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Scar Tissue Paperback – 19 Oct 2005
|Paperback, 19 Oct 2005||
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"Kiediss narrative of the Red Hot Chili Peppers dues-paying years is vivid and inspiring." -- Newsweek
"Thoughtful, candid, and entertaining." -- GQ
About the Author
Anthony Kiedis grew up in L.A. and formed The Red Hot Chili Peppers in high school. The group's breakthrough album, Blood Sugar Sex Magik, was recorded in 1991; their 1999 album Californication sold over 13 million copies worldwide. Their latest album, By the Way, is one of their best sellers yet. The band toured extensively in 2003. Kiedis lives in the Los Angeles area.
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Being an outsider is a common theme in this book. He goes from hippie kid in Michigan, transplanted to Los Angeles, to poor kid in a rich-kid school, to a long-haired Californian in a school full of Michigan farmboys. Fortunately for him, his father is good friends with Sonny Bono, so he makes good use of their guest room, refrigerator, and their address so he can go to a good high school. Eventually he wears out his welcome with Sonny, thanks to his rude-kid attitude, but I’ll not spoil the plot on what happens at the fur vest mansion. Then comes the school full of weirdo misfits, some of whom would eventually join Kiedis’ band.
Scar Tissue reminds me of Jeanette Walls’ The Glass Castle where the crazy parents keep the family on the move through America’s poor towns. The only difference is that the poor town in Scar Tissue also has a thriving art and music scene, and he’s in no hurry to leave or see the world. As for his constant drug use, he has his father’s stash to keep him high 24 hours a day, so it’s not like he has to deal it to support his habit. Nor does he have to go into dangerous neighborhoods to buy the drugs, so there’s no danger to scare him straight. After high school he cheats his way into UCLA, snorts cocaine, steals his textbooks, steals his meals from the cafeteria, snorts some more cocaine, so it’s no surprise that he likes living in Los Angeles. Who wouldn’t? He’s a loser, don’t get me wrong, but what he has going for him is the constant freedom to keep losing.
The tone of the story shifts, however, once he leaves UCLA. We get into the L.A. rock scene, and his life no longer consists of vegetating at his father’s house and getting high, interspersed with being a troublemaker at school. He now spends his time hanging out at the numerous run-down rock venues, interspersed with getting high and shoplifting for food. His father, scared straight by an LAPD raid, gets out of drug dealing and becomes a starving actor again. At the time of this story (circa 1983) the city was still on the downscale side and the cheap rents meant that anyone could open a music venue if you got the permits. The rock fans had less money to spend, so if you couple all that together, you can see how there were plenty of clubs to perform at. You didn’t have all the upscale restaurants driving rents up.
Each part of the book can really stand on its own; the dysfunctional family, the crazy childhood, the starving actor, the starving rock musician. Unlike most rock star autobiographies, this one has been print since it came out, so there’s got to be a reason people love this book. I suspect it’s just as much about the wildness of Los Angeles as it is about music. Like that famous line from the song Californication, the city is “the end of the world and all of Western civilization,” or as Kenneth Anger put it, “a dusty tin lizzy trail on the edge of Manifest Destiny.”
If you travel from the place where the USA began, Los Angeles is the last stop on the route.
A large portion of the book details his drug usage throughout the years, which for me was both harrowing and interesting to read. He writes these lucid tales about his addiction and the vicious cycle of going on week-long drug binges and then trying to get clean.
I enjoyed this book so much that I've gone back and reread it multiple times. Over 400 pages of details. If you love the Chili Peppers, it's practically required reading.