Flea finally released his ‘memoir,’ Acid for the Children, after lengthy delays on 5th November, 2019. There was a a flurry of interviews and a promotional tour to promote its publication which took place in theatres/book stores in several American cities. There was often a talk or Q&A session with Flea, followed by a book signing. Online pre-orders of the book in the US came with a free 7 inch vinyl of extracts of Flea reading the book from the audio version of the memoirs.
Acid For The Children covers Flea’s early years in Australia and then his childhood and teens in the United States after his family moved and then life with his mother and step-father (his father then returned to Australia). He talks about his family, friends and describes meeting people along the way we know from later RHCP history such as Anthony Kiedis. It ends with the formation of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and those first Gary Allen curated performances that are now an enshrined part of RHCP lore. A deliberate choice to conclude as Flea wanted to prove himself as a writer and thought that writing about RHCP would lead to easy sales and detract from his aim.
The book title refers to an incident from his childhood when he smoked a joint on a nudist beach (the cover is a photo from the same day), and sets the tone for a childhood where drugs and other wildness featured freely:
Scenes of his life are vividly detailed by Flea and that’s where this book succeeds. Past eras and decades are brought alive in his snapshot anecdotes:
Flea also describes his love for music vividly again and again, and the reader can feel his passion flowing from the pages:
In terms of RHCP details, as mentioned above, the memoir effectively ends with the formation of the band:
There is very little new information for Chili Pepper fans as a result, although Flea’s relationships with people other than AK who would feature in the formation and early years of the band – how he met them and the nature of their early friendships- are detailed within the pages of the memoirs and give a new insight (Anthony is obviously included too and in detail. However, there is little new other than it being from Flea’s perspective as a lot of the anecdotes are essentially the same as those Anthony included in his own book, Scar Tissue).
These things said, I need to add my caveat before I continue. I can’t ignore other parts of the book, but I didn’t like this book and I can’t discuss it objectively as a result, so please don’t read further if this will be an issue.
I know this issue is a “me problem” as my teenage daughter would say, although it set my initial tone for reacting to ‘Acid’. English literature is a passion of mine. This book irritated me; it doesn’t know if it’s a biography or a confession or self-analysis and it badly needed an editor to give it focus and direction. Some people can read a book and enjoy it for what it is. A curse of my love for literature, and my background, means I cannot. I dissect everything I read. Thankfully, it’s short and only takes a couple of hours to read as some chapters are merely a paragraph, the font is large and there are a lot of blank spaces on the pages too.
I enjoyed reading about Flea’s childhood much more than I thought I would as, sorry Flea, he’s not my focus in the band, but that was it. I didn’t like the whole “woe is me” tone which pervades the narrative, but my real issue with it are the character assassinations of everyone from his mother, father, step-father to Anthony Kiedis (especially Anthony Kiedis).
However, as I start to write about my relationship with Anthony, I’ve had to pause and walk away from my desk. The pen weighs about twenty pounds and my brain thuds to a sluggish halt. Our friendship is complicated and many layered. I must write honestly about how it has affected my life or else why write at all? I’m scared to poison things between us, or scare the magic out of it by hying to understand it, but so be it. Here I go.
Acid for the Children; page 162
Flea clearly has an issue with pretty much everyone who was a key element of his childhood. Everyone let him down. Everyone treated him badly. Flea clearly has an issue with his own body image (paraphrasing he comes across as seeing himself as this short, ugly man). And Flea clearly has an issue with alpha males (his life would have been more successful if he was one seems to be the message). And that makes a double whammy for AK who is clearly an alpha male and a key element. But he loves everyone! Flea says that too. After laying their faults bare repeatedly in print to last for all of eternity; and for everyone to read. I always thought Flea was a hippy type full of love for everyone. I sadly ended the book with a very different view. Hence, my caveat.
An unexpected current came, I slipped, and the top of Anthony’s canteen fell into the river, washing away, lost for all time. I returned to our lame campsite with the water, feeling badly about the top, and explained to Anthony how I lost it, and that he could have my canteen. He was furious, telling me he knew I would fuck it up, that’s just the kind of person I was, an idiot who couldn’t get things done right. His words crushed me. He then froze me out, stopped talking to me until the next day. Him ghosting me out with silence like that, while I lay there in my sleeping bag staring up at the stars, was a power play punishment that made me feel like shit. I counted on his love. It was a painful pattern, a dynamic that repeated between us in many contexts for years to come. I was needy for stable support, and he was needy for the stability of control.
Acid for the Children; page 175-176
As I’ve mentioned, this book features Anthony Kiedis and as a lot of press reviews picked up on, a main emphasis of the book is Flea’s relationship with him. Anthony doesn’t come out of it well. Flea frequently professes his love for his ‘soul brother’ and band mate, but Anthony gets a very hard ride within the pages too. Flea clearly has a very complex relationship with Anthony; he loves him one minute and is sticking the dagger in the next. (I’ve written a detailed account on my other website so I won’t go through it all again here: AK in ‘Acid For The Children‘).
Flea also has issues with the lack of a true mother’s love which is mentioned again and again… although he loves her (and like AK, sticks the knife into her, but he loves her):
Ditto his father.
And his step-father who was an out of control alcoholic and drug taker who introduced him to jazz, but did nothing to nurture his musical talent…
All of Flea’s main relationship’s are presented in this complex love and hate manner. He had nobody to really love him or turn to, so he turned to the mean streets of LA and has had a hard life as a result. Poor little Flea…
It is also so hard not to compare Acid For The Children to Scar Tissue. Aside from similarities of content and overlapping characters, both feature drug taking as a prominent part of the narrative. However, Anthony details his drug use as just part of his story with a greater emphasis put on rehab and eventual recovery, whereas Flea waxes lyrical about the joys of getting high. There is even a many page ‘instruction manual’ on how to take drugs (literally, 1 do this… 2 do that… ending on point 24. Maybe it’s supposed to be a parody or funny, but that passed me by and I found it unpleasant reading). Not sure if he’s just telling his tale or if Flea is telling his reader to go and get high… Whatever. It wasn’t for me.
Peace! This is just my perspective. (And yes, I’d probably read a follow on for the RHCP information it might contain).