Interviews


Steve Tyler


Occupation: Musician, Singer, Songwriter
Date of Birth: March 26, 1948
Place of Birth: New York, N.Y., USA
Sign: Sun in Aries, Moon in Sagittarius
Relations: Daughters: Mia; Liv Tyler(with model Bebe Buell)
Education:

 

IF the members of Aerosmith were professional athletes, they'd have been both all-stars and comeback players of the year. During the first decade of its career, Aerosmith was one of the most popular hard-rock bands in America, striking a flamboyant middle ground between the cool, bluesy swagger of the Rolling Stones and the more campy, glam-metal approach of the New York Dolls and Mott the Hoople. Later, after a period of drug- and alcohol-induced decline, they made a triumphant return to form in the late eighties and early nineties, winning back their fans as well as the heart  and checkbook  of Columbia Records, the label where the story of Aerosmith began.

Actually, the band's tale starts a few years before signing to Columbia, when drummer Steven Tyler met guitarist Joe Perry at the Anchorage, a Sunapee, New Hampshire, ice cream parlor where Perry worked in 1970. They formed a power trio with Tom Hamilton on bass, and before long, they'd added drummer Joey Kramer and guitarist Brad Whitford, leaving Tyler to fulfill the role he was born for: lead singer. The name Aerosmith, by the way, means nothing in particular; it simply was the only name that no one in the band hated.

By the end of 1970, they'd moved to Boston, and they spent the next couple of years playing bars, clubs, and college parties in Massachusetts and New York. In 1972, they were signed to a record deal by Clive Davis, then president of Columbia Records, and their self-titled debut album came out in the fall of 1973. Although the disc included the ambitious (and now classic) power ballad "Dream On," it created only a ripple on the charts. But the band toured ceaselessly to support their sophomore effort, Get Your Wings, building up a loyal fan base that would soon catapult them to stardom.

With 1975's Toys in the Attic, considered by most to be Aerosmith's best album, the group achieved a new level of success, both artistically and commercially. The first single, "Sweet Emotion," was a terrific pop/hard-rock crossover that led the album up to No. 11 on the Billboard charts (it eventually sold six million copies). As a result of this newfound success, "Dream On" was re-released, becoming a Top 40 hit the second time around. The super-funky "Walk This Way" followed it up the charts early in 1976.

Rocks, the band's solid fourth album, came out in May of 1976, and it also quickly went platinum. The band was on top of the world  touring, partying, boozing it up, and taking drugs like they were going out of style. Well drugs weren't  not right then, anyway  but the toll they took sent the band on a long downward spiral. Draw the Line (1977) and Live! Bootleg (1978) both sold respectably, but the group was clearly losing steam. They did manage a hit later in 1978 with a cover of the Beatles' "Come Together," off the soundtrack to the Bee Gees' and Peter Frampton's disastrous film, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. After the release of Night in the Ruts in 1979, Perry left the band to form the Joe Perry Project; Brad Whitford left soon after to form the Whitford-St. Holmes Band.

Operating with two replacement guitarists, Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay, the band released its least successful album ever, Rock in a Hard Place, in 1982. Meanwhile, Perry's and Whitford's solo projects weren't exactly lighting up the charts. Something had to be done. On Valentine's Day of 1984, Perry and Whitford visited their old bandmates backstage after a show at Boston's Orpheum Theatre. Now reconciled, they reunited for the Back in the Saddle tour, and in 1985, having signed to Geffen Records, they put out Done With Mirrors. Though it didn't sell well, it showed that the band was on the comeback trail. After its release, Tyler and Perry completed a drug-rehabilitation program, and then, in an extremely smart publicity move, they joined old-school rappers Run-DMC in the video for their cover of "Walk This Way."

