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Book Review: Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis of Red Hot Chili Peppers

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No matter how awesome you think you are, you have come nowhere near the sheer volume of drugs which Anthony Kiedis has consumed, nor have you had as much incredible sex with as many spectacular women. That, roughly speaking, is the theme of Kiedis’ autobiography and, if even half of what he says is true, it’s hard to imagine that anyone will ever be able to trump him in either endeavour.

For those who do not know, Anthony Kiedis is the lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a merry band of funksters who have over the course of a career spanning two decades broken down a startling number of musical barriers in the mainstream and produced some fantastic music along the way.

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 ad infinitum.

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 “soulmate”, 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.

After plowing through the book, I still can’t decide whether to like Kiedis or not. There definitely were times when you recoil from him: self-absorbed; a remorseless juvenile delinquent and petty criminal; destructive to those around him. But, bizarrely, he still generally comes across as an alright guy. There’s an interesting story to be found somewhere in here, but Kiedis isn’t the one to tell it.

Grade: (For Chili Peppers fanatics) B
(For everyone else) D

About Bob Tarantino

  • Mike

    This is the most fascinating book i have ever read, the best book i have ever read.

  • dork

    I hate it when people say “i didnt even know who they chilis were before i read this book, but now i love them =]” oh yeah? well i was a BIG fan before i read the book so BEAT THAT! Yeah, good book.

  • Blah

    Anthony’s book was incredibly compelling, sincere and well-written. So you can SUCK IT.

  • kelly

    We love the credit given to AA and are happy we share a common solution,all are welcome to our 12 step meetings on the beach.

  • Lizzy

    One of my favourite books ever, I can’t say one negative thing about Anthony or the book, his whole life has been fascinating and I think he’s a beautiful person. I’ve read it so many times and find it gripping, I cry at so many points, and smile and laugh.
    I don’t care that it’s not written in an amazing narrative style because he’s not a writer, he’s a human being with stories and feelings to share.

  • mismel

    I don’t understand these negative comments! It’s an autobiography! Was Anthony supposed to change his history in order to write a book that wasn’t ‘monotonous’? He simply told his life story, which is to be expected of this book surely?

    The so-called ‘name dropping’ would be part of this too as, I’m sure, had some of it been untrue, there would’ve been a lot of suing going on. I myself would’ve been disappointed had important characters gone un-named, or given aliases. Reading the names of these famous people only seemed to make it more real for me, more of a true autobiography. I feel he was very brave in naming those people and to be fair, it isn’t as if he needs to make any kind of ‘claim to fame’.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and never really felt he was overly full of himself. Although at times, he actually did admit to this type of behaviour throughout the book, as well as other character flaws. I found it to be well written, and an easy read.

  • sam

    I loved the book.It was brutally honest
    which is something great about it.

  • review this

    okay im not a huge reader and i started to read this book on the toilet oneday just a few pages at a time i never really finish books by page 40 i was hooked this book is amazing for those who dont like it im guessing you dont have much experiences similer to anothney in one way or another.. AMAZING BOOK FULL STOP.

  • angie

    Buying the book tonight!!! Huge fan:)

  • matthew

    I have not read this yet and I don’t think I will. I preffer to see him the way I thought I did. Some things are meant to be unread.

  • hapy kola

    I think you are reviewing the book for what you want it to be and not what it is. It is the Anthony Kiedis autobiography, not the RHCP autobiography. Furthermore he actually says in the book that its a myth that the death of a friend immediately prompts sobriety, the nature of addiction means you want more to forget about it. Hillel’s death is also a prominent feature in his thinking throughout the book and does not just amount to a page description. There are many stories and I’m sure a reader might want elaboration on, but that would amount to a 1000+ page book. This book goes really deep to explain the sexdrugsrock&roll phenomenon, and I think the honesty is admirable. In the book he gives reasons for his actions which seem insane, but an addicts thinking is clouded and he was being honest. I think you should be more respectful to the honest insight into a rock stars life and not what you find readable.

  • Noah

    You are obviously wrong if the book was supposed to be about the band then the front cover would have been a picture of the band not a picture of Kiedis shooting up heroin

  • Tyler


  • Jon

    This review is dead on. After reading this book, it is just a collection of events. The book doesn’t flow very well. keidis is a self-center cardboard asshole. No personality, dry.. non remorseful, plain dickhead. Odd that he doesn’t talk about his band mates at all. This can be the case of idol worship at the beginning.. being a fan, but once reality sets in and you finally get a glimpse of the person, you are still a fan of the music but not the person.. That sums up it all

  • Eric

    Great review man exactly how I felt

  • Callum

    Some of these comments are some of the stupiods fucking shit I’ve heard.. Yeah so what that Anthony kiedis book isn’t what u want it to be and he came across as a bit of an asshole but it was he autobiography which means HIS story, not the band story. And like Keara said “do you really think someone who has done more drugs then Ozzie Osborn is going to be a william shakespeare??” His book is amaaaaazing and Anthony Kiedis is a living legand…..

  • pete

    400 or so pages of the same story. “I fell in love with a girl, I did heroin and coke. BTW, she was the greatest love of my life” — every one of them. Unfortunately, a man who has traveled the globe, met great people and has nothing to share but the above for 400 pages…..Unremarkable to say the least, and I am a RHCP fan.

  • new songs

    When I was a child, I tried to do the same thing and nearly ruined myself.

  • Smee

    All I got out of it is that he always was, is, and probably always will be a selfish pr*ck. The book ended up with three things happening over and over. He goes off the rails, he gets clean, he makes music. Repeat. Repeat again. Then celebrity name drop as much as possible and you have a book. Wanker.