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The ‘Real’ Steven Tyler….Of Westport, Conn!!

In Music on February 17, 2012 at 11:37 pm

‘Cool’ Steven, circa 1970’s

I’m not gonna lie: it kills me to see the ‘cool’ rockstars of my day, sell out, one by one. There was a day when the thought of a sixty-three year old Steven Tyler appearing on a music game show on network television, with a diva/ pop-star and some dweeby guy who thinks saying ‘Dawg’ over and over again epitomizes cool would be the stuff of bad (and weird)- dreams. But here we are, and there Steven Tyler is, on a family show ( one that has all of the coolness cache as an old episode of ‘Happy Days’), and there he is again, sitting around in an Oprah special, confessing that he has no friends. But no worries, Steven- Oprah will be your friend. At least for as long as you keep your American Idol job. Oh- and if you can actually get her ‘real’ number….I, however, can’t help but think of a different Steve Tyler, a cutting edge, original, dripping with sweat and sexual innuendo Steven Tyler, who along with his toxic twin, Joe Perry (the utmost of foxes!) was someone you’d hide from your parents, not gather around the tv and watch with them! A seemingly dangerous, yet sexy guy who would laugh hysterically at the mere thought of cozying up to (and kissing the ass of) a daytime tv talk show host like Oprah Winfrey!

I wouldn’t sell out if my life depended on it!

In the 1970’s, Aerosmith rocked hard. When I was-I don’t know- 13? 14? I related sooo much to Aerosmith. I hung pictures of Tyler and Perry on my walls, wore flowing scarves and tons of sterling silver and turquoise jewelry, which I painstakingly picked out at Aspasia’s Jewelry store in Westport, Conn for it’s inherent ‘bad-assness’. I dressed like Steven Tyler’s mic stand. What I didn’t know then, was that years before, in the mid to late 60’s, Steven Tyler (Tallarico, then) was playing in a band called “The Strangeurs’right there in Westport – the next town over from mine! Henry Smith, who lived in Westport and met Tyler during the summer when he vacationed in New Hampshire,said in the book, ‘Walk This Way’, that he thought Steven’s band was so good, he began booking them in Westport. Their first gig: The Christmas Cotillion of Fairfield County! This was a snooty debutante ball, which usually hired an orchestra, but couldn’t book one that year due to scheduling conflicts. Henry told his mom: ‘Don’t worry- I have a band’ So, the Strangeurs were paid $500, and everyone was fine until the band showed up at the country club in long hair, dungarees, and a snotty attitude (note: well at least they had the attitude part right!) Henry recalled: “Steven was complaining that he had nothing cool to wear, so I cut the sleeves off my grandmother’s mink coat and gave it to him to wear as a vest. They looked like the Rolling Stones but even more disreputable.” The chaperones were horrified, according to Henry. “How could you?” they hissed at my mother. But the kids just went nuts. It was the best cotillion they’d ever had!”

I’ll be at the Ice Cream Parlor. Check it Out!

The Strangeurs even played a dance at the Ice Cream Parlor in Westport (note: I was still a little kid.  Remember that place? Across the street from where Sam Goody’s music store eventually stood? Candy hanging everywhere, all those giant lollipops,in crazy colors- the size of record albums!) Says Steve Tyler: “We made $100 for the whole band. There were some trampolines out back of this club and this kid comes out and tells me to stop jumping on them. It got my back up until I found out this kid was Scott Newman*, a friend of Henry Smith’s and actor Paul Newman’s son. We went back to Scott’s house after the show and ended up in the sauna with Paul Newman, drinking brandy all night.”

Joe Perry & Steven Tyler, 70s

Joe Perry & Steven Tyler, 70s

Steven continues: “Henry Smith got us a gig opening for the Yardbirds at Staples High School (on October 22, 1966. Dammit! I was five!) We drove up in my mother’s station wagon at the same time the Yardbirds arrived in their van. I got out and carried an amp into the gym. I don’t even know whose it was. Then I got out again and see Jimmy Page carrying my mike stand. That’s how it was in those days.”

I had seen the Yardbirds play somewhere the previous summer with both Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page in the band. In fact, I got them to autograph a piece of cardboard. In Westport we found out that Jeff had left the band and Jimmy was playing lead guitar by himself. I watched him from the edge of the stage and all I can say is that he knocked my tits off. They did ‘Train Kept A Rollin’ “and it was just so heavy. They were just an un-fuckin’ believable band.” So, for all of my pals in Ct- we were too young to partake, but believe it or not- the preppies at Staples High School, in 1966 had the best prom ever- featuring both Steven Tyler and Jimmy Page! And I’d never heard a word about it until I read the book ‘Walk This Way’ by Stephen Davis!

