Skip to main content

Acid for the Children: A Memoir


Acid for the Children: A Memoir

When I learned that Flea, the bassist for one of my favorite bands, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, was publishing a memoir, I jumped at the chance to read and review it. I mean, my go-to song at karaoke is their hit “Otherside.” I looked forward to the wild tales of life on the road with his fellow band members that was sure to involve overindulgence in whatever they could get their hands on, wild romps with groupies, and stepping out with high fashion models. Well, I could not have been more wrong in my preconceptions.

First of all, ACID FOR THE CHILDREN, which is 379 pages, does not even mention the formation of the Red Hot Chili Peppers until page 371. The focus of the memoir is on the man who would become Flea. Far from the wild rocker who once went on stage wearing nothing but one sock (I will leave its placement to your imagination), Michael Peter Balzary is a book lover and is well versed in film. Among the novels he lists as his personal favorites are THE MASTER AND MARGARITA by Mikhail Bulgakov, SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut and JAZZ by Toni Morrison. Some of his standout movies include The Spirit of the Beehive, Throne of Blood, The Wizard of Oz and Persepolis. He is definitely no “Flea Brain”!

"I loved ACID FOR THE CHILDREN. It is honest, brutally so at times, and spoken in such a true voice that you would think Michael Balzary was right there in the room with you."

Before the book gets underway, Flea includes a page of lyrics from one of his favorite songwriters, Patti Smith, with a piece called “Innocence.” Clearly these words moved him to the point of including them in his thorough, no-holds-barred memoir. He avers early on that his entire life has been a search for his highest self and a journey to the depths of the spirit. It is obvious that Flea had no ghostwriter as all of the language is fresh and leaves no doubt as to whose mind they are coming from. The chapters are short --- some only consist of a paragraph or even a few sentences --- and each is titled with the descriptive voice that could only come from Flea. In “In a Circle,” he reflects that his earliest memories are rooted in an underlying sense that something was wrong with him, that he was broken somehow.

Flea recalls being fascinated by music at the age of five, which continues to this day. The 1960s, the decade in which he was born, saw him and his family relocate from Australia to New York City. Unfortunately, family strife soon led to his father moving back to the Land Down Under. Not long after that, his mother’s boyfriend, Walter, became more present in their lives, and he eventually looked to him as a father figure. This is ironic because Flea never really felt connected to his mother and only much later in his life would their relationship improve.

As his affection and curiosity for music grew, Flea found real love for and togetherness in the Punk Rock movement, where he felt accepted and could contribute something beautiful. The next big stage of his life involved the final move he made with his family, to Los Angeles, which he embraced at an impressionable preteen age. He also began experimenting with drugs --- first with marijuana and then with almost anything he could get his hands on. It was during this time that Flea would meet Anthony Kiedis, who had the biggest impact on his life and who he still considers to be his best friend in the world. Fans will know that Kiedis would later become the lead singer/frontman of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, so reading about them during their formative years is a real blast.

I loved ACID FOR THE CHILDREN. It is honest, brutally so at times, and spoken in such a true voice that you would think Michael Balzary was right there in the room with you. I admire and respect the anti-establishment side of Flea, which is clearly evident not only in the title he chose, but also in the front cover photo, which depicts his 11-year-old self smoking a joint. I would have liked for him to have spent more time on his film career. Even though he has done mostly bit parts --- the standout for me is his neo-Nazi character who kills Steve Buscemi in the Coen Brothers cult classic The Big Lebowski --- he has been in a number of important indie movies and continues to act to this day.

I can only hope that Flea pens a second memoir (he briefly alludes to this at the end), so that we can see the skyrocket ride that he and his best friends took as the Red Hot Chili Peppers became one of the most popular bands in the world.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on November 8, 2019

Acid for the Children: A Memoir
by Flea

  • Publication Date: September 20, 2022
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1455530549
  • ISBN-13: 9781455530540