It may come as a surprise to those whose awareness of Aerosmith began with its commercial hits of the late ’80s and early ’90s, but the band was once a sleazy rock band known for its hardcore drug use—enough to shock the likes of the Grateful Dead. In a 1990 Rolling Stone article on Aerosmith profiling its clean-and-sober comeback, Steven Tyler relayed this anecdote; “Jerry Garcia says that we were the druggiest bunch of guys the Grateful Dead ever saw. They were worried about us, so that gives you some idea of how fucked up and crazy we were.”
Amusing as this might have been, it came at a cost. Sedated in the ’70s, Aerosmith was still unbeatable over a six album run, but as the ’80s dawned, its abilities sagged considerably. The band lost both its guitarists for a dismal album before reuniting for the half-baked Done With Mirrors. Like a lot of Aerosmith album titles, this had a double meaning; they were supposedly going clean. But they weren’t actually done snorting coke off mirrors or any other surface available, and it took a stint in rehab for the entire band to get Aerosmith’s commercial comeback off the ground with the ironically titled Permanent Vacation.
In the documentary The Making Of Pump, Joe Perry describes the difficulties he faced in returning to making music not high on “China White.” Speaking to Rolling Stone, however, Tyler had a different perspective: “I’m still bummed that I didn’t get all the pussy I could have had in the ’70s. We were more interested in the finer blends of cocaine from a shipment of dates that came in on the back of some camel with the stamp of a half-moon on it and the star of Lebanon, which by the way was laced with opium. We were real connoisseurs. That was much more important to me than some girl with big tits.”
It’s hard for me to imagine a more tragic commentary on potential wasted by drug addiction.
I will write more about this band in the near future. They are my favorite rock band of all time.
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