Red Hot Chili Peppers are one of the bands I highly respect. Their journey is a long and mysterious one with Anthony Kiedis (and Flea) leading the band though pain and glory for almost 40 years.
When I saw Kiedis has written an autobiography touching on both the band and his personal life journey, I decided this is my chance to learn something about the entity I have admired for so long. Naturally, it took me way too long to get to it. But I finally got my hands on Scar Tissue and devoured the extravagant story of the phenomenal band’s frontman with high interest. Considering the prevailing negative reviews, I feel the need to express my thoughts on what I consider a page-turner.
I approached Scar Tissue with extreme caution. When trying to find the book, I was surprised to see that the majority of the reviews were negative. A lot of people disregarded the book as superficial and called Anthony Kiedis “a self-obsessed asshole” whose story is not worth it.
As with everything else, having the right expectations is the key to a pleasant experience. I assume most people had a different image of the frontman in their heads, which he destroyed with his honesty and transparency. But this is an autobiography telling the real-life story of Anthony Kiedis – there is no sugar coating or concealing of the author’s misadventures of different sorts.
When you start putting pen to paper, you see a side of your personal truth that doesn’t otherwise reveal itself in conversation or thought.Anthony Kiedis
With this being said, the book is quite an interesting read worth the time and attention. It does feature a fair amount of the real, unfiltered Red Hot Chili Peppers origin story – how it all started and what ups and downs (and there were lots of both) the guys had to bustle through. The most defining moments of their career are covered from Anthony’s perspective, up until 2004, when the book was finished.
This is, after all, a sort of memoir so the focus is on Kiedis more than anything else. I can understand why some people were frustrated with his life story. It is filled with dishonourable behaviour, asshole moves and attitude, problems with drugs and alcohol, and overindulges in personal vices. But that’s how real life is – it is not perfect, and there is not a single person who has avoided his worst coming into light at some point.
Kiedis tells it all as it is – yes, your image of him being a humble, always-loving-and-appreciating-everything individual will be shattered (even though this part of his personality appears during the narrative). But at least you will get the real story, not some half-assed bullshit.
After all those years of all kinds of abuse and crashing into trees at eighty miles an hour and jumping off buildings and living through overdoses and liver disease, I feel better now than I did ten years ago. I might have some scar tissue but that’s all right, I’m still making progress.Anthony Kiedis
Scar Tissue is a descent autobiography presenting each stage of Anthony’s life starting with his colourful childhood in Grand Rapids, Michigan until his 40s in 2004. Even though it is 100% a real story, the entire time I read the book, I felt like I am reading a fiction novel carefully developed around suspense and life-threatening events. The way it is told makes it a completely immersive experience leaving you hungry for the next chapter.
After finishing the book, I wondered how this man is still alive. Early drug abuse, alcohol addiction, sex-infused life, car crashes, reckless adventures involving jumping into pools from high buildings and stealing whatever his heart desires, Kiedis truly has interesting stories to tell.
It’s weird, I was such a survivor and so wanted to be a part of life while I was trying to snuff out the life that was inside of me. I had this duality of trying to kill myself with drugs, then eating really good food and exercising and going swimming and trying to be a part of life. I was always going back and forth on some level.Anthony Kiedis
Two main elements constitute the book. One is Kiedis’ personal story, and characteristics and another is the development of Red Hot Chili Peppers as a band, which the author did not neglect.
Both parts are interesting to observe. I love the band, so I was hungry for insider information and personal stories around it. There was a lot that I didn’t know, and I enjoyed reading about.
Red Hot Chili Peppers is a band that has been around for a very long time. But unlike a lot of other formations dating back to the 80s, Red Hot has managed to keep up with the times and modern music trends while somehow preserving their original funky spirit.
Scar Tissue gives an insider perspective of how the whole idea about the band came around. It shows how a group of punk teenagers with no musical knowledge but a great ability to put on a show grew to become one of the world’s most renowned bands.
After reading the book, I consider this song one of the most defining for the band
The inspiration behind songs like Scar Tissue, Under The Bridge, Venice Queen, Californication, etc. is also explained as well as the noteworthy musical relationships the band formed with other creators like The Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Rick Rubin, and more. There is a fair amount of behind the scenes insights and footage in regards to their creative process, touring life, video shoots, writing, and recording.
