Red Hot Chili Peppers? It’s always been easy to mistakenly think their jocular and joke-y nature overcompensated for a lack of talent. Such is not the case, and the musicians in the band—past and present—were and are the best of the best. Few musicians are as respected than bassist/hype man/comedic personality/decent dude Michael Balzary, better known as Flea. Over the decades, his compassion, generosity, and encouraging spirit have earned him much love and respect. But the punk rock elder had to go through some tough times and rough trials to earn the reputation and the wisdom he now enjoys, and Flea’s autobiography Acid For The Children, the first in a series of memoirs, describes in vivid and compelling detail the beginning of his journey.
Born in Australia, Flea’s family would soon move to the United States. Unfortunately, not long after they relocated, his parents split; his mother stayed in America, while his father returned home. Yet Flea wasn’t without a father figure, and his new stepfather Walter Urban—while having issues of his own—proved key to the young man’s artistic development. Walter, a jazz purist at heart, fostered young Flea’s budding musical taste. Jazz became so much a part of his life that it wasn’t until he met his friends Hillel Slovek and Anthony Kiedis that he really began to appreciate rock, funk, and punk.
Yet like so many other suburban youth from the era, Flea ran wild. His creative spirit matched his recklessness, and drugs soon entered into the picture. At the same time, Flea possessed natural street smarts, leading him to avoid danger. Acid For The Children may have its wild moments, but it also has plenty of near-misses, and Flea’s hindsight about how lucky he is only adds to the grateful nature of his tale. His recollection of nearly being ensnared by a local pedophile proves quite disturbing, especially when you realize some of his friends weren’t so lucky.
Yet for all of the bad things going on around him, Flea does an amazing job of capturing the innocence and wonder of youth. Acid For The Children is written in a very breezy, almost freeform manner; one chapter may be several pages, while the next simply one paragraph. He relates run-ins with bullies and bad guys with charm, while capturing the awkwardness of being around the opposite sex. The excitement he feels at rock shows is so vivid, you feel that passion alongside him.
But if there’s one theme that’s prevalent through Acid For The Children, it’s brotherhood. Meeting Anthony Kiedis is the best thing that happens to him, and he knows it almost instantly. They become partners in crime–both figuratively and literally. When Hillel Slovak enters the picture, the bond becomes something truly magical. The first band they start together, ultimately known as What Is This?, seems promising. When Flea gets the opportunity of a young punk’s lifetime to join the popular band Fear, the pain of having to tell his friends is obvious. Kiedis is excited for his bandmate, while Slovak feels betrayed. When his tenure in the band is over, he returns to his friends. They have an idea for a new band that will blend punk, funk, and jazz elements in ways What Is This? only dreamed about…
And then the book ends.
If the ending feels premature and leaves you wanting more…that’s the point. Flea’s a consummate entertainer, after all. He knows the importance of leaving your audience wanting more, especially when you know this is but the beginning. Acid For The Children offers one hell of a ride, but this autobiography is just the tip of the iceberg in the insane and unbelievable life of Flea.