Walk their way: Boston's Aerosmith opens up for VH1's `Behind the Music'
Source: Boston Herald
By: Sarah Rodman
Around my house, we call it the poor sap moment. It's the moment, usually near the conclusion of VH1's "Behind the Music,' in which the designated has-been - whose wretched rags-to-riches-to-rags life has just been scrutinized in comic and tragic detail - picks up an acoustic guitar to croon either a big hit or some awful new song, hoping to score another few minutes in the fading spotlight. Often, the performer is then squeezed unceremoniously to one side to make room for the rolling credits.
It's a testament both to Aerosmith's stunning longevity and the producers' willingness to take a different approach that there isn't a poor sap moment in "Behind the Music: Aerosmith,' premiering Sunday at 9 p.m.
Whether the bad boys of Boston insisted or the producers dreamt it up, following the band during its 2001-02 Just Push Play tour was a stroke of genius.
Almost every segment of this first-ever two-hour "Behind the Music' opens with band members either onstage in front of capacity crowds in Japan, playfully bickering or reminiscing, as the special moves from one place to the next.
All of this motion forces the viewer to recognize that this is not your average "BTM' subject: Aerosmith may have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year, but it is still a vital working band making hit records 30-plus years after its inception.
The other smart move was to have leader Steven Tyler and Joe Perry return to Lake Sunapee, N.H., the scene of that inception. The pair even breaks into a little impromptu blues jam in front of the now-defunct Barn nightclub, where they and bassist Tom Hamilton got their start playing for crowds of summer tourists.
Of course, there are familiar "BTM' signposts in the Aerosmith story, thankfully most of them told by the band, their wives and close associates, with little in the way of third-party talking heads.
There were the scrappy beginnings when Tyler, Perry, Hamilton guitarist Brad Whitford and drummer Joey Kramer all lived together on Commonwealth Avenue. Hamilton cracks that their experiment with drugs was a success for a while. There was the big break in New York City, at which legendary record mogul Clive Davis recalls, "I was knocked out by everything about them.'
The predictable highs of hitting the big time and partying with hot chicks followed, with model Bebe Buell, mother of Liv Tyler, claiming, "They were wilder than the Stones, they were wilder than Zeppelin.'
The lows of paralyzing drug addiction, financial mismanagement and band disintegration, at least partially because of those hot chicks, arrive in short order, with Kramer saying of the 1977 sessions for "Draw the Line,' ``I don't know if we made any of that record straight.'
The tale takes a happy turn, however, as the band gets its act together and enjoys a second coming thanks to Run DMC, their willingness to kick drugs and communicate with each other and invite hit songwriters into the fold. That formula works right up to the present day.
But even diehard fans will probably learn something new in this oft-told tale, including the touching way in which Perry brings his tightknit family on the road and homeschools his children and the revelation that "Walk This Way' was inspired by Marty Feldman's famous line as the hunchback in "Young Frankenstein.'
Interesting omissions include the band's role in the colossal film flop "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,' history on members other than Tyler and Perry and any insight from former manager Tim Collins, whom the band credits with getting them clean. The band later had a falling out with Collins over rumors he allegedly spread about Tyler relapsing. Collins declined interview requests from "BTM' producers.
Perry succinctly sums up the band's enduring bad boy-pop hero appeal: "I don't know that there's much that we could do to change the image of this band, to screw it up any worse then we already have. If we can play the Super Bowl with Britney Spears and still get away clean, I think we're kind of bulletproof.' And ready for their "BTM' close-up.