I was fascinated with the iconic “socks on cocks” shows the band used to put out – appearing fully naked except for socks on their genitals. Also, for a person like me who got heavily into the band at a later stage, exploring the early development and the many setbacks they faced in terms of creating and performing was astonishing. The image of this perfectly synched group of friends we see nowadays was not always looking the same, which is completely natural. But reading about Anthony’s thoughts and finding out how close the Chili Peppers were to breaking down is a strange experience.
The book shows how the unique chemistry between the Red Hot Chili Peppers came to be what it is today. Anthony goes through the turmoil and triumph of the band – a lot of the challenges they faced are dissected (members coming and going, selling well and underperforming, struggling to keep going). I definitely see the band way differently after I read so much about their story and the relationship between them. Watching a show, knowing what the guys on the stage have been through makes you appreciate their synergy and emotion way more.
Anthony Kiedis’ personal life story was also extremely interesting to dive into. You might expect some crazy, bizarre experience considering the scope of his status today, but his life has been a rollercoaster since early childhood.
Kiedis got involved with drugs, alcohol, and sex at a very early age (simply because he grew up thinking it was an ordinary thing to do) which completely changed the possibilities for a “normal childhood”. Scar Tissue covers the slow descent from innocent lust for new, exciting experiences and tasting all the fruits life has to offer towards uncontrollable self-destruction.
The number of times the frontman broke away from his addiction just to casually slip back into it, makes the book an unpredictable story. His drugs escapades and plunges into vices of many sorts may be the main reason he comes across as a selfish asshole. I can’t deny his exposition of personal flaws makes it look this way, but I also don’t consider it extraordinary taking into account the context (and the true nature of life).
During the book, the author himself admits he has been a major pain for his loved ones and acknowledges his mistakes. However, what shines through at the end of the journey he tells us about is incredible resilience, persistence, and dedication for getting better as well as a true passion for music, which eventually becomes the one purpose of his existence.
I knew there was never anyone to blame when people get into drugs. They’re always responsible for their own behavior, and it’s not the dealer, it’s not the friend, it’s not the bad influence, it’s not the childhood.Anthony Kiedis
The book contains a lot of internal struggles and personal battles, as well as captivating romance, drama, and heartbreak. Even though there is no denying Kiedis’ life is exceptional, I don’t think it’s hard to notice parallels with your personal story. Many of his experiences happen to all of us, just on a different scale. Getting face to face with devastation, loss of loved ones, being lost and emotionally overwhelmed is unavoidable for anyone.
I noticed a lot of patterns in thinking and behaviour that apply for myself. It was an eye-opening experience to see it from a bystander point of view, and it made me realize a lot of unfortunate aspects of my own personality. I think that looking into another person’s life story with an open mind and inclination to get something out of it can bear great results. Hopefully, those lessons stick with me.
I was starting to come to grips with the fact that I had created a lot of pain and suffering around me, not just within me.Anthony Kiedis
Of course, Scar Tissue is not perfect. I was quite bothered by the structure of the book – the incredibly long chapters without any breaks in paragraphs. It was a pain to get through the book without any logical division and timeframe breaks (except a few major ones). A better structure would have made the reading experience way more enjoyable and comprehensive. The writing was also flawed at parts. It was hard to understand what Kiedis wanted to say without stopping to think about it for a while. Some major time skips also bothered me even though it made sense to omit episodes which were not crucial for the story – it just feels incomplete this way.
Regardless, the book was a real page-turner for me. I couldn’t wait to get back to it and see where Kiedis ends up next. What kind of mistakes is he going to make, and how will he make the best of them despite everything? How will he end up being one of the most phenomenal leaders of one of the most phenomenal bands this world has seen? It was a great ride, and I cannot bring myself to agree with any of the criticism I read about the book – it is far from perfect but still very much worth it.
I would wholeheartedly recommend Scar Tissue if you are looking for a captivating, intense storyline. In case you are a fan of Red Hot Chili Peppers, the book is a good choice for you. The same applies if you are interested in celebrity memoirs or autobiography type of books in general. Anthony Kiedis has one intense life, which will make up for a great read.
To be honest, I am kind of disappointed he didn’t write the book a bit later – the development of the band after 2004 and where he is now are probably equally interesting processes to observe. I am especially interested in reading how Josh Klinghoffer came to take Frusciante’s place and how Anthony felt about this whole transition (considering his relationship with Frusciante and his belief of the godlike dynamics of the particular four-piece).
Maybe one day we will get a second part. Until then, feel free to devour the first instalment of this extraordinary tale of struggle and conquest.
You can buy me a coffee if you like my content