Steven Tyler: Talk This Way - Rolling Stone
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Steven Tyler: Talk This Way

The Rolling Stone Interview with Aerosmith’s kinky and kinetic lead singer

Steven TylerSteven Tyler

Steven Tyler performs on April 22nd, 1994.


Steven Tyler may be the fastest mouth alive. He’s certainly the motor-chatter king of rock & roll. At full speed, the snap, crackle and atomic pop of his conversational style is a thing of wonder — a torrent of fiercely held opinions, impulsive contradictions, vivid adolescent reminiscences, street-corner profanities, colorful sexual metaphors and explosive laughter. He can break into song at a moment’s notice to press home a particular musical point — an old Four Tops single, an obscure Kinks album track, just about anything he’s written and sung with Aerosmith. Tyler is also a brilliant mimic; he can do anything from the voice of Yogi Bear to Jeff Beck’s ragaesque lead-guitar line in the Yardbirds’ “Over Under Sideways Down.” And that’s just when he’s sitting down.

Ask Tyler how he wrote Aerosmith’s ’70s breakthrough hit “Dream On” and he’ll leap to the piano for an impromptu recital. A question about his long, often tempestuous relationship with Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry will have Tyler shooting across the room to show you the Plexiglas-framed remnants of a guitar they blew up one day in a drug-fueled misadventure with gunpowder. And this is definitely the first interview I’ve ever done in which the artist I’m talking to bolts out of his chair and suddenly starts writing a new song — about me.

No shit. One minute Tyler is explaining how he’s going to learn to play the banjo; the next he’s raving on about the gift of music as he stands at a drum kit tapping out a swing beat on a high-hat cymbal and scatting excitedly: “Walkin’ down the street/What did I see?/Young man Fricke/Walkin’ after me/Saywhat?/What? “

“That’s a song ready to be born right there! It’s all a gift, and it’s just waiting there for me!” Tyler howls with childlike glee as he drops back onto the couch in his combination home studio and rumpus room, the second floor of a converted garage at his home in a wooded Boston suburb.

His gift has served him well. In 1984, Tyler’s career with Aerosmith was in the toilet; the heady platinum triumphs of the band’s original mid-’70s heyday had been tarred and eclipsed by his superhuman consumption of leisure chemicals and the complete breakdown of personal relationships within the group. As far as a lot of people, fans included, were concerned, Aerosmith were a total write-off.

Ten years later, Tyler and the rest of Aerosmith — Perry, guitarist Brad Whitford, bassist Tom Hamilton and drummer Joey Kramer — are at the peak of a second career high. Their last three Geffen albums — Permanent Vacation (1987), Pump (1989) and Get a Grip (1993) — have all sold in the multimillions, triggering a rain of music-biz awards, including two Grammys and a sweep of the ’94 MTV Video Music Awards. A greatest-hits collection, aptly entitled Big Ones, will be released in November. The band has also signed a lucrative six-album deal with Sony for an estimated $30 million. And at a time when young America is in the thick of ’70s-nostalgia fever (the Partridge Family in-fucking-deed), Aerosmith still deliver the real thing: cocksure arena-rock crunch driven by twin power-drill guitars, meaty R&B-grounded rhythms and Tyler’s arrested-adolescent, spin-cycle metabolism.

“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 teenage 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.

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.

One of my favorite Aerosmith tracks is the live 1973 version of James Brown’s “Mother Popcorn” on “Bootleg.” You also cut Rufus Thomas’ “Walkin’ the Dog” early on. Yet most people don’t think of Aerosmith as a band with funk and R&B roots.
Joey Kramer used to play in a lot of soul bands. He was with black guys for four years before Aerosmith. And we met a guy, David Woodford, who played saxophone, and we used to jam with him every now and then. Bobby Keys, who plays with the Stones, played a show with us once. I’ve always had this desire to have a saxophone player in the band.

