Aerosmith: 'The world doesn't make love enough'

Back with their first album in eight years, Aerosmith are on a mission to make everyone have more sex. Their track record so far is impressive, Steven Tyler says

'What's missing in the world," announces Steven Tyler, lead singer of Aerosmith and answer in human form to the question of what a child born of Mick Jagger and Carly Simon would look like, "is that people don't get laid enough."

He leans back in his chair, letting the force of this proclamation sink in, spreading his denim clad legs ever so slightly. Across the Los Angeles hotel room, his long-term bandmate and "Toxic Twin" (as the press dubbed them), Joe Perry, nods ever so slightly at his old friend's prescription for worldly ills. "It's not just about coming and effing – it's about making love and unbridled passion. The world doesn't make love enough," Tyler continues. This proclamation occurs about five minutes after we meet.

Such a conversation opener will not come as any surprise to even the most casual student of the Aerosmith oeuvre. "Aerosmith was all about sex," Tyler writes in his memorably graphic and endearingly rambling 2011 autobiography, Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?, and few would argue. Certainly, through the 70s and 80s – before the band became purveyor of fist-pumping lovetorn ballads in the 90s – Aerosmith was at least as much associated with sex as it was with narcotic indulgence and inter-band bust-ups. So much so that one of the band's best known videos, Love in an Elevator, features Tyler who, despite being dressed like Charles II, only has to walk into a department store for ladies to offer him oral sex in a lift.

"That really happened!" yelps Tyler, bouncing in his seat. "Me and this girl, we were full on getting it on and, you know, it's a lifetime from the top to the bottom floor but suddenly the doors opened in the lobby and there were all these people – not children, but, you know, people. I was like, 'Holy shit!'"

Tyler has always been a man of prodigious appetite for drugs, alcohol or sex, and these days he's only allowed to indulge in one of those. In his autobiography he out-Naomi Wolfs Wolf with odes to the powers of a certain part of the female anatomy, decreeing it, in climactic conclusion, "the holy grail".

"I certainly do say that!" he says stoutly, adding that the aforementioned body part is "a creative force". I cross my legs a little tighter, keeping my creativity all to myself.

"Tonnes" of people, according to Tyler, come up to him on a daily basis to thank him for making music that helped them to get jiggy with it. And some of these people are more surprising than others.

"So I was sitting at a table a while back at the Kennedy Honours and was with, um, what's her name, the president's wife?" asks Tyler.

Michelle Obama.


Laura Bush?

"Keep going," he says, jerking his hand and scarves in a backwards direction above his bouffanted head.

Hillary Clinton?

"Thank you! So I got up to go to the bathroom and I bumped into every actor, every joint chief of staff and Nancy Pelosi, and they said, 'You wrote the songs that I got laid to and made out to.' It was wild."

Wait, I say, grappling with the image of the former speaker of the house getting her groove on to Mama Kin, Nancy Pelosi told you that?

"I don't want to say that on the record," he says with belated coyness. "Is she still the speaker of the house?"


"Oh, she's out? OK, go with it, yeah! I was like, what? But it was so sweet."

Clinton, too, Tyler suspects of having some good Aerosmith anecdotes: "You look at her and you think, dude, she's one of us!"

Tyler, 64, has been married and divorced twice: "Why would a man and a woman who call themselves soulmates leave each other over something as frivolous as sex?" he asks in his autobiography. This argument failed to work for him as at least one of his marriages ended in part due to his admission of infidelity. He has four children, including the actor Liv Tyler, and currently lives with a long-term girlfriend who sounds like quite a woman.

The band's new and very fun, very Aerosmith album, Music from Another Dimension!, their first for eight years, includes one song that advocates the Viagra lifestyle of "luv three times a day". Another is titled Lover Alot. In fact, it's a rare song that doesn't have the word love in the title.

"I was reading the lyrics upstairs and I was thinking, there's a lot of love. And I got shameful for a minute and thought, We should be more socially relevant!" Tyler says, evoking the striking image of Aerosmith affecting a late-career makeover in the mould of Bruce Springsteen.

"Bullshit," pipes up Perry from beneath his large black hat.

"But you know I'm not the smartest cookie in the barrel [sic]," Tyler continues. "I'm not socially relevant but I write about love and passion – and it's fun! It's what I think a rock'n'roll band should be."

It's hard to imagine what Tyler would have done with his life if the music lark hadn't panned out. In person he is far less weird-looking than he appears on TV: the mouth, while certainly striking, seems less outsize when you see it as part of the whole feline package. But he is still a memorable chap with little of the 9-5 about him. His body these days is toned as opposed to rail thin and he winds it around in all sorts of improbable poses while making unfailingly entertaining conversation that occasionally tips over into Spinal Tap mode:

"I was talking to Mick Fleetwood the other day about hotels, you know? I like living in a hotel! I like the small room, the bathroom's right there. Stevie Nicks is the same – whenever she buys a house it's huge and she only uses one room. We love fucking hotels," he concludes. Occasionally, and without warning, Tyler bursts into song, flaunting a voice that is, by some measure, one of the most extraordinary instruments in American music, one that can give vocal-cord-busting performances of rock (Walk This Way, Janie Got a Gun), blues (Dream On, Sweet Emotion) and ballads (Don't Wanna Miss a Thing, Crazy).

