Always such drama with the bad boys from Boston.
Last summer, the rock 'n' roll soap opera that is Aerosmith finally hit the road after some false starts, but then had to cut it short when lead singer Steven Tyler plunged off a stage in Sturgis, S.D. Tyler was laid up, the tour was canceled, everyone went back to their own lives. For guitarist Joe Perry, that meant working on his own Joe Perry Project, which released a new album in October. For drummer Joey Kramer, that meant publicizing his new autobiography.
But drummers rarely get a break, especially in the media. For starters, Kramer's memoir, Hit Hard: A Story of Hitting Rock Bottom at the Top (Harper One, $15.99), was published the same week Michael Jackson died. Then, after Tyler's fall, the rumor mill started again around the "toxic twins" -- Perry and Tyler feuding again through the press, Tyler saying he might quit the band, Perry saying who needs him? At one point, Aerosmith was allegedly auditioning new singers.
But once Tyler emerged from another stint in rehab, this time for addiction to painkillers as a result of his injury treatments, the two made up (for the umpteenth time) and a new Aerosmith world tour was announced. The title even has trademark Aerosmith attitude: the Cocked, Locked, Ready to Rock Tour. It has actually been proceeding according to schedule and is still expected to arrive in the Chicago area Sunday night.
"Really," Kramer assured us in an interview from Boston during a brief break. "Everything's copasetic, and the band is playing great." He pauses, then seems to remember to add: "And getting along."
That, of course, was before this week's incident at a concert in Toronto. Tyler fell off the stage again, "accidentally" nudged by Perry. Uh-huh.
Kramer's memoir, which recently hit paperback, follows the "Behind the Music" template (humble beginnings, huge success, bottom drops out, recovery) and chronicles two different sides of suffering: the abuse he suffered at the hands of his father -- which lead him to take up the drums as an outlet for striking back at something, hard -- as well as the abuse he brought on himself as a hard-drinking, drug-addled member of a notorious party band. "With more money in the pipeline, Aerosmith became the single biggest market for drugs in New England," Kramer writes. Later, there's a chapter about 1976 (he thinks) called "Drug Addicts Dabbling in Music."
Kramer describes wild parties, sure, but much of it is simply static addiction, sitting down Friday night to drink vodka and snort cocaine and staying there doing just that till Sunday morning. The band, at the height of their drug use, played some "God-awful shows," he admits. At a few, Kramer was so "blotto" his drum tech would have to dress him, prop him behind the drums and tape the sticks to his hands. "Joey, this is all I can do," he'd tell Kramer. "The rest is up to you."
"Mine is a wish of service," Kramer said, explaining why he aired all this dirty laundry in a book. "I know there are a lot of folks out there who suffer from the same stuff I did -- addiction, alcoholism, anxiety, depression, all the pretty stuff in life. By writing about it, I've met a lot of them, people who let me know how reassuring it's been to read about these issues. You don't have to be a rock star to crash and burn. It can be anybody. But no matter who you are, there's a way out."
Kramer's been in recovery from substance abuse for 23 years now. He suffered a nervous breakdown a couple of years after his father died in 1994, a delayed reaction to that event. "Ten days after I lost my dad, I was in Japan touring," he said. "I stayed busy, was distracted, like we all like to do in these situations. But if you don't grieve in the proper way, it comes around to bite you on your ass."
When this tour wraps next month, Kramer also assures us a new Aerosmith album will be completed. The last proper studio album from the band was "Just Push Play" in 2001 (2004's "Honkin' on Bobo" was primarily covers). Work was scheduled to begin with revered producer Brendan O'Brien, but nothing was ever recorded, Kramer said.
"We'll take some time off after the tour," he said, "but then recording is supposed to commence. Who we work with is up in the air, but I hope to see an album finished by the end of 2010."
But the rumor mill around Tyler continues to churn. This month, reports have surfaced that he will replace Simon Cowell as a judge on TV's "American Idol."
"He's assured us that, if this happens" -- and this week it looks as if it will -- "it won't interfere with recording and touring," Kramer said. "As long as it's done within the realms of the schedule of the band, more power to him. It can only be great for us."