Tattoos & Tequila: To Hell and Back with One of Rock’s Most Notorious Frontmen
Vince Neil with Mike Sager
If you live in Maine, find it at Bull Moose!
How does one even begin to summarize three decades of fame, debauchery, heartbreak, friends and fortunes made and lost? Vince Neil and co-writer Mike Sager give it a hell of a whirl. We’ll set aside the intimation that Neil’s been put up to the task by his management, that maybe it’s his response to the other books on Mötley Crüe, because the book gives us what we all yearn for– a glimpse into what it’s like to be one of rock and roll’s greatest and loudest.
I admit that the first two chapters were like a ride with an old friend on the amphetamine train– talk about a whacked attention span. Thank goodness for Sager’s superb skills at turning chaos into something comprehensible. I took this to be almost a direct translation from his first interviews with Vince, and the guy deserves a crapload of credit for translating the rest of the story into an easily digestible smorgasbord of girls, planes, drugs and hooliganism. Cameo appearances by all four of Neil’s wives, his parents, and a handful of others help Sager fill in some of the gaps caused by the Mötley frontman’s notorious blackouts.
From his obsession with his 4th grade teacher, thousands of groupies that were obsessed with him, and the wives, we hear all about them: Girls, Girls, Girls! Long before the song there was nakedness, orgies, no standards to break, and no rules. Honestly, by page 100 I noted, “girls, girls, girls…I get it, I get it, I get it!” Half of the troubles in his life were cock-driven, not rock-driven. (And I’m not just talking about the weekly penicillin shots!) Amongst the salacious stories, Vince reveals his absolute inability to be alone. His flamboyance acts as a cover-up for a genuinely introverted and shy guy. Awwww, no wonder all the girls like him!
Don’t be disappointed, but Vince was a pretty normal kid growing up in Cali, Compton in fact, on the verge of the violent transformation that occurred there. Both he and his sister recount a story about their house getting hit by a bullet one night, prompting the family to move to another neighborhood. He hung out with friends, got into trouble stealing, and smoked the same weed in the same park as everybody else. He loved surfing. A favorite factoid was learning that his first car was a 1953 Chevy truck. It feels pretty badass to point out that was MY first car, too. Yeeyaa. Actually, alongside girls, cars make regular appearances throughout the book, such as the yellow Lamborghini he drove to the first book interview.
How did the rock star movement get rolling? Vince was a lip-syncing champion! All the moves and showmanship started with a competition at the local rolling skating rink when he was sixteen. He took first place for “Let it Ride” by Bachman Turner Overdrive, dressed up in bell-bottoms and polyester, swinging his mic around. Even with the costume he managed to get laid that night. No surprise that he got completely hooked on performing as the wins (and the girls) added up. Given that, it might come as a surprise that Vince never actually considered singing until he was randomly asked to do so. Thank god some guitarist at his high school thought that because he had long hair he might make a good band member!
Tattoos & Tequila spends all the appropriate time telling us about the growth of Rockandi (that first band), how he met Tommy Lee and the rest of the gang, how Mötley came together, and everything else you would expect. I always like hearing about a band in its early days, the unmistakable excitement as they conquered all their firsts: first gig (a house party), first big gigs (all over the Sunset Strip), first 7” vinyl (Stick to Your Guns/Toast of the Town), first tour (opening for KISS: Creatures of the Night), first record (Too Fast for Love), first single (Live Wire). They worked their asses off, and man they were having a blast. You completely get the sense from Vince that through those days it was like, “Whoa. Holy shit. Check this out! We’re opening for KISS *squee*!” He doesn’t actually say when that changed, but by his 40s, one of the ‘wife cameos’ points out that he hadn’t been to a grocery store in his entire adult life. W.O.W.
Beyond the rock star stories, the book also transmits sadness and disconnect. By the time you reach the glossy pictures, you realize this isn’t just a glamorous version of highs and lows. It begins to read more like a grainy filmstrip with Technicolor thrown in. A car accident that left Vince responsible for a friend’s death stamped an indelible mark on him and all his relationships. Chapters that cover his young daughter Skylar’s battle with cancer and her death are heartbreaking. Additionally awful was to read that so much damage was already done to the friendships with Tommy, Nikki and Mick that none of them came to his side during those months in the hospital. There is no Mötley Crüe kumbaya, even today. And although mostly sober now, battles with booze and drugs run the entire length of his life.
Tattoos and Tequila keeps it pretty real, more human interest story than tabloid regurgitation. The book ends with Vince’s life as it is today. Invested in Las Vegas, performing in his own band, the ventures in his tattoo shops, Feelgood’s restaurants and his tequila factory keeps him happy and busy (Aha- now you understand the title). All in all, it’s a pretty decent read– especially if they were your hero band or you’ve read any of the band’s other books. Mötley Crüe endures because the fans endure. Vince endures because he’s Vince Neil.
by Aimi Baldwin, Guest Contributor