Red Hot Scars Run Deep

November 30th, 2004
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Anthony Kiedis has long been one of the cornerstones of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The public perception of his life has been boiled down to that of a drug-addicted, rock/punk/funk singer. But with his new autobiography, Scar Tissue, Kiedis breaks down this perception and shows us a lot more than just the scars the public sees – he shows us the wounds that they come from, as well as the inflicting weapons.Scar Tissue begins with a short narrative that takes place between Kiedis’ childhood years and uber-fame, an event in which the search for his next high cost him his prized vintage leather jacket and the respect of his band mates. It is an appropriate opener, as that theme – the sacrifice of valuables and respect – overshadows much of the life Kiedis has laid out for us in Scar Tissue.

Anyone looking for a history of the Red Hot Chili Peppers is advised to look elsewhere. While Kiedis (along with co-author Larry Sloman) recounts in fair detail the beginnings of the group, as well as many of the bumps along the way, in no way is this a history of one of the most popular and influential rock groups in the past 20 years. Rather, the history begins before Kiedis’ birth, with the story of his parents’ meeting, marriage troubles, and subsequent parting. His mother is portrayed as a kind and nurturing yet strict woman raising a family in Michigan, while his father is a drug-dealing, adventure-seeking ladies man living in Los Angeles.

It’s not surprising that Dad (known as “Spider” to his friends) ends up being Kiedis’ prime influence, as he introduces his young son to drugs, sex, crime, and the L.A. nightlife. The details of Kiedis’ childhood are well intact, a refreshing departure from most autobiographies in which the childhood is vaguely mentioned. Rather, Kiedis shares with the reader in detail all of these first experiences, such as marijuana (with his father), sex (with his father’s girlfriend), and the demon that would forever haunt his life: heroin.

It moves on to describe his first introductions to future bandmates Michael Balzary (Flea) and Hillel Slovak (Slim) in high school, their unintentional formation of a band, and the subsequent roller coaster to stardom. But in no way does this become the focus of Kiedis’ message.

Click here to compare prices on Red Hot Chili Peppers albums.

Along the way, he introduces us to a host of people who have had an impact on his life. From the more famous Ione Sky as his nurturing girlfriend and Kurt Cobain as a quiet tortured friend, to the lesser-known crazed muses that each shared a bed with the budding rock star. Intense sexual encounters are shared without pulling any punches, but it’s the drug use that Kiedis ends up focusing on.

The first half reads as an interesting account of a young man’s entry into the world of drugs, sex and rock ‘n roll, his trials and tribulations, and the beginnings of his love affair with music. Unfortunately, it’s the last half of the book that drags. Story after repetitive story of Kiedis meeting beautiful women, having rocky romances with them, going on binges, trying to get clean, love, hate, regret, etc. etc. In fact, Kiedis could have done without about 100 pages near the end of the book, and replaced them with one paragraph on the cycle of self-abuse and denial that he had perfected during his worst drug-using stages: going on a binder for a few days, checking into a hotel to get clean, and then coming home to guilt, regret, and denial. Wash, rinse, repeat. It is not until the last few pages that Kiedis has his “revelation” and decides to quit drugs for good, thus spending much more time recounting his experiences being an addict than relating what he had learned from the experience.

Overall the book reads as one long, free-flowing thought. The chapters are broken into large chunks of Kiedis’ life, but within the chapters there are no breaks or pauses, the narrative simply moves from one thought to the next. It is as if Kiedis himself were ranting directly to the reader his thoughts on the life he’s led. This can be either a hindrance or a benefit – some readers will likely find the narrative engaging, fast-paced, and difficult to put down. Others will find the flow confusing and frustrating, as the non-sequiturs pile up to create a jumbled series of events that are difficult to follow.

Most apparent is that this is Kiedis’ point of view, and the events written about in Scar Tissue should be taken as such…namely, with a grain of salt. Events in the book are difficult to believe as exactly the way Kiedis recounts them (especially considering that any memory would be all but gone from the amount of drugs he has imbibed), but nonetheless that defines most of Kiedis’ life – unbelievable.

Overall those who are fans of Kiedis, and of the RHCPs in general, will find Scar Tissue an entertaining and engaging read, as unbelievable as the stories may be. Just be aware that if you pick up the book you are in for the long haul, and if you don’t like what you hear, you may just find yourself finishing it anyway.

Click here to compare prices on Red Hot Chili Peppers albums.

By Thea Cooke Posted in Features