The real problem with the story of Aerosmith's five decade career is that -- despite the drugs, decadence, women, partying and internal friction -- it is rather boring. It follows such a familiar story arc: young and hungry band models itself on bad boys like the Rolling Stones, takes drugs, works in clubs, gets contract, makes albums and tours and then straightens up a bit and makes more albums and tours etc.
It is any one of a dozen Behind the Music stories with the suitably exciting photos of dishevelment and crammed stadiums, album covers being trotted out like holy relics and the protagonists being caught in soundbites saying things like "if you've created this monsterin' animal, let it run" (as Steven Tyler says here).
It's an oh-so familiar narrative that only the music can sometimes elevate it -- and this coffee-table book of excellent photos and dull writing of course cannot give you the visceral thrill of albums like Toys in the Attic or Pump.
It can however give you a level of gob-smackingly dumb commentary when it comes to the guest writers giving their assessment of the albums along the way.
Of Pump, Bill Holdship (of Creem, BAM etc) observes that "pop-metal of the time was about nothing if not sex, even if the most lunkheads of the genre lacked anything that could be described as subtlety [however] when Tyler squawks 'I'll shove my tongue right between your cheeks' on FINE (the title's an acronym for Fucked Up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional) there is a cleverness on display in the wordplay . . ."
Huh? Like a Spinal Tap cleverness, Bill?
And I guess he doesn't see any connection between his subject matters, let alone any irony in his comment, when he observes of the song Janie's Got A Gun "that it was the first Aerosmith song to ever address an important social issue: incest and child rape, an interesting concept on an album that mostly deals with lust and sex, although that might make the message more powerful in the end".
Might it? Or might it not?
And in the Afterword where Tyler and Joe Perry sit and give advice -- or more corectly, just think aloud -- Tyler clearly sees no connection between these two points: "When my eight-year daughter's 14 I don't wanna have to go to go fuckin' back to therapy -- 'Daddy, you weren't there for me'. I don't want her to have that psychological deficit that she's missed something of her father when she was growing up . . ." and right after that he says, "There are nights we've come off stage, we've played to 60,000 people and I'm so happy. I'm in the greatest band in the world, and I call my kids and it makes me cry. It's great. I love it."
So here is Behind the Music in print with glossy photos, and a band getting the commentators it deserves.