Red Hot Chili Peppers, Scar Tissue, Orlando, George Clinton and Rehab

ImageThe relationship between lead singer of the Red Hot Chili Peppers Anthony Kiedis and guitarist John Frusciante is similar to Kiedis’ relationships and Frusciante’s relationships with drugs; on again, off again. John Frusciante in a lot of ways probably reminds Kiedis of himself. The fact of the matter is that Frusciante has been on drugs on and off for at least 15 years.

Frusciante started his first term with the Chili Peppers in 1988. Fruscinate was content to be the guitarist for an obscure funk band that partied during the week. But, after the release of Blood, Sugar, Sex, Magik in 1991, the whole dynamic changed. Frusciante was blindsided by instant fame, and struggled to cope with it. Soon after the album’s release, he began to develop a dislike for the band’s popularity. Kiedis recalled that he and Frusciante used to get into heated discussions backstage after concerts: “John would say, ‘We’re too popular. I don’t need to be at this level of success. I would just be proud to be playing this music in clubs like you guys were doing two years ago.'”

He finally dropped out of the band in May of 1992 during their Japanese tour.

He came back to the band in 1998, following rehabilitation for heroin addiction and lasted until 2009 before he got back into drugs and quit the band for the second time. The second relapse was no surprise to Kiedis. His response was, “Mentally, John checked out 13 years ago.”

The Red Hot Chili Peppers were strangers to Human Resources problems. The Chili Peppers have gone through three different drummers until they finally found Chad Smith through a friend of the band. This friend claimed Smith was the best drummer she had ever seen, that he ate drums for breakfast. The band agreed to audition Smith, however he was late and the last to audition. Kiedis recalled the first time he saw Smith by saying, “I spied this big lummox walking down the street with a really bad Guns ‘N Roses hairdo and clothes that were not screaming I’ve got style”.

Smith was a six-foot three-inch tall drummer who, according to Flea, “lit a fire under our asses,” from the moment they started jamming, Smith and Flea instantly clicked. The band knew they had their guy. Smith was a hard-hitting musician the Chili Peppers believed they would create a strong relationship with. Kiedis later said the audition with Smith “left the band in a state of frenzied laughter, that we couldn’t shake out of for a half an hour”. Smith was so much different from the other three. Kiedis and Flea were heavily influenced by the punk rock, where Smith’s taste in heavy metal music and biker appearance went against their punk rock views. Kiedis informed Smith he would be hired on one condition. As an initiation to the band, Smith had to cut his long heavy metal looking haircut. Smith refused though Kiedis wasn’t about to argue with the much larger Smith. Smith was hired in November 1988, performed a few shows in December of that year and three months later was in the studio working on the band’s next album.

The band had already written approximately 70 percent of the album by the time the group traveled to Michigan to record the album. Clinton decided that the band would spend a month with him before recording to bond and create ideas for new songs. Before renting a house of their own, the group members stayed in Clinton’s house in the village of Brooklyn, about an hour away from Detroit, for a week.  The band was excited to live with Clinton, but as soon as Kiedis moved in, he began experiencing severe heroin withdrawal, and became very ill. He attempted to offset his desire for heroin by using cocaine instead, but his relief was short-lived. After a few days, however, his symptoms subsided and he was able to join the group in playing music and connecting with Clinton. The Red Hot Chili Peppers felt a strong chemistry with Clinton and enjoyed his quirky personality and storytelling abilities. After a week of living with him, the band moved into a house on a nearby golf course.

The Freaky Styley album was recorded at United Sound Studios in Detroit. During the recording of the album the band and Clinton began using copious amounts of cocaine together, which had a negative effect on the band’s overall health.

It got so bad at one point that George Clinton’s Eastern European drug dealer actually came to the studio to collect on the debt owed to him.

“Look around at all this studio equipment, does it look like I am strapped for cash? Once we cut this album (Freaky Styley) I am the first mother….. to get paid and then you will be the second person who gets paid,” said George to his Eastern dealer.

The dealer brought some muscle with him and refused to leave the studio. George asked the dealer what it was going to take to get the dealer out of the studio so the band could continue to record the album. The dealer was really interested in the recording business and wanted to be on the album.  The track “Yertle the Turtle,” as stated by Kiedis in his autobiography, “Scar Tissue,” starts with the spoken lyrics “Look at that turtle go bro.” and repeats throughout the song. These lyrics were sung by the Eastern dealer.

When the time came for Kiedis to record his vocals, he decided to abstain from cocaine use for two weeks, an experience he likened to “deciding to be celibate when you’re living in a brothel.”