In 1987, with producer Bruce Fairbairn at the helm, they recorded the album that would put them back on top, Permanent Vacation. Aerosmith's best and biggest-selling non-greatest hits album since Rocks featured the hits "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)," "Rag Doll," and "Angel," and ultimately sold five million copies. Pump, released in 1989, did it one better, selling six million, driven by the Top 10 hits "Love in an Elevator" and "Janie's Got a Gun." 1993's Get a Grip broke new ground for the band: the album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard chart. Like its predecessors, Grip spawned several hits and was eventually certified sextuple-platinum. An undeniable key to the band's phenomenal run of success with these three albums was the music videos that accompanied each single. MTV put Aerosmith's rock-fantasy clips into heavy rotation, and the story lines of most of them involved young lovers less than half the age of the band members themselves. Notable among the pretty teenage faces was Alicia Silverstone, who made a name for herself appearing in the videos for Get a Grip's singles "Cryin'," "Crazy," and "Amazing."

Big Ones, a greatest-hits package chronicling the Geffen era, was released in 1996, but Aerosmith had already signed a new record deal in 1991, a multi-million dollar contract with Sony Music that would land them back at their old home, Columbia Records. As it turned out, the homecoming did not get off to the start either side had hoped for. The group endured two false starts in recording their first new Columbia album, Nine Lives, including the scrapping of eight songs from sessions with Alanis Morissette's producer-songwriting partner, Glen Ballard. Meanwhile, a nasty split with manager Tim Collins spurred rumors that the drug-rehab poster boys had slipped off the wagon (a charge the group denies). Drummer Joey Kramer was also temporarily out of commission in 1996, recovering from emotional distress after the death of his abusive father. Finally, intergroup squabbling (singer Steven Tyler favored the slick Ballard sessions far more than his bandmates) sent Aerosmith to Los Angeles for a week of band therapy. The band eventually settled on producer Kevin Shirley (Journey, Silverchair) and completed Nine Lives late in the year. The album was released in March of 1997, after which Aerosmith toured extensively throughout Europe and then the U.S.

The album and tour were both hugely successful. The tour earned $22.3 million, leading Pollstar to declare it the 10th highest grossing tour of the year. In September 1997 the band won an MTV Music Video Award in the Best Rock Video category with their tune "Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)"  words that would come back to haunt singer Steven Tyler. That same month saw the publication of the band's autobiography, Walk This Way, co-written with Stephen Davis (who wrote about Led Zeppelin and Mick Fleetwood), a frank, no-holds-barred account of the band's notorious rock 'n' roll adventures. The memoir went on to become a New York Times best-seller.

The band was beset with physical injuries in 1998. In an ironic twist of fate, the sprightly singer hurt his knee during a concert in Anchorage, Ak. Apparently the 20-pound base of Tyler's mic stand hit his knee and he fell awkwardly, causing damage that required surgery to mend. Because of the sidelined frontman, the band had to postpone several dates of their tour. They announced their return to the road in July  a tour of North America scheduled from August through December. Just a week after the announcement, Joey Kramer was in a freak accident in which his car burst into flames, burning the drummer's arms. Once again, the band pushed tour dates back, with the new start date set for Sept. 9.

In between injuries, the band contributed the song "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" to the Armageddon soundtrack, a suggestion of Steven Tyler's actress daughter Liv, who was starring in the movie. It turned out to be a success of cosmic proportions, helping to propel the soundtrack to the top of the charts and earning the band another MTV Music Video Award, this one for Best Video From a Film. During his speech Tyler thanked "Liv baby!" The tune went on to earn its author, Diane Warren, a Grammy nomination for Best Song From a Motion Picture as well as the prestigious Song of the Year.

On Oct. 20, the group released A Little South of Sanity, a two-disc live set recorded during its two most recent tours. The album appears on Geffen Records, the group's final album for the label, which it left five years ago to return to Columbia.

Always up for adventure, Aerosmith will cropped up in a couple of nonmusical media during the fall of 1998. Perry guest starred on the Oct. 16 episode of Homicide: Life on the Street as a cop, of all things, in what producers have said could become a recurring role. And the group is featured in Elmore Leonard's novel Be Cool, the sequel to Get Shorty.

But don't worry that the side projects will detract from the band's first calling. According to Perry, Aerosmith plans to return to the studio for its next album in 1999.

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