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Permanent Vacation?

Posted by Steve Greenlee  November 9, 2009 06:37 PM

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By Mark Shanahan
and Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff

Has Steven Tyler quit Aerosmith? It sure seems so.

After 40 years fronting one of rock 'n' roll's most successful bands, the singer famous for his elastic lips and shrill scream has apparently decided to walk that way, and his departure is raising questions about whether Aerosmith could carry on with a new singer.

The band, which has been roiled by internal tension for months, is not confirming the split. But after a concert last week, Tyler told the British magazine Classic Rock that he had pulled out of the band's scheduled tour of South America and will focus on a solo career, which he referred to as "brand Tyler." In the same interview, Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford mused on the possibility of replacing the 61-year-old singer, prompting fans, disc jockeys, and others to wonder about the band's commercial viability with a new or unknown singer.

"I think the odds are probably against it," said Gary Bongiovanni, editor in chief of Pollstar, a music industry trade magazine. "That’s assuming that they go out and calls themselves Aerosmith with a singer that sounds just like Steven Tyler."

Long one of rock's most combustible acts -- the band broke up in the early 1980s and then enjoyed a wildly successful comeback -- Aerosmith has been rumored to be on the rocks since a disastrous summer tour during which Tyler fell off the stage and broke his shoulder. The friction within the band was particularly evident in recent weeks as the band played contractually obligated shows in San Francisco, Hawaii, and Abu Dhabi. Tyler not only didn't rehearse with the band, but he traveled separately and did not see or speak to the other members off stage.

In an interview yesterday, guitarist Joe Perry said he and Whitford, bassist Tom Hamilton, and drummer Joey Kramer were surprised by Tyler's comments, and aren't sure what the singer is thinking.

"Like everyone else, we just read it online," Perry said. "We were kind of knocked back on our heels."

The guitarist sounded subdued as he spoke about the complicated dynamics within Aerosmith. He said Tyler initially signaled his unhappiness during the recording of Aerosmith's latest studio CD, which is not finished. (The band has not released a record of original material since 2001's "Just Push Play.) Then, over the summer, Tyler also abruptly dropped his association with the band's longtime manager, Howard Kaufman, and signed a separate management deal with Union Entertainment Group. Tyler could not be reached yesterday, and a publicist at Union did not respond to a call or e-mail.

Perry did not rule out the possibility that Aerosmith might take the stage with someone other than Tyler. It's a dilemma many other bands have faced, he said, mentioning Led Zeppelin, in particular.

"I go between then Robert Plant school of thought -- that Led Zeppelin could never exist without [drummer] John Bonham -- and the [Jimmy] Page side of things -- that you just go out get somebody to add to the mix and call it Zeppelin," Perry said. "I think performing without Steven has crossed people's minds."

It likely would be a tough sell for fans, who expect to see the sinuous Tyler, his microphone stand draped in scarves, howling the hits that in 2001 earned the band a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Van Halen and Journey, among other bands, had success with replacement singers, but Tyler ranks among the most iconic frontman in rock history.

Carter Alan, music director at rock station WZLX-FM (100.7), said he has difficulty envisioning fans embracing Aerosmith without Tyler. "I think the band has the right to try that, but I don’t know if the audience would accept it, because it’s the Toxic Twins, the doppelgangers, it’s those two guys," Alan said. "Not to take anything away from Joey, Tom, and Brad, but the creative drive that drives the band is from Joe and Steven."

Chris Kopchak, who began the "Aerofanatic" group on Facebook, blames Tyler for the band's recent problems but concedes the singer is essential to the band's success.

"Would I go see them with another singer? Of course," said Kopchak, who's seen the band 27 times. "The music is what's most important to me, but I don't think they'd viable, commercially, without Tyler."

Fans may get their first glimpse of "brand Tyler" in January when the singer appears at the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, N.H. The event, "Dream On: An Intimate Evening With Steven Tyler," is billed as a multimedia presentation with video, a two-song performance, and a Q&A with the singer. The evening, which promises "a revealing look at the intimate details of Tyler's life," is a benefit for Child and Family Services' adolescent substance abuse treatment and child abuse prevention initiatives.

