Steven Tyler turns 65 on March 26, and you know what that means: It's already been about 30 years since critics first started saying it was unseemly for a man of his age to still be baring his chest. Fortunately, we all seem to have gotten over that a decade or two ago and happily resigned ourselves to the fact that he'll still be walking that way well into the Social Security years.
"We call them the wonder years because we wonder what happened to them," Tyler once said about Aerosmith's salad days. Let's take the occasion of his 65th to remember some of the Aerosmith singer's craziest moments:
Tyler skinny-dips on the American Idol set. The TV show was filming an episode in Las Vegas in the space used by the show La Reve, which features underwater dancers. Their setup was surrounded by a sort of moat. "I'm a water guy," said Tyler, "and I just wanted a good excuse to take my clothes off in front of J.Lo. I wanted her to see what she was missing."
Tyler auditions for a Led Zeppelin reunion. In 2008, he flew to England to spend a day jamming with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, and Jason Bonham with the intent of possibly replacing Robert Plant on a Zep tour. He describes the day as "heaven...Even though it didn't work out, the kid in me was dying. I got to sing every song from 'Black Dog' up and down...But I wasn't Robert Plant, and Robert wasn't anything like me."
Tyler fires Joe Perry from Aerosmith. Backstage at a Cleveland Stadium show in 1979, already at each other's throats, Tyler and Perry got in an even more heated fight after an argument among the band's girlfriends and wives that climaxed in a tossed drink...of milk. "Aerosmith literally broke up over spilled milk," Tyler quipped in the band's 1990s-era oral history, Walk This Way, adding, "I swore that night I'd never play with Joe Perry as long as I lived." There is some question over whether Perry jumped or was pushed, but in his memoir, Tyler affirmed, "I could have just said 'I'm outta here' but I didn't; instead I said, 'You're fired!' Those were the words!...And thus ended Aerosmith Mach 1." In the early '80s, Aerosmith was down to two original members before the original lineup reformed in 1984.
Tyler falls off the stage. At an August 2009 gig, the singer attempted to keep the crowd entertained during a partial power outage in a thunderstorm by going to the front of the stage and doing "one of my Tyler moves...I zigged when I should have zagged, and I fell eight feet ten inches...There it was, the whole thing on YouTube as soon as I got to the hospital 20 minutes later." Rather than lie, Tyler decided to admit he was high at the time--but not on the hard drugs people might have assumed. He was on the insomnia drug Lunesta. "After all my running around in the '70s, '80s, and '90s," Tyler had to acknowledge the irony of being publicly brought down by a common prescription drug. "That's like smoking banana peels!"
Tyler brilliantly scotches Aerosmith's plan to replace him--by crashing a Joe Perry solo show with a big announcement. In November 2009, during a long estrangement between him and the rest of Aerosmith, Tyler heard that the band was planning to replace him as singer. At a dinner in New York, he learned Perry was doing a solo show across town. He caught a ride over and timed it so he would go backstage just before the encore, when Perry was set to do "Walk This Way" with his side project's lead singer. Tyler informed him that he wanted to come out and sing it, and Perry could hardly refuse, although the tension was thick. Onstage, according to his memoir, Tyler told the crowd, "All right, here's what's happening. I'm going to sing with Joe tonight. The rumors about me quitting the band aren't true. And Joe, you're a man that wears a coat of many colors. But I...am the rainbow." As soon as the song was over, he rushed out to his car without speaking another word to Perry.
Tyler "courts" Joan Jett. While Aerosmith was touring with Jett, Tyler stripped down underneath an overcoat, took a chair from the elevator landing area, dragged it all the way to the other end of the hotel where Jett's room was, knocked on her door, sat in the chair with his coat open, and greeted her with the title of one of her own songs: "I hate myself for loving you." Jett declined the offer.
Tyler secretly records the other band members' conversations. Said drummer Joey Kramer, recalling the backstage scene in the '70s, "He liked to come in, piss off the crew and walk out, having left a cassette recorder secretly running so he could hear what we said about him after he left."
