Pop Culture

From Aerosmith to 'Idol': Read excerpt of Steven Tyler's memoir

As front man of Aerosmith, Steven Tyler practically defined a generation of American rock music. After a fabled career rife with highs and lows, Tyler surprised his fans (and his band) and became a celebrated judge on “American Idol.” In “Does The Noise In My Head Bother You?”, Tyler spills the details on the ride so far. Read an excerpt.

Semiprologue

If you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

If you’re a singer, everything looks like a song.

“Life is short. Break the rules, forgive quickly, kiss slowly, love truly, laugh uncontrollably, and never regret anything that makes you smile.” We’re not quantified; there’s no chart of desire. When the roaring flames of your heart have burned down to embers, may you find that you have married your best friend. Hunch, conjecture, instinct…a blind allegiance to anything can get you killed, and always remember…sing as though no one can hear you; live as though heaven is here on Earth. Here I want to say something deep and meaningless, like “To thine own self be true,” but in truth, the first thing we have to do is KILL ALL THE LAWYERS. When I was a kid and in a gang, my so-called best friend Dennis Dun, would slam me in the arm and say, “Pass it on, motherf----!” So I turned to Ignacio and punched him in the arm and said, “Pass it on!” Ignacio turned to Footie and punched him in the arm, and Footie punched Raymond, who in turn…punched me again. It’s all about fighting for position. Later on in life I was to find that being in a band was not too different. Only in my new gang, Brad punched Tom, Tom punched Joey, Joey punched Joe, and Joe punched me (in the mouth), and that’s the sweetest way I can tell you what happens in every band that ever there was (at least those that lasted more than ten years and got the chance to manifest the light).

I remember once my mother telling me, when I said I wanted to be like Janis Joplin: “If you manifest the light, you will become a dartboard for others’ fears, doubts, and insecurities. And if you can handle that, Steven, my little skeezix, you may have your Blue Army.” And guess what? I got both barrels! I also wish to articulate at the outset here, neighbors and ne’er-do-wells, that my life’s journey has not taken me to place to defile, demoralize, or damage anybody…So all of YOU who have ruffled my feathers and done me wrong for being an inquisitive child or an oversensitive pain-in-the-neck artist, remember, just as they said about Mongo in the movie "Blazing Saddles," if you shoot Steven, you’ll just make him angry.

When you’re young, you experience everything for the first time, and because it’s happening to you so matter-of-factly, it just is…and you argue your way through it. In midlife, you question f--ing everything, and so much energy is wasted questioning the whys of it all. You want to find that angel of thunderstorms that will put out your internal fire. You start to believe that you made it through six decades because there is an angel on your shoulder.

That’s why I’m a songwriter—because I’ve lived through the changes of not knowing ANYTHING…to knowing EVERYTHING…and now at sixty-two I’m back to NOT KNOWIN’ NOTHIN’. And when your mind is free of so-called knowledge, it is now set free to use its imagination. Like Albert Einstein once said: “Knowledge will never replace imagination.”

Radio plays your song; the melody is so catchy that it crawls inside of the people listening and changes their Everything. They start singing it! You got into them. You made love to them. You got into their soul…and vice versa. It’s like Vuja Dé and that’s when the miracle manifests…you’re trading faces, places, spaces, and graces.

Father of four children (loves of my life), a songwriter, got a doctorate at Berkeley and another one at UMass, Boston, a poet, a painter a drug addict, and a peripheral visionary who learns something new on a daily basis, from the Malibu Home for the Recently All Right to having dinner with Sheikh Nion in Abu Dhabi…and now…an author? You gotta be kidding! RoMANtics. SeMANtics. Exotic, neurotic, you got it! Does the noise in my heather bother you…yet? Yeah, really? I’d say we’re off to a good start.

From “Does the Noise in My Head Bother You” by Steven Tyler. Copyright © 2011. Reprinted by permission of Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

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