Time Warner Books, £12.99

Among the thousands of great quotes in 'This is Spinal Tap' is one by permanently addled drummer Mick Shrimpton. As the film closes, with interview snippets with each band member, Shrimpton sums up his reason for being. "As long as there's sex and drugs," he says, "I can do without the rock 'n' roll." Now while Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis might feel aggrieved at being compared to such a fictitious casualty, Shrimpton's quote had painful resonances in the singer's own life.

That there was more to Kiedis than the rapping, sock-on-appendage showman of early Chili Peppers albums became evident in early 1992 with the band's first grown-up hit 'Under the Bridge'. Chronicling Kiedis messing up a relationship through his heroin habit, it came as a shock that a man who seemingly had everything could have plummeted to such depths. But even the song's revelations pale in significance when you read just how low Kiedis has gone in his life - and how he's managed to pull himself back up.

In awe of a drug dealer father, who got him stoned at a very early age - and then allowed his 12-year-old son to lose his virginity with his (Kiedis Sr) 18-year-old girlfriend - Kiedis' early years are an LA-centred blur of petty crime, strange adventures and ever-increasing interest in drugs. By the time he's in college his two big passions are heroin and music.

He forms the Red Hot Chili Peppers with school friends Michael 'Flea' Balzary and Hillel Slovak and running alongside the band's slow climb through demos, club gigs, albums and eventual fame, is Kiedis' determination to dig himself an early grave. Guitarist Slovak died of a heroin overdose in 1988 and while Kiedis cleaned up his act for over five years afterwards, there
have been plenty of relapses since.

Put simply, Kiedis was a monster for drugs - coke, heroin, crack or whatever else was available. The more successful his band became, the worse he became and his life followed a depressingly familiar pattern: a relationship with love/sex as an anaesthetic; a traumatic break-up or loss of interest; a return to drugs; a trip to the bottom; a stint in rehab; a relationship with...

This isn't a book filled with insight and deep soul searching, but Kiedis pulls no punches about what a mess he made of himself over the years and never sounds preachy. There are wretched nights in flophouse motels and penthouse suites, desperate times that are riveting, along with graphic sexual encounters that are guaranteed to bore, and in between bits about the Chili Peppers making records. By the close you'll be convinced that
stupidity was just as powerful a force in Kiedis' life as talent, but you still end up liking him.

Reading like a diary, 'Scar Tissue' alternates between powerful and pathetic, a survivor's story that's neither apologetic nor triumphant. It ends abruptly, but full of hope, as Kiedis explains where he is in his life right now. At 42 he comes across as a man who's lonely and looking for someone, but more at peace with and aware of himself. "Now I have no choice but to be more giving and more diligent and more committed," he says, "because a week doesn't go by when I'm not visited by the idea of getting loaded." In a superstar's life as in any other, going the distance remains the greatest achievement of all.

Harry Guerin