Lisa Robinson is pretty much spot on in every way in this article. I like the style of writing and it is a good, honest interview with comments that gives more insight for the reader.
Enjoy this piece with a band on the rise in early `76.
Steven Tyler feels like an old shoe…
A band called Aerosmith are currently America`s second hottest act. Is this an acceptable state of affairs?
Lisa Robinson reports.
The girl sitting next to me in the 747 out of New York for Los Angeles grabbed my arm excitedly. “Guess who`s on our plane,” she gasped… “Mick Jagger!!!”
Oh no, I thought, as I turned and, predictably enough, saw Steven Tyler settling into his seat a couple of rows back. What a perfect beginning for my piece on Aerosmith. Except that it`s too perfect… no one will ever believe me.
“You know what really pisses me off,” says Tyler later, as we somewhat drunkenly chat our way to L.A., “… this bit about me and Jagger. I don`t know, I guess I do look like him from far away, but I don`t see what that has to do with anything. I mean, for a writer to compare us… they must have nothing else to write about.”
Aerosmith (Tyler on vocals, Joe Perry lead guitar, Brad Whitford guitar, Joey Kramer drums and Tom Hamilton bass) have been together for some five years, have racked up one platinum and two gold albums (respectively “Toys In The Attic”, “Aerosmith” and “Get Your Wings”) and are currently one of America`s hottest rock properties.
And although some people in their own country may still wonder who and what they are, it`s a fair bet that they`re outselling the Bruce Springsteens of this globe hand over fist at the disc department. Then again, especially when it comes to frontman Tyler, if the men don`t know or understand, the little girls sure do.
For a while now Aerosmith have been proving themselves capable of selling out the larger venues across the U.S.A., and one remaining semi-hostile territory fell victim to the band`s charms when at a Madison Square Gardens gig with Black Sabbath the New York audience rose to them with rousing acclaim.
The party at the St. Regis Hotel following the Garden gig featured the usual clutch of New York writers hovering in attendance, and was notable for the amount of Columbia Records top brass on view. Columbia (CBS in the U.K.) know when they`ve got something hot on their hands. President Irwin Segelstein, wearing a suit, headed the record company entourage, mingling with radio promotion men, and assorted relatives of the band – all posing for the mandatory bar mitzvah photos with their respective kin.
Oh, and also Linda Blair (she of gossip columns everywhere since “The Exorcist”). Success??
“Oh listen,” says Steven Tyler next day on the plane, “I know what people are going to make out of that. I can see it now, but Linda`s really pretty cool. I liked her. She`s actually pretty smart and she knows what she`s doing.”
Chitchat aside, we get down to what I expect to be a serious discussion regarding Aerosmith, but Tyler has other plans.
I ask why he got involved with rock`n`roll in the first place.
“Tits, sex, cars…” He laughs. Finally – an Honest Rock Star???
“Well seriously, that is a part of it… but you can`t just write that. I used to have a good time on the road, but I got the grunt twice so I kind of have to lay back. I don`t have that much fun on the road anymore.
“You know, I`d like to ball everything I see. Well, not everything but at least one a day. But, since I had the grunt twice, I have to be real careful. So where`s the fun anymore?”
He pauses, then warms to the subject. “I`ll tell you what`s fun. It`s finding the right stewardess and having her take you to the back of the plane… It`s the greatest… just the very fact that you might get caught. That`s the extent of our fun on the road – waiting for it to happen, waiting for it not to happen.”
Uh, but the music? You know, chords and all that?
“Yeah, well it`s like writing a song – it`s the same thing. You hear what you sat down and tinkered with at the piano… coming through all those amps. You know… the whole building to a climax bit.
“It sounds like I`m pushing a sex number here doesn`t it?” Tyler laughs.
He changes the subject: “The people who consider us an overnight success… hah. All those people who didn`t believe in us at the beginning, we had to take more shit. Overnight success, indeed. I really hate a lot of those people, and there`s no way I can get back at them.
“But the kids know.”
Aerosmith are your basic rock `n` roll band; a bit of boogie, a little blues, garnished with vocal harmonies. The presence of a Charismatic Lead Singer also helps. Detractors have said that they`re doing nothing special other than persist. If that`s true then you would have to concede that they do it with more style than most.
The band in its present form was started in 1970 by Joe Perry and Tom Hamilton in New Hampshire. Steven Tyler, who had been in some bands previously as a drummer (The Chain Reaction, The Left Banke… Boston bands during that period of the “Bosstown Sound”), went to New Hampshire where his parents own a resort, “Trow Rico”, and joined up.
They added Brad Whitford on guitar, and decided Tyler should be lead singer. The line up was completed by Joey Kramer on drums, an old school friend of the vocalist.
Tyler claims to have listened intently to New York radio stations during his formative years, and to have used his findings as a basis for current Aerosmith material.
Finger on the pulse of teenage America, eh?
“Well, I remember the first time, I think it was in Boston, when I came out onstage and it really clicked. I knew… I knew the kids were digging what I was doing.”
Which is what? Why is Aerosmith so big??
