RECORD STORE TALES #978: Motley Imposter
Has any band merrily skipped through drama like Motley Crue? Very few. From near death (Nikki Sixx) to actual death (Vince’s car crash), to all the women and parties, there are no bands like Motley Crue. The drama overshadowed the music on many occasions, especially during the “Pam and Tommy” years. One of the most bizarre Crue stories involved an imposter posing as Nikki Sixx.
The year was 1988 and his name was Matthew Trippe (reported in some articles as Matthew Von Trippe, getting his middle name John wrong). We briefly discussed the Trippe-y story back in Record Store Tales #656: The One They Call Dr. Feelgood. Matthew’s claim was that the real Sixx had a dibilitating car accident in 1982, and so a lookalike (Trippe) was hired to play bass and write music with the band, with no one in the audience being any the wiser. Trippe had tattoos similar to Nikki and dyed his hair black. The real Nikki Sixx was having his own issues, but being replaced in the Crue was not one of them. Kerrang broke the story in March of ’88, with lawsuits a-flyin’. Trippe wanted compensation for what he claimed were two or three years in Motley Crue.
You can hear all about the Trippe story tonight on Scotch on the Rocks, from the real expert – writer Brent Jensen. Long story short – the lawsuits went nowhere because there was only ever one real Nikki Sixx. Deke, Brent and I will have the whole story for you tonight, while presently I’ll take you on a somewhat different detour.
When this story hit all the rock mags, my regular publication Hit Parader ran with it as well. The idea of a fake Nikki Sixx wasn’t all that unbelievable. I had heard many stories about who really played on Kiss albums over the years. Was it Ace, was it Vinnie, or someone else? In the 80s these details were hard to come by and rumours flew. If Motley had a fake Nikki, it didn’t seem unbelievable. Kerrang ran the Trippe/Sixx story as if it were truth. Visual differences from early Nikki to present Nikki added fuel to the fire. But it was Vince Neil who was the subject of the imposter rumours in our neighborhood.
After reading the magazine, I approached my next door neighbour George to ask if he had heard the story.
“A Nikki Sixx imposter? No, I never heard that before. I thought you were going to say Vince Neil,” he said matter-of-factly.
I was surprised. “No, the magazine said Nikki Sixx. What’s up with Vince Neil?”
George got serious. His eyes sometimes fluttered when he talked serious.
There was a girl he liked. I don’t think she was ever his girlfriend, but he talked about her as if she was. She was a rocker girl and she loved Motley Crue, especially Vince Neil.
“Well,” he began, “Angie knows Motley Crue. There’s nobody in town who knows Motley Crue better than she does. And she swears that Vince Neil is not the real Vince Neil.”
Really? That’s a bombshell.
George continued. “She’s studied pictures of Vince, and there are some where she has said flat-out, ‘that is not Vince Neil’. And she would know.”
“This article says it was Nikki Sixx, not Vince,” I countered.
“Angie would know,” said George. “She loves Vince Neil and she insists that the Vince Neil today is not the same guy that was in Motley Crue before. If anyone has been replaced by an imposter, it’s Vince Neil,” he insisted.
“I guess we’ll see what happens next,” I concluded.
Of course the truth isn’t that confusing. Vince Neil has had a few plastic surgeries over the years. If George’s girl thought Vince looked different, that would be why.
As for Trippe, who died in 2014, he never came clean about his ruse. He did go down in history as the subject of a Motley Crue song called “Say Yeah”, which is better than he probably deserved!
“Get out, out of my face, get the fuck out of my face!”