After 40 years, various paths, resilient Aerosmith rocks on
By John Benson
It’s back in the saddle, yet again, for Aerosmith.
Having had seemingly more starts and stops than a NASCAR race, the hard-rock outfit – Steven Tyler (vocals), Joe Perry (guitar), Tom Hamilton (bass), Joey Kramer (drums) and Brad Whitford (guitar) – proves once more its resiliency.
The group’s story is legendary: a predictable rise from obscurity into a decadent lifestyle which imploded into an abyss of drugs in the late ’70s, followed by a remarkable rebound a decade later.
Only this time around, something seemed different. Recent band infighting led Tyler surprisingly to become an “American Idol” judge last year.
The Boston-based group’s surreal history became stranger when earlier this year it was featured on “60 Minutes.”
“I never imagined [we’d be on ‘60 minutes unless] maybe in handcuffs,” said Whitford, calling from Nashville. “It was a show I grew up with. It was pretty cool.”
For those fans who watched the piece, the band’s already dysfunctional dynamic seemed tenuous at best.
Then came word Aerosmith would be releasing new album “Music From Another Dimension” this summer, as well as venturing out for yet another tour, which includes a show Tuesday at Quicken Loans Arena.
Whitford admits the most recent Aerosmith sabbatical, hiatus or mini-breakup did feel different and deeper with Tyler’s gig on “American Idol.”
However, he never once assumed the band was done.
“Oh yeah, this band is always throwing left hooks one way or another,” Whitford said. “‘American Idol’ was just another one of those sucker-punch things that you didn’t really know what to make of it at first. I was like, ‘Oh my God, what is this going to be like?’ But it turned out to be a good thing. People have gotten to see the Steven Tyler we all know in the band that people didn’t even know existed.”
Something else Aerosmith fans got to see on “American Idol” was the band debut of its new single “Legendary Child,” which dates back to the 1991 “Get a Grip” recording sessions.
The notion of the band returning to its platinum era for inspiration in linking the old may seem suspect, but the truth is the practice has been commonplace.
Not only did the Rolling Stones release hit song “Start Me Up” three albums after it was originally written, but more recently Van Halen mined its vault for material on its “A Different Kind of Truth” effort.
In talking about “Music From Another Dimension,” Whitford said the material is classic Aerosmith, ranging from the hard rocking “Legendary Child” to rock ballads.
He also believes the tunes are right in line with some of the band’s best work, including “Toys in the Attic,” “Pump” and “Get a Grip.”
The reason why is simple. The guitarist believes the band’s collective ego, which has produced its fair share of strife, is actually the reason why the outfit continues to put out good material after roughly 40 years together.
“I was just reading an interview with [R.E.M. singer] Michael Stipe,” Whitford said. “He was talking about all of the tension and stuff that happened in their band and the result was the phenomenal music. I think that’s part of it for a lot of bands. It has to be this competition, and this rivalry and also this stuff going on to create a kind of furnace that burns at a really high temperature. That’s when you get the passion and everything. That’s what makes for great music.”