"People ask me, 'What do you have left to do, Steven?' Fuck you," crows Tyler, who is 46 and has been stone-cold sober for several years. "I'm looking to be the lounge act on the space shuttle so I can sing 'Walk This Way' on the ceiling. That's the kind of guy I am. My get-up-and-go has not gone up and went."
His drug screw-ups notwithstanding, the self-styled Demon of Screamin' has always come by his get-up-and-go naturally. Born Steven Tallarico in 1948, the son of a classical musician, Tyler grew up in Yonkers, N.Y., and New Hampshire, where his parents owned a summer resort. But he spent his wonder years zooming all over the '60s New York scene, playing with a succession of bands (one, the Chain Reaction, cut a couple of collectible garage-punk singles) and rubbing shoulders with the resident rock aristocracy (Hendrix, Zappa, the Lovin' Spoonful). Up in New Hampshire in the summer of 1970, he formed an embryonic version of Aerosmith with Perry and Hamilton. By '76, when the band was riding high on albums like Toys in the Attic and Rocks, Tyler had outgrown the early Mick Jagger comparisons and developed his own kinetic stage presence and slang-smart style of lyric writing.
He now has four children: two teen-age daughters, Liv (by ex-girlfriend Bebe Buell) and Mia (by his first wife, Cyrinda Fox), and two youngsters, a daughter, Chelsea, and a son, Taj, with his wife, Teresa. But Tyler insists — quite proudly — that in spite of everything that he has endured and celebrated during the past 20 years, he hasn't grown up a hell of a lot. He's got a big picture of his patron muse, Curly from the Three Stooges, leaning up against a PA speaker in his studio, and there's a sticker plastered across one of the tape-deck cabinets that reads, Kiss My Art.
"The thing about human beings," Tyler argues, "is that we have this tendency to be overanalytical. Get over yourself. We intellectualize so far that we sometimes forget the very first pure thought we had. Just go with it. I guess it's a true man that can suss the outcome of something before it happens. 'Should I say that, or will I end up in a lawsuit?'
"But for the most part, to be creative you gotta be a child. You gotta be true to the crib."
When I saw you at Madison Square Garden last spring, I felt like I was time tripping. Your sexual clowning and spider dancing were vintage 1975. But I couldn't help wondering later, "Is this really appropriate behavior for a man on the shy side of 50?" If this weren't rock & roll, you'd be getting your mail at Bellevue.
I don't buy into the idea that you're not supposed to rock & roll after a certain date. Sure, when you pick it apart, maybe I should be in Bellevue. But I'm just having a good time. Because playing with Joe Perry really gets me off. I'm not gay, but I love him. And I still remember when people first started coming up and asking for our autographs. You want my autograph? I was hung up on the Stones and the Kinks. Dave Davies was my hero.
It's not like I'm trying to be the poor man's Rolling Stones. It's that someday, maybe, I can get close to their stature. I can remember going to the Fox Theater in Brooklyn, N.Y., and seeing the shows there and going up to shake hands with Chas Chandler of the Animals.
I wanted to be cool in school and play "Wipe Out" in front of all the girls. And that's what it's about. School's over, Friday afternoon. Remember that buzz? Nothing felt like it. That's what's in my blood. It's that fuck-it-all attitude. There's something wrong in the world today? Yeah, I know all that. But check this out. Throw your hands up in the air and celebrate life.
But you've been through drug hell, and you now have responsibilities as a husband and a father. How do you reconcile all that with the weekend rock & roll fantasies?
It's in the integrity of the things you write about — and not taking yourself too seriously when you write something like "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)." It's about asking myself, "Can I still stand up today after all the drugs I took? Can I still be friends with the guys in my band?" I know the balance today. It's important for me to say, "Fuck you, Joe Perry," and not keep it in until it blows up inside of me. I can confront him now, and the band can confront me, which they do quite often.
I can see that and keep the balancing act going. Onstage, I'm just trying to sing like I'm having a good time. A lot of times, I'm not thinking about anything. I just am.
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