Aerosmith reunites and REET
is there in 1984 to get the scoop!
Interview by Devorah Ostrov & Michelle Castro | Story by Devorah Ostrov | Originally published in Rave-Up
In early 1984 Aerosmith was washed-up, finished, kaput. The better known of their guitarists, Joe Perry, had left the group five years earlier, his less celebrated fellow guitarist Brad Whitford in ’81. They’d been replaced by session player Jimmy Crespo and complete unknown Rick Dufay, respectively, but the band’s last album, Rock In A Hard Place, was two years old by that point and no one had paid any attention to it.
That spring, I was in New York hanging out with my friend Michelle (and meeting up with Sylvain Sylvain and Richard Hell, but that’s a different story). Thumbing through someone’s record collection, I mused: “Aerosmith… you don’t hear much about them anymore.”
But, the thing was… Aerosmith wasn’t over. They were back (in the saddle, as one might say)! And I should perhaps mention that this interview had more to do with lucky timing than with my being the editor of a photocopied fanzine with a circulation of 200.
On the off chance that he wasn’t dead, I placed a call to Lieber Krebs Management and asked if I could interview Steven Tyler while I was in town. A time was set for the following afternoon. Really! It was that easy!
Just days before he literally bounded into the management office for this chat, Steven Tyler had reunited with Joe Perry and Brad Whitford – and the original Aerosmith had reformed! He was just excited to tell someone the news, and I happened to be the first in line.
REET: When did you guys decide to get the original band back together?
Steven: About a week-and-a-half ago. We’ve already got 26 new songs!
REET: What about Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay? Are they just suddenly out of the band?
Steven: Yeah… Well, y’know… Everybody knew that the band would get back together some day. They just didn’t know when. So, I called Jimmy Crespo up. I said, “Jimmy, y’know, I’ve got some bad news.” And he took it pretty bad, y’know. Dufay on the other hand, is such a fucking madman… Whether he’s good or not, he believes in himself so much that he’ll probably wind up being the more successful of them [both]. And that’s really crazy because Jimmy Crespo is so fucking talented.
REET: Maybe they’ll form a band together.
Steven: I don’t know… I hope so. But I don’t think so because they don’t get along. See, there was no magic in the new Aerosmith at all. What you saw onstage… Whew! I don’t know how we got away with it. I never felt the magic.
REET: Yeah, there was definitely a lot more magic in the old group!
Steven: Shit, y’know we all sat in this room last Thursday – all of us. It was the first time we’d gotten together again. And everybody was going like this [raises his hands above the table like a medium] “Whoooooo…” Looking around and seeing fucking Joe Perry and Brad Whitford… It just felt so fucking good! I’m such a fucking fan! I still have an autograph from Joe Perry; I’m such a fan of his. It’s true!
REET: Were you and Joe still friends when he left? Did you keep in touch?
Steven: No. He had the most vicious tyrant cunt bitch for a wife [Elissa Perry]. She’s changed since then. I mean, the only reason I say that is because every quality she has, I have. That’s how I identify with her. Y’know, you can’t bullshit a bullshitter. We did a gig in Cleveland [Cleveland Lakefront Stadium, July 28, 1979] and she was backstage… You know who she reminds me of? You know Erika on… uhmm…
REET: All My Children?
Steven: All My Children! That’s Elissa! So, anyway… She got into an argument with Tom Hamilton’s wife and threw hot milk in her face. This was right before we were going onstage. You just don’t do that! Tom was uptight, and the show sucked. And after the show I said, “Joe, I’m never fucking playing onstage with you again. Get the fuck out of here!” I was drunk; I was high. I didn’t mean everything I said. But I did at the time. I really didn’t wanna… I said, “Fuck you! I can do it without you.” Y’know, all those big-headed things.
And we were pretty successful after Joe left, but not anything near the old Aerosmith. In the old Aerosmith I’d turn around to the audience, then I’d turn around and face Joey… I’d be smiling from ear-to-ear. It just felt so good. The magic was there! Every once in a while, we got it with [the new] band, but it wasn’t like it was. So, we’re back together!
REET: Are Joe and Elissa still married?
