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Ready for the long haul
Ready for the long haul

Like the Ramones, the Misfits or current touring buddies Kiss, Los Angeles' favourite sons Motley Crue are today as much brand as band.

They find themselves on that strange stretch of highway, only visited by musical giants; a place where a band's existence is as much about serving its own legacy as it is about breaking new ground.

Born under the neon haze of the 80s and hardened during the 90s when all but a few of the hair metal elite were crushed by the grunge uprising, Motley Crue have earnt their spot in the annals of music history.

Having lived up to their notorious reputation, (as vividly described in their bestselling autobiography, The Dirt,) the Crue have seen, and more often than not, done it all.

There is however one anomaly in the story, one exception to the rule. While the other members of the band log as much time in celebrity tabloids as they do on stage, guitarist Mick Mars is the gentle soul of the chaos machine.

The softly spoken and well mannered Mars has long been the odd one out. At 61, the guitarist has a few years on the other lads (all in their early 50s) and, while the band still trades on its party reputation, Mars gave away the drink and the insanity that goes with it long ago.

"Let me think, how old was I? I was close to 40," Mars says. "I looked at myself in the mirror one time and I saw my belly stickin' way the hell out there and I was like 'Nope, I'm not doin' this anymore'. So I kinda weaned myself off, 'cause I was drinking three-fifths of vodka a day and then going to my room and ordering champagne . . . I was just like 'No, no, no; I'm not going to do that'."

While the decision to ensconce himself firmly on the wagon has kept Mars out of jail, rehab and other rock-star haunts, his clean lifestyle is also a foil against ongoing health problems.

"It's called Ankylosing spondylitis; some days it's worse than others," Mars says of the arthritic inflammation disease he has lived with since being diagnosed at the age of 17. "The bad thing is that I have it, the good thing is that it doesn't affect or go into your hands or your feet, so I'm all good there, I'm just bent. Sometimes I call myself Quasimodo; I think I've shrunk like four or five inches (10-13cm) from my spine being compressed."

Although the disease led to hip replacement surgery in 2004, Mars was back on the road with the band in 2005 after months of intense physical therapy.

Mars has lived much of his life in discomfort and quite often pain, but his drive to push Motley Crue forward is clear as he ponders the future. When discussing the Rolling Stones' recent 50th anniversary, he laughs and assures me the Crue will get there also.

"I think we'll go on for a long time, until one of us can't. Anything can happen but I expect the band to be continuing for many years," Mars chuckles.

"I won't let anything get in my way, even if I lost a hand, I would take a piece of metal and put it on and play all slide. There's nothing that would stop me from doing this. Nothing."