Tyler tries a novel method for cheating on drug tests. Manager Tim Collins tried to institute spot drug testing for the band in the 1980s. "Steven cheated: He stored drug-free urine in condoms, which he taped to his thigh to use if I pulled a random drug test on him." This may sound ingenious, but there's a reason not every druggie does it, besides maybe the most obvious one. "Standing outside the stall while Steven urinated, I didn't catch on until one of the lab reports came in and said the urine was a week old." Said a foiled-by-science Tyler, "I'd saved it from the week before in the fridge. I didn't know anyone could tell."
Tyler perpetuates the ruse that he is not Liv Tyler's father until she is 11. When Bebe Buell became pregnant, she was bouncing back and forth between Tyler and Todd Rundgren, but she knew it was definitely the Aerosmith singer's child. "Steven said, 'That baby better not have droopy eyes and big ears,'" she remembered, referring to his suspicion that Rundgren might be the real dad. But soon Buell left Tyler to go back to Rundgren, and "we made a pact that he would be the father and raise the baby as his own and we wouldn't tell anyone." Eventually Tyler deluded himself into thinking that Liv was not really his daughter, having heard a rumor that Buell had been with Ritchie Blackmore as well as Rundgren--even though he saw Liv occasionally as she grew up and knew better. Finally, in 1988, Buell took their daughter to an Aerosmith show and, watching the band perform from the wings, Liv blurted out, "Mom, that's my father, isn't it?"
Tyler gets back at a hated manager through backward masking. The lyrics to "Sweet Emotion" were written by Tyler as a bit of a knock against a significant other of Perry's that the singer was not crazy about. But toward the end of the tune, sweet revenge is taken on someone else. Manager Frank Connelly had sold the band's management contract, and they were not pleased. So by one account, they chanted a sarcastic "Thanks, Frank" and placed it in the song backwards. Only a fundamentalist preacher with a backward record player may be able to tell for sure, but Tyler says that it was actually a more profane chant than that.
Tyler would rather get killed by a girl than die at the hands of Peter Frampton. Aerosmith appeared in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the movie loosely based--very loosely based--on the Beatles' music, and it was worthwhile as a chance to record "Come Together" with original Fab Four producer George Martin. But the movie is renowned as one of the most misbegotten ever made. "I read the script. And here it comes: I get killed at the end . And by Frampton?" said Tyler. Concurred Perry: "There is no f---ing way that Steven is gonna get directly offed by Peter Frampton!" A solution was arrived at in which Tyler would get pushed to his doom by a female character, a far less embarrassing fate.
Tyler gets severely sun damaged right before a video shoot. Put on methadone in 1981 so that he could kick harder drugs, he got a little sleepy. "I was so out of it that I passed out while sunbathing and woke up after nine hours in the Florida sun with severe burns and clumps of my hair falling out. If you ever see the video we did for 'Lightning Strikes,' don't look at my head too closely."
Tyler comes up with some outlandish album cover ideas. Some of Aerosmith's biggest 1970s albums might not have been nearly so big if Tyler had had his way about the cover art. For Toys In The Attic, "My original concept was to have a teddy bear sitting in an attic in a dusty beam of light with his wrist slit open and stuffing all over the floor." Nixed. As for Get Your Wings, "I wanted to call it Bobbing For Piranha. Here's the album cover: little kids around a barrel, hands tied behind their backs, flesh-eating fish hanging off their faces, graphically detailed noses and chunks of flesh missing completely, a bloody mess. No one else liked it."
Tyler signs up for American Idol without telling the rest of Aerosmith--even though they're on tour together. Perry barged into Tyler's room at a tour stop after reading about it in the papers. Tyler's explanation: "Well, c'mon, man, two months ago you were trying to throw me out of the band, so I got myself a job."
Tyler releases a solo single. Do you remember that he put out a single, "(It) Feels So Good," in 2011? That's all right, neither does anyone else. Tyler going solo for about five seconds might have been the craziest thing he ever did.
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