The singer/lyricist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers has just come out with his autobiography, and I must say it is one amazing book.
The reason I find it amazing is that it exists, sort of like Samuel Johnson’s appreciation of the dog that walked, albeit poorly, on its hind legs.
You know how it’s always about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll?
This book is about sex, DRUGS, and rock ‘n roll.
Because Kiedis’ whole life, since he was a teenager (he’s 42 now), has been an ongoing search for a drug high, only occasionally interrupted by the requirements of being in a big-time band.
What makes this book fascinating to someone as straight as me is how a person can manage to survive the drug-crazed binges and behavior that recur again and again and again.
What makes the book readable and engaging is the author’s personality, very self-deprecating and aware of his failings and never attempting to hide behind or blame others for the disasters that repeatedly befall him.
Kiedis basically says, “I’m a screw-up, but I’m really trying hard not to be.”
The “trail of tears,” as it were, of destroyed relationships both with his bandmates (themselves no novices, by any means, when it comes to self-destruction) and lovers is just endless.
I’ve always heard that druggies will do anything for a fix: this book makes that crystal (perhaps the wrong word…)-clear.
Consider the following anecdote:
- On one of these benders I ran out of drugs at four-thirty in the morning. At that point in time, I wasn’t dialed in to ATM technology; when I needed money, I’d go to a bank and take out a chunk of money on a credit card, or I’d visit an American Express office, where I could take out as much as ten thousand dollars at a shot. But for now I had no money, no stuff, and was in a frenzy to get high.
What I did have was a beautiful white Stratocaster guitar signed by all of the Rolling Stones. Tommy Mottola had given it to me when he was trying to sign the Chili Peppers to Sony/Epic.
I figured I could go downtown and get at least a couple hundred dollars’ worth of dope for that guitar. So I went down to those dimly lit back alleys where the men sell their wares, but there was only one guy working the street at that late hour.
“What can I get for this?” I asked him, proffering the guitar.
He shrugged. “Nothing.”
“No, no, you don’t understand,” I pressed on. “This guitar is signed by the Rolling Stones.”
“Dinero, señor, dinero,” he kept repeating. He was fresh up over the border, and he obviously couldn’t speak English and didn’t give a rat’s ass about the Rolling Stones.
“But this is valuable,” I protested.
He finally offered me the tiniest amount of heroin I’d ever seen.
“No, more,” I begged, but he indicated it was that or nothing. I was so desperate that I bartered the signed guitar for some drugs that would get me high for about ten minutes.
Interspersed with crazyness like that were constant stays in rehab centers to clean up: I’d estimate Kiedis describes at least eight one-month stays, with many shorter visits.
Nothing worked for any length of time.
He did manage a five and a half year period of staying clean in the early nineties but fell back into his habit.
After more years of insanity, he managed to get clean again in 2000, and as of the book’s publication this fall, had stayed drug-free for some four years.
But he’s all too aware of how tenuous is his grip on sobriety.
Anyway, apart from this dominant theme, his book’s full of wonderful anecdotes about his dealings with just about everyone who’s anyone now or in the past twenty years in pop music.
They’re all here: Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Gwen Stefani, Neil Young, Pearl Jam, and on and on.
Here’s Kiedis on being the opening act for the Rolling Stones:
- But opening for the Stones is a crummy job anyway. I can’t recommend it to anybody. You get the offer and you think, “Historically speaking, they’re the second most important rock band in the history of music, after the Beatles. So we should have a brush with history.”
But the fact is, the Rolling Stones audience today is lawyers and doctors and CPAs and contractors and real estate development people. This is a conservative, wealthy group. No one’s rocking out. The ticket prices and merchandise costs are astronomical. It’s more like “Let’s go to the Rolling Stones mall and watch them play on the big screen.”
The whole experience is horrible. First you get there, and they won’t let you do a sound check. Then they give you an eightieth of the stage. They set aside this tiny area and say, “This is for you. You don’t get the lights, and you’re not allowed to use our sound system. And oh, by the way, you see that wooden floor? That’s Mick’s imported antique wood flooring from the Brazilian jungle, and that’s what he dances on. If you so much as look at it, you won’t get paid.”
Bonus: The book’s chock full of great pictures of the band, Kiedis from the time he was little on up through his formative teen years with the band, Kiedis’ ex-girlfriends – among them Ione Skye, Jaime Rishar, and many others – and friends, family, and the like.
This book is as close as I ever want to come to being in a big-time rock ‘n roll band.
Highly recommended.Powered by Sidelines