Steven Tyler wrote what could arguably be considered his band’s most well-known song, “Dream On”, before the idea of starting a band ever occurred to him. Tyler started the band, which would eventually become famous all over the world, when he was in his early twenties. Prior to that, he had spent his formative years hanging around Greenwich Village and catching shows performed by the Rolling Stones, which solidified his desire to break into the music industry. It was at a local rock show in 1969 when Tyler met Joe Perry and Tom Hamilton, both of whom would eventually co-found Aerosmith with Tyler after leaving the band they were already in. Tyler appointed himself as the frontman and lead singer of the newborn band, recruiting a drummer and rhythm guitarist before moving the band to Boston where they could focus on launching their careers and establishing themselves in the industry.
Act One: Sex, Drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll
By 1973, Tyler and his band were touring much of the time and “Dream On” had become a mild hit, peaked at number 59 on the Billboard charts; however, it was with the back-to-back releases of Toys in the Attic and Rocks in 1975 and 1976, respectively, that Aerosmith gained mainstream success and became a household name. The band’s first Top 40 song, “Sweet Emotion”, was followed by the re-release of “Dream On” in 1976, finally making it to number 6. Meanwhile, Tyler had quickly emerged as a major rock star and a prominent sex symbol, booking the cover of Rolling Stone by himself rather than with his band. With Draw the Line, Aerosmith was catapulted into multi-platinum stardome. It was a very fast-paced existence with Tyler and his bandmates performing, recording, and touring almost constantly. Unfortunately, as quickly as Aerosmith rose to fame, it plunged into a major decline. Tyler had gotten caught into the “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” lifestyle with drugs, in particular, taking their toll on the band. As a result, it would be nine years before Tyler and his band wrote another song that would make it into the Top 40.
Act Two: When You Think You Have Nothing Left to Lose
It’s often said that fame is fickle, and that’s been very true for some. There have been many people who became household names and subsequently lost control of the precarious balance between being a celebrity and getting devoured by the dark side of the industry. Tyler and bandmate/guitarist Joe Perry became known as the “Toxic Twins” due to their notorious drug use. Specifically, Tyler and Perry were known to be high on drugs both onstage and off, and they often took very dangerous combinations of drugs—especially the combination of heroin and stimulants—garnering them the “Toxic” nickname. However, a fight between the two bandmates would result in Perry leaving the band to headline his own group, the Joe Perry Project.
Just over a year after Perry left Aerosmith, Tyler was severely injured in a motorcycle crash, which resulted in a two-month stint in the hospital and the cancellation of his 1981 tour. Meanwhile, Tyler’s drug use escalated to the worst point in his life. He was especially fond of and addicted to heroin; it’s said that Tyler would roam the streets of New York City, hoping to happen upon a dealer so that he could get his next fix. The band would see the return of some of its core members in 1984, several years after their departures; however, the entire group was continuing to abuse drugs, especially Tyler who notably collapsed during a performance in Springfield, Illinois, during their 1984 tour. Finally, Tyler’s bandmates staged an intervention and finally persuaded Tyler to go to rehab in 1986. Once Tyler completed treatment, each of his bandmates followed suit with all of them having finished their treatment by the mid- to late-1980s.
Act Three: The Comeback
In 1986, Tyler and Perry appeared on Run-D.M.C.’s cover of “Walk This Way”, which was an Aerosmith song. The cover, however, combined elements of hip-hop and rock and is credited with bringing rap music into the mainstream. Additionally, the collaboration introduced Tyler and Aerosmith to a new generation with the music video being heavy in MTV’s rotation. The following year, Aerosmith brought in a new producer and worked with more acclaimed songwriters; the result was a slicker and much more mainstream sound, once again catapulting Aerosmith into the spotlight with the release of Permanent Vacation, from which “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” was just one of three Top 20 hits. As successful as Permanent Vacation had been, Pump—released in 1989—was even more successful, spawning three Top 10 hits and featuring a more adventurous, experimental style; this can be readily seen in “Janie’s Got a Gun”, which earned the band its first Grammy Award.
By the early 1990s, Aerosmith had become one of the biggest musical groups in the country. Tyler had become a household name, in part because of how much exposure the band was getting on MTV and by being the first band to be featured on the hit series The Simpsons. After a brief lull and a new contract with Columbia, the band released Get a Grip in 1993, topping all their previous successes and winning two Grammy Awards, four MTV Video Music Awards, two American Music Awards, a People’s Choice Award, and a Billboard Award. Additionally, the band was known for their frequent and, occasionally, iconic music videos, many of which would feature up-and-coming actors, including Tyler’s own daughter Liv in the group’s “Crazy” music video. A brief break in the mid-1990s would be followed by Nine Lives, which went double-platinum, yielded three huge hits, and garnered the group a fourth Grammy. “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” became the group’s first single to hit number one on the charts.
Act Four: Success and the Roller Coaster of Recovery
Aerosmith was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, coinciding with their halftime performance for Super Bowl XXXV. It was at this time the group released Just Push Play, which featured another Top 10 hit in “Jaded”. Since their Just Push Play Tour in 2001, Aerosmith has toured every single year, save for 2008. Shortly after an injury that occurring when Tyler fell off the stage during a performance, it was reported that Tyler had quit Aerosmith to pursue solo projects; however, Tyler joined Perry onstage at a Joe Perry Project performance, assuring the crowd he had no intention of quitting his band.
In 2010, Tyler replaced Simon Cowell for the tenth season of American Idol, followed distantly by the release of his autobiography in mid-2011. In late 2012, Aerosmith released Music From Another Dimension!, the group’s fifteenth studio album. In early 2015, it was announced that Tyler would release his first solo country album, which is expected sometime this year.
Steven Tyler has always spoken candidly about his struggles with addiction, even writing an entire autobiography with extensive details about his substance abuse background. According to a recent interview, it’s the twelve-step method that keeps him sober. But despite being drug-free today, he doesn’t believe another relapse to be impossible. Tyler is humbled by and respects the disease of addiction, knowing that it could very easily take his illustrious career away from him.
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