“I can`t answer that. I can say that I think we`re really rocking out, and nobody else is doing that.
“People are getting dressed up for a masquerade, doing this, doing that… but nobody`s really going on and rocking out.”
Aerosmith have been rocking out on the road for the better part of the past three years. Steven claims that he flies nearly every day (he even has to put three coats of moisturizer on his face to prevent in-flight skin dryness and eventual crows` feet) from one gig to another.
A recent “vacation” allowed them two weeks off to return to their homes around Boston and play with their cars. “Sometimes I think this is ruining me,” says Steven. “What… No, I don`t want to get married and have kids?? I`d make them insane, the way I`m living now. But I definitely want a little me – before I get too messed up. Because I sit in front of a colour TV, I listen to all that noise, and God knows what the decibel level onstage is, what that`s doing…
And what do I eat on the road, you know?” he looks worried.
What do his parents think of all this (Mrs. Tyler was in the front row at the Madison Square Garden show)?
“She loves it,” he smiles, “she`s always on my side. I said to her – this was way back then, just to show you what an asshole I used to be – `Mom, we`re gonna have to move out of this house, kids are gonna be all over the place`…
My father is a professional musician, he`s a piano player, teaches, plays classical. I grew up on piano, and so the whole thing came natural. It was easy to get involved with music for me.”
Discussing their albums, Steven asserts, “Everything we did, everything we`re doing, is on that first album. The last one is very smooth, the edges are all cut out, but we`re not a band that puts tracks over track, you know? Bob Ezrin heard our first album and thought we needed a lot of work. Which we did, but dig it, we`re honest. And I`ve heard from so many people that they dig our first album better than the last one, just for that very fact.
“I miss playing instruments very much… I play on the albums, a little guitar, drums here and there… but I definitely miss that when I`m touring. It`s something to do. There are a lot of dead spots up there onstage, so I just hide behind my scarves…
“It might be a little more fun if things weren`t so hectic. If we have more time to cut more albums… maybe do something live, and then really take off.”
Take off… time?
“No, take off in whatever direction.”
We`ve only picked at the lunch that`s being served, but the stewardess tells me later how impressed she was at Tyler`s politeness. “They`re usually not like that,” she confesses, and I assume she`s talking about rock stars in general.
Steven appears nervous about flying. “Hey – when is it going to happen?” he asks philosophically, “I`m on a plane every day for three years… that`s why I keep a tape recorder with me at take-off and landing. I have my finger on the button, in case my last words have to be on it.”
The jet lag has taken its toll, and although we`re supposed to finish the “interview” over dinner several hours later, neither of us is really up to it. We sit overlooking Sunset Strip, and neither of us feels like eating.
Aerosmith are due to headline at the L.A. Forum (18,000 seat capacity, sold out weeks in advance) the following night with Mott and Montrose on the bill, and Steven is exhausted already. He picks at a salad, then asks them to wrap it up so he can take it back to the hotel.
“I feel like an old shoe,” he says…
“You know, sometimes I`ll be looking out at the audience and I`ll be in the middle of a song, and I`ll just stop dead. I`ll look out at them and I`ll think… what is this? There`s one thing that keeps me doing it though: I really love it. I believe in it.”
There was something about Aerosmith at the Forum that next night that reminded me of Led Zeppelin. That band came here in the late 1960`s, played what was described as “Heavy metal rock” and nobody understood what was happening.
Nobody, that is, except the kids.
Zeppelin built a huge following… a huge following, by merely rocking out. And in these days of manufactured pre-packaged rock muzak, there is obviously a growing number of kids tired of the “laid-back” harmonies that have characterised recent American rock.
Aerosmith really has nothing to do with any Jagger/Richard – Tyler/Perry comparison, and name calling (as in “derivative”) is beside the point.
They do what they do well, they`re the second biggest rock group in America today, Steven Tyler knows what to do with a microphone, and the more I think about it, it`s very similar to what happened with Zeppelin here first time round…
And so – the Hollywood party after the Forum saw the whole L.A. sleaze/scene out in full force. Steven Tyler stood with his lady Julia and just winked. Joe Perry sat down with his wife, Alissa – who looks 18 and is extraordinarily attractive – and the whole band just looked generally tired.
The next day would take them to San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, one of those “quick West Coast jaunts”. But the highlight had to be the Forum – you don`t sell out California`s prestige arena as fast Aerosmith did and not get noticed.
“Persistance, youth and attrition among the front runners, rather than any distinctive musical style or extraordinarily exciting image, seem responsible for the continued prominence of Aerosmith in the heart of the teenage rock audience, which has apparently transcended the threshold of boredom.”
– L.A. Times review of Forum concert
I seem to remember reviews like that years ago… The Who, Stones, Zeppelin. You name them, the list goes on. And still, as I said, the little girls know…
Aerosmith should be somewhere near your town for their first-ever U.K. tour in April, 1976. You can decide then.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of New Musical Express also contains articles/interviews with these people: Alex Harvey, Elvis Presley Fan Club Convention, Lou Reed, Howlin` Wolf, Hot Vultures.
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