Motley Crue is one of the most notoriously
dangerous rock bands in history, so when the
trailer for the Netflix movie based on The
Dirt memoir proclaimed: “This story is true,”
it was easy to expect a brutally honest story.
And while the Motley Crue movie is close,
it’s not all the way there.
The Dirt dances artfully around the subject
of Motley Crue singers not named Vince Neil,
and it doesn’t even bother mentioning the
band’s first singer.
As Loudwire notes, before Crue could get Neil
locked in, they were in the market for other
singers and eventually found a man named O’Dean.
Although they recorded a demo with him, the
match wasn’t exactly made in heaven.
In the book version of The Dirt, Tommy Lee
describes O’Dean as a round and rather simple
man who was a wonderful singer.
Unfortunately, Nikki Sixx became furious with
the singer because of his weird habit of constantly
wearing a pair of white gloves that he refused
to remove even when he was supposed to clap
in the background of a song.
If conflicts with Sixx weren’t enough to oust
O’Dean from the band, Mick Mars also had plenty
of beef with him.
Mars made it clear he hated O’Dean’s guts
because he thought the singer was a fat hippie.
The movie actually uses some of Mars’ colorful
opinions about their first singer in the scene
where Mars verbally eviscerates a portly rhythm
guitarist also auditioning for the group.
“There’s only room for one guitar player in
this band, and that’s me, so why don’t you
pack up your toys and go home.”
In The Dirt, Tommy Lee meets his idol, Nikki
Sixx from the band London, in a post-show
chance encounter at a diner.
Young Lee nervously introduces himself to
the bass player, the two hit it off, and Lee’s
drumstick spinning skills put him on Sixx’s
radar despite the drummer’s lack of experience
in playing rock, he got his mad spinning skills
from playing in a marching band.
The real story is slightly different.
According to Loudwire, Lee had band experience
before Sixx recruited him for Motley Crue.
He was in a group called Suite 19, and according
to Bang Your Head: The Rise and Fall of Heavy
Metal, Sixx was well aware of this, seeing
as the bassist had unsuccessfully auditioned
for the band twice.
The two actually met through Suite 19 guitarist
Greg Leon, who briefly played with the proto-Motley
Crue before quitting the band, leaving Lee
and Sixx to find a new guitarist.
In The Dirt, recruiting Vince Neil as the
band’s vocalist was easy as pie.
A quick chat with former schoolmate Tommy
Lee and a few seconds of internal debate is
all it takes for the singer to audition.
The biggest conflict comes from Neil’s girlfriend,
who protests that the band plays too hard
until the magic sound of the quartet inevitably
wins her over like only hard rock can.
This is relatively close, but the real Neil
was a tougher customer.
According to Loudwire, the vocalist actually
missed his first audition for Crue, which
caused them to temporarily experiment with
O’Dean on vocals.
When he turned out to be a disaster, Lee pestered
Neil into actually showing up, which he eventually
did with his girlfriend in tow.
She apparently wasn’t a fan, but Neil felt
“screwed over” by his previous band and decided
When the band went to the studio to make a
demo, Neil had only been in the band for a
couple of days and had to keep a lyric sheet
on hand to record the vocals.
Every great band has to start somewhere, and
as The Dirt shows us, Motley Crue was no exception.
The movie depicts their first gig as a clumsy
affair where they initially almost freeze
onstage despite only performing to a handful
One dude spits on Vince Neil’s beloved leather
pants, which causes a huge fight between band
members and the crowd.
This is enough to win the audience over, and
Crue’s reputation is as good as made.
According to LA Weekly, their real first concert
at the Starwood Club was a much-hyped, successful
gig opening for an established hard rock band
called Y&T, in a packed venue with a 600-strong
The more you think about it, the less sense
the movie’s depiction makes.
Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee were both known on
the scene thanks to their previous bands,
Vince Neil’s ability to take over the stage
was pretty much his entire thing, and Mick
Mars was a veteran of umpteen bands.
They may have been new together, but they
were by no means wet behind the ears.
Game of Thrones star Iwan Rheon’s slightly
off-putting charisma is essential in depicting
Mick Mars, the guitar player who self-medicates
his constant physical pain with booze and
is always slightly tired of his younger bandmates
and their excesses.
“You’re goddamn right I’m old.
Old enough to know better than to waste my
time f—in around with a bunch of rug monkeys.”
Rheon’s Mars is a stoic, sarcastic sage who
only emerges from his bottle to discuss the
band’s artistic direction or make a passing
comment that he, unlike the rest of the band,
greatly respects women and refuses to take
part in general Crue groupie debauchery.
As for the real Mick Mars, well, he’s almost
certainly the most virtuous member of Motley
Crue, if only because the others were always
so happily out of control that an older guy
with serious health issues could hardly hope
Still, that doesn’t mean he’s quite as innocent
as The Dirt makes him appear.
In 1985, the real Mars stated in a Georgia
Straight interview that not only are groupies
a blessing but he probably wouldn’t even have
become a musician if it weren’t for them.
