Music

Surely there are plenty of artists worthier of a biopic than Mötley Crüe?

A new Netflix film is dishing the dirt on the hedonistic rebels of iffy glam metal. Malcolm Jack suggests other well-lived lives that are worthier of the big screen treatment

They are savages with cash who care nothing about nobody, even each other,” commented manager Doc McGhee less-than-warmly of Mötley Crüe in the band’s 2001 autobiography The Dirt, the STDs’n’all book upon which a forthcoming Netflix biopic of the same name is based. The big-haired LA hellraisers shifted millions of records with their uniquely terrible glam metal, yet are remembered most of all for their legendary appetite for drugs, drink, sex and destruction, such as to endear them to few people whom they met in their pomp. Least of all those on the band’s payroll, it seems.

As the premise for a film, it promises plenty of miscreant thrills, spills and scenes of a sexual nature – albeit a story essentially hollow at its core. If it’s music badassery with heart that Netflix seeks for the biopic treatment, then they could do worse than to consider some of these lesser-recognised cult waifs and strays.

Billy Joe Shaver

Still touring at 79, grizzled Texan country music word-slinger Shaver has battled alcohol and drugs most of his life, lost his son and guitarist Eddy to a heroin overdose, lost two fingers on his right hand in a lumber mill accident, suffered a heart attack onstage, divorced and remarried the same woman three times and miraculously escaped prison for shooting a man in the face. One of outlaw country’s most wanted men, his songs – many of which are about women leaving him, and goodness knows why they’d do that – have been performed by all from Kris Kristofferson to Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan, yet he has laboured in obscurity his whole career thanks to demons and bad luck. Think Johnny Cash biopic Walk The Line rewritten by Charles Bukowski.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTaUbYLzxZs

The Replacements

In January 1986, Minneapolis rock’n’rollers The Replacements had a golden opportunity for primetime success performing on Saturday Night Live, but blew it in a shambolic drunken mess – resulting in a lifetime ban from the show. It’s an episode that typifies one of the great underachievers and most mythically inebriated bands in America music history. The Replacements could have been as big as REM were they not so wracked with self-doubt as to seem to set fire to everything they touched – including, quite literally, cash. It’d be worth making a film about them just for the subplot chronicling their unlikely relationship with fellow Minneapolis musician Prince, who let them record at Paisley Park – and once filled the studio with balloons to cheer up singer Paul Westerberg after a friend of his died.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXD9sxa1Edo

Cosey Fanni Tutti

If any artist on this list’s biopic would be requiring of an 18 certificate then it’s Cosey Fanni Tutti’s, the former member of art collective COUM Transmissions and the band Throbbing Gristle – squat-dwelling 1970s Hull post-punk provocateurs whose acid-trippy live happenings were no stranger to nudity, live sex, bodily fluids and offal. Driven out of her home town, repeatedly investigated for indecency, a survivor of abuse by her long-time partner and bandmate Genesis P-Orridge, she’s celebrated today as a barrier-smashing radical, a feminist icon and the godmother of the British avant-garde. Once responsible for an exhibition so extreme it raised questions in the House of Commons, Tutti’s art is today widely exhibited and has been bought by the Tate, while Throbbing Gristle’s music has influenced everyone from Aphex Twin to Nine Inch Nails.

Charles Bradley

It wouldn’t have a happy ending, but a biopic about the “screaming eagle of soul” would be worth watching most of all for its life-affirming final phase. Born in 1948, Charles Bradley became homeless in his teens, sleeping on New York subway trains. He battled illiteracy, poverty and chronic unemployment, nearly died from a penicillin allergy and found his brother murdered by his own nephew. Inspired by James Brown’s landmark performance at the Apollo Theatre in 1962, music was Bradley’s guiding light and great gift – but he didn’t get his long, long overdue break until being discovered by Daptone Records in the early Noughties. He died from cancer in 2017 at age 68, but not before releasing three critically acclaimed albums, touring the world and finally fulfilling his dreams.

The Dirt premieres on Netflix on March 22

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Soweto Kinch on ripping up the jazz rulebook and how his new BBC show is building community
Soweto Kinch
Music

Soweto Kinch on ripping up the jazz rulebook and how his new BBC show is building community

Iron Maiden legend Bruce Dickinson: 'You don’t need some rock star saying war is a bad thing'
Bruce Dickinson
Letter To My Younger Self

Iron Maiden legend Bruce Dickinson: 'You don’t need some rock star saying war is a bad thing'

Grassroots music venues need your help to survive now more than ever. Here's why
The Nefarious Picaroons play at Fiery Bird in Woking
Venue Watch

Grassroots music venues need your help to survive now more than ever. Here's why

How a band formed in an asylum hotel is giving refugees hope: 'Each note comes from the heart'
Ardavan of The Unknowns
Music

How a band formed in an asylum hotel is giving refugees hope: 'Each note comes from the heart'

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know