Saturday 23 September 2017

Review: Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? by Steven Tyler and David Dalton

Harper Collins, £18.99

Crazy: Tyler
reckons he has
snorted $20m
worth of illicit
substances
Crazy: Tyler reckons he has snorted $20m worth of illicit substances

It has got to be the hoariest cliché in the music business: sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. It's a term that's become utterly redundant from overexposure.

But if there is someone for whom that motto carries weight, it's Steven Tyler -- the motor-mouth, cartoonish frontman of one of America's all-time top-selling bands, Aerosmith, and latterly, a judge on American Idol. And, as this self-aggrandising autobiography makes abundantly clear, he has sampled a great deal of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll -- more, possibly, than the entire bill at Oxegen this year -- and he seems very happy to unburden himself.

First, the drugs. Boy, there have been a lot of drugs in the life of the man born Steven Tallarico in the Bronx, New York, 63 years ago. He reckons he has snorted, injected and imbibed his way through $20m dollars of illicit substances so far in his lifetime. And that's not counting alcohol, another vice with which he has been intimately acquainted over the years.

"I snorted my Porsche, I snorted my plane, I snorted my house in that din of drugs and booze and being lost," he says. "I kept my medicine cabinet on stage, in a 14in drum head, the bottom of which contained one Dixie cup with a straw and blow [cocaine] in it and the other with Coca-Cola and Jack Daniels in it. Left to my own devices I probably would have been dead several times over."

Anyone reading this book -- penned with the help of Rolling Stone founding editor David Dalton -- is bound to wonder how Tyler is still with us. How is it possible to consume so many drugs and remain not just alive, but lucid?

Therapy has helped, he grudgingly admits, and he has been in and out of rehab at an alarmingly frequent rate. He itemises eight US clinics of which he has been a patient with the sort of relish usually reserved for a proud parent introducing their children. Steven Tyler doesn't do regrets and although he's reportedly clean now, you wonder how long that will remain. Drugs have caused havoc in his life, but what's equally clear is the fun he's had. Anti-drug campaigners might want to seek another celebrity out.

Second, marginally, to the drugs is sex and the snake-hipped Tyler enjoyed the trappings of his role when Aerosmith first took off. The pre-Aids 1970s was the golden age of the groupie, if the accounts of David Bowie and various members of Led Zeppelin are anything to go by. Yet, even these libidinous men might have struggled to keep up with Tyler and his willingness to get up close and personal with his prettiest fans even before Aerosmith went stratospheric in 1975 with the Toys in the Attic album.

Is his tongue firmly in cheek when wondering why his long-term girlfriends didn't stick around when they tired of his on-tour antics? Yet, as he got older, his skirt-chasing decreased dramatically and his love life is shot through with odd darts of pain, not least when he loses one of his wives to cancer.

There is a hilarious and self-deprecating moment in the book when recounting a conquest that didn't quite happen. Tyler decided he wanted to sleep with fellow rocker, Joan Jett, and, not lacking in confidence, he showed up outside her hotel room buck naked one night. Jett's kiss-off line has stuck in Tyler's head, and for good reason. "I'm not into big 10-inch, honey," she told him, neatly referencing the title of one of Aerosmith's most celebrated songs.

And yet, amid all the entertaining chatter of cocaine and bed-hopping, there's a simple tale of an extrovert who loved music and managed to carve out an unfeasibly long career for himself. Aerosmith fans will take most from the reams he writes about bandmate, songwriting partner and soulmate of sorts, Joe Perry.

Perry, we learn, is Tyler's "polar" and "mutant" twin, the "cool" to his "sulphur sun beast," the "creep" to his "asshole". He wrote 'Sweet Emotion' about Perry after his buddy chose living with a girlfriend over rooming with him. It's clear that both men -- who met in 1969 -- have been inextricably linked creatively and although neither can be mentioned in the same breath as McCartney/Lennon, their full-on, anthemic rock has enjoyed enormous, mass appeal. Aerosmith have sold 150 million albums to date, a figure that puts U2, for instance, in the ha'penny place.

Younger readers, who've just discovered Tyler through his star turn on American Idol, may be disappointed that he doesn't have much to say about that show. But long-time fans, irked by their hero's embrace of tat TV, can at least console themselves with the knowledge that his latest venture was taken without the consent of Perry et al. It seems Tyler's propensity to put noses out of joint is as refined as ever.

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