The Red Hot Chili Peppers need no introduction these days; their pop-cultural impact is too great in their now no less than forty-year career, which is marked by absolute highs and devastating lows. It's miraculous that the core formation could reunite for the latest album "Unlimited Love." Anthony Kiedis on vocals, Michael "Flea" Balzary on bass, Chad Smith on drums and last but not least John Frusciante again on guitar after skipping the last two albums. That these gentlemen are still alive, with special attention to Frusciante and Kiedis, borders on a miracle.
The latter caused an international sensation in 2004 with the publication of his autobiography "Scar Tissue", co-produced with Larry Sloman, named after the song of the same name on the classic "Californication", and the title could not have been more apt. The deeply moving, absolutely unfiltered personal story peppered with all sorts of borderline and near-death experiences illustrates a painful as well as poetic portrait of a man who speaks completely freely from the soul, a soul striptease, so to speak, and became part of one of the most formative and important groups of an entire generation, whose deep scar tissue should lay the foundation of a remarkable career.
Anthony Kiedis - Outlaw Child
In his book Anthony Kiedis tells in detail about his early childhood in Michigan and his later move alone to Los Angeles to get closer to his father, a striving but unsuccessful actor in Hollywood with the bold stage name Blackie Dammet. His father's permissive and especially lawless lifestyle impressed the young Anthony heavily and thus the gates of sex, drugs and rock and roll were already wide open to him at prepubescent age. Anthony's first drug rush was experienced in the presence of his father, who—due to the poorly running main job as a smuggler for marijuana and later heroin—kept his head above water.
Blackie also organized the first sexual experience for his son, with his then girlfriend, of all people. Therefore Anthony grew up in the modern Wild West of Hollywood, which ensured that he developed an enormous self-confidence quite early on—naturally this proved to be a solid bedrock upon which to build his eventual career with the Red Hot Chili Peppers as an iconic frontman.
In L.A. Anthony then attended Fairfax High School, where he met the first incarnation of the Red Hot Chili Peppers: Flea on bass, Hillel Slovak on guitar, and Jack Irons on drums, at that time still under the name "Tony Flow And The Majestic Masters of Mayhem," whose only purpose was to break up habitual musical conventions and pay more attention to becoming a jam-based band, in which the cosmic freedom that a Jimi Hendrix had evoked with his boundless guitar work would be further brought to the masses.
Moreover, and this continued to the present day: the band sees itself as a structure in which each part may shine individually and collaboratively work on musical compositions. There is no place for dictators in the Chili Peppers. Another habit, which came later in the career, and which is still maintained is Flea's proposal to deliberately take a few days off to rest during major tours, because according to Kiedis, these are life-saving.
Anthony Kiedis: A rockstar against the odds
The aforementioned early formed self-confidence, which Anthony Kiedis had acquired due to his living situation with his father, helped him in his youth to cheat his way through life with ease. Occasional crimes such as theft were the order of the day for the pubescent Kiedis, since he did not get to know a solid moral role model in his early years apart from his mother, whom he had left early for an adventurous life with the father he idolized.
While he was peddling around L.A. in the early '80s with no boundaries—experiencing regular police raids due to his father's business with shady characters—his career as one of the most charismatic frontmen in rock history began completely unexpectedly: his friends Flea, Hillel and Jack were all competent musicians, while Anthony Kiedis had no experience with musical instruments, let alone singing. Originally, Kiedis was recruited by his friends to be their official concert announcer because he was such a wild entertainer and thus could heat up the crowd. But then Anthony discovered the power of spoken word singing, namely rap, and this encouraged him to take the step of becoming the group's permanent vocalist.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Musically authentic
The old records such as the self-titled debut or "Freaky Styley" sound much more consistent with rap. An influence can be heard in the vocal performance of Kiedis with a style that he also maintains to this day, but meanwhile he tries much more emotionally resonant clear vocals, for which he took various singing courses for album after album over time. What stands out about the clearly sung passages is the enormous emotional vulnerability that is openly presented, and with regard to the lyrics, for which Anthony Kiedis is completely responsible, authentic stories from an eventful life are described here.
Authenticity is the magic word, which is partly responsible for the fact that the band could resonate culturally to this extent at all. With regards to the autobiography, it becomes especially clear and even visceral in places when the exact backstories for the inspirations of some iconic songs are brutally laid bare. For example, "Tearjerker," which in the end deals with the handling of the death of Kurt Cobain, as he became a good friend for the Red Hot Chili Peppers due to split shows. Additionally, one of the band's anthems par excellence, "Under The Bridge," confronts Anthony with his history of excessive drug abuse—particularly with cocaine and heroin—which is relentlessly discussed in Scar Tissue.
The said drug addiction, especially all the intravenous use of heroin, which was lived out by the entire formation and cost founding member Hillel Slovak his life in 1988, runs like a red thread through Kiedis' private life, until he finally succeeded in 2000 after several setbacks to permanently renounce the substance. The book contains numerous anecdotes about the sometimes life-threatening situations that a heroin addict like Anthony Kiedis experienced, such as crashing his car into a tree in a drunken stupor in 1984 and nearly having his skull split in two.
Fortunately, a local paramedic was on the scene at the exact moment who noticed the accident and saved Kiedis' life. The stories about his spiritual self-discovery, for which he almost died in the jungle and was even allowed to meet the Dalai Lama in person, are also fascinating stones in the mosaic that Scar Tissue forms with its 465 pages and every reader will probably find an individual highlight of this eventful life.
Red Hot Chili Peppers—Music for eternity
After the death of Hillel Slovak, a new era of the band dawned as the group regrouped after the tragic loss, with Kiedis and Flea as the only founding members remaining to this day. Chad Smith and John Frusciante enriched the musical cosmos immensely and ensured the constant evolution of the troupe.
The extroverted Smith and the sensitive Frusciante, who is a complete revelation as a creative guitarist enormously influenced by Hendrix, rounded out the total package. In this constellation came about some of the most magical albums of their discography: Mother's Milk, Blood Sugar Sex Magik and of course Californication, which, after reading, reveals a completely new listening pleasure, as well as the rest of the Chili Peppers' catalogue: 12 studio albums since 1984.
Scar Tissue reveals internal tensions that led to Frusciante's premature exit from the band and the heartbreaking story of the re-entry that led to the Chili Peppers' commercial peak and significantly shaped an entire generation with their heartfelt sound, sweat, and a lot of blood. For veteran fans and anyone interested in music history, Scar Tissue offers a raw, unfiltered and extremely intimate look into the dazzling world of the lyrical mind behind the funk rock legends from the City of Angels.
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