i recently went about revisiting MARILYN MANSON's memoir THE LONG HARD ROAD OUT OF HELL (HARPERCOLLINS, 1998) that he co-wrote with NEIL STRAUSS during the early peak of his career post ANTI-CHRIST SUPERSTAR. it's funny how much this book is a product of its time with MANSON more or less self-defining his image in a pre-COLUMBINE media landscape that largely took his bait and made him into a scapegoat for society's ills.
this book came about a few years before his interview in MICHAEL MOORE's documentary BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE (UNITED ARTISTS, 2002) where MANSON presented himself as a thoughtful commentator on AMERICAN culture and society with respect to gun violence. he told MOORE that basically the media turned them into martyrs through their non-stop news coverage, providing incentive for future mass murderers. dude was totally on point and we are still dealing with this death spiral of bullying, media coverage and access to automatic weapons.
i would argue that he comes across as equally thoughtful in this book, if for other reasons as here he seems interested in familiar early career ROCK band fodder like infighting between ex-bandmates, record labels, rock journalists, groupies and a healthy amount of requisite self-mythologizing.
its odd thinking about all these ALTERNATIVE ROCK bands from the 90s that pushed back against society during the CLINTON administration (RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE similarly comes to mind). where are these button-pushers now when we need them? or is it that the buttons they pressed no longer work in our overly-saturated social media landscape that trades and sells on outrage. maybe MANSON and his ilk (OZZY OSBOURNE, ALICE COOPER, etc) are anachronisms from another era when people cared enough to get angry and protest. that's what i kept thinking when recently rereading his memoir, which i recommend for its intelligence and debauchery. just like the man himself.
then again, i don't know what to believe anymore about his character. recently his former girlfriend EVAN RACHEL WOOD made public allegations that he "groomed" her as a teenager when he was in his mid 30s back in the late 2000s. another former girlfriend, ROSE MCGOWAN, has praised him for his steadfast support and outspokenness as a fervent ally of the #METOO movement.
so... yeah, i dont know.
maybe he is a monster after all. maybe he isnt. not sure who to believe here.
i would like to get this out of the way right at the beginning, this is the greatest book about musicians ever.
and the recent shit film based on it did not do this book justice.
expertly edited (and in all likelihood ghostwritten) by NEW YORK TIMES writer NEIL STRAUSS, THE DIRT: CONFESSIONS OF THE WORLD'S MOST NOTORIOUS ROCK BAND (HARPER COLLINS, 2001) is megalomania personified, which coincidentally also describes the music of its subject, 80s HAIR METAL icons MÖTLEY CRÜE.
i have to hand it to STRAUSS, he really did a stellar job of milking out all the shallow narcissism of his subjects by allowing them each room to shape the narrative. this was done through structuring the book in a way were each chapter was written by one of the four members, each commenting on all that came before. essentially this book is four competing narrators that are by definition unreliable. this decision regarding structure allows the band to demonstrate their callow pettiness and baser drives far better than a straightforward hagiography by a single author could ever do.
it also makes for numerous hilarious moments, where seemingly the reader learns in real-time the numerous trespasses and poor decision-making of members against the other (i.e. sleeping with each other's girlfriends/wives, arguing over who started the band, etc) and their reaction to such. its genius and ultimately you don't believe any of them. its a book that makes you rethink what the definition of "truth" is and if determinism even exists decades before KELLYANNE CONWAY or SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS polluted our national consciousness.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
on a personal side, when i was in undergrad at RUTGERS i took this 20th century british literature class when i got an assignment to compare the JULIAN BARNES novel TALKING IT OVER (VINTAGE 1991) novel to any piece of literature. the professor's main gig was at nearby COLUMBIA and people took this class specifically to try to ingratiate themselves to her in hopes of getting a good word in i guess. TALKING IT OVER is about a love triangle and it is written in first person with three competing narrators, each undercutting the others rendering everyone unreliable. obviously my first thought went to THE DIRT mainly due to its structural similarities. i figure that all four MÖTLEY CRÜE members were liars so technically this "nonfiction" book was really fiction anyway.
long story short the professor was impressed and even read aloud a TOMMY LEE quote to class not fully aware of what she had done. that was easily the highlight of my academic career.
could not recommend this book and more forcefully, its worth it even if you hate their music and HAIR METAL in general. it transcends its subject. a classic.
BOOK REVIEW | "DON"T TRY THIS AT HOME: A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF DAVE NAVARRO" BY DAVE NAVARRO & NEIL STRAUSS
there was an interesting period in the late 90s when guitarist DAVE NAVARRO was without a regular gig as it had been years since he left the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS and JANE'S ADDICTION had recently broken up for the second time. he was also recently divorced (pre-CARMEN ELECTRA). it was during this time that he bunkered himself into his HOLLYWOOD HILLS home and chose to document a year in his life ANDY WARHOL-style, by buying and installing a vintage photo-booth and requiring every person that entered his house (celebrities, models, comedians, hangers-on, musicians, groupies, maids, plumbers, drug dealers, etc) to take a photo when entering. WARHOL famously setup a 16mm film camera at his FACTORY studio and had everyone sit for several minutes, the idea being that after a while you stop posing and act like your authentic self.
DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME: A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF DAVE NAVARRO (HARPERCOLLINS, 2004) is the culmination of NAVARRO and co-writer NEIL STRAUSS contextualizing these photographs into NAVARRO's relapse into heroin addiction. you would think that this premise would be easy fodder for glamorizing drug addiction, especially with the seeming young HOLLYWOOD in-crowd partaking in his late night activities on a semi-regular basis. but the book really just sets up how lost he was at the time. it would be years before he would properly go about getting professional help regarding the trauma of dealing with his mother's murder by the hand of a jealous ex-boyfriend in his formative years as a teenager.
all that being said, i can't imagine the seductive power of being so young and admired. i don't know how anyone in that situation would not become a full blown addict with the HOLLYWOOD set. but he got out of it. he recovered.
and i think that is the reason he chose to write and have this book published, to show others (maybe within the music community) that there is a way out, no matter how deep and dependent you are on the drug community. in the years since more members of the community have passed on from drugs or drug-related activities, most notably CHRIS CORNELL, MICHAEL JACKSON, AMY WINEHOUSE, TOM PETTY, MAC MILLER, PRINCE, SCOTT WEILAND (STONE TEMPLE PILOTS), JANI LANE (WARRENT), LIL PEEP, WHITNEY HOUSTON, RICK JAMES, WAYNE STATIC (STATIC-X), IKE TURNER and THE REV (AVENGED SEVENFOLD).
i really feel this book was meant for his peers and not the general public. to the public parts of this book come off salacious and voyeuristic, but to a musician of any importance my guess is this unending expanding cadre of enablers is more than familiar. to them by showing his reality, hopefully it'll make them seek help.
as for NAVARRO, i wish he'd stop with his addiction to hosting shitty REALITY TV shows. i'm just saying.