Steven (laughing): No! That’s why it’s safe. I mean, it used to be I’d say, “Joe, we gotta rehearse now. I’ll come over to your house.” And she’d say, “No, you’re not.” And I’d say, “Okay, Joe. Why not?” Y’know, I’d have to talk to her! It was just fucking, totally ridiculous. Everybody in the band hated her.
(Steven takes a moment to glance at a TV in the room, which is tuned to MTV.)
REET: Are you guys going to do a video for MTV?
Steven: Oh, yeah! As a matter of fact, we’re going to the Berklee School of Music. Have you ever heard of it?
REET: Yeah, in Boston.
Steven: Well, Fenway Theatre is right next door. That’s where we first… We used to rehearse there when we were real poor. The place was so big we never imagined playing somewhere like that. And that’s small now, compared to the Garden.
But the Berklee School of Music bought the Fenway Theatre. They use it ‘cause they have a course in photography, which encompasses video. And they also have two 24-track in-house studios. Which means you can go in there and plug into the wall, and they can record you. So, we’re going to go in there and do two or three quick versions of “Dream On,” “Walk This Way,” and something else.
We’ll probably get three days. But before that we’ll take “Walk This Way,” for instance, and to give you a rough idea… Maybe I’ll put a moustache on with a cigar and [he assumes the classic Groucho Marx stance and sings] … “Walk this way!” I’ll have everybody in the place with cigars and those fake noses with moustaches. We’ll take a minute of that and cut it into us playing live, y’know, a real simple video – almost like junk. Something with one camera, real easy, no problems. And we’ll give it to MTV. We’ll give ‘em “Dream On,” probably “Train Kept a Rollin’,” and “Walk This Way.”
Even though you haven’t heard of Aerosmith lately, fucking “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion” are still getting played all the time. Last week’s Billboard… Let me see… Toys In The Attic and Rocks… Toys In The Attic went from #18 to #5!
REET: Wow! Those albums are still in the charts?
Steven: They’re still in the charts! This isn’t the major chart, it’s called “mid-road picks.” It’s all the oldies albums. They still have a certain chart of their own because of their sales.
REET: I was reading these old Circus magazines, and in one issue it said you used to be in the Left Banke. I’ve never heard about that. Is it true?
Steven: No, I went into the studio with them way back when we were first managed by… somebody. They were managed by them too. So, I got to know all the guys and I went into the studio with them. I remember one night, I was hanging out at their apartment and one of them said, “Holy shit! We’re recording tonight!” And to me, back then, just to be with those guys was incredible. To find out that they were recording and one of them forgot ‘cause they were so drunk or stoned on pot… I just couldn’t believe it. They didn’t even have any songs written. So, I sat down with one of them and I helped him write a song, which was called “Dark is the Bark.” So, I was never in [The Left Banke].
(Steven starts leafing through the fanzine we’ve handed him.)
Steven: I wish you would have sent this to me. What’s this? Count Five? No shit!
REET: I’ve also heard a rumor that you used to roadie for the Yardbirds.
Steven: That’s another thing… We had a real good manager when I was in a group called Chain Reaction, and we toured a lot…On the same tour circuit, we got to play with the Yardbirds, and they liked us so much that we went from the Anderson Theatre up to Westchester, and we did Connecticut with them. This was way back when… Let me see… Page was in the band; Keith Relf was in the band. Oh, boy, that was great!
So, we toured with them and, of course, when you bring your own gear in, you bring it all in in one fell swoop. We all helped. I could say that the Yardbirds were roadies for us. Somebody once asked me about it, and they turned it into that story. I told them the whole story, about how a couple of nights the Yardbirds got stuck and had to use our equipment. They turned it into how we were roadies for them.
REET: Is that where you picked up “Train Kept a Rollin’,” or did you know that song before you met the Yardbirds?
Steven: No, we knew it before. That was done by… uhmm… Oh shit, who were the original people? See if you can look into that for me. [Tiny Bradshaw, 1951] The something Trio… [Johnny Burnette and the Rock and Roll Trio, 1956] The original version is so funky. You can hear where they [the Yardbirds] got it from. It’s great!
