News Column

Aerosmith keeps on walking that way

July 7, 2014

By Edna Gundersen, @EdnaGundersen, USA TODAY

Aerosmith's recent European tour began and ended with cancellations prompted by strife and tumult. And for once, it wasn't internal.

Wednesday's closer in Kiev was scrapped over lingering tension from Russia's move into Ukraine. The May 14 launch in Istanbul, the band's first-ever concert in Turkey, was skipped after the government declared three days of mourning for the Soma mine disaster victims.

"They closed the Internet down while we were in Turkey," guitarist Joe Perry says. "It was a pretty chaotic and fascinating time."

Chaotic and fascinating could also describe Aerosmith's 44-year saga. With its history of ruptures, resignations, rehabs and recriminations, the Boston quintet nonetheless survived trends from disco to grunge with its mojo intact. They've racked up four Grammys, 21 Top 40 hits and global sales of 150 million albums.

"Some of us were teenagers when we put this together," Perry says. "You can't keep five people who grew up together in a rock 'n' roll band and not have some turmoil. ZZ Top is the only other band I know of still doing it this long with the original members."

hit songs aren't enough

Singer Steven Tyler marvels at the band's ability to bounce back from addiction, failed marriages, infighting, lawsuits and illness. But the years and setbacks never follow them onstage.

"I look over at Joe, and I don't see age," he says. "It's the same song with the same velocity."

Tyler, Perry, drummer Joey Kramer, bassist Tom Hamilton and guitarist Brad Whitford will hit the road Thursday with opener Slash, who faced similar ups and downs with Guns N' Roses before the implosion of the classic lineup in the mid-'90s.

"I had great hopes of Guns N' Roses carrying the torch," Perry says. "But it takes more than great songs to keep a band going. Slash has done an amazing job on his own."

Slash, dismissing the latest rumors of a GNR reunion, has been recording and touring with his band The Conspirators and singer Myles Kennedy of Alter Bridge.

He and Kennedy "had that magical chemistry that happens in the first downbeat of a rehearsal," Slash says. The group's next album,World on Fire, arrives Sept. 16. "It really makes what you're doing roll on all cylinders."

In the Aerosmith army, harmony is less of a concern now than health. Hamilton, who was diagnosed with throat and tongue cancer in 2006, sat out the band's tour that fall. His cancer returned in 2011, forcing more absences. Last year, an infection took him off the road again.

"It's the same old band it's always been, except we have to force-feed him like a duck," Tyler jokes. Hamilton's cancer is in remission, and "he's handling the road fine," Perry adds.

Touring is not for wimps, Tyler notes. "I lose about a pound a night and have fun eating to gain it back," he says. "I go to bed sore and wake up sore."

'My one-fifth of the story'

After the tour ends in September, Perry will begin promoting his autobiography, Rocks: My Life In and Out of Aerosmith, in stores Oct. 7. His bandmates will get copies, but to keep the peace, "I'm not going to let them read it until it's out," Perry says.

"It's my one-fifth of the story," he says. "I'm sure there are things the guys will remember differently. I wanted to put across how hard it's been to keep the band together. We made every mistake three times.

"Digging into the truth was harder than I thought," says Perry, who enlisted co-author David Ritz and read roughly 40 biographies for inspiration. "I figured I'd have to take a few hits."

Perry took issue with much in Tyler's 2011 autobiography,Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?, but he says Rocks is not a counterpunch.

"Steven's book is what he wanted people to see," he says. "That's his truth. It's the First Amendment, baby."

Tyler expects contradictions but insists that his Noise is "no fiction."

"It will be fun to read," he says. "I do love him dearly. There's a time when everyone needs to ego-speak. Now and then, there's a break in the clouds, the sun comes out, and we all see eye to eye. Doesn't happen much."

John Shearer, Invision, via AP

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Source: USA Today

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