Why didn’t Aerosmith go down the white R&B route?
I don’t think it satisfied something in us. It had been done. J. Geils did it. We wanted to let everyone know we had roots, but we also wanted the distortion of our own attitude. Like the Bible. How was the Bible written? It was different people’s interpretations of what happened.

And it’s really important to be new, ahead of yourself. If you’re afraid to take a risk, OK, stay there, baby. But if you take a risk, two things will happen. People will laugh at you. Or you’ll be way ahead of everybody else. And if that’s what you’re in it for, then you gotta take that risk.

What do you consider a risk now? Writing a song like “Janie’s Got a Gun”?
Positively. I wrote the song in my basement, just fucking around. [Gets up and plays the opening riff on an electronic piano] Oh, “Janie’s got a gun.” I got goose pimples.

How did it become a song about child abuse?
I sat for months, waiting for the oracle door to open. Then I looked over at a Time magazine and saw this article on 48 hours, minute by minute, of handgun deaths in the United States. Then I got off on the child-abuse angle. I’d heard this woman speaking about how many children are attacked by their mothers and fathers. It was fucking scary. I felt, man, I gotta sing about this. And that was it. That was my toe in the door.

Given everything you’ve achieved since you cleaned up, do you ever wonder about what you lost — permanently — by taking that drug detour?
Well, my wife and I lost a child. Because of the head space that we were in, we chose to abort. I would never do that today. [Pause] What would I have lost? Quite frankly, I would have been dead.

What about careerwise?
I had this wonderful house up in New Hampshire that I built when I was with Cyrinda Fox. We had a kid, our daughter, Mia, and a nanny, whose folks had a place on the lake, a restaurant. One night I was high on cocaine and very drunk, and I went to pick the nanny up on my motorcycle — and went off the road. I took my heel off, from side to side; it was just hanging there.

I was in the hospital with a cast up to my hip, and I remember hearing about this new band Van Halen with David Lee Roth. “Who does this fucking guy think he is? He’s standing in my limelight!” I’d fucked myself up royally. I was in the thick of the drug using. Joe and Brad were gone. People said, “You idiot, you don’t even have a band.”

But looking back, when the Eagles weren’t together for 14 years, look at what it’s done for them now. I know for a fact that if Aerosmith broke up tomorrow and didn’t play again for three years, we could still come back and do stadiums.

The Eagles were on down time. You were literally out of it.
Yeah, I guess. This was down-and-out time. But you don’t miss your water till your well runs dry. I think it was necessary to lose all that. I was angry about what happened. I can also say that it was meant to be. It put some distance between me and something that was too big for my britches.

Do you still feel the drug hunger now and then?
Every now and then, sure. Because I think it’s a wonderful thing to get out of your mind. You watch TV and you see dying children in Rwanda and people being killed in Haiti. When I was in Budapest, I saw things on European TV that they don’t show here. I got sick to my stomach. I wept like a baby. On three occasions, I called my sponsor and said, “I don’t know if I can handle it anymore.” We were working really hard, no days off.

But when you first started using drugs, it wasn’t out of trauma. It was a leisure adventure.
It was. I’ve talked to therapists who say, “You were just afraid. You were forced out onstage.” There was no fear. The fear died after the second song. In the early days, we were booed, so who gave a shit anyway? There was one particular therapist who I never got anything out of. I said, “Didn’t you ever do drugs?” “Well, we’re not here for me, we’re here for you.” Asshole! Then I met this guy who’d shot up in the neck, and it was, “OK, let’s talk about it.”

I never bought into that thing where drugs were a leftover from the neuroses and abuse I had as a child. I didn’t have that. I grew up in the Bronx and New Hampshire. I had those two worlds. Who could have better? I always wanted to go to Africa. So I didn’t. Is that abuse? My aunt Florence had me standing in front of people singing, “I’m Just Wild About Harry.” That’s abuse?

