A wild ride through the coming-of-age wilderness of the famed rock bassist.
Though this volume barely touches on the career of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the band whose fans will likely constitute its most ardent readership, Flea’s spirit permeates the narrative, which is scattered, reflective, hedonistic, funny, scary, and occasionally redemptive. By the time it finishes, the author has just turned 20, and the band has just begun its launch. Even early on, he writes, “I knew it was all there [with the band]. I could see its path stretched out before me, but like Dorothy and Toto, I had no idea of what walking it could mean.” Flea was born Michael Peter Balzary in Melbourne, Australia, on Oct. 16, 1962, preceded by an older sister, to a mother and father who would split during his early childhood. His father continued to live in Australia, where his sister would return, while his mother moved with her son to the United States. In New York City, they lived with Walter, a tempestuous jazz musician who became Flea’s stepfather. Despite his erratic behavior, Walter showed the author how to “utilize the pathos of his life to create thrilling art. The anger and loneliness, the pain from feeling hurt and neglected could be fuel for the greatest gifts.” For years, Flea was an outsider, and his weirdness only intensified once the family moved from New York to Los Angeles in order to further what never quite became a musical career for Walter. As a “street kid” (“not a homeless kid, not an uneducated kid, but a street kid”) in LA, the author discovered a host of colorful characters and drugs, played trumpet and loved jazz, and read Vonnegut. Few of the chapters, which unfold in bursts of jazzy, sometimes irregular prose (and little attention to grammar), extend for more than a page or two, and some of them are just a paragraph. Flea was still a street kid when he bonded with future band mates Anthony Kiedis, Hillel Slovek, and Jack Irons.
Relentlessly honest, untamed, and often revelatory. Perhaps a second volume is in the works?