Circus Magazine, 4th March, 1980
AEROSMITH LOSES JOE PERRY, BUT STAYS OUT OF THE ROCK & ROLL RUTSSteve Tyler bounds onto the stage wearing a bumblebee-colored jumpsuit with a matching headband and trademark strands of fabric looking like a berserk Indian chief.
The scene and the gut-thumping sound bursts from the stage are familiar on this, the opening night of their nationwide tour in Binghamton, New York. The major difference is that ace guitarist Joe Perry is missing and in his place is ex-Flame Jimmy Crespo, the new kid in town.
Offstage, Tyler is not nearly as flamboyant as his performance costumes. Backstage in Binghamton, he wears ordinary jeans and a white shirt, talks with almost everyone but in clipped, reserved phrases; friendly but business-like. Almost hushed.
Before the band took the stage, Tyler told the girl fitting his costume, "I don't even have butterflies." His disavowal of stagefright, however, did not erase the underlying tension because of the unanswered question that hangs in the air: How will Aerosmith fare without songsmith/ founder/guitarist Perry, who left the band shortly before the release of their recent album Night In The Ruts (Columbia)?
Tyler calls his former partner "a guitar lunatic, one of the best" perhaps to cover what some say is the pain of losing a valuable asset to the still-struggling band. That strain apparently took its toll the next night, in Portland, Maine, when Tyler seemed to collapse onstage. Dyke Hendrikson of the Portland Press-Herald reported that Tyler was slithering around on the floor during one of his numbers halfway through the evening when he appeared unable to arise. "But he made a phone call later backstage abd received no medication from the paramedics on duty," Hendrikson observed. After a few days in a Boston hospital for tests and a week's worth of cancelled tour, Aerosmith was on the road again. The diagnosis: exhaustion.
Pery explained his departure. "I had the Aerosmith itinerary in one hand and my demo tapes in the other and it was a question of playing the same songs again and again in the same big arenas. What they're doing is great but it's just different from what I wanted to do.
"I know Steven has mixed feelings and we may have some trouble dealing with each other for a while but it was always a love-hate relationship. That's what gave it the power and energy it had; it's just that we diverged."
Though Perry is now recording with the new group he heads - the Joe Perry Project - he is prominent on Aerosmith's newest album, Night in the Ruts (Columbia). His solos on songs like "Reefer Head Woman" and "Mia" are powerful and he is listed as co-writer on five of the nine tunes. The solo chores in Aerosmith are now solidly on the shoulder of Crespo, who is offhand about the burden: "I know I'm coming in after a major figure has left; it's not as if I were the co-founder of the group. But there's a chance to do something new."
Crespo, Brooklyn-born and a guitarist for so many of his 23 years "it seems like a history book now," resents that his session work isn't better known. He was the lead guitarist on Ian Lloyd's recent solo Atlantic album, and on a Robert Fleishmann album that, he admits, was something less than a hit.
Whoever the guitar player is, says Tyler, Aerosmith will continue "because I'm here." Son of European immigrants with an Italian, German, Polish, Russian and Swedish background (his real name is Taloarico) he grew up in New York, Yonkers and Sunapee, New Hampshire, where his parents had purchased a 212-acre resort.
After working through a series of bands - the Stranglers, Chain Reaction, William Proud, The Left Banke - and a short stint as a roadie for the Jeff Beck-Jimmy Page Yardbirds, he became a Bostoner, and linked up with the rest of Aerosmith - Perry, guitarist Brad Whitford, bassist Tom Hamilton and drummer Joey Kramer.
In Binghamton, the subject of Cincinnqti's fatal Who concert just days before brought no visible reaction from any member of the band, though it would have to have been on their minds since crowd violence has haunted the band off and on from the beginning. It was also very much on the minds of the security force, which had been beefed up with 60 uniformed officers. "I wouldn't want to be down on the floor for love or money," said one of the guards, happy to be on duty backstage. "We have to take them out three and four at a time. They tear the arms off the seats and throw them down on the audience."
"None of my groups will ever play Cincinnati again," says Aerosmith's tough-minded manager David Krebs, who is spearheading a drive to ban festival seating in arenas, and provide procedures to safeguard both audience and performer. "The last time Aerosmith played Cincinnati somebody was shot," he said supported by Tyler who told tales of wild fans piling up seats and burning them in a bonfire.
John Tafro, public relations director of Cincinnati's Riverfront Coliseum, denies those claims. "The last time Aerosmith played here [October 5, 1978] we had no problems or incidents," says Tafro.
On stage in Binghamton, Crespo used lyric cue cards for "No Surprise" hidden behind the monitors at the front of the stage. ("A few surprises in 'No Surprise'," he said ruefully later on the way back to the hotel.)
He and his new pals seem satisfied with his solos this far which have been intense enough to bring screams of approval from the crowd.
The band is obviously sensitive to the pressure of showing they can still sizzle on stage without Perry. He was, after all, to Steve Tyler what Jimmy Page is to Robert Plant. But some rock bands show remarkqble tenacity. The Who has, if anything, grown stronger as a unit if not musically in the wake of the loss of Keith Moon. The Eagles have flourished in spite of several major personnal changes as have the Stone.
Aerosmith, in their characteristic brash way, dismiss the naysayers. "That psychic Jeanne Dixon predicted the roof would cave in on us when we played Portland last year," scoffs Whitford. "But it didn't happen, did it?"
Steve Tyler TalksCIRCUS: What do you do when you're not rocking & rolling?
TYLER: I spend as much time as possible with my family, my daughter Mia and my wife Cyrinda. We have a house by a lake in New Hampshire which I use as a decompression chamber.
CIRCUS: Why do fans throw things at you?
TYLER: It's a manifestation of their excitement; they just get carried away. I wouldn't say it's a good manifestation, but it's hard to control.
CIRCUS: What do you think about the new wave and the future of heavy metal?
TYLER: Heavy metal has never been stronger. There are three bands, three of the oldest bands - the Who, the Stones and Led Zeppelin - which are really going strong. And there are newer bands like Van Halen and AC/DC that are doing very well. New wave is a healthy thing, it's opened the pores of what was becoming a stodgy and unimaginative music business. But I wouldn't step away from heavy metal or do a whole album of the ballady stuff.
CIRCUS: You seem to do the ballady stuff very well, as in "Mia" from the new album.
TYLER: Some people think "Mia" means "Missing in Action" and that's great - the more they can go in different directions with a song I write, the better. That one is about my daughter, and it isn't. Kids might even take off and walk out before that song is over, but I'm not ashamed of it, because we just enough guts into a song - usually in the instrumental solo - so it isn't wimpy.
CIRCUS: What's your greatest frustration?
TYLER: Dealing with too many people on a business level who don't understand what my music is about.
CIRCUS: What changes will take place in the band now that Joe Perry is gone?
TYLER: It'll stay pretty much the same, because I'm here. Crespo is fast, though. He'll be fiddling around on the guitar and I'll say, 'what are you doing?' and he'll say 'nothing' and there'll be a song there.
CIRCUS: Which of your albums fulfills your concept of what rock & roll should be?
TYLER: The next one.