Flash forward to 1998 when I got my first chance to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers in concert. They came to Paradise, California and played at the “Field of Dreams.” The show was on a Wednesday night and the price was $25. I was nervous about going to a venue that was nearly 25 miles from where I lived in a field somewhere. I also was a little bummed after hearing their latest album “Aeroplane” which didn’t meet my expectations. The additon of Dave Navarro/relapse of Kiedis into heroin brought a strange cloud over that release.

Fourteen years later I still have regrets I missed that concert.  So I was very excited about going to the first date of their latest tour in Orlando with my co-worker Don Bayer.  Don was one of the few employees over 30. When Don was younger he had gotten a job working as an extra on “Baywatch” for two episodes. Since then he had done pretty much every job; life guard, substitute teacher,  musician and had a masters degree in International Business from Pepperdine University.

“So, how does a guy with a Masters degree from Pepperdine University end up working at Club Adriatic as a life guard?”

“It is a long story. You want to go to the Chili Peppers concert with me?”

Later that week Don went to the mall and bought two tickets for $45 each. The kickoff tour date was scheduled for January 31 in Orlando. The concert was still a month away when Don bought the tickets. Just to be sure, I asked my boss if she could please give me the date off, it was on a Saturday.

A few weeks before the concert the word came out that Kiedis had broken his foot and the concert would be delayed for another few months.  Finally, March 31 rolled around and we were set to go to Orlando from Port St. Lucie. After we were about 20 minutes into the ride Don tells me, “The message therapist at the hotel offered me first row tickets for $65 a piece but I decided not to buy them.”

“Oh, what row are we in?” I asked.

“Our seats are in the fifth deck.”

Not wanting to blow my top within the first half hour of our trip and pleaded with Don.  “Should we go back to the hotel and try and buy the tickets?”

“No we can’t do that, she isn’t working today.”

“The concert starts at 8 pm, it’s not even 12 noon yet, let’s just get to the concert a few hours early and try and trade our tickets for some better seats,” I suggested.

Don nodded that was ok with him. As we were getting on the freeway we were given a “sun pass,” which is a flowery name given to the toll that everyone in Florida has to pay for using the highways there. By the time we got to our exit in Orlando we had been on the highway for about 2 hours. When we gave our “sun pass” to the guy in the toll booth he rang us up for $13. I thanked him for working that day and appreciated his soft hands.

We found our hotel which cost $75 a night and had a pool. We might as well have been at a Radisson, it had two rooms, a nice kitchen, refrigerator and a dining area. There is no way we would have gotten a room half that nice in any major city in California for that price.  As soon as we checked in the rain started coming on heavily. We rushed downstairs and across the street to the nearest Carl’s Junior.  I got an extra large burger with fries and a water. My teeth were hurting me a bit from drinking too much soda. I was so hungry I ate the burger while it was still red hot. While we were eating Don told me about a couple in the hotel who he went out drinking with.

After his story I told him a little about an experience I had at the hotel.

“My co-worker Mosher is one of those guys who threw away the playbook of life out the back window a long time ago, we were walking together by the volleyball court the other day and two lizards walked in front of us on the path. Mosher then looks towards me and says, ‘You ever make earrings out of dead lizards?’ I said that I didn’t. He then goes on to ask me if I know Tim the Taxi driver. ‘Oh man, you got to meet this guy. Every time I get a ride from the hotel to anywhere he tells me about his partying days.  But when he tells a story you can only only understand about one third of what he is telling you.’”

“Yeah, I know the guy, here are a few of my favorite stories by Tim, ‘$5 for a pack of toothpicks………(20 minutes go by)……. what else was I supposed to do with the handcuffs?’ or ‘What kind of questions was that…..(6 minutes go by)…….that’s why I don’t go out with American chicks,’ or ‘I used to pack each urinal with two cups of ice…….(2 minutes go by)…….he tap danced his ass out of my house pretty quickly after that,’ or ‘The Rebar, I didn’t even know there was one in town…..(1 minute goes by)…..and they will show a picture of you right there on the video screen if you are sober enough,’ or ‘I stopped partying 6 years ago ….(4 minutes go by)….that will make you forget about your big toe pretty quick,’or ‘I brought it to the dart board……(30 seconds go by)…….and the minute he gets out of jail, she goes right back to him,’ If you don’t believe me I have over seven different videos filmed with Tim while in his taxi cab,” I replied defensively.

The more we discussed about our working lives the heavier the rain got until finally I said, ¨Are you sure you want to go to the hotel pool after this?” trying to make light of the situation.

“No, let’s just grab a few Canada Dries and head back to the hotel.”

“What about the holes in the bottom of your shoes, I think it’s time to buy a new pair,” replied Don.

