Mötley Crüe were as famous for their rock ‘n’ roll antics off stage, as they were for their wild performances on stage. In the 1980s there wasn’t a band on the planet who they couldn’t outdrink, but soon their exploits began to overshadow their music. Unsurprisingly, things escalated from a place of fun and frivolity to dangerous territory, which resulted in Nikki Sixx seeing his life flash before his eyes.
Crüe kept on rising and rising throughout the 1980s, by the time they got round to releasing Girls, Girls, Girls in 1987 they were already arena-filling icons which only travelled by private jet and their lifestyles were the very definition of hedonism. The warning sign that their lifestyles were to end on the road to ruin came in 1985 when frontman Vince Neil killed a passenger in his car whilst drink driving, a tragic moment in which two other passengers suffered severe injuries and brain damage too.
This tragic event should have served as a warning to his bandmates — that the way they were living was only going to end one way. The truth is, tragically the band had got so used to recklessly living that it seemed impossible to turn their backs on it. Sixx developed a heroin addiction in the late 1980s as the band’s success increased to meteoric levels, and though his life looked perfect from the outside looking in, it was quite the opposite.
As the group’s status grew to new heights, so did the extremities of their lifestyles. Sixx’s heroin addiction was a clear sign that he was no longer the wild party boy that he had been a few years before, and instead, his only thought was about where his next hit was coming from. His addiction had been building up and up over the last couple of years, to a point where disaster seemed inevitable.
The near-fatal incident occurred on December 23rd, 1987, and the Mötley Crüe bassist was enjoying a hedonistic substance filled Christmas evening with friends such as Guns’ N’ Roses duo Slash and Steven Adler. However, after injecting a lethal dosage of heroin — Sixx was officially pronounced dead for a matter of minutes.
“I tried to sit up to figure out what was going on. I thought it would be hard to lift my body. But to my surprise, I shot upright, as if I weighed nothing,” Sixx said in The Dirt: Confessions of the World’s Most Notorious Rock Band. “Then it felt as if something very gentle was grabbing my head and pulling me upward. Above me, everything was bright white.”
He then added: “I looked down and realised I had left my body. Nikki Sixx or the filthy, tattooed container that had once held him was lying covered face-to-toe with a sheet on a gurney being pushed by medics into an ambulance.”
In Sixx’s autobiography The Heroin Diaries, Mötley Crüe bandmate Vince Neil recalled the devastation he felt when he heard the news. “Maybe deep down I knew it was going to happen one day, but it still tore me to pieces because I loved Nikki,” Neil painfully said. “Even though he was an arrogant, selfish shit. I cried. And I never used to cry then,” he emotionally added.
Sixx woke up from his hospital bed and immediately checked himself out of the hospital, within hours of waking, he had once again shot up. Mötley Crüe were nearly over at this point, they were all on their paths to destruction, and it seemed like the future for the group was incredibly dark. However, their management somehow persuaded them to put their heads together, and all go to rehab together, which they surprisingly obliged to do.
“From the outside looking in, I was living the dream. But in reality, I was in the throes of a disease I couldn’t control, addicted to heroin. I remember very little about that night, but I know someone called an ambulance and saved my life. Today I am 16 years sober and a decade into recovery advocacy,” Sixx wrote in 2017 for the LA Times.
The decision to get clean would be the best thing that the band ever did, whilst they were clean they made their first number one album, 1989’s Dr Feelgood and not only did the spell in rehab keep their common dream alive, but they were also closer than ever before.
Although the story of Mötley Crüe still had plentiful more twists and turns, as did Sixx’s battle with addiction, however, it’s now almost 20 years that Sixx has been clean which is some achievement. The Crüe somehow celebrate their 40th anniversary in 2021, with the four brothers in arms still alive and kicking despite the roadblocks they’ve confronted on the way.