About the most interesting revelation in the 460 odd pages of “Scar Tissue”, the autobiography of Red Hot Chilli Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis, occurs about 330 pages into this tedious, self-centered tale.
It’s when Keidis talks about the Chilli Peppers playing as the opening act for the Rolling Stones in the late 1990s.
He writes that opening for the Rolling Stones is a “shite job” despite the opportunity to play with the second greatest band after The Beatles:
“I can’t recommend it to anybody…the fact is the Rolling Stones audience today is lawyers and doctors and CPAs and contractors and real estate development people. This is a conservative wealthy group. No one is rocking out.”
He goes on to describe it as “like going to the Rolling Stones mall”, a “horrible” experience where you play as “85,000 wealthy, bored-out-of-their-minds fans are slowly finding their seats”.
Keidis talks in the same candid, straight-forward style to describe his journey from reckless teenager to petty thief, confirmed junkie and lead singer of one of the biggest rock-funk bands in the world.
It’s an honest, seemingly truthful recollection (as truthful as possible given the amount of drugs consumed along the way) but the problem is its repetitious nature, built on a cycle of drug binges, failed attempts to get clean, and more drug-taking, interspersed with accounts of chaotic relationships, typical rock ‘n roll sexual encounters and tour bus stories.
It’s the complete cliché: Sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll.
Sadly, there is very little revealed of the creative process – this mainly involves Keidis disappearing into a room by himself to write songs about his drug-fuelled personal experiences.
As a book about drug use and addiction it offers very little in the way of insight into the problem – apart from the obvious of it being very hard to give up. Many of the observations glamorize drug use, while others sound like the speech bubbles of a true stoner-idiot:
After fifty days of being sober, I thought, ‘That’s a nice number. I think I should honor that number’. I decided it was a good time to do drugs.
On a visit to New Zealand, he bemoans the fact that the country is too small to satifsy his drug requirements. Countless times he smuggles drugs onto planes undetected.
The only things to truly marvel is that Keidis somehow emerges out of his heroin/cocaine/crack/speed addiction and reckless to the point of almost suicidal lifestyle, not only alive, but rich and famous too (and still with that famous six-pack stomach).
Keidis, it seems, is the classic narcissistic celebrity who believes that if you throw in anecdotes about meeting the Dalai Lama, some syrupy thoughts about spirituality and the occasional bouts of healthy living and yoga exercise that you’re actually a decent guy.
Instead, he appears to lack basic humility even after surviving countless week-long drug binges in seedy motels, crossing paths with drug lords and avoiding arrest by police officers.
It got so bad that half-way through the book, I had to stop reading and put on a couple of Red Hot Chilli Peppers CDs to remind myself that they really are – as musicians – an incredibly original blend of funk, rap, rock and have produced countless great songs over the past almost 30 years.
(For worthwhile, insightful accounts of heroin addiction read: Junkie by William S. Burroughs, Monkey Wrench by Helen Garner, In My Skin by Kate Holden or Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh – you can find reviews of all of these books here.)