“These old DC shoes I bought back in 2007 and have held together pretty well. I paid $45 for them  at that time.  I went back to the store where I bought this year and they want $60 for the exact same pair but the weight of the new shoes are about half the weight of these ones. I think DC shoes are starting to skimp on the materials and selling shoes that aren’t as good as there were back in the day. When I originally bought these shoes I used to leave them by the front door promising to myself that I would take them back to the store the next day because they weren’t that comfortable, were so rigid and I wanted to find some high tops. Three months later they finally were broken in and they didn’t dig into my ankles. Now 5 years later  can’t get rid  of them because they don’t make shoes this good anymore,” I replied to Don afyer we arrive at the quick stop.

I checked my watch and we still had over 4 hours until show time. We quickly headed over to the quick stop and grabbed a few cold Canada Dries. We went back to the hotel and discussed how we  would make it over to the stadium.

We rolled up to the Amway Center exactly 2 hours early for the show. The place seemed like the atmosphere was picking, so we walked around looking for some ticket scalpers. Finally we met a guy who was standing underneath a bridge.

“We got a business deal we want to talk to you about,” I started in. “How about if we trade you our two tickets in the fifth deck and you give us your tickets in the third deck for $25 a piece?”

“Let me see your tickets,” asked the scalper as he threw his towel over he shoulder. For some reason it seems as if everyone in the scalping business walks around carrying a towel. They must sweat a lot standing under a bridge all day.

We handed over the tickets and the scalper seemed convinced they were real. He reconfirmed the agreement and we passed our tickets over and the money and he gave us his tickets.

We inspected our new tickets and started walking towards the Amway Center. A block in a half later we heard someone running up behind us.

“Sorry guys, I can’t take the tickets they have expired,” he belched out, clearly not used  to having to run customers down.

We tried to explain to him that the original date in January had been pushed back to March 31 due to the lead singer having a medical condition.

“Sorry, I can’t buy tickets from January,” replied the scalper.

We decided bot to haggle with him too much because we figured there must be thousands of people trying to sell tickets to this show walking around. So we gave the money and tickets back and got our old tickets back. We walked around for another hour talking to maybe 10 other scalpers and finding nobody who was really to trade their tickets for ours. Reluctantly I walked into the auditorium with Don at 8.15pm.

There was another band playing before the Red Hot Chili Peppers called something like, Blind Fist Punches Freedom. We listened to them while waiting in line to buy a few Canada Dries. We got our soda and headed to the 5th deck, It seemed like the elevator took 20 minutes to get there. We then walked down the corridor a few blocks and went into the seating area. There was no usher for the upper deck so we found our seats by ourselves. We sat down and were right in the aisle behind the stairs. I thought to myself, “Oh great we are going to have all the drunk people spilling beers on us all day.” I tried not to show my frustration in front of Don. After 15 minutes went by to people came over and asked to see our tickets. They apparently had a claim on our seats. When they checked our tickets we realized we were actually sitting about 10 seats over to the left. We apologized and looked for our new seats. We sat down in our seats and were dead center in front of the stage (still not close but at least we had a clear view to the stage). In our new found seats we got so excited we attempted to chat with the girls sitting to our left but they didn’t seem too interested in discussing the newly-released collectors edition of World of Warcraft.

Don went downstairs for a smoke right as the concert started. I warned him that there probably weren’t any smoking areas in the stadium. He came back 45 minutes later saying that he had actually flushed his lighter down the toilet and was looking for a new. As soon as he sat bac down we watched Kiedis shuffle across the stage with a brace on one leg.

I give the band credit, they played a solid 80 minute set. The only thing missing  felt was to chat up the crowd a little more. There was really no small talk in between songs except for a few comments about Trent Reznor.

We stopped at a McDonald’s on the way home which was in a working class neighborhood. Most of the other cars in line had spinning 22-inch silver rims. On our way home we decided to get off  one exit too soon. When we stopped at the toll booth at the exit there was nobody working there, so we just drove by without paying the toll. Twenty minutes later we were on an unlit road in the sticks being followed by a cop car. I had a bad feeling we were going to get stopped. We then came to a “T” intersection with the cop right behind us. I asked Don what I should do.

“Flip a U-turn,” he assertively responded with the tone of sending troops into battle.

I flipped a U-turn and thankfully the cop made a right. Two blocks later I pulled over and asked Don to drive.

“Luckily we weren’t in a lowered Honda or we would have been pulled over for sure,” I told Don during the switch.

“You got that right, there is no cop in all of Florida man enough to pull over two working class  white males in a 1993 Buick Sedan.”

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