As Christmas approaches they like to tell us it’s a time of peace, love and goodwill to all men. I usually try to go with that one, but at the end of 1984 I have to admit I wasn’t feeling overly charitable towards Mötley Crüe. Not that I disliked the band. I’d always felt pretty warm towards them ever since they’d managed to send me a copy of their independent album release ‘Too Fast For Love’ while I was still a schoolboy running Phoenix Heavy Metal Fanzine at the arse end of 1981. My dad, incidentally – and legendarily – had looked at the cover with the scrawly Mötley logo and immediately misinterpreted the band name as ‘Molly Shay’! Free albums, especially free albums from obscure American rock bands, weren’t all that plentiful at the time. I digress, though…
Exactly why I wasn’t happy with Mötley was because as far as I was concerned they’d killed Razzle. Razzle – aka Nick Dingley – was the drummer in Hanoi Rocks, the Finnish glam/punk/rock band that had turned my world upside down 24 years ago. Hanoi’s hybrid of all that was good in the world of guitar had taken me outside of the more traditional world of heavy metal that I knew and into something more exotic and theatrical. The fake leopard skin jacket wasn’t far around the corner once I’d fallen in love with the ‘Back To Mystery City’ album, I can assure you.
On December 8, 1984, however, Hanoi’s upward trajectory seemed to have taken a nosedive when the news was relayed that Razzle had been killed in a car crash in Los Angeles. As the first sketchy details began to emerge into a pre-Internet world that was slow to wake up, it appeared that the driver of the car had been drunk. And that driver was Mötley Crüe frontman Vince Neil. Now I liked the Crüe well enough, but to me they were no Hanoi. And while with most bands the loss of a drummer wouldn’t prove to be a fatal blow, within the dynamics of Hanoi Razzle was different. Although he’d only been in the group a couple of years, it was Razzle who seemed to have cemented their wide-boy rocker style. If you ever want to check out his utter charm, take a listen to ‘Boiler (Me Boiler ’n’ Me)’ from Hanoi’s ’84 album ‘Two Steps From The Move’ where he steps up to the mic for some proto-rapping and you’ll understand.
I was spending some time studying in France at the time with my Scouse mate, the winkle-picker and mohair jumper-wearing Barry Ellis. We must have been something to see wandering around Rouen in a glammed-up daze chunnering ‘Razzle est mort’ to each other. I seem to remember we got massively pissed that night in a misguided tribute to someone we saw as a fallen brother in glam rock arms.
Hanoi never did recover. Although they soldiered on in various guises and, in fact, have only just decided to call it a day in their current incarnation at the end of 2008, it just wasn’t the same for me without Razzle. Seeing the band perform on British telly shortly after Razzle’s death with vocalist Mike Monroe’s tears rolling down his face as he sang ‘Million Miles Away’ really was a moving moment. Well it affected me, anyway! Check it out on You Tube You Tube.
Of course Mötley went from strength to strength and eventually I forgave them for what they’d done to Hanoi. Especially after, in another Christmas-related incident, they once cancelled a UK gig giving the spurious reason that there was “too much snow on the roof” at the proposed venue, thereby rendering it dangerous to play in. When Kerrang! magazine’s Jon Hotten interviewed, I think, Tommy Lee some time later and mentioned this ridiculous reasoning, Lee simply exploded with laughter and said, “Snow on the roof? Snow up my nose, more like!” And so how could you not extend peace, love and goodwill to the geezer?!
HoJo rocked as a top journalist on legendary UK metal magazine
Kerrang! and now runs a way-cool rock T-shirt site at www.saltyrockz.com.