[Review] The First 21 - How I Became Nikki Sixx by Nikki Sixx
Rock-and-roll icon and three-time bestselling author Nikki Sixx tells hisorigin story: how Frank Feranna became Nikki Sixx, chronicling his fascinatingjourney from irrepressible Idaho farmboy to the man who formed the revolutionary rock group Mötley Crüe.
Nikki Sixx is one of the most respected, recognizable, and entrepreneurial icons in the music industry. As the founder of Mötley Crüe, who is now in his twenty-first year of sobriety, Sixx is incredibly passionate about his craft and wonderfully open about his life in rock and roll, and as a person of the world. Born Franklin Carlton Feranna on December 11, 1958, young Frankie was abandoned by his father and partly raised by his mother, a woman who was ahead of her time but deeply troubled. Frankie ended up living with his grandparents, bouncing from farm to farm and state to state. He was an all-American kid—hunting, fishing, chasing girls, and playing football—but underneath it all, there was a burning desire for more, and that more was music. He eventually took a Greyhound bound for Hollywood.
After I picked up and read The Heroin Diaries - literally in a matter of days it was that good - I knew I had to pick up and read more of his work. So off I went to Amazon, saw Sixx had recently had a new book released and into my kindle it went. The book had rave reviews and had topped the bestseller lists - oftentimes I'm wary of things like that, especially when it comes to memoirs but I knew, having read The Heroin Diaries, that this wouldn't be poorly written. And let me tell you, I was not disappointed.
The First 21 is an origin story, first and foremost. Such a term we have come to associate with superhero movies and the like, but this is a real one. We know this man as Nikki Sixx, bass player and Rockstar extraordinaire with the infamous Motley Crue, a man who hit rock bottom thanks to drug addiction and clawed his way back. But who was he before he became Nikki Sixx? That very question is answered in this book - and it's answered in a way that has you following Sixx's early life like the rollercoaster it was. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll want to punch this guy in the face and then you'll want to hug the absolute shit out of him.
As with any memoir it starts with his birth. He was born Franklin Carlton Ferrana and had a tumultuous childhood, moving from place to place. The most stable environment that he had growing up was with his grandparents, and you can really feel the love and respect that he has for these two people in his life. He goes into detail of his chaotic childhood, writing candidly about being abandoned by his father, how he truly discovered music thanks to one of his mother's boyfriends and how that grew into a love for music, and an itch that he could only scratch by eventually upping sticks and moving to Hollywood.
As with any Hollywood story, Sixx didn't find instant success. He spent time living with his uncle (a well known individual in the music industry), working a number of jobs simply just to survive. He tells stories of how he and his friends sold lightbulbs and how they started their own little lightbulb business, scamming customers away from their old company. There are stories too of how he stole a bass guitar and how he ended up pawning it, only to buy it back once he had some money.
Success started to come for him and he joined the band London - they became well known on the Hollywood circuit, but it didn't work out. Things started to look up when he met the lads who would go on to form the Crue with him - Tommy Lee, Vince Neil and Mick Mars. Sixx had a vision at this point - he knew what he wanted and where to take his musical journey. The four of them formed a band, they played small gigs on the Sunset Strip only to be booked by more and more venues. This brought money. It brought girls. And of course it brought drugs. This was Motley Crue and they would go on to become on of the greatest bands the world had ever seen, dominating the rock scene in the 80's and 90's.
The title "The First 21" refers to the first 21 years of his life and this part of his story ends when he legally changed his name from Franklin Ferrana to Nikki Sixx - the back story to how he changed his name certainly had me chuckling to myself. I won't go into it here so as not to spoil it for anyone who doesn't know it.
Sixx has done it again with this book. He has created a book that is a page turner, a read that you just won't want to put down. Quite simply, this book is an absolute triumph and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the Crue and wants to know more about how Nikki Sixx came to be. A well written, at times funny yet heart wrenching piece of work - Sixx should be proud of what he has created here. I'd like to see more from him in the future - I genuinely think if he were to write a novel, that it would be amazing.