock star, but a tour through ’80s hard-rock L.A., when aspiring longhaired musicians strolling the Strip and Hollywood Boulevard were as much a part of the city’s landscape as palm trees and freeways: Slash stealing his first top hat from Retail Slut on Melrose; getting busted for shoplifting at Tower Records on Sunset; going off and getting drunk in the mezzanine of the Starwood club when he was supposed to be working as an extra in the film Sid and Nancy. And just picturing Slash having to chew off his black nail polish on the bus ride to county jail for a jaywalking ticket is a hoot.
How does Axl come off? Like a narcissistic nut prone to walkouts, no-shows and causing concert riots, one of which got the band permanently banned from St. Louis. And who was most gypped? Poor Steven Adler; funny how GNR’s original drummer was kicked out for drug addiction, yet Slash himself overdosed only a few years later, and eventually had to have a defibrillator implanted in his heart. Don’t worry, there are musical tidbits galore, especially the making of Appetite, including all the moaning on “Rocket Queen” that came courtesy of Axl having sex with his girlfriend in the studio.
Did you know? Slash’s mom dated David Bowie. Paul Stanley lobbied to produce Appetite. Guitarist Izzy Stradlin once worked as an L.A. Weeklydeliveryman. Slash doesn’t know how to spell Redd Kross.
Everybody Wants Some: The Van Halen Saga, Ian Christe(John Wiley & Sons Inc). Dutch immigrant Jan Van Halen sails to America and raises two musical prodigies, they form a band with a blond “himbo with a scream” whose ego gets too big for his Capezio ballet slippers, he’s replaced with an even blonder mop-top of equal vocal power but not equal love from the fans, he too is replaced, by a singer of no vocal power, love or importance, but Himbo heard you missed him, so he’s baaaack. There, Van Halen 101 in record speed. But think of this not as a retelling of V.H.’s history — cleverly divided into the “Rothozoic,” “Hagarlithic” and “Cheronean and Neo-Rothozoic and Neo-Hagarlithic” eras — as much as a compendium of David Lee Roth–isms: “My haircut’s alright for heavy metal, but baby my shoes are all wrong”; “When you’re on the road for nine months a year and you always have all these cute little chiquitas running around in their halter tops, it’s kind of hard to worry about things like nuclear proliferation”; “I’ll never have all the women I want, but I’ll get all the women who want me.” It should be noted, however, that author Christe learned to play “Eruption” before writing the book.
Did you know? Van Halen’s $1.5 million paycheck for 1983’s US Festival landed them in the Guinness Book of World Records for highest-paid single performance by a band. Gene Simmons suggested they change their name to Daddy Longlegs. Sammy Hagar claims to have been visited by aliens in 1968. Bassist Michael Anthony’s girlfriend proposed to him in a McDonald’s drive-thru.
Mom, Have You Seen My Leather Pants?: The Tale of a Teen Rock Wannabe Who Almost Was, Craig A. Williams (Three Rivers Press). Coming from far humbler beginnings, author Williams writes in earnestness of the ages between 14 and 17, when he was a rock star, if not in Orange County, then in his own mind. Nicknamed “Children of the Corn” in high school for having long red hair, Williams and his buddies formed a band called Devolution (yes, they were aware of that other Devolution), which was changed to Onyxxx (yup, they knew about that other Onyx too, hence the extra letters). Their singer was the “greatest front man in the history of the Anaheim Hills/Yorba Linda area.” Williams “wrote songs that made dozens of people sing.” And at 16, he autographed breasts. Even if you still haven’t heard of Onyxxx, Williams’ book is a funny time travel for any child of the late ’80s who fondly remembers KNAC and Pirate Radio, and every guitarist who swears Slash came to him in a dream. Besides, who else wrote the lyrics, “When I woke up this morning/And I looked outside/I saw my soul lying to God”? And what other band had a Loni Anderson impersonator for a manager?
Did you know? More than 2 percent of U.S. presidents were born in Yorba Linda.
Riot on Sunset Strip, Domenic Priore(Jawbone Press). Before the Sunset Strip was a hair-metal haven and Haight-Ashbury became hippie central, the bands that were born and honed their skills in Hollywood during the second half of the ’60s put L.A. on the musical map. After all, it was at the RCA Music Center on Sunset where the Rolling Stones recorded “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” and Ciro’s LeDisc where the Byrds premiered “Mr. Tambourine Man” with help from Dylan himself. With a foreword by the late Arthur Lee, Priore’s exhaustive and illustrated encyclopedic text (pictures of Jayne Mansfield dancing at Whisky a Go Go, a protester holding a picket sign that reads, “Fark the Nucks”) chronicles the beginnings of the Byrds, Love, Frank Zappa and the Mothers, and Captain Beefheart, as well as lesser-known garage bands like the Seeds and the Standells; plus the old haunts that popularized them, from Pandora’s Box on one end of the Strip to Gazzarri’s on the other. If it weren’t for the riots — a reaction to the crackdowns and curfews imposed by city officials as a way to cleanse the longhairs — Lou Adler and John Phillips might’ve never organized the Summer of Love’s biggest event, and one of the first music festivals, Monterey Pop.
Did you know? Both Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis owned clubs on the Strip, Lewis’ occupying the old Tower Video address. John Wayne was in the audience heckling the night of Zappa and the Mothers’ debut at the Action on Santa Monica Boulevard. Mae West recorded an album of Beatles and Dylan covers in 1966 with a backing band called Somebody’s Chyldren.
Heavy Metal Fun Time Activity Book, Aye Jay (ECW Press). Heavy metal has been corrupting young minds since Kiss started selling makeup kits in 1977. And what’s more cartoonish than GWAR? With a foreword by Andrew W.K., illustrator Aye Jay, the man behind the Gangsta Rap Coloring Book and Indie Rock Connect the Dots, gives children a fun and educational way to experience hard rock, metal and Scandinavian black metal with nothing harmful in sight except the smell of crayons. They can connect the moles on Lemmy Kilmister’s face, help Ozzy get to Ozzfest through a maze, make words out of Yngwie Malmsteen and Al Jourgensen, and color Glenn Danzig. (Note: Post-Misfits metal Danzig does not have devil locks.) They can even play “Holy Diver” metal libs, and use a grid to draw Corrosion of Conformity’s logo. Hey, if kids can accept a gay wizard, they can listen to Electric Wizard.
Did you know? Who said, “I must have snorted up all of Peru,” during Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years? No, it wasn’t Ozzy. Clearly, you never played match-the-quote-with-the-addict as a child.