No, I've never shot up coke or stolen baskets of food from grocery stores or stage-dove at punk rock shows or even picked up a bass for fun. But I can still relate to Flea's new memoir Acid for the Children chronicling the Red Hot Chili Peppers' bassist from his childhood home in Australia to his teen life in California to finding a kindred spirit in Anthony Kiedis.
Why? It's not just that I'm a zealous RHCP fan ("Blood Sugar" is the best album and I will fight you on this) but many moments in Flea's coming-of-age story spoke to me, even though I never thought I had much in common with this wildly talented musician and actor....other than our unwavering line for the funkiest of grooves.
In his breezy writing style, Flea writes about being an outsider by way of his introverted behaviour, preferring books over partying. Facing a tumultuous childhood, Flea disappeared into books by authors such as Tolkien and Vonnegut. "While reading, all my confusion and hurt dissolved, and when I reentered reality, I was a little bit better of a person, a little bit more capable of learning from y missteps."
Hells to the yeah! When you're bookcore, that kind of sentiment resonates with you.
While I might not be in touch with heavy drug drug culture that Flea eventually found himself in, I could see myself in how he described friendship, extending upon a belief I've long had about the value of strong social connections: "Friends weren't just friends for me. For kids from stable loving homes, a true friend is a beautiful thing and part of an extended family. But for someone like me - and it's no coincidence that all the kids I became close to also hailed form broken homes - a friend introduced the possibility of true family."
When Flea met Anthony Kiedis, the singer for RHCP, in Fairfax High School, he found a kindred spirit, and the way Flea describes the bond is something out of a dreamy poem: "...when he started writing lyrics over my bass lines his artistry gave me new life. My heart grew a couple of sizes. The color of his words, the sharp sound of the syllables cracking together. Both his lyrics and my bass lines pulsed together, same as the heartbeat of our friendship."
Flea also found salvation in playing and watching basketball, another pastime I turn to more than most. He writes how the flow and rhythm and just even the boxscore of the games gave him comfort and stability during a childhood bristling with an alcoholic father and an indifferent mother. And he worked on his jumpshot relentlessly, instilling discipline in the young musician that would eventually lead to the same kind of craftsmanship he brought to his bass and trumpet lines.
There's lyricism within so many passages of this memoir, too many to cite, and it's refreshing to see Flea's voice come through as he recollects those highs and lows of growing up in L.A. What my main issue with Kiedis's Scar Tissue was how it felt like he wrote with someone else who helped massage the grammar and sentence structure. But in a musician's memoir, I'm not looking for crisp non-fiction; I'm looking for personality to come through the pages, even if the writing is a bit rougher than what I'm used to.
For those who know Flea, he's eons away from the kid he used to be, in part due to healthy clean-eating habits that has him going completely sober and opting for a more spiritual path of yoga and meditation. It's encouraging to see someone so deep in smack and non-stop joint smoking to suddenly pull himself out of that hole to find the light in music and touring and romance.
Acid for the Children is a breezy read, even if you want to linger over some moments that has you reflecting on something similar that mirrors your upbringing. What I should warn RHCP fans, though, is that the book focuses on Flea's childhood and not the formation of RHCP. You'll learn about his formative years playing the bands Anthym and FEAR but don't expect a lot of stories about the early RHCP days (which may come in a teased volume 2, but I wouldn't bet on it. This memoir was delayed by a year due to the band's non-stop touring sched).
Also, you don't even need to be a huge RHCP fan to get into Flea's memoir. His colourful anecdotes and real-talk views on what music meant to him is enough to engage anyone with a passing interest in what turns on certain people into music fans. Because, as many musicians can attest, Flea began as a music aficionado first and a bassist second, much like how I was a longtime reader before I picked up the pen.
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