I didn’t realize your father was a classical musician. What did he play?
The piano. He went to Juilliard, and he played at Carnegie Hall as a young virtuoso. My father’s grandfather Giovanni Tallarico played the cello, classical music. And he did the same thing we do. He got on a train and toured. I’ve been in these hotels in Cincinnati where he played in the lobby.

Before rock & roll bands, I played drums with my father. Society music. That’s what I cut my teeth on. Girls would come in, look at the band and go, “Ugh!” Roll their eyes. I’d try to look over at them like “No, look, I’m cool, check it out, don’t leave!”

Was your father strict?
No, they drank like crazy in my house. Social drinkers. I was drinking as a kid. I’d get a fruit glass that I would fill with Johnny Walker Red and put water back in the bottle. It was as big as three shot glasses. And then I’d go to school. I remember the first guy who offered me a joint in the bathroom. I said, “No, man, I’ve got enough problems” [laughs].

Didn’t you get busted for pot in high school?
Yes, I did. They put a narc in ceramics class. In ceramics class! The cops put me in handcuffs and took me away. You’re only 17, they take you back in the room, “Debbie told us everything.” But nobody squealed. I looked over, and there was that fucking guy who was in my class.

I got thrown out of high school. I got classified 1Y, youthful offender, by the draft board. I didn’t have to go to Vietnam. Youthful offender — gimme a break.

When Aerosmith first got started, how did you feel about all the Rolling Stones comparisons, especially the unflattering ones?
I got pissed. I was using drugs at the time, so I was in denial. Ask me now and I’ll tell ya — Mick Jagger was the baddest fucking character on my block. That was also one of the reasons I loved John Lennon. He got back at people through his music The cake was full of interesting stuff, but the icing was for everyone to taste, the melody.

Be tricky. Use it as a tool. Like in “Young Lust” [from Pump]: “Happy just to be in lust/Never have to eat no dust,” which is about what it was like to come out of the ashes. It’s about using what I’ve got, not thinking that I’ll never be as good as the Stones. But if someone put me down about the Stones back then, I was a little afraid because I didn’t want anyone to say I looked like Mick.

What did you feel distinguished Aerosmith from the Stones? American garage-rock attitude?
I don’t know. When I wrote “Dream On,” I went, “Where did this come from?” I didn’t question it. When I read the lyrics back now, for a guy who was stoned, stupid and dribbling, I got something out of there: “The past is gone/It went by like dusk to dawn.”

It wasn’t that I thought I could ever say half the things Mick ever did in a song. It was, “Could I make it with my gang?” It was about having the intestinal fortitude to do it.

How would you describe the personal chemistry in Aerosmith in light of your own rather extroverted personality?
I’m kind of like Howard Stern. I confront people right away. It’s gotten me in trouble. But it can be beneficial because people know what I’m thinking about. I let ’em know where I’m coming from. I kind of like that about me. There’s that A-type personality that I have. If you go into a room of B’s, the best thing you’re gonna get out of it is a fucking yawn. The A personalities may die young from a heart attack, but they do keep that spark alive.

So I’m the guy who comes up with “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” or “Young Lust.” The lyrics. Joe comes up with the other side, the great guitar licks, and Brad will come up with his great guitar licks, and Tom will come up with something special [hums the opening bass line of “Sweet Emotion”]. That’s when they bail me out. And I bail them out when I’m on fire.

Sometimes I get beaten up for being so easily identified as the patient. As the one that’s fucked up and always wrong. For instance, at a band meeting on this last album, some of the guys said: “I don’t think you should be singing, ‘The buzz that you be gettin’ from the crack don’t last/I’d rather be OD’in’ on the crack of her ass’ [from ‘Fever,’ on Get a Grip]. It’s too sexist.” And I said: “I’m not putting this album out until this song is on there. I put this down as a statement of where I’m at now, and that’s gotta go on this album.”

Do the other guys think you’re too overbearing in meetings because you talk so much?
Positively. I go too far, and they go, “Slow down! You’re not seeing the main point.” OK, explain it to me then. That’s just left over from my childishness. Sometimes I hear, “Jeez, Tyler’s talking too much again.”

