One song, one book – one man’s incredible story. Scar Tissue is a book that brings you the stories of underdogs and an overdose of all that’s cool about rock ‘n roll. Anthony Kiedis, the frontman of arguably the biggest rock band in the world right now, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, writes about his life and his music.
Of course, rock ‘n roll is never short of a healthy dose of sex and a not-so-healthy dose of drug abuse. So reader’s discretion is advised.
The most damning indictment of the book is that there is literally no narrative structure here; Kiedis does not impose any sort of dramatic development on his story, so unless one is familiar with the outlines of Chili Pepper history, this is just one really, really, really long picaresque. And I use that word in its strongest pejorative sense: this is 465 pages of “this happened; then this happened; then this happened; then this happened; then this happened; then this happened; then this happened; then this happened; then this happened; oh, and then this happened; did I mention that this happened? No? Anyways, then this happened; then this happened…” and on and on seemingly add infinitude.
Which is too bad: the Chili Peppers’ story could make for fascinating reading. They let their freak flag fly and eventually the music-buying public wandered over, trying to figure out what these guys were up to. They never really compromised their music, with even their poppiest tunes (except for the execrable One Hot Minute) slanted just slightly off-kilter to what the rest of the mainstream was doing. And the personalities in the band are, to put it mildly, eccentric: Kiedis is the beautiful, rapping, flowing, sex god, drug addict, front man; bassist Flea is the manic musician, the kind of guy who would probably be terribly unsettling to sit beside on the subway, but who, by all accounts, has a heart of gold; current (and former… it’s a long story) guitarist John Frusciante is a drug-damaged artiste; and Chad Smith, the drummer (of course) is the odd one out, the guy who doesn’t seem to fit in so well. Very little of this comes through in Scar Tissue; for example, Smith, who has been drumming for the band for more than fifteen years is barely mentioned, and almost no interactions between Kiedis and Smith are recounted, other than a drunken near-brawl in a hotel.
The story of the band really needs to be told by an outsider. Kiedis’ account (and yes, I understand that it is an autobiography, but come on) is too relentlessly solipsistic: other people function so tangentially to the story that they end up being props. One of the more chilling moments in reading the book is realizing that the overdose death of Hillel Slovak (the Chili Peppers’ original guitarist), who Kiedis refers to as his best friend and “soul mate”, prompts approximately a page of reflection from Kiedis. That’s it. After that, it’s on to further bouts of drug-taking, startlingly dysfunctional relationships with women and occasional musings on sobriety. More than anything this is the story of a raging drug addict who happens to be in a successful band. Unfortunately, the drug addict’s story (and, really, eventually they’re all the same) can’t sustain itself for the length of the book: it just becomes monotonous.
Scar Tissue is obviously not for everyone. In fact it’s probably not even for the casual fan of the band. It’s designed exclusively for the passionate fans and so it’s very hard to judge the value of this book since the entire consumer market is made up of people who will obviously highly of the book. But one thing’s for sure, if you’re as big a RHCP fan as I am, you will not regret grabbing a copy of this.