Chicago Sun-Times
Tuning in with Thomas Conner

Steven Tyler writes a great rock memoir? Dream on

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

tylerbook050311.jpgSteven Tyler's new memoir, Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?, is filled with lame puns, stolen jokes, colorful words -- Tylerisms, as they've come to be known on this season of "American Idol."

In describing his heyday leading the band Aerosmith, he says, "We were all gacked to the gills back then."

The word "gacked," he explains, defines a drug-addled state when one is "babbling, speaking in tongues, rattling on about nothing. ... You get to the end of some insane rant and go, 'Wait a minute, did I just say that?' "

His memoir, out today, is similarly gacked. If you have the stamina to reach the end, you may say, "Wait a minute, did I really read that?!"

For a band that seems to be on its last legs -- no new album in a decade, open feuding, warring memoirs (Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer struck first in 2009 with Hit Hard) -- and which nearly fired a spaced-out Tyler last year, there should be a compelling story to follow up Stephen Davis' 1997 biography of the band, Walk This Way. Instead, Noise is just noise, another shallow, happy chronicle of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll -- all of it highly self-congratulatory.

"I call myself a peripheral visionary," Tyler writes (with ghostwriter David Dalton). "I hear what people don't say, and I see what's invisible."

Unfortunately, he doesn't write a lot we haven't heard, or want to. Keith Richards' memoir Life, published last year, is revelatory -- a ripping read for two chief reasons: It's surprisingly broad-minded and educational, and it illuminates a real mind behind the caricature of the drug-addled rock star. Tyler is still a cartoon at the end of Noise. His book reveals little and teaches less, rehashing old wild-and-crazy times and claiming, with typical conceit, that "drugs are bad, yes. But some of us could do them." The songs he wrote while on drugs, he claims, are as visionary as the novels of Carlos Castaneda.

Meanwhile, no detail is spared in describing the groupies, especially the 16-year-old prostitute Tyler says he nearly married when he was 26. Referring to her as "my little oral Annie," he describes the winsome arc of their love -- and how her parents "signed papers over for me to have custody so I wouldn't get arrested." He rhapsodizes on her many unexpected virtues. "She even knew how to mow a lawn. That impressed me."

The most illuminating chapters come early. Describing his childhood, split between the Bronx and Sunapee, N.H., Tyler waxes nostalgic about a boyish connection to the woods. It's a link that pops up later, in his admiration of wild, close-to-the-earth performers such as Eden Ahbez (author of "Nature Boy"), Moondog (who lived in the woods near Tyler in the Bronx), Yma Sumac (who inspired his octave-challenging vocal run in "Dream On"), as well as his pursuit of intoxication. He shot heroin, he claims, because he wanted to feel "the sap from the tree ... coursing through my veins." But though he sought a "spiritual connection" with the woods, he admits, "I lost all that mystery when I was on drugs."

Musically, fans may find something new in his fawning over his main idol -- Janis Joplin, not Mick Jagger -- and details about his 2008 audition to be the new Led Zeppelin front man. His new gig as a judge on "American Idol" gets one page, the last one.

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: http://blogs.suntimes.com/cgi-bin/mt-tb.cgi/40319

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on May 3, 2011 11:00 AM.

CD review: Aretha Franklin, 'A Woman Falling Out of Love' was the previous entry in this blog.

Peter Bjorn & John answer pleas to 'Gimme Some' pop is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.