How do you feel when you leave one of those meetings, especially when someone gets on your case or another band member says something that rubs you the wrong way?
Nothing feels better than somebody telling you the truth. Because what have you got to lose? “You’re an asshole.” No I’m not, that’s how I feel.

You feel good once you’ve got all that stuff out. Joe will come up to me and say, “You haven’t been this honest with me for years.” And this is only gonna help with my songwriting. I’m not gonna want to hide from going to his house to write. I can’t wait to get over there.

How do you write with Joe? What’s the procedure?
I sit down at those drums [points to a kit in the corner of the room], and we start jamming. And all the stuff comes out that doesn’t come out when he’s jamming with Joey. Because I’m a different kind of drummer. I know how to ride Joe. “F.I.N.E.” [on Pump] was written solely because I sat down at the drums and hit this rhythm that came out of his guitar lick. One inspired the other.

Back when we were a nothing band, we’d get into rehearsals at Boston University in the basement, and we would do things like play “Route 66” and keep rehearsing it. I’d say, “Let’s grab that one piece in there” [hums the bridge]. We did and came up with “Somebody” [on Aerosmith]. That’s what I bring to the table. My rhythms, my little bit of knowledge. My wondering how the other person did it, so let’s try that.

When you and Joe were doing all those drugs, how did you keep your shit together enough to get any work done?
Joe comes up with the most outrageous licks. In the old days we would be high, and they’d get lost. So I said, “Get a tape recorder, leave it on.” You should hear these early tapes of when we were working on things like “Sweet Emotion.” The tapes are full of “What did you just play? What did you do?” “Duh, I don’t know.” “Rewind the tape recorder!”

How did you get started with the scarves? They’re a real trademark.
I was living with a woman on 23rd Street in New York. One of my old bands, the Chain, was playing at the Scene — opening for the guy who sang “Tip Toe Through the Tulips,” Tiny Tim — and I had no shirt. This woman left me for Jimmy Page when the Yardbirds came through, and she took all my clothes and threw them outside. I found them in an alley. I took one of the shirts and tied it to the mike stand. It was all ripped. And I kind of liked that — those flowy things that I copped from Brian Jones.

Also, when Aerosmith first started, we’d go out with bands like the Kinks and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. You were a dartboard. “Boo! We want the Kinks!” I put up with that for the longest time. And just as a guitar player combs his hair down over his face to hide behind, I would need something to hide behind too. The scarves would be my thing. And the way I tied them on to the mike, it kind of dressed it up. In the early days I used to put weights on the bottom of them, whack people in the audience with them and pull ’em back like fishhooks. Get those fucks down in the front who were going like this [extends his middle finger].

Do you have a scarf roadie now?
Myself. [Laughs] I don’t bother with getting glammed out with fancy stuff like I used to. Now I look for all the bootleg Aerosmith T-shirts, cut all the cool stuff off ’em and have Teresa or Lisa — my wife and her twin sister — make ’em into pants. And what I’ve got for scarves now is rips and remnants of my old stage clothes. I had six scarves last time, and I used them on the whole tour.

Let’s talk about sex. If your lyrics are any indication, sex is an obsession if not an addiction. Do you think about it as often as “Love in an Elevator” would suggest?
It’s always been in me. I’ve always been sexually active. If “to climax ” is what the term means, to climax, why don’t we do it all the time? We should be doing it three or four times a day. It’s not about stupid and nasty. It’s what we should all be doing.

But today when I go on tour, because I’m in this band, I’m always approached by people seeing my sexuality, and I’m caught in a loop. Girls will come up to me and go like this [lifts his shirt]. When you ask me how much I think about sex, it’s a lot more when I’m on the road because people approach me about it. On the other hand I’m like Madonna. I figure, why else would it be so popular? Because people want it, and they don’t get enough of it.

