Friday, January 21, 2005

The Scar (T)issues of Anthony Kiedis

Scar Tissue, the autobiography of Red Hot Chili Peppers vocalist Anthony Kiedis, opens with a present day frame, giving Kiedis a chance to introduce himself and make some allusions to his drug history, something very central to this book. From there it moves quickly to his childhood, when Kiedis bounced back and forth between his doting mother in Grand Rapids, Michigan to his drug dealing father in Hollywood, California who held dreams of becoming an actor. As Kiedis moved into his early teens, he became harder and harder for his mother to control and began living with his father full time. Young Kiedis becomes a tag-a-long to his father, accompanying him to hip rock clubs and wild parties; his father provides him with pattern-setting experiences, like his first experimentations with drugs and sexuality. An odd source of stability for him was Sonny Bono (yes, that Sonny Bono); a customer of Kiedi's father, Bono would often watch over young Anthony and tried to reel in some of his more wild tendencies.

Surprisingly, Kiedis managed to do fairly well in high school, showing strong talents in particular for writing. Here he befriended Michael Balzary (aka Flea) and HIllel, two who become important members of RHCP. The band started as a joke, opening for another L.A. punk bank, but they did well enough to start playing dates all across California and eventually land a record deal. In their early days, Kiedis worked any number of odd jobs and even spent some time living on the streets and out of his car. The band struggled through the years, running through a rotating roster of guitarists and drummers with Kiedis on vocals and Flea on bass acting as the bandaids keeping the band alive. Scores of anecdotes and stories pepper the years, from roof diving to troubled relationships, showing the pleasures and pains of his unique life. In the fall of 1991 the Peppers release their album Blood Sugar Sex Magic, tieing them directly to the alternative rock explosion of 1991 and pushing them from a moderately successful underground band to a quartet of rock stars. Other big names like Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins and Kurt Cobain of Nirvana populate his life at this time. Kiedis writes about this time with a touch of nostalgia, conveying a sense of widespread energy and vitality you don't see in music industry too often.

Drug use functions as the main theme of the book and we see Kiedis struggle with it all through his life, at some points reaching sobriety at others reaching the most desperate points. Kiedis does a wonderful job conveying the spiralling, out of control feelings one must go through when living the on-again/off-again life of a drug addict. Even after the huge successes of the band, it wasn't uncommon for him to hide out in slum motels while he scored his drugs. Drug use is not limited to Kiedis, though. It's shown all around him, from his bandmates to his girlfriends. During his longer stretches of sobreity Kiedis would travel to places like New Zealand and Nepal, where he had the pleasure of meeting the Dalai Lama. Part memoir, part confessional his writing throughout is very conversational, and surprisingly frank and open in regards to his patterns of abuse. The book closes with a short chapter that ties the opening frame together, ending it with a sense of hope that the last time he used really was the last time.



LadyLitBlitzin said...

Wow, intense. I can't wait to read it.

Hey, do you remember that old movie "Suburbia"? I remember they called Flea "Mike B the Flea" in that, but I can actually say that I never knew what Flea's real name was! Until now, of course. :)

Hebdomeros said...

I have a vague memory of that movie. I'll have to check it out again. He also makes a reference to them appearing in Less Than Zero, which I've never seen. No mention, though, of their fabulous role in the Getaway. Ha.

Have you seent their documentary Funky Monks? It's the making of the whole BSSM album, and shows them jamming and basically screwing around all over the place. Good fun if you're a fan (and I definitely was at that time). Finding out Flea was a daddy, though, kind of creeped me out at the time.

Jen said...

What does Kiedis say about Dave Navarro's time in RHCP? I loved Jane's Addiction at their height, and it was dispiriting to see Navarro talking about "music is my aeroplane" five years later. It was equally dispiriting to watch him marry Carmen Electra.

LadyLitBlitzin said...

Suburbia's an awesome movie -- silly as hell, but it's like, classic punk rock, with some great lines. And some great band footage, like TSOL... It'll either annoy you as an older person or make you think of the old days...

The Getaway. Heh, heh.

No, I haven't seen that documentary... I'll have to check it out. I recently saw them in a video on that show The Alternative... I forget which song, but from one of those big breakout albums. So hot, so hot. ;)

Navarro married Carmen Electra? That's disgusting and ultimately very disappointing, Mr. Freakin' Rockstar, huh. I must have repressed that.

Hebdomeros said...

At least according to the book, they all liked Dave but felt like there was a distance that got in the way. Both in having fun and in playing music. From what little on that album is in the book, Dave takes more of a songwriter's approach while the peppers just jam and jam and jam until they get things they like. They almost broke up, until they found out John F. wanted to come back.

Yeah, I liked Janes as well. Even Porno for Pyros, to a lesser degree. Dave's solo album, though. Not a fan.