Reviewed by Ian Browne Shamrock News
If you’re just not streetwise, perhaps you wished you could have lived a life less ordinary; have done what was expected of you in your every day; lived in the same place, living the same life, glued to the same commercial TV network telling you to remain dull, spent your holidays in a hotel lazing by the beach, doing your very fearful best to ignore the dark yearnings of the street: well then pet, you could get a job with the Liberal Party, or allow this to take you there - to the ‘other side’ - of course.
One of the great ‘self-portraits’ of our era, author Larry Sloman has done ‘this’ account of the life of this creative soul, a vast justice. SCAR TISSUE is not a feel-good fairy-tale, it is refreshingly truthful and informative. From the sordid laneways of downtown LA, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ front-man Anthony Kiedis takes you on a journey through the glazed, wanting ‘eye of the needle’ of drug use. It is both an adventurous and cringeworthy account of Anthony’s life, and one that probably would have knocked most of us off much earlier in the journey.
I don’t use drugs myself, but I do tell the cops when they breathalyse me down in Byron Shire that I partake in the need for caffeine and blood pressure tablets on a daily basis. For a few months there I had lived among the drug dealers and hookers of rooming-house life St Kilda, Melbourne, and while growing up in sinful Sydney, I was at times found around some of the fallout of this jaded depravity myself. And as I have never known any sort of addiction myself, always preferring the clear-minded confidence of sobriety outside of weekend drinking binges and social engagements - and while Anthony Kiedis states in this book when suggesting he had never met a non-alcoholic: “who could even conceive of what it’s like to be an alcoholic” - it is this wild man from the dusty streets of LA who is very much the man for the job, allowing us a charitable insight into how it all feels; how it looks, smells and tastes.
As for the band being charitable, a member of my family has a friend with a little boy who is struggling with a disorder that will likely end his young life. A fan of the band, he got to meet the Chili Peppers backstage on their last Oz tour, and they spent time with him, and were wonderful. I am not sure I would have liked to have featured in this story though, as Anthony Kiedis is extraordinarily candid when describing the view to a person’s character, flaws and insecurities. And though his lifestyle can leave you feeling at times like you need to take a shower, and a long sleep, you never really disown Anthony through his misadventures. If anything, you are rooting for him to stay sober, although, by the end of the book, you at times feel like shaking him and telling him to just bloody well ‘stop!’
A friend of mine, Pim, who now lives in Byron Bay, is a filmscript writer who called LA home for many a year. He enjoyed it all. My best friend Scott too lived in Hollywood for a while. He had long hair back then, and to some he actually resembled Anthony Kiedis. This saw many a wide-eyed moment from those about him as he made his way around the streets and clubs in that part of LA. Though, plenty I meet, suggest that this uber city is not their favourite part of the world. But you can tell from his spicy account that Anthony loves this ‘city of angels’ very much. It gave him his creative edge.
In SCAR TISSUE, I appreciated the close ties and love Anthony has for his close friends, including the band members themselves. The story itself shovels the drug burden your way, but never blindsides the reader from acknowledging Anthony’s, and the band’s, vast talents. They are a truly gifted bunch of misfits. I thoroughly enjoyed the insight into how the band grew songs for recording, and Anthony’s passion towards the songs; born from his love of those close to him; the very laments that went on to become huge hits internationally. But as much as the music in this story plays out its importance to the life of Anthony Kiedis, to his good pal Flea, and the other members of the band like: John, Dave, Cliff, and the since departed Hillel, it is definitely more about his ties to the dark whispers from the street, and the people that supported him so lovingly throughout.
One thing that can be said about Anthony Kiedis’ addiction, is that as time moved along he supported his habit with his own income - only harming himself - and to some degree, those close to him. He never really had a chance, his upbringing wouldn’t allow for sheltering him from the demons of chemical enhancement. But really, I feel that Anthony Kiedis would reject any blame aimed anyone’s way, as he was a dare devil from an early age, never afraid to push boundaries, and take risks in many avenues of his life.
Anthony Kiedis doesn’t boast of his capital wealth so much, but while he runs between writing and recording new music; chasing girlfriends across the country, and hiding out in hotels ‘speed-balling’ into oblivion, I can’t help but feel jealous as to his financial ability to just get up and head to all corners of the globe, wilfully moulding himself into the landscape. The amount of movement in this book, the toing and froing between LA; within LA, and overseas travel, is inspiring. I enjoyed Anthony’s time in Borneo. I don’t want to spoil any of the moments from this book for you, read it for yourself, but his journey there was not unlike two of the three trips I partook to the steamy island myself. And though I too legged many a sweaty kilometre through the jungle and its mountains there, his journey, however, was far more treacherous and physically demanding than was mine. Just a personal reflection, but as have other musicians and singers I have known from far flung shores, Anthony waxes lyrical about the virtues of Kiwiland. I am half Kiwi myself, so this is fine, heh, but I find it thus juxtapose-strange when I meet Kiwis who arrive to the Northern Rivers and suggest that there is no part of New Zealand as free in the ‘do it yourself culture’ lifestyle than is my neck of the jungle. Maybe he is yet to discover our nirvana.
Anthony Kiedis & Ione Skye sourced via Pinterest.com
I like Anthony’s voice throughout, you do feel that you know him, and yes, you also feel that you are along for the journey with him. He sounds like a nice person in the end. The womanising, well, really, what young single straight man could resist. Like many a showman; men with fame, men with money, some women find that alluring, and want a taste of all that too, I guess. But really, do I need to bang a whole lot of smack into my arm; smoke or shoot an elephant heart-seizing amount of coke into my anatomy to allow a woman such lengthy satisfaction? But love and love making takes a variety of forms here, where Anthony’s love for his girlfriends, enter a variety of dimensions; genuinely enjoying his indulgences of the feminine mystique; soul, mind and body. Perhaps a tad envious at first, you soon tire of his womanising - and it becomes a novelty to witness the greater depth to his care of the fairer sex- as the journey moves through the 70’s, and down into the guts of the early Millennium.
In the early-mid 90’s, myself, and my ol pals from the band Succotash, caught a bus out to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers play live at the Hordern Pavilion, Sydney. On the bus we ran into Coo Bennet and the fellas from Toys Went Berserk, who we knew and respected. I had known the Chili Peppers’ music since when they were punk underground, before any sense of commercial success came their way. I wasn’t exactly chemically stable that evening myself. And having also found a home away from the then ‘Indie’ promoting Triple J, the Chili Pepper’s popular songs were now being played on commercial radio too. I found the crowd so Triple M beige-ordinary, and sadly this, along with my ultra-sensitive enhancement that night, didn’t allow me to soak up the moment as well as I could have. As a matter of fact, Succotash were on the bill to play the opening slot for Ice Cube and the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Sydney, not long before this, but sadly, the concert was binned, and when it was reorganised at a later date, another band was shuffled into the line-up. However, Succotash did get to play with the wildly talented friends of the Chili Peppers, Fishbone, and later as Throwdown with LA skatecore lords Suicidal Tendencies.
As Anthony Kiedis’ life in stimulants and melody winds down to its finality, I found that his acceptance of the care for the new love in his life, as a way to stay sober, touching, and probably not quite who/what you’d expect. Yes, it has been around for a spell now - but as is any classic - it’s never too late to pick up this book of street wisdom, to learn from, and to gently ponder.
SCAR TISSUE, tis a tale very much worth the journey.