AP MANILA, Philippines (AP) - Members of the American rock band Aerosmith have…
- Posted on May 2nd 2011 12:00PM by Dan Reilly
When 'The House of the Rising Sun' came on the radio, I thought it was the greatest record I'd ever heard. I saw the Animals perform it at the Academy of Music and was so overcome with raw emotion I jumped out of my seat, ran up the aisle and shook the bass player Chas Chandler's hand. Then came the Stones. Rock is my religion, and these guys were my gods!
And then, briefly, I was touched by the caressing hand of fate when, sometime in 1964, I became Mick Jagger's brother, Chris. Mick Jagger was the baddest guy on the block, and of course I empathetically picked up on all his s---. Mick and Keith and all that -- it hit me like a locomotive. 'It's All Over Now' was like a f---ing blues freight train coming straight at me.
In the summer of '64, I went to a lake in upstate New York, Bash Bish Falls or something like that, up near Utica, with a bunch of kids from Yonkers. Long hair, sixteen, no band, but somebody said, "Wow, you look like Mick Jagger!" And that was it ... off and running! "You know what, I'm Chris, Mick Jagger's brovver. I am him!" And I went with it like mad. Shot off from there to this Limey planet and immediately lapsed into a Cockney accent. I was talking like "Bloody bleedin' 'poncey wanker, spot of Marmite, darlin'? Care for a leaper, mate? Ghastly weather we're 'avin, innit?" It's called, you know, lost days of youth. When you're a kid you can jump into other people's personalities like a transmute. I can still relate to that.
In those days of the British Invasion you had to be a Brit to make it. First of all, you had to have a bloody English accent. That was number one. And that I could do. I still have those Strangers clippings at home: "Steven Tyler, his lower lip hanging like Jagger's, brought the front row to its feet." They wrote that in the paper. Bought my Mick impersonation lock, stock, and barrel. I couldn't believe it. But of course, I -- more than anyone else on the planet -- believed it. I was him. I was barely sixteen but in my mind already one of "England's Greatest Hit Makers." Even if the Strangers sounded more like a bad imitation of Freddie and the Dreamers than the Stones. Yonkers Greatest Hit Makers maybe.
In the early seventies I was embarrassed to say I was into Mick, because the press was already harping on the Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler thing and I wanted to get as far away as possible from those comparisons. I was hoping they would find something in my music that would have some merit other than making Aerosmith into some sort of tribute band with me as a mock Mick Jagger.
But yes, he was my f---ing hero. There was actually a six-or-seven-year period where I was afraid to tell the press that. I was, like, "No he isn't!" And then, of course, I came out of the closet and went, "F---in' A, he is!" To this day, to this minute, to this second, Mick Jagger is still my hero. I remember being at a club at One Central Square in the West Village in early '66, turning around and seeing Mick Jagger and Brian Jones sitting behind me. Not a word came out of my mouth.
I didn't become Steven Tyler all at once. I made him up, bit by bit. He kind of grew out of playing all the clubs in New York and doing acid and hanging out in Greenwich Village and tripping and going to be-ins in Central Park. All that stuff is where I come from. But more than anything I was shaped by the kind of music that I listened to in '64, '65, '66. The Yardbirds, the Stones, the Animals, the Pretty Things and their wild drummer Viv Prince -- he was Keith Moon before Keith Moon became the maniacal drummer of the Who. Moon used to go down to the Marquee Club to watch him and pick up a few mad moves. And of course the Beatles, whom I saw at Shea Stadium. They were the musical G-spot ...
The Strangers slowly began to get gigs. We played a lot of weird places at the beginning, like Banana Fish Park on Long Island. We even had a slogan: "The Strangers – English Sounds, American R&B." At Easter my mom drove the Strangers up to Sunapee to perform. We played stuff like 'She's a Woman' and the Dave Clark Five's 'Bits and Pieces.' My motto has always been: "fake it till you make it." If you wanna be a rock 'n' roll star (like Keith Richards says) you gotta get your moves off in the mirror first. The look. Pick up a copy of Rave magazine, see what the cool cats are wearing in Swinging London this month. Rave was the midsixties Brit mag of immaculate Mod haberdashery. Check out Mick's houndstooth pants. And green shoes. Where'd Keith Relf get those wraparound shades, man? You gotta stay on top of this stuff, you know, if you wanna be a rock star. Gotta be properly attired in the latest Mod gear when the moment arises and the fickle finger of Billboard's Top Ten touches you.