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Steven Tyler Tells All: The Real Story Behind His Aerosmith Battles and 'American Idol' Triumph

'Did I take this job to show the band?' he says. 'F—k yeah'

April 27, 2011 9:00 AM ET
Steven Tyler Tells All: The Real Story Behind His Aerosmith Battles and 'American Idol' Triumph
Photograph by Theo Wenner

Watch: Steven Tyler reminisces at his Rolling Stone cover shoot in the video below.

The new issue of Rolling Stone, on stands and in the digital archive on April 29th, includes an in-depth cover story on Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler by writer Brian Hiatt, who finds the Aerosmith frontman overflowing with positive energy. "I'm really lucky right now," Tyler says as he hikes to the edge of a Laurel Canyon cliff. "I'm on top of the world: I'm Hollywood's little fuckin' sweetheart, basically."

In the story, Tyler talks about his motivation for signing on as an American Idol judge – a move he made after his bandmates threatened to throw him out of Aerosmith. "Did I take this job to show the band?" he says. "Fuck, yeah. Not to show them, but that I can't be held hostage anymore. I will be my own hostage. The band can't throw me out."

Choice Excerpts From Steven Tyler's Cover Story: The Aerosmith Frontman on Addiction, Sex and 'American Idol'

Tyler is awestruck at the Idol finalists' level of talent: “You know what, out of the 20 kids you saw tonight," he says, after watching an Idol episode at home, "if you could just sprinkle 10 years of smoking pot, getting fucked up, getting laid, getting fucked, and 10 years of just life, which one of those people wouldn’t be a star?”

Tyler was one of about 40 people that the show's producers interviewed to replace Simon Cowell. "I actually saw Roger Daltrey," says Fox exec Mike Darnell. "He came in and was the complete reverse of Steve, very formal, his hair was cut, he looked like a regular guy. He had lost that sort of rock & roll charm. But Steven was unbelievably charming."

Other highlights:

• In the fall of 2008 Tyler flew to London to sing for Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham, who were considering starting a new project with him. "I decided, 'Well, I know that I'm mad at those [Aerosmith] guys, but I'm not that mad,'" Tyler says. "So I called Jimmy up after I left, two weeks later, and said, 'You're in a classic band, and so is mine, and I just can't do that to my guys, and I can't do it to Robert [Plant],' and I couldn't see finding a year to really put myself into it. So for whatever the band thought, never in a million years was I going to quit Aerosmith to start Zeppelin."

• During Aerosmith's ill-fated attempt to cut a new album with producer Brendan O'Brien a couple years back, Tyler says he did drugs with Joe Perry for the first time in years. "It was just like 30 years before," Tyler says. "I whipped out mine, he whipped out his and we got high together again. I say to Joe, 'Wow, man, how you been, it's been, what, 17 years since we got high together? Joe, you've been fucking running away from me ever since.' " Bonding aside, the album sessions didn't go well. "Joe was high and he couldn't play," says Tyler. "I couldn't sing, really, because I was snorting everything, and it fucks up your throat. It was the wrong time." (Despite repeated requests, Perry declined to comment for this story.)

Photos: Four Decades of Aerosmith Live and Unleashed

• In May, Tyler is releasing his autobiography, Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? Around that time he'll release the first solo single of his entire career, a poppy tune called "Feels So Good." "I can hear it coming out of people's cars this summer," he says. He's also working on new material with Aerosmith: Earlier this year the entire band – minus Perry – flew to Los Angeles to work on  demos, and Tyler is talking to Toys in the Attic producer Jack Douglas about working on some of the songs. Working titles include "Asphalt," "Bobbing for Piranha," and "Legendary Child." The story describes the material as "slinky riff-rock, big-chorused soul ballads, leaning more Seventies than Nineties."

More Steven Tyler:

Rob Sheffield Picks Aerosmith's Best Deep Cuts

The 10 Best Aerosmith Music Videos

Musical Gender-Benders: Kurt Cobain, David Bowie, Marilyn Manson and other dudes who have sometimes looked like ladies

Photos: Four Decades of Aerosmith Live and Unleashed

Aerosmith in Turmoil: Rolling Stone's 2009 Interviews

Talk This Way: Rolling Stone's 1994 Interview With Aerosmith's Steven Tyler

Aerosmith, Rock's Longest-Running Dysfunctional Family Sitcom: Rolling Stone's 2001 Cover Story

Choice Excerpts From Steven Tyler's Cover Story: The Aerosmith Frontman on Addiction, Sex and 'American Idol'

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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