"Doctors keep saying I will wear it out, but it just gets stronger," he says proudly.

Does he do anything to protect the sound that gave him the nickname the Demon of Screamin'?

"Uh, clear my throat?"

Perry, still disarmingly attractive, sits, by contrast, almost immobile, eyes lowered, in nearly head-to-toe black and decked with silver necklaces. He veers from monosyllabic to chatty, from solemn to dryly amused at the world's foibles. The two men have exactly the same hairstyle: massive piles of dark hair with a lick of white in the front. Give or take various time periods when one or the other had seemingly or actually left the band, they have been playing together for more than 40 years.

"The two of us, we've been around so fucking long we've touched every port in the harbour," monotones Perry.

"Yeah! The mental harbour!" Tyler chimes in excitedly. Perry decides to let that non-sequitur slide.

Despite having a somewhat inconsistent output and only one Billboard No 1 (I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing, which they didn't actually write), Aerosmith is one of the most successful American rock bands of all time. Of course, this is partly down to simple longevity. Considering how improbable it is that either one is still alive today, let alone still playing together, Perry and Tyler, understandably, feel that this must be down to a higher power.

"When someone comes up and says: 'I had sex for the first time because of you guys,' that's the funny part. But when someone says: 'I got sober because of you guys,' that's when you realise that's why God said: 'You guys should stay alive, you guys should stay together,'" says Perry.

"Guardian angels? Yuh think?" retorts Tyler to a question nobody asked. He then proceeds to list all the evidence at hand that "my guardian angel – I call him God" has looked out for him, ranging from "[Drug] ODs – sure! Shooting coke, car accidents," to the fact that he wasn't blinded when he would shoot his BB gun at the barn wall when he was seven years old: "Boink! But never once!"

After countless stints in rehab the two men are clean and the only health issues are physical. Tyler's feet defy description: sharp corners of bone protrude in unexpected places, his toes are piled on top of one another, skew-whiff and he is in near constant pain, all due to a lifetime of jumping about in tight, heeled boots. Perry has one titanium knee, a legacy of a bad fall off a stage.

"Hey, you know," he shrugs. "This stuff happens."

Perry and Tyler met in the summer of 1970 when the 19-year-old aspiring guitarist drove up to Tyler's parents' house in New Hampshire to ask if their son wanted to see his band that night. Hearing Perry play "made my dick sooo hard", writes Tyler, who was born Steven Tallariccio, in his autobiography, before leaping with nary a pause to an analogy involving Helen Keller. "My whole life I'd been searching for my mutant twin … I wanted that Mick-Keith thing," he writes.

Tyler agrees that his life has been defined by three great loves: music, women and Perry, and not necessarily in that order. The two men are of clearly opposite temperaments, one hot and one cold, and Tyler is prone to what he calls "LSD – Lead Singer Disease". Various bad behaviour on everyone's part, exacerbated by their Herculean drug abuse, led to breaks between the two, including Perry leaving the band from 1979-84, and then, in turn, Perry announcing in 2009 that the band was looking for a new singer, much to Tyler's surprise. "The press blows stuff out of proportion," Perry insists.

"Oh come on – it still pisses you off if I'm on the cover of the magazine and you're not," Tyler blurts out.

"It doesn't piss me off. It might annoy me a little," replies Perry.

"OK, it ANNOYS you," says Tyler, rolling his eyes.

One relatively recent development that definitely annoyed Perry was when Tyler agreed in 2010 to be a judge on American Idol but didn't tell his bandmates.

"Why should I tell you? Four months earlier you were telling people you were going to get a new lead singer?" Tyler says, the hurt still a little palpable in his voice.

When Perry eventually saw American Idol on which his bandmate was a predictably enjoyable loopy star, his anger abated: "I realised that I'd been on that programme – with Katy Perry, of all people. And I'd just forgotten about it."

"I wish I'd said that to you at the time!" bursts out Tyler.

"Heh heh heh," Perry makes a triumphant chuckle. Tyler sighs, beaten again by his mutant twin. Ultimately, the relationship between them appears to be rooted in respectful acceptance: Tyler still displays a brotherly mix of awe and envy towards Perry ("Joe Fucking Perry") while Perry shrugs benignly that, "if he wasn't the way he is, he couldn't do what he does".

These days both men are grandfathers and Tyler radiates when talking about his grandson, Milo, Liv Tyler's son. Milo loves to come over to Papa Steven's house in Boston: there is a pool with a slide, secret tunnels connecting the rooms and, apparently, trees growing inside.

This sparks the surprising thought that perhaps rock stars, while not always great parents, maybe turn into terrific grandparents simply because their arrested emotional development makes them such jolly playmates. What does Tyler think of this theory – has being a rock star kept him young? He stares back, dumbstruck at the very question, and swishes his legs about, his mutilated feet flying through the air: "Are you kidding? Positively! Just look at me!"


Hadley Freeman

The GuardianTramp

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