It would be interesting to know much help Kiedis got from Larry Sloman with writing this book. His name is on the cover along with the famous ex-drug-hoover Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman so I guess he helped quite a bit. So technically maybe we can’t describe this long book as Kiedis’s autobiography?
But that’s what it is at the end of the day – written in the first person it is a very frank and non-judgemental account of his rise to fame, his obsession with drugs and women, and to a lesser extent the birth of the band and the fun and games that goes along with trying to get along with the rest of the band while on tour (or drugged up to the eyeballs in a greasy alley in another state when you should be in the recording studio). It’s mainly about the drugs side of the ‘sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll’ love triangle.
After reading this book on holiday I have a new insight into some of Kiedis’s lyrics and a fresh appreciation of the man who while being a wayward son also seems to be a born survivor. Written at a time when Keidis was on the other side of his drug addiction nightmares it is as positive a read as it can be while laying out the cyclical behaviour of a bone fide drug addict.
The near fatal crashes and accidents are not unsurprising when put into the context of this continuous sense of either looking for the next score, being under the influence or coming down. What is surprising is that he avoided any overdose scenarios like Dave Gahan’s famous ‘dead for two minutes’ screaming soul story or the fatal tale of his much-loved peer Kurt Cobain.
When it wasn’t cocaine, heroin, weed, LSD, or pills it was often girls that Kiedis seems to use a drug. The book is peppered with tales of serial monogamy and on-tour sex with a faulty moral compass. Like my favourite fictional fanny-chaser James Bond, Keidis for a long time seemed unable not to fall in love with every young woman that took his fancy.
‘Scar Tissue’ is a brilliant title for this book. But is it a brilliant book? Well not quite. In some ways the book is rather like a Red Hot Chili Peppers album in that it has its amazing highs, quirky faults and at times plain awful sections.
The description of the vicious cycles of drug abuse actually become tedious and the failed visits to rehab are never really examined properly as if Keidis is not willing to completely lift every drain in his frank retelling. Keidis also never really examines his relationships with his parents as closely as I would have expected.
He has them both up on pedestals throughout the book (hence my comment about being non-judgemental) while he seems happy to provide a seemingly libellous character assassination of one of his ex-girlfriends who perhaps may have tried to help him more than he appreciates. He also at times, especially in the opening of the book, comes across as surprisingly arrogant – this in spite of his, at times humbled and apologetic, confessions. But I guess you don’t get to be the front man of one of the world’s most popular rock groups without a fair amount of ego.
On the flip side there is an indefinable sense of inevitable hopelessness throughout the book and I’m saying that this is a good thing. There really is no getting away from being a drug addict even if you are sober and have been for years. That sense of hopelessness, the void that gets filled with drugs or sex or both, needs to be acknowledged and shared with the reader, and the book does a great job in that respect. Does Kiedis provide a solution?
A final epiphany and a distinction from all the other times he has felt the need to get clean seem ill-defined, and as such as a narrative the book doesn’t quick ‘click’. That said we’re not talking about fiction here – we’re talking about a real life, hyper-real at times but still real, and perhaps this is simply just how it works in reality? In the opposite way that one day a successful film director who seemingly has it all just decides to throw themselves off a bridge in LA, perhaps Keidis, under the bridge, just thought ‘that’s enough, time to man up.’
Along with the continual thread of hopeless addiction throughout the book there is also a Yin to the Yang. Keidis’s love for life, for his fellow man (and especially fellow woman), band members, musicians and family is obvious and shines through the pages to illuminate the dark. It’s like the ink is the darkness which is laid on a foundation of pure love – the white of the page.
It is perhaps this attitude that has meant that previously sacked band members have been willing to re-join the band and keep the good ship Red Hot Chili Peppers afloat despite the creepy background sound of the ticking timer on the self-implosive device that was their lead singer.
One more question to mull over – do you think Keidis would be the performer, artist, sometimes lyrical genius, that he is if he hadn’t had the life he has had?
The answer must be no.