Do you go on autopilot?
More often than not. I know I can dance better now than I did back then because I was so stoned. I've watched the "Sweet Emotion" footage where I just stood there because I was gacked up to the nines. But it's a bit of autopilot now, and I base that on the times when my behavior has embarrassed me. Things I said to the audience, things I did to a girl or a guy that I dragged up onstage. And it's led me to believe that I just am what I am up there. As soon as I start thinking about what to say, that's when I get jammed up.
What embarrasses you now — and why don't you care?
Sometimes during "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" I'll do that kind of sideways shuffle. And I have a good friend who's not afraid to tell me what he thinks. He wrote me a letter once that said, "Be careful you don't turn into your own caricature."
But I've always been one of those people who says, "I'm gonna give 'em what they came for." I know how I would feel in the back row. I saw Donovan at Carnegie Hall years ago. He was being his quiet self, stoned on hash or whatever, and someone said something in the audience. And he said — I'll never forget it — "You're playing havoc with my senses." What a statement! And he never talked to the audience after that. I was so bummed. He played his songs faster, didn't use that vocal effect [does a dead-on imitation of Donovan singing "Hurdy Gurdy Man"]. I was let down.
I'm very aware of that today. During the shows, I do stuff the audience saw me do on TV. And we do all the songs for them. I want to be true to what I felt in the beginning. I don't believe that I shouldn't be my own caricature. Or that Mick Jagger shouldn't do his moves anymore. Because you see that and go, "All right!"
But as a die-hard Stones fan, do you want to see Jagger doing all that stuff at 60?
That gets us into another topic. When I saw Mick, his face didn't look as young as it used to. And I'm not sure how much further his face and my face will sag. Because we've got a lot of loose skin. But you gotta admit something. Mick Jagger's body looks better than most 20-year-olds'. And I work hard at that, too. Plus, for me, you're talking 170 shows a year. You don't have to work out to get that kind of training. You become a slave to your grind, and you look good from it.
And if I can be so egocentric for a moment, I don't give a shit. Those that don't want to come to the shows — don't. Those that want to have some old memories unearthed, where you want a little taste of how it used to be 20 or 30 years ago, fine. I can tell the audiences when they're really young. It's a Beatlesque scream, a really high pitch. Some places, it's a medium pitch, the drunks with the vibrato that comes from that age group. I haven't heard the tapping of canes yet [laughs], but where in the beginning it could have been about fun and fuck it all on Friday, now it could be about remember when.
With this big recording deal Aerosmith signed with Sony, you're committed to this well into your sunset years. And it's not about feeling. It's contractual.
Let's just make a for instance. Say I can't move as much as I did before. Would I still go out? Well, it's also about my throat. And it's about not giving up. "Oh, I think I'll produce other bands." Bullshit. As long as I can, I will. Just as a dog would lick its balls.
I can tell you one thing. I wouldn't care how she does it or what she looks or smells like, but I would cut this interview off right now if Janis Joplin were playing across the street. I'd be right there.
Your manager, Tim Collins, told me that Aerosmith's first Sony release was going to be a blues album.
Yeah. And then we caught wind that Clapton was doing it, and we went, "Fuck!" It always happens. That's one of the reasons why when I write an album, I want to get it out right away. Because someone somewhere is thinking the same things. I'd like to think that I came up with "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" first time anywhere.
There's "Lola," by the Kinks.
Yeah. [Laughs] We did such incredible research for this album, too. I called up Dr. Demento. Years ago I had this friend who would send me tapes of his radio show, and that's how we ended up covering "Big Ten-Inch Record" [on Toys in the Attic]. Demento is a wonderful guy. So I called him up, and he sent us a whole bunch of songs. We also thought about our roots, about paying homage to the stuff we loved, early Yardbirds and all.
What about deep blues, beyond the Yardbirds?
Some of Little Walter's early stuff. Really obscure names. I actually bought that deck of cards [R. Crumb's series of illustrated bluesmen]. I shuffled through them and went to Tower Records, looking through all the blues stuff there. I did some digging around myself in Chicago. We had some great songs to work with — and then Clapton came along and did it.
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