U.S. rock groups have softened in the 70s, from early Crosby, Stills et al to the Eagles, forcing heavy-metal masochists to look to Mother Country bands like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple for their 110-decibel abuse. Well, as Steve Tyler of Aerosmith sings, “No More No More.” America has come home to Tyler’s indigenous Boston-based outfit and made Steve, its razor-thin lead singer and strutter extraordinaire, the first Yankee crowned head of heavy metal. Aerosmith’s new Hocks is its fourth back-to-back platinum (million-seller) LP, and this summer the group will be testing the construction of halls and stadiums across the country, hammering its elemental, unrelenting music into as many as 80,000 crania a night.
His pout appears cloned from Carly Simons’, and his clingy, stretchy stage getups have made Tyler a thoroughly satisfying Jagger-surrogate for his many teenybopper fans who average about half his age, 28. But Steve fumes when critics compare him to Super Mick or kiss off the group as more pedestrian than punkishly streetwise. “We’re the best, that’s it,” he proclaims. “Four platinums, the biggest concerts in the country, and these simps and gimps still only say ‘Jaggeresque Tyler, Tyleresque Jagger.’ Screw ’em all.”
Tyler acknowledges he unwittingly has become a sex symbol but protests, “I don’t go onstage with a banana in my pants. As good as I am,” says Tyler, perhaps correctly, “I’m nothing without my band.” Aerosmith is propelled by Tom Hamilton’s bass, the muscular drumming of Joey Kramer and stinging guitar runs by Joe Perry and Brad Whitford.
Steve moves for his money onstage (the pedometer attached to his leg clicks off four miles per gig) and ends the night “an android—no ups, no downs, no nothing. The road breeds depression and insanity,” he states unequivocally. “It’s involuntary in me, and I look at it with horror. But suddenly you’re this irritable superstar bitch, flipping out over trivia, like do we get separate ice buckets for champagne backstage? Do we get limos with separate radio controls in the rear? I’m no prima donna. But if I don’t cool down soon I will flip out in major ways. I never had these emotions before. All you know on the road is that dialing 0 gets you room service, 8 is long distance and 9 is local calls. I woke up in my own home today, and I didn’t know where I was.”
He was, in fact, in his $75,000 hideaway on Lake Sunapee, N.H., near where he summered as a kid. His parents, of Italian origin (Tyler changed his name), run a resort there, and as a teenager Steve played society music on drums with his father (on piano) and his uncle (sax). Off season, he lived in the New York suburb of Yonkers, spending nights alone in his room with his radio and rock dreams: “I used to hear the Everly Brothers or Beach Boys and say, ‘God, I want to do that.’ ” His chance came sooner than expected in spite of an 11th-grade pot bust, set up, he says, “by a narc posing as a classmate in ceramics. He sold me a nickel bag, brought a hookah to my house, and then one day came back with the handcuffs.” In 1970, two groups later, he wound up with Aerosmith.
Humorous and high-strung Tyler unwinds in the endless summer camp serenity around the lake with his gentle lady Julia Holcomb, 18, and at the wheel of his Porsche 911S or his 195-hp speedboat. As a lingering side effect of the road, he rarely crashes before sunrise. “What I really want,” he whispers, on his creaking dock, as the rising sun illuminates a cold thick fog rolling over the glassy lake toward the White Mountain pines, “is my own kids. I send monthly checks to two foster kids in Asia. I never met them, but I get pictures and progress reports. I know they’re getting milk and food and clothes, and that makes me feel good. I’ve done music for a lot of other people to get off on, and now, man, I want a piece of that happiness too.”