Stylin’

My own first experience with Steven, in person (sort of) was in the mid 70’s, when I went to see Aerosmith at The New Haven Coliseam, only the second concert I’d ever been to (the first had been at Colt Park, an outdoor stadium, that in my mind still looks exactly like the pictures I’ve seen of Woodstock, but probably wasn’t, as the place was shut down due to it’s state of disrepair and violence) I went to the Aerosmith show with my awesomely cool and beautiful friend Victoria, who had been to all kinds of concerts before this one, and was the most glamorous person I knew. She was so cool in fact, that we drove to the concert in her Mom’s car and she  was only 15, and didn’t yet have a license*.But she had permission to drive the car, because she’d shown her Mom what a great driver she was. And she was! (I know some helicopter parents in my age group just had heart attacks, but how many times a day does that happen to you anyway, as you worry and hover? In the 70’s, it was different.We weren’t our parents whole world. Which resulted in us actually moving out and living on our own, at early ages.)  Anyway-  Rick Derringer opened up for Tyler and Co., and  he was great, jammin’ the ‘Rock’N’Roll Hootchie Koo’. Sounded perfect.  Victoria and I sat on the edge of the Level One stairs, to the right of the stage, our legs dangling in the air (a forbidden spot, but Victoria got us special permission for being so pretty) When Aerosmith hit the stage though, it was a nightmare. Steven Tyler was so inebriated, he messed up all of the words to the songs, and the music was off. I couldn’t believe it! I actually asked Victoria if people could get their money back if the band sucked. Victoria rolled her eyes towards the ceiling, and lit another cigarette. I took that as a ‘no’.

Rick Derringer, Steven Tyler, 1970s

I went on to see Aerosmith many times after that, and they performed magnificently. When Tyler was on, his cock-of-the-walk style couldn’t be messed with. I can’t forget all of the hours I spent listening to Aerosmith records on my giant headphones in my 1970s style bedroom. Songs like ‘You See Me Crying’, ‘Kings And Queens’ and ‘Seasons Of Wither’ – in the dead of winter, wrapped up in sweaters and teenage angst, sometimes crying through the songs. Others, like ‘Lord Of The Thighs’ ‘Lick and a Promise’ and ‘No More, No More’ were nastier, hard rockers.  And when ‘Rocks’ came out- I was floored! It was the heaviest thing I’d ever heard! If I could have  literally eaten it up, I would have. Only Van Halen’s debut album, two years later- felt anything like that- ever. Steven Tyler was for real- and I believed him to be an authentic rocker, born and bred. And I know people change, evolve, get older- the whole nine.But there’s something so mainstream and middle of the road about becoming part of a shitty musical game show (whether it’s true or not, music isn’t a game to me. And shouldn’t be treated as such. I like to think of it as a heartfelt expression, not something to ridicule or manipulate. Or get into for the accouterments. Or sit around and watch with the grandparents and kids- like some G-rated Disney movie. Sorry- but that’s not my thing or my music!) So, when I see Soccer Moms laughing about Steven Tyler’s quirky personalty, or ‘funny clothes’ I want to just say:”Trust me, you don’t know the half of it. And I’m pretty sure if you did, you’d be appalled!” Coz the  Steven Tyler I know used to be a real rocker. He scared Soccer Moms! He stood for everything they are against! Of course, that was eons ago, in a different, and much cooler world!

*sadly, Scott Newman eventually died of a drug overdose, in 1978, at age 28. 

*Victoria at least had her learner’s permit, and was scheduled to get her license the following week!

  1. Great story Lisa – The PINK Ice Cream Parlor was just the best place in the whole world when I was little. Downstairs, and in the back there was a really cool clothing store – I called it the “Hippie” store. My Mom and Dad would take us down there every once and a while after ice cream, and I would oggle at all of the beads, incense, leather and feathers. Rock music played real loud, and I’ve never forgotten this little memory: One day Dad bought Mom one of those “hippie coats” you know those suede things with the big hair/fur around the neck? I forget what they’re called. Anyway that’s the day I thought my parents were sooo cool! I must have been maybe 8.

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  2. Walking into that place was like walking into a scene in a cool 60’s movie, or a Stone’s video…and the candy! I think it may have inspired the ‘Willy Wonka’ movie- it certainly had the same ‘vibe!’ I don’t remember the clothing store (dammitt!) but I must have seen it- I can’t imagine anyone being able to keep me away from it! Oh- and obviously, your parents were very cool, if your Mom rocked a coat like that!!

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