Stephen Davis, who wrote the best-selling Aerosmith biography "Walk This Way," said he is reminded of the band's break-up in 1981, when Perry quit and swore he would never return. (On the band's 1982 LP "Rock in a Hard Place," Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay played in place of Perry and Whitford.)

"Joe and Steven are like brothers who hate each other but can't live without each other," Davis said. "There are no permanent vacations in the Aerosmith camp."

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9 comments so far...
  1. THere's no way Aerosmith can replace Steven Tyler. IF so, you might as well rename the band.

    Posted by Jenn November 9, 09 10:27 PM
  1. Joe left in '79, not '81

    Posted by rp November 9, 09 10:49 PM
  1. Wow, Mr Greenlee. You are in desperate need of a proofreader. What a mess...

    Posted by flap November 9, 09 11:54 PM
  1. It seems that the Aerosmith story that appeared on the Classic Rock website has taken a life of its own and spread faster than a rampant STD, appearing on sites all over the world, especially in the US where, since Tyler’s dramatic stage exit a few months ago, the band have enjoyed a new life as media darlings.

    Judging by a story in the Las Vegas Sun Joe Perry was door-stepped coming off a long-haul flight from Aerosmith’s triumphant show in Abu Dhabi (read the review in next month’s Classic Rock) where he seems to have interpreted the now famous “Brand Tyler” quote as being a signal from the singer that he was on his his way out.

    Classic Rock can only say that when Steven Tyler spoke exclusively to our intrepid reporter Peter Makowski, he in no way indicated that he was leaving the band, and just stated that he wanted to spend some time out to record a solo album and promote his forthcoming autobiography Does The Noise In My Head Bother You.

    It’s Aerosmith’s 40th anniversary next year and one would hope that there are some pretty special events lined up.

    Since the story broke though, there has been radio silence on both sides of the camp. We do know that Perry, Tyler, Whitford and Kramer will or already have got together to discuss their future before Joe embarks on a solo tour of the West Coast.

    As for Tyler, Makowski sent an email requesting a follow-up interview to his management and was told: “Regretfully, Steven has had to return to the east coast quickly and immerse himself into some time-sensitive endeavours that require his full attention for the next days leading into the Thanksgiving holiday. He asked me to pass along his regards and we’ll look to bounce back to you as soon as appropriate time permits.”

    We shall of course keep you posted.

    Posted by sd November 10, 09 12:09 AM
  1. I watched a report on this in a rock music channel via Internet Television ( ). Aerosmith without Tyler isn't Aerosmith. He is part of the sound, the look and the energy of Aerosmith. Tyler is a trademark, no substitutes. This a planned strategy for a Farewell tour, he will return for more.

    Posted by Jay J. November 10, 09 01:28 AM
  1. He should have quit 10 years ago. He now looks goofy doing it. They were a great band but enough is enough. A Tyler solo career would be worthless.

    Posted by Dorian Gray November 10, 09 03:20 AM
  1. If Tyler can get sober again they have a chance. Lets hope he can not just for the band but for himself !

    Posted by sandman204 November 10, 09 06:39 AM
  1. So sad and so stupid on Steven's part. Mick Jagger's solo career worked out well didn't it? Not really, "Wandering Spirit" was listenable but the entire affair despite the occasional inclusion of guitar great Joe Satriani was forgettable.

    Okay boys we're over it. Hire Steve Whiteman of Baltimore/Hagerstown, Md. based Kix. Don't hire a fresh young face. He's gotta have some mileage on him and Steve certainly has that in spades and book shows in the same towns that Steven appears. Soon Mr. Tyler will be to quote "Sweet Emotion, "Eating from your hand." Steven you're a goof.

    Posted by Beltway Greg November 10, 09 08:45 AM
  1. Don't expect Steven to give the Globe an interview. Remember a few months ago the Globe posted Mr. Tylers mug on the front page for a week and mentioned "The dude looks like a little old lady" comment? Globe trashed Mr. Tyler with that horrible picture of him looking like a granny for real no reason except to emmulate TMZ journalism.

    Posted by bahhhoo November 10, 09 11:35 AM

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