Bruce Dickinson and Nikki Sixx have been two of the world’s biggest heavy metal stars for decades. In 1984, they briefly joined forces: it was the year that Iron Maiden, with Dickinson as lead vocalist, embarked on their year-long World Slavery Tour, and Mötley Crüe, with Sixx as bassist, were the support act on the European leg. By the end of the tour, Dickinson and Sixx would be enemies – though just why that is remains unclear.
According to Sixx, before he had even met Dickinson, he had a one-night fling with Dickinson’s wife without yet knowing her connection to Iron Maiden. Dickinson has never publicly addressed Sixx’s claim (though others have backed him up), but the Iron Maiden has ever since that tour been openly disdainful of Mötley Crüe.
The year was 1984, and Iron Maiden were in the midst of an arduous world tour. Lasting 331 days in total, the World Slavery Tour took the heavy metal band across four continents, playing at cities including Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro and Stockholm.
In London, Iron Maiden performed at the Hammersmith Odeon and had an initial meeting with their upcoming opening act: Mötley Crüe.
Mötley Crüe star Nikki Sixx was thrilled to visit London for the first time. The Californian musician was a self-professed Anglophile, and many of his favorite bands were from the capital city.
While staying in his London hotel, Sixx was enjoying local TV one particular evening. “There I am in England, I’m actually in awe at English television, because they have the accent!” he later recalled.
“I’m watching it, and someone knocks on my window at the hotel and says, you know, ‘Ello luv!’ and I’m like, ‘Hi!’ They go, ‘Can I come in?’, and they come in, jump my bones, crawl back out the window!”
“She’s pretty hot, you know, for an English girl,” Sixx elaborated. “They’re a little pasty.” The woman in question was a total stranger to Sixx, but he would realise the following morning that she was not a random fan.
“So I found out the next day. My manager introduced me to the singer from Iron Maiden and said: ‘This is Bruce, you guys are gonna support Iron Maiden. This is gonna be a great opportunity, and Bruce is a gentleman.’ And [Bruce] said, ‘And this is my wife.'”
Sixx said he can’t remember if Bruce’s wife gave him a knowing glance, as he was paralyzed with shock: “That moment in time froze.”
According to his band’s 2001 autobiography The Dirt, Sixx spent the rest of their shared tour dates wondering whether Bruce Dickinson ever found out about the night in London. As the bands performed together across France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, the subject of his steamy night with Dickinson’s wife never arose.
Sixx claims that on Mötley Crüe’s final night on the Iron Maiden tour, Dickinson invited him to engage in a fencing duel, which he refused, fearing for his safety. Dickinson, a keen fencer, may have made the offer in a friendly manner. (Dickinson has also said he wants to fence with Van Halen rocker David Lee Roth, because “he’s a great guy and an incredible performer”.)
At the time of the World Slavery Tour, which began on August 9, 1984 and ended on July 5, 1985, Dickinson was married to Erica ‘Jane’ Barnett. Having begun dating in 1982, the pair divorced in 1987.
The only figure to ever corroborate Sixx’s story in public is Ross Halfin, the band’s photographer at that time. “[Dickinson] hated Nikki because he was f***ing Dickinson’s wife at the time,” Halfin is quoted as saying in Sixx’s 2007 autobiography. “Then again, so were Vince and Tommy, come to think of it…”
Nikki Sixx has returned to the topic of his alleged dalliance with Dickinson’s wife in the years since the publication of The Dirt. According to a 2007 interview with Blender, Sixx heard through the grapevine that Dickinson read The Dirt and was angry at the revelations about his then ex-wife.
“Someone said that Tattooed Millionaire by Bruce Dickinson was about me, but I don’t know,” Sixx told Blender. “It was something to do with the fact that I f***ed his wife, and I think he was upset. That wasn’t my fault, by the way – I want to go on the record. She was his wife, but I didn’t know that. I don’t think Bruce found out about it until The Dirt – I should have kept that a secret.”
(Tattooed Millionaire, a single from Dickinson’s 1990 debut album of the same name, opens with the lyrics “Tattooed boys with expensive toys, living in a bubble of sin”. It’s a clear condemnation of bad boy rockers like Sixx.)
For his part, Bruce Dickinson has refused to address the allegations directly. When quizzed on the topic months after Sixx’s interview, Dickinson replied: “Mötley Crüe – again, famous for being famous. You hear, oh, ‘Mötley Crüe are bad boys who did this and this’. Big deal. I mean, badly behaved boys? This is not new. I don’t see what the big deal is. Go to any rugby club.”
Dickinson did, however, in that same interview offer up a more direct criticism: not of Sixx’s love life, but of his writing skills. He has spoken negatively about The Dirt on several occasions.
While promoting his 2017 autobiography What Does This Button Do?, Dickinson commented that he prefers autobiographies that show “just a really good romp through… life.”
“That was the sort of thing I wanted to do,” he said. “[My book] certainly didn’t want to be The Dirt, because that’s not who I am. I just think that all the mad things I’ve done are more entertaining and interesting than an endless tale of drug abuse and s****ing!”
In another interview to promote his book, Dickinson told Rolling Stone: “I left out wives, children, divorce since it’s not their book in a sense. Because you’re a celebrity, whether you like it or not, whatever you say in a book, impinges massively on other people. I don’t need to indulge in the salacious stuff or tittle-tattle. There’s no point – it’s not The Dirt.”