Books: Rock-'n'-Roll Fantasies

Memoirs by Anthony Kiedis, Tommy Lee and Dave Navarro dish on the high life backstage

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This is not a review of chronicles, Volume One, by Bob Dylan. Chronicles is a powerfully honest, engagingly written memoir by an extraordinarily important musician. It also contains not one nude scene starring Cher. If you want to learn about Tolstoy and Woody Guthrie, Chronicles is your book. But if you want intravenous drug use and mondo hard-core groupie sex, try some of the other rock memoirs published this month: Tommy Lee's Tommyland (Atria; 269 pages), Dave Navarro's Don't Try This at Home (ReganBooks; 253 pages) and Anthony Kiedis' Scar Tissue (Hyperion; 465 pages).

Lee was the drummer for the now disbanded heavy-metal outfit Mötley Crüe, though he's probably more famous for having been married to both Heather Locklear and Pamela Anderson. Tommyland, written with journalist Anthony Bozza, is not all killer--in fact there's quite a bit of filler--but the good stuff is as good as the gold in Goldschläger. Lee's account of the four months he spent in solitary confinement--spousal abuse was the charge--conveys genuine suffering. He drums on the bars and talks to the cockroaches and drinks gross prison moonshine. You also have to appreciate the ingenuity of a guy who replaces the windshield detergent in his truck with Jack Daniels and sprays it at passersby and whose life mission is building "retardedly large drum sets."

Navarro is more the thinking man's rock star. He's a great guitarist who did stints with Jane's Addiction and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but Don't Try This at Home, co-written by Neil Strauss, is a windy, toweringly self-indulgent account of a year in Navarro's life. At the time--the year was 1998--Navarro was an agoraphobe whose primary hobbies were masturbation and intravenous drug use. So he didn't get out much. Instead, prostitutes, musicians, hangers-on, girlfriends and ex-girlfriends trooped through his house to entertain him. Navarro hectors his sycophantic guests about his mood swings, artistic ambitions and suicidal fantasies with the intellectual brio of a ninth-grade know-it-all lecturing a bunch of sixth-graders.

The rock world is a small one. Lee used to date Carmen Electra, who later married Navarro, who played in the Chili Peppers with Kiedis, whose memoir Scar Tissue, written with Larry Sloman, is more genuinely satisfying than either Lee's or Navarro's. Kiedis, we learn, grew up in Los Angeles, raised by his hard-partying, actor-slash-drug-dealer dad--and yes, was baby sat by a naked Cher. His appetite for pleasure was precocious and prodigious; he says he slept with his dad's girlfriend when he was 11 and snorted heroin at 14.

Kiedis' narrative of the funky, feckless Peppers' dues-paying years is vivid and inspiring. Good-natured and up for anything, he ground out those early days drifting from couch to couch, ingesting Costco-size quantities of coke and heroin and touring on the cheap. Success arrives on cue, as do groupies, rehab and relapses. He drinks yaks' milk with the Dalai Lama, makes out with Sinéad O'Connor and opens for the Stones.

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