As a songwriter, your strong point is the power of suggestion — the way you drawl, “Going down” in “Love in an Elevator” or the double-entendres in “Walk This Way.” If you actually said the word “fuck” as often as you imply it, your albums would be covered with parental-advisory stickers.
That’s correct. And there’s another added benefit. People come to the conclusion themselves. “Whoa!” And they’ll remember the lyric even more. The thing for me has always been not to be blatant.

But the difference between you and me is, you sit down as a writer with a preconceived thought. I don’t. I just go blither, blither, blither. With “Walk This Way,” I did not go: “Masturbation. Let’s see. I can do it with one hand or the other, pretend one of them is a girl. Hmm. ‘Backstroke lover/Always hiding ‘neath the covers/Till I turned to my daddy, he say/You ain’t seen nothin’/Till you been down on the muffin/Then you sure to be walkin’ this way.’ ” It’s just boom. Like you tap a hole in the side of your head and it falls out.

You also write a lot of ballads now, like “Angel” and “Cryin’.” Has marriage made you more romantic?
I still have those feelings. But somebody once said that being married is about having a best friend. It means I’m going to tell my wife everything I would tell a best friend. Like I’m walking down the street with my best friend and going, “Look at the way that stocking seam goes up that chick’s legs.” I’m going to tell her stuff that goes through boys’ minds. And when I start sharing on that level, it’s not me wanting to drop and give that girl 10. I might want to in another lifetime, but I’m not going to now because I love my wife.

Your daughter Liv is a successful model and was in the “Crazy” video. As her father, how do you relate to her being objectified as a sex symbol in the same way that you’ve objectified women in your music and otherwise?
As a father I’m a realist. You can teach your children well and hope you’ve taught them some good sense. When I was a kid there was no AIDS. Now there is. “AIDS will kill you. You gotta be aware. Take this rubber.”

I had a long talk with Liv and Mia about it. They were 15. I said, “What’s goin’ on?” They told me things that they never told anybody else. And I thought that was great because I’m open with sexuality. I told them stuff I got caught up on, how the moment that you come you’re in such bliss that you could suck the chrome off a tow hitch.

I told my daughters that stuff. “You still want to flaunt it? Flaunt it. But if you lift your skirt, every little boy’s tongue’s gonna want to be up there. And if you smoke pot, know that it can lead to heroin like it did with me.”

There are some commercials that throw me for a loop. A father can’t talk to his daughter about sex. To me, that is the farthest thing from reality. They really go through that joke — “Ask your mother.” That is exactly why your daughter went out and got pregnant. You didn’t talk about it. It’s as clear as the balls on a tall dog.

Given your own experiences, do you worry about the ups and downs that Liv might go through in her career?
Am I worried that Liv will make the same mistakes as me? Yeah. Am I worried that she’s one of those people that likes to climb trees, out on the farthest limbs? I hope she does. I’ve seen too many fuckin’ people who are dead before they’re alive. They don’t want to take a risk. They don’t want to take a chance. They are B and C personalities, they’re happy enough to work in a Laundromat. God bless ’em. But I gotta tell you, there are a lot more rewards out there.

Do you think she’s better equipped to maintain her equilibrium than you were?
She’s already plugged in. She knows both sides. But, yeah, I have my fears. I knew both sides, too. I know what it’s like to be a child. I wrote something about it [pulls out one of his notebooks]: “The experience of being a teenager is like taking a test before you’ve been given the lessons. And being middle-aged is cool because you’ve already seen the answers. And being old is like watching reruns on TV — it’s frustrating because you can’t change the channel anymore.”

I think she’s being given the chances, based on her knowing the way I ruined my life. But, hey, even I changed the channel. It’s about being enriched with knowledge. It’s about being happy, joyous, free and enlightened. And I’m thirsty for knowledge.

Today, I live for someone telling me, “Don’t do that!” Oh, yeah? I’m not gonna run. I’ll wait a couple of months. But I’ll fix his ass. I live for can-ing other people’s can’t s.

In This Article: Aerosmith, Coverwall, Steven Tyler


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