Looks like Nikki Sixx may have been right
when he told Louder:
Regardless of how much music he’s contributed
to the world, Nikki Sixx will always be remembered
for his temporary death on December 23rd,
Naturally, his sort-of fatal heroin overdose
makes it into the movie, but in a fairly condensed
What’s strange, though, is the way The Dirt
shies away from showing just who Sixx was
partying with at the time.
As Ultimate Classic Rock describes, Sixx overdosed
after a hard day of partying with Steven Adler
and Slash from Guns N’ Roses, and Robbin Crosby
from Ratt, for those who remember Ratt.
The failure to mention these particular celebrities
The presence of the Guns N’ Roses crowd in
particular was significant because it may
have played a part in saving Sixx’s life.
Slash’s girlfriend was the person who gave
Sixx mouth-to-mouth resuscitation while the
paramedics made their way to the scene.
The movie leaves out these details and ends
the scene as Sixx passes out.
The only thing hinting at the possible presence
of the Guns N’ Roses folks is a vaguely Slash-like
figure we briefly glimpse lounging on a couch
at the very start of the scene.
One of the events Vince Neil might have liked
The Dirt to gloss over is the infamous death
of Razzle, the Hanoi Rocks drummer who died
when Neil drunkenly crashed his car during
a booze run on December 8th, 1984.
To its credit, the movie doesn’t shy away
from Razzle’s tragic fate, but it still can’t
resist making the whole incident seem a little
less damning than it actually was.
While The Dirt does show Neil with a bottle
of beer in his hand before hopping behind
the wheel, he can hold a coherent enough conversation
to pass for sober, and the whole accident
is made out to be a momentary lapse of attention
due to some delightful banter with the Hanoi
According to Louder, the real incident was
a significantly harsher look for Neil.
Instead of the mild beer buzz depicted in
the movie, Neil was reportedly “heavily intoxicated”
when he hopped behind the wheel, and instead
of drifting into the wrong lane while deep
in discussion, the Crue singer was swerving
around a stationary firetruck and hit a wet
spot while driving 65 mph in a 25 mph zone.
He hit two incoming cars before coming to
When Vince Neil ended his first Motley Crue
tenure in 1992, The Dirt makes it seem like
his main post-band activities include hanging
out in his favorite bar and desperately trying
to cope with the fact that his young daughter
is dying of cancer.
As People magazine reported, the sickness
and death of Neil’s daughter Skylar happened
for real and was absolutely devastating to
However, this doesn’t mean Neil spent all
his waking hours focusing on that and feeling
bad for himself.
According to Ultimate Classic Rock, Neil signed
a new solo deal with Warner Brothers pretty
much as soon as he was out of Crue, and his
debut solo single was released the same year.
His first solo album, Exposed, was out in
the spring of 1993, and he embarked on a tour
with Van Halen.
There’s no telling what Neil, or Motley Crue,
for that matter, could have achieved had the
tides of pop culture not turned against them.
As grunge started taking over the world, glam
metal started to become obsolete… and Neil’s
second solo album peaked at a less than respectable
Number 139 on the charts.
In The Dirt, Motley Crue reunites with wayward
vocalist Vince Neil like old friends making
amends after a stupid argument that drove
It’s easy, it’s organic, and all it really
takes is a conversation in a bar.
It would be an amazing story, if it were true.
According to Ultimate Classic Rock, Motley
Crue had no intention of letting their new
singer John Corabi go, despite his lackluster
reception by the fans.
Nikki Sixx even vowed that the Corabi-led
Motley Crue would use adversity as fuel and
make the follow-up to their commercially failed
self-titled album from 1994 a true magnum
Meanwhile, Neil seemed happy with his solo
path, despite dwindling album sales.
No one really wanted a reunion, and it was
actually Motley Crue’s manager and Neil’s
manager who started working together to bring
their clients back into their money-making
In 1997, their efforts finally bore fruit.
According to Ultimate Classic Rock, a blind-sided
Corabi spent a month as a fifth member of
the band, playing guitar.
Finally, it all just, quote, “kind of stopped,”
and with that, he was out.
As The Dirt mentions during his introduction,
guitarist Mick Mars suffers from a rare form
of arthritis that is slowly fusing his spine
solid and severely affecting his mobility.
In the final moments of the movie, the band
is reunited with Vince Neil, and Mars’ story
receives a small bookend of its own when he
goes through a hip replacement surgery that
restores some of his mobility.
Mars springs out of the hospital as his usually
surly self, but the real road to the operation
was far longer and harder than the movie shows.
“Blah dee blah f—in blah.”
According to Ultimate Classic Rock, Mars was
living in chronic pain for a long time after
Neil rejoined, and when Motley Crue took a
break in the early 2000s he even stopped playing
guitar for a full two years.
When Nikki Sixx sought to reunite the original
quartet in 2004, he was shocked to discover
Mars had turned into a frail wreck of a man
with a severe addiction to painkillers.
His hip replacement operation was part of
digging him out of this rut, but even worse
was the fact that he couldn’t play, or even
hold, the guitar anymore.
He says he had to reacquaint himself with
the instrument with the help of a neuropsychiatrist.
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