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  • Writer's pictureNishant Mittal

Acid for the Children: Book Review by Nishant Mittal

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

Acid for the children - Book review by Nishant Mittal
RHCP playing live in front of a crowd of 100k.

Flea, originally Michael Peter Balzari, is the bass player of Red Hot Chili Peppers. Now if that doesn't ring a bell to you, I can understand. Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP) are HUGE. But they're not Barack Obama, or let's say, Bill Gates or Elon Musk. Contrary to what music fanatics (like me) always felt growing up, the world doesn't revolve around musicians. They're way down in the food chain. I felt pretty sad when I first had that epiphany, but it is what it is.

Though if you think about it, there's still a lot to learn from musicians. Some of them (like a really, really small percentage of them) live a great, colourful life. They inspire millions of people. Make significant money. And most importantly, do what they love. They seem "free". They express themselves and millions of "fans" around the world just follow. Some people (mostly teenagers) even worship them quite literally and pretty seriously. Isn't that beautiful? Yeah!

Consider Flea. He formed RHCP when he was 21. He loved playing music and always found it to be meditative. Even magical. He's now 60. Still at RHCP. And still doing what he always loved doing. RHCP has sold over 120 million records worldwide, having won 6 grammy awards and thousands of shows in front of tens of millions of people. Even though it was never about money, Flea's personal net worth is itself now over $160 Million. That's a terrific life by any standards. But what do we know about him?

Acid for the Children is a memoir. Flea's written it like an origin story. It's not a typical rockstar memoir where a guy brags about his achievements till it gets cringe. Acid for the Children is about where Flea comes from and how he came to be. The book ends right before the formation of RHCP and works like a time machine. It takes you to that little kid in Australia in 60s, who watches his family shift to the US and then fall apart. Flea's mother left his biological father for a struggling Jazz musician (a bass player, interestingly), and pretty much left her kids (Flea and a sister) to float on their own. His original family was well off and pretty "normal", but this new home was far from it. Mother was a bit too nonchalant, and step dad, though a really nice guy, had frequent and intense violent eruptions. Flea grew up as a poor and neglected street urchin who shoplifted and got high on the regular.

Flea's descriptions of his childhood and adolescence are both terrifying and hilarious. We read vivid recollections of him taking Cocaine, Meth, Heroin, MDA, Quaaludes, LSD and so many other drugs like food. There's no semblance of safety either; these guys were shooting Heroin using shared needs with a bunch of junkies. How he didn't die of AIDS is a literally a miracle, for which he thanks god after every ten pages. But behind all this insanity, if you're reading carefully, you'll see a guy who was floating through life with an open heart full of love and kindness. A guy who sincerely believed that friendships are the strongest and most beautiful bonds in the world. A guy who loved to "belong" and be loved, no matter what. It's this intrinsic and completely honest benevolence which "made" Flea. It's this benevolence which connected him to Anthony Kiedes and forged a lifelong and incredibly valuable friendship (and also partnership) which literally ROCKED the world.

You see, things like skill, talent, knowledge and even intelligence are dime a dozen. There's no scarcity of all that. But love is rare. Kindness is rare. Looking at the world with a strange sense of positivity is extremely rare. Talented people who're also truly benevolent almost don't exist. Add a lot of AIDS avoiding luck to that, and you got Flea.

Most people make "plans" and die with them. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes not. That's one way of living and it's alright. Another way of living, which I didn't really know about before reading this book, is to float through life without peeking too much into the future. This way of life has you open your heart to constant learning, doing your best, and having as much fun as possible. Flea was really poor when he was growing up, but he surely had more fun than anybody else. And thankfully, he wrote it all so well that I was just laughing for most of the 20 hours I spent reading his book.

Great sense of humour. No preaching. A beautiful life, well told. You could definitely pick it up.

Acid for the Children is a beautiful book. Thank you, Flea!

Acid for the children - Book review by Nishant Mittal
Acid for the Children by Flea.

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