Pirates of the Aerobbean: How Captain Jack wound up singing with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry
via New York Post
by Larry Getlen
One of the perks of rock stardom is having other A-list superstars confess their eternal devotion to you. When you're a decades-long party animal like Aerosmith's Steven Tyler, the admissions can get pretty lurid, such as the one he heard from longtime fan and recent collaborator Johnny Depp.
"I had dinner with him," says Tyler, who brings his band to Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. "And he says, 'Man, I used to silkscreen Aerosmith T-shirts when you came to town. I would bootleg your s--t man, and sell it for money for pot.'"
Tyler later did some jamming and songwriting with Depp, and the three-time Oscar-nominee wound up singing on "Freedom Fighter," a track on the band's latest album, "Music From Another Dimension!"
"I would go to his house and play him some tracks," says Tyler. "He always gave me input, because he's a pretty good guitar player. So a month later, Big Joe [Perry, the band's guitarist] was putting down some vocals - the 'whoa, whoa, whoas' - and Johnny was in the studio, and he went out and they ganged up around the mike."
While Depp's inclusion on the album is notable - as is that of Carrie Underwood, who duets with Tyler on the countrified "Can't Stop Loving You" - the collaboration of greatest note on the record is the one between Tyler and his once-estranged bandmates.
When the singer joined "American Idol" in 2010, it followed a period of public acrimony during which, after Tyler fell off the stage during at 2009 concert in Sturgis, S.D., a very public rift developed within the band. Tyler stopped returning their calls, and the bitterness grew to the point where the rest of the band strongly considered recruiting a new singer.
"After Sturgis, there was a tumultuous time where I didn't feel like I got any love from the boys," says Tyler. "I needed to heal, and they were trying to find another singer so they could tour and make some money. They were angry at me because I took another job. I took 'Idol' because I didn't want to sit back and do nothing."
During this time, Tyler kept busy with other projects as well, including jamming with Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham for a project that almost became a new version of Led Zeppelin.
"We rocked out for a week," says Tyler. "There was a chance to do something I'd be glad to do to this day: a Zeppelin night with Steven Tyler, or however it's put. But I really didn't want to do a record like 'Coverdale/Page' [a 1993 album from Jimmy Page and Whitesnake singer David Coverdale]. I didn't want to do a 'Tyler/Page' thing.
"I thoughts about it long and hard: Do I want to do something with Zeppelin?" Tyler adds. "And I thought it really is not going to work if it's Tyler and Zeppelin. Zeppelin's too big for me to front."
While the spat between Tyler and his bandmates was prolonged and public, Perry says that when placed against the landscape of their four-decade career - which also saw them angrily disband for several years in the early '80s - this spat, and Tyler's "American Idol" stint, was merely a familiar blip on the radar of their success.
"There's this dynamic tension that really makes the band what it is," says Perry. "That time wasn't any more or less [intense] than 10 or 12 incidents that weren't made public over the last 10 [to] 15 years, or however many times there's been an issue between the band and Steven or me and Steven."
After two seasons on "Idol," Tyler came to the same realization. He decided he missed the musical and personal camaraderie he enjoyed with the men he's been making music with since his early 20s.
"When I finally got right with it, I just called [everyone] and said, 'Let's not be foolish here,'" says Tyler, 64. "Everybody was willing to put their differences aside and come to the table, and I'm just really grateful that everybody saw it that way."
After a world tour to promote the new album, the last on the group's current contract with Sony, Tyler hopes to release a solo record. After that, Aerosmith may embrace the music industry's brave new world, and release an album on their own.
Whatever they do, and whatever disagreements that may prompt, Tyler beeves that the power of the music and the band's long-term camaraderie will outweigh all other factors. Making this record, "I felt the power of something I never got anywhere else," he says. "The stuff we come up with outweighs any anger. When you put your differences aside, it's astounding what comes out."