Anthony Kiedis (with Larry Sloman) – Scar Tissue
This is the Sunday Service today, folks, and it is a rant.
I’m breaking my Stones run, only for today (more soon, never fear!). But I had to tell you about this book, which I just finished reading yesterday. It pissed me off.
And why did it piss me off? Because whenever I read things like this, I am overwhelmingly struck by the thought that all of it was preventable. I understand that addiction is hard, that addictive personalities don’t see the world the way that I do at all, and I understand that poor relationship choices happen. But a book like this, it just makes me tired. It’s like that radiohead line, “you do it to yourself, you do, and that’s what really hurts.” True, and doesn’t always make for sympathetic reading in books like this. I keep thinking why even start? I mean, heroin? Wtf.
I’ll say up front that I love the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Even the albums people dislike, I find good in those records. Even the albums people think is the band spinning their wheels, or trying to remake a past glory (I remember the reaction when I posted about the new album The Getaway, recently). No matter, I’m there. It’s the music. They have a sound, that thing that they do, and it’s unlike any other and I love ‘em for it.
But this book isn’t about the band. Well it is, peripherally, but not truly. Imagine one of the most successful rock acts from the 90s, and the lead singer writes a book where the band is almost a sideline. You see, this is a book about a drug addict who happened to be the singer in this band. It’s more about all the times he went on benders, and then felt bad about it, but then did it again. And again.
It’s about the hell through which he put his friends, lovers, and bandmates before trying hard to make amends and get clean… before doing it all over again, and again. It’s all about his toxic romantic relationships, and how whenever he actually found someone who was caring and put up with him and his bullshit (because that’s what it was: bullshit), he pushed them out. And oh, yeah, occasionally they made records and toured the world to much acclaim. Not that he appreciated it, for most of that time. It was just money to go score and disappear on everyone again, and then travel to nice places to try and get clean. Again. It’s a chronicle of bad choices that still somehow ended up working out for him. He must have a red hot horseshoe up his ass.
Look, I do have some sympathy. Addiction is a horrible thing. And Kiedis got a young start and never really looked back. Even the times he was clean, and he was thrilled to feel so good, he still relapsed time and again. That is an illness, pure and simple. But the entire time I was reading this book, I kept waiting for him to wake up and get real and make it stick. He never really did, until its last pages, and even then he was dealing with a woman who was also a junkie, and whom I wouldn’t have even taken up with… some of Claire’s demands and her bullshit was just incredible. I think he thought it showed he has patience, that he could care for and change this unrealistic uncaring person, and by extension be a good person himself, but I thought it made him look like a fool. Just like everything else. Man, she was some piece of work.
And this book was published in 2004. That’s 12 years ago, so who knows where he is with it now, how many times he’s gone off the wagon since this book claimed he’d finally gotten clean. I pray I’m wrong, and that he’s broken his cycles for good, but somehow I’d still wager he’s relapsed more than a few times since this publication, given this history.
This is the same as reading that Nikki Sixx book, and I’ll say now what I said then – stories about junkies have got to only be interesting to other junkies. I found it repetitive and absolutely immature. He’s a narcissist and an egomaniac who, when given druthers, would rather destroy himself with substances than try to build anything and then, when something (like an album) actually does get built, things go well for a while before it all falls apart again. Repeat ad nauseum.
Kudos to everyone who put up with him, for all of those years. I know the rest of the band weren’t perfect either. Hell, as an example, John Frusciante had his own demons (and how), and Hillel Slovak died of his own addiction. Kiedis didn’t even go to his funeral… He seems like he spent three decades disconnected from reality by drugs, and then fame (which is its own drug). ‘Oh, I blew off the band for ages because I was high and I was fighting my addict girlfriend so we flew to St. Bart’s to get clean, and I bought her and my family nice things to patch things up…’ Nice to be able to do that, Mr. Millionaire, but I ain’t feeling it.
I love the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but I am not a fan of Mr. Kiedis, after reading this. Some might say he was brave to put all of this out there, to bare himself like this. To me, though, he comes across as needing sympathy, needing understanding, trying to explain away all his bad behaviour like it was somehow OK because he’s writing nicely (with help) about it now. It wasn’t OK. It really, really wasn’t. And now I know that many of the song lyrics were about his addictions and his shitty personal relationships, which changes how I hear most of their songs forever. In this case, ignorance really was bliss.
Again, I know addiction is a brutal thing. We’ve never struggled with it ourselves, but my lovely wife is a therapist and what little I know tells me enough to know what it can do to peoples’ lives. But this guy, if he hadn’t been in the band, or if they hadn’t hit it big when they did and had all the indulgence, support and money around him that he had, he’d have been found dead in some shitty low-rent L.A. hotel years ago, nameless and finished. It wouldn’t have even made the news.
If you want a straight-up history of the Red Hot Chili Peppers the band, one that focusses on the albums, the tours, the music, go elsewhere. This book is about a guy who got really lucky and still actively did everything in his power to try to fuck it all up. Over and over and over again. I suppose the story of the band is in this book, but only through his drug filter. And yet the band keeps on rolling. Still got that horseshoe, I guess… I’d say it’s because, whatever other bullshit is going on, the music is that strong. And in that way they are very, very lucky. They had every chance to wash out so many times over the years.
Skip this. I’d rather read a book about 2004-present. Why, because through all of that I still have hope for him. That he finally got his shit together and stopped all the drama and me-monkey garbage. Wishful thinking? Or finally his redemption? Guess we’ll have to wait for his next book to find out.