I think we’re gonna do a cover song on this next album. We might do “Psychotic Reaction.” Great fucking song! Tell Count V that I’m a big fan. That song… I used to dry my hair to that song. I did! I used to use a vacuum cleaner. I’d take the hose and turn it the other way, so it blew out. Then I’d take a brush and I’d blow my hair this way [he demonstrates the fine art of blow drying his hair with a vacuum cleaner hose]. I hated my hair! And I was always late for school. I’d take the vacuum cleaner, turn it around the other way, let it heat up first… You have no idea!
REET: Were you popular in high school?
Steven: I was always getting thrown out. [He mimics a woman’s voice over an old PA system.] “Steven Tallarico to the office, please.” And then all over the school you’d hear, “Hey [raspberry noises]…” So, I used to take my hair and I’d use… What the hell is it called? Butch Wax or Pomatex – real thick stuff! And then I’d pull it back, and I’d always wear turtlenecks.
In fact, in the high school yearbook I got an award for wearing the ugliest turtlenecks. I always had to wear them because when I went to the principal’s office, I’d get: “Turn around!” And my hair was all the way down my back. I’d tell the principal, “Man, I’m doing television shows…” And he’d go, “Yeah, sure. You’re suspended.”
REET: Why did you let Peter Frampton kill you in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band? You could have easily taken him!
Steven: I didn’t! He didn’t kill me! If you notice, at the end I fell. That’s all. The real scene… I said, first of all to Peter, “There’s no way in hell that you’re gonna kill me.” I said this to them all. I remember telling them… I even did the scene. We were up on a 35-foot stage, there were $100 bills with a picture of me in the middle… And it was like this [he starts building scaffolding out of things on the table], this and this… and up on top was the stage.
I had to roll off of that onto a big fucking airbag at the bottom. I did that about 20 times. It was great! So, I’m lying on the ground, chalk marked off like when someone’s dead, y’know. So, I’m lying on the ground like this [he sprawls out on the floor and acts out the scene], all bent out of shape. And then someone came by to pick me up, and I took my clothes off and laid them back down. Then they poured this liquid nitrogen over the clothes and filmed it really quick, so it would show me lying there crumpled and then suddenly turn to smoke.
So, I went back to the hotel that night and said, “What the fuck?! I’m dying on screen in front of all these kids.” Frampton had just done his big album, but Aerosmith was definitely happening. And I said, “Nope, I’m not gonna do it. Either we’re out or you take that scene out.” So, they took the scene out.
REET: Really, you should have just slaughtered them! I mean, Aerosmith vs. the Bee Gees and Peter Frampton? There’s no contest!
Steven: Right? I know! We were the Future Villains, and just to get in a movie was fantastic. Yeah, that was fun. I’d love to do more movies.
REET: Do you want acting roles or just rock star-type roles?
Steven: I’ve been offered to do things for television… Wella hair commercials!
REET: Wow! That would be funny.
Steven: And [sings] “I love New York…” But I stay out of them because I think doing things like that is overexposure for a band. When mommies start liking you, then the kids don’t. I just don’t wanna… Besides, I just don’t want to spread myself too thin. And any acting thing I get, I think I’m in the position where everybody will know who I am. But they haven’t seen so much that… I don’t think I’m typecast as “Steven Tyler.” Although I might be wrong.
REET: You’re typecast as “the bad boy of rock ‘n’ roll.”
Steven: Yeah! So, I know my place too. I wouldn’t be the “father of normality.” Although I might get away with that if there was a little lechery in it! Who knows what’ll come up? When I tell people that we’re back together… Y’know, a lot of people thought we were dead!
The live photos of Steven Tyler that accompany this interview were taken at Oakland Coliseum during Aerosmith’s 1984 comeback tour by, and are the copyrighted work of, REET editor Devorah Ostrov. She knew about their reunion before anybody else, and doesn't regard Mr. Tyler's draping scarves over his microphone stand as silly. You should read Devorah's blog.
Tyler smoulders on the cover of a now-defunct, but autographed, music magazine from many years ago.
The original lineup of Aerosmith, before two of them left, and were replaced, and then replaced their replacements. Steven Tyler, no shrinking violet, is in the foreground.
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