Nikki Sixx,
The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star
(Pocket, 2007)

Nikki Sixx has treated his fans and the memoir-consuming public to a real, live diary of a dope fiend. The Heroin Diaries: A Year in the Life of a Shattered Rock Star recounts a dark year in the life of the Motley Crue bandleader/bassist.

In 1987, the Crue was on top of the world with the Girls, Girls, Girls album release and world tour, but Nikki was hopelessly addicted to heroin (and coke and pills and casual sex) and living a caricature of the rock-star lifestyle. (In perhaps the lowest moment of the book, he steals the girlfriend of a member of his management team. Well, he doesn't "steal" her. He meets her, wows her with his rock-star ways, bends her over some equipment backstage and moves on -- without any regard for the relationship he just destroyed).

I had some hesitations about an art-style book written in diary form, with a smattering of lyrics and ink-blot-style illustrations. I'm a huge fan of The Dirt, and at a quick glance this appeared to be more of a vanity project. Well, don't judge a book by its cover! The Heroin Diaries does contain Nikki's insane drug-addled ramblings, but it is augmented by quotes from band members, ex-girlfriends, photographers, band management, family and friends. These are interspersed with the rather terse diary entries to provide perspective and context for Nikki's writings. All the players are brutally honest about Nikki's (and their own) failings during the hedonistic days of Motley Crue. (I now forgive the delay of the release of this book -- I'm glad the authors and editors spent the time getting these quotes on the record.) The reader is treated to an inside look at what it is like to have all the money in the world and not observe any of the limits of traditional society.

Nikki and his band shared a love/hate relationship with the drug. Nikki knew it inspired paranoia and ill health, but he craved the escape. His bandmates disliked Nikki's strung-out flakiness, but they also needed the break from Nikki's intensity, and recording sessions were more pleasant when heroin took some of the edge off. Nikki's drug dealer made a lot of money off the star, so he was always willing to make special deliveries or go out of his way to get back his customer when Nikki did a stint in rehab.

The Heroin Diaries is a priceless piece of rock history (Nikki loved the as-yet-undiscovered Guns N' Roses and loathed the goody-two-shoes Whitesnake with their reliably decent performances). During this time, Nikki bought out all his band's master tapes from his former record company, which was a musicians-rights coup that has hardly been rivaled in the ensuing two decades. With a gag order on the specifics, he is only able to skirt around the issue, but this is just one of many accomplishments Nikki achieved while addicted to dope. Who knows what he could have done off the stuff? The book's architecture allows Nikki to step fully into the role of dope fiend, without preachy commentary and wisdom of hindsight, while his friends, family and band provide the context and real-world perspective on his downward spiral. Only at one point does Nikki interrupt his own writings with a note that he was obviously lying to himself and his diary about his relationship with heroin as he was about to embark on tour.

This is drug-addition, rock-star style, and recovery-memoir, rock-star style. It's a match made in rock 'n' roll heaven. I'm glad Nikki is still here with us to share his story and keep making music.

review by
Jessica Lux-Baumann

12 January 2008

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