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A COLORFUL LOOK AT A R'N'R LIFE THROUGH TYLER'S EYES
on May 4, 2011
371 pages of text, 3 page "Semiprologue", 32 pages of color and b&w photos throughout Tyler's life. Take the dust jacket off and there are wrap-around photos of Tyler in full regalia and mic stand. The inside front and back pages have the same series of photos.
In a nutshell-if you like Steven Tyler/AEROSMITH (originally spelled ARROWSMITH for about 5 seconds-Tyler wanted HOOKERS, but changed the spelling to A-E-R-O) you'll like this book. With the help of David Dalton, a long time Rolling Stone Magazine contributor, Tyler tells his tale in much the same style as he would in a conversation. His comments are sometimes off the wall and colorful, but somehow seem to help tell his life story. A quick glance at the chapter headings will prove my point. But Tyler writes in a very straightforward, in your face, no-holds barred style. Throughout the book Tyler constantly lays things out, no matter the subject matter, which helps paint a better, fuller picture of both his music, and himself.
Beginning with his birth, we learn about his parents and their strong influence on his adult outlook , his early formative years, friends and acquaintances, and his discovery of music. There's a lot of background details that help fill in Tyler's early life-a boyhood in many respects like other kids of the era, and how he found his way to music, and his decision to make music his life. Tyler talks about the comparisons between Mick Jagger and himself, and how the press played up their similarities. But Tyler makes no bones about Jagger/The Stones-he idolized them, along with other r'n'r stars of the day. We also learn about the many personal and band escapades-involving sex/drugs/r'n'r during the many years when the band was touring hard-and partying just as hard. If you've ever wondered about the highs and lows of a r'n'r band, this portion of the book will give you a good look into what it's all about. But Tyler tells his story with both great insight and humor, using that Tyler way with words, and that peculiar turn of a phrase that never seems to fail him.
For fans of the band, the book gets really interesting when the original band (with guitarist Ray Tabano), decided to try and "make it", by moving to Boston. This portion of the book really has the flavor of AEROSMITH-the song choices, the small clubs, trying to get by, and the beginning of their recording career, and the recording of various albums, and Tyler's on-going feud with guitarist Joe Perry The many details are what make this book worth reading-all the trials and tribulations that Tyler and the band went through in order to make music, and persevere in the music business.
Tyler also talks about his family-especially his four children. This is where he opens himself up and shows that underneath all that bravado, he's a caring, sensitive man. Tyler also talks about his stints in rehab, and the many physical maladies that have plagued him for a number of years, a number of which were caused by his r'n'r lifestyle. The book is also a cautionary tale of how excess can lead to ruin-his marriages and divorces, his troubles with his band mates, his regrets when looking back at parts of his life when the conflict of home life and his band made life almost intolerable, and so on. But in the end, Tyler (now a judge on American Idol) has adjusted to his sixth decade, living in Laurel Canyon, where many of his idols once lived, able to look back at a lifetime of music making.
For anyone who wonders if Steven Tyler is for real-this book will amply prove that point. His jive-talking, flavorful, sometimes off-color word usage, sometimes semi-nonsense style of writing keeps the interest up throughout this book. At times you get the feeling that Tyler is telling you his tales one on one, which is very effective, and sometimes visceral, but always interesting. The combination of small details throughout gives added depth to his story. It's an honest (as he sees it) look at a man, his music, his life in and outside of music, and how they all intertwine. And for all the jive bravado, you get the feeling, that underneath is someone who wants to let people know that, in many respects, he's just like us-an example-the book is dedicated to his mother. If you've ever wondered (as I have) if the persona he throws out is all there is, this book will help you see past all that. You may be surprised.
If you're interested in the other side of the r'n'r coin, so to speak, check out the book "And On Piano Nicky Hopkins: The Extraordinary Life of Rock's Greatest Session Man". As much as Tyler ultimately "made it" in music, Hopkins story (truly perhaps the greatest session man in r'n'r) is altogether something different. This book is a window into the r'n'r lifestyle of a man few could match.