Few books advertise their own redundancy with the flair of Vince Neil’s new memoir. Not only does the Mötley Crüe lead singer repeatedly mention The Dirt, the group biography Neil Strauss put together nearly a decade ago, he quotes it in a few places, which makes Tattoos & Tequila: To Hell And Back With One Of Rock’s Most Notorious Frontmen seem like a greatest-hits album with a few new songs attached. That’s especially pronounced since the book is almost entirely concerned with Mötley Crüe’s hard-partying ’80s, though it shares a title and promotional priority with Neil’s new solo album.
The Dirt was an oral history, and Tattoos & Tequila is structured similarly, with a handful of Neil’s ex-wives, old bandmates, and immediate family providing some of the perspective the singer either lacks altogether (“What is it about females that makes you just want to feel them all the time?”) or simply can’t offer, since his memory is full of holes as a result of all that storied substance abuse. (“My mom grew up in New Mexico, I think.”) Aside from many rock ’n’ roll war stories, endless tales of highly successful womanizing, acres of alcohol and drugs, and plenty of regret over genuine tragedies, such as driving the car that killed his friend Razzle (of Hanoi Rocks) and the loss of his young daughter Skyler, most of what Neil has to say outside the basic narrative boils down to free-floating rambling about various present-day business interests—his burgeoning restaurant chain, for example—as well as his undisguised enmity toward his fellow Crüe members.
All this goes down quickly while being only intermittently entertaining. Neil’s co-writer, Esquire’s showily terse Mike Sager, presents the chapters as setpieces from an interview with Neil, with plenty of seemingly verbatim transcription (“Putting me in jail didn’t, it didn’t do anything”) alternating with obvious ghostwriting (“the historic Cherokee Studios, on Fairfax Avenue in Hollywood,” where Crüe recorded Shout At The Devil, “boasted a rich heritage of recording artists and platinum albums”). Sager’s introduction, and several moments where Neil suggests subtitles for the book, make Sager’s work-for-hire status clear; he turns the conventions of the ghostwritten bio into a kind of running subplot. But just as often, his approach reads as veiled contempt for his assignment. Considering that this book exists primarily to recap an earlier one, and to tie in with a new Vince Neil solo album, who can blame him?