By Sally Steele
The first time I ever met AEROSMITH was when I was 13 years old back in the mid ‘70s when their first album had just been released. I showed up early for their sound check at the Indianapolis Convention Center and I ran over to Tom Hamilton and asked to see his bluebird tattoo which he showed off so I could take a picture. Tom later introduced me to the rest of the band where I took my first backstage photos of this early unknown band that would soon emerge onto the scene and become what some would consider to be the greatest rock band in the world. Every time the guys came into town I would see their fame grow and show Tom and the guys my photos from their previous shows. I remember a young Steven Tyler being very sensitive and sweet and Joe Perry very quiet. I was thrilled to talk to Tom after all these years and it was just like visiting with an old friend…..
VR: “I know you were sidelined from the tour a couple years ago; how is your health now?”
Tom: “That was actually from the tour in ’06. I went through cancer treatment in the summer of ’06 and the treatment sucks and is really nasty and you just can’t go and be on the road after that. But Steven called me up when the band was playing in Boston and said, “Why don’t you come onstage and play “Sweet Emotion?, and I was really touched that he thought to do that so I went down and it was an amazing experience. It was the first time I ever saw the band running around onstage from another perspective. I went onstage and played the song and I didn’t really know that the crowd knew that much about what I was going through but it was a very emotional moment.”
VR: “So how is your throat now; is everything okay?”
Tom: “Oh, everything is good now, they nailed it, they got rid of it.”
VR: “Well, we’re so grateful; we don’t want to lose a great rock n’ roll icon like you.”
Tom: “Thank you.”
VR: “I did hear that Brad (Whitford) is not out on tour – – he had some complications?”
Tom: “Yeah, he had to have a little surgical procedure which he will probably talk about in more detail and stuff but he’s feeling really great and he’s looking to join the tour in about three weeks now.”
VR: “Great. I wanted to ask you if any of the original members had been different do you think the band would have still made it?”
Tom: “That’s a really interesting question and it’s a question that a band member will ponder, too. Like what would have happened if that combination would have been different, would it have been the same thing, would it have been bigger, smaller? You know there’s the musical part of it, but alot of it is not musical. Alot of it is personality, chemistry, the mix of personalities, the give and take and the willingness to give and take. So it’s all part of a formula, it’s all part of what makes the future of the band.”
VR: “Who were you the closest to in the band?”
Tom: “Well, in the early days Joey and I were like two soldiers in the same foxhole. But I consider everybody in this band a brother. Joey and I were best buddies who played together during high school and then decided to go and see if we could go and get this guy Steven Tyler to join up. And we spent the summer playing clubs around New Hampshire and Joe said: “Let’s go up to Boston and get an apartment and see what we can get going.”
VR: “When your dad wouldn’t let you grow your hair long so you left.”
Tom: “That was the summer before, yeah, I got booted out of the house for that one. Which was great. My mother was terrified when she found out about though.”
VR: “My understanding though, was there was a rift between you and Joe because of his girlfriend.”
Tom: “Joe and I kind of had a weird friendship, once the band got going. He got married and I was jealous of that and other people in the band were jealous of it, too. But the bond was always there, and it’s like that thing you were talking about before about supporting each other and the chemistry how you can be supportive if something in the environment really hurts your feelings or whatever. Everybody in the band was just so dying to make it in a rock band that a lot of that stuff would get put to the side, but the thing is, it doesn’t really go away. So once the band became successful and we started making money and we all had our own houses and could afford some stuff, a lot of that stuff began to start being really invasive. Which is why we had that arc that we had in the ‘70s. We were playing stadiums and we broke the band in half.”
VR: “I also read in the book ‘Walk This Way’, that Tim Collins said you were the most ‘sane’ one of all, in the group [Tom laughs]. What did he mean by that- the fact you didn’t do the hard drugs like the rest of the band?”
Tom: “One of my nicknames in the band is ‘the man of reason’ or something like that. I’m the one that’s always in the middle trying to help two people communicate without freaking out at each other. I’m the one that always wants to take that ‘voice of reason’- that’s my nickname – and sometimes that bothers me because I wish I was a little more whacked out so I’d be a little more of an interesting character out there, but I’m always trying to play that role. I’m not one of the extremists.”
VR: “The band’s drug use is public record, but my assumption is that you didn’t’ really do the hard drugs like the rest of them.”
Tom: “I was partying really hard all those years, too, but I was fortunate, that you know, I was doing it habitually where it was not great for my health, but I never had a moment where I couldn’t play or couldn’t show up for rehearsal and so I don’t want to minimize it, but at the same time I never wanted to put it out there that I was all destroyed on chemicals, basically… I just never wanted my parents to pick up a book and read about it [laughs]. But this was the ‘70s and the era when the surgeon general made a statement that cocaine was not addictive. So it was not as forbidden as other drugs some people would ruin their lives with.”
VR: “So we should never listen to the surgeon general.”
Tom: “The Surgeon General had his head up his a** on that one! Maybe it was because we did a lot more research than he did [we laugh]!”
VR: “He should have gone on tour with you guys – – that would have really changed his tune!”
Tom: “Really!”
VR: “Tell me the highest high and the lowest low of the band’s career.”
Tom: “I think being nominated for a Grammy and going on those shows and playing. There’s two aspects: there’s people in your industry that want to tell you that you’re great, and you have that in your mind and you’re trying to not get all carried away with that. But the main thing in your mind is when you go up and play, the main thing in your mind was you want to be friggin’ great in front of an audience in tuxedos where the first row is 20 feet away. It’s not like a sweating, animated crowd pounding away on the front of the stage. But that’s kind of a feather in your cap to be able to do that.”
VR: “What about the lowest low?”
Tom: “I think the lowest low was in the early ‘80s when Steven, Joey and I had gotten a new guitar player who was a really good guitar player and a really good writer named Jimmy Crespo…”
VR: “He lives here in Vegas.”
Tom: “Yeah, right! But things were falling apart all over the place and we did an interesting album called “Rock in a Hard Place”, but that came out and I remember thinking, okay, the record’s going to come out and everybody’s going to go buy it and we’re going to be on tour and we will just continue, but with new people. But we got out on tour, and that’s when we learned that the audience was just not going to accept it. And I remember coming home from that tour and really having it hit me that this could be it. And that’s when MTV started. And when MTV started it was a really cool thing. I mean that was a really exciting new way to experience music and I realized that we were not going to be a part of it and we’re going to miss the boat. And I hated that feeling. And I think everybody in the band did. Because we all loved the fact that if we stayed together, new technologies would come down the road that we could be a part of.”
VR: “But it all worked out though thankfully, the girl went away and Joe came back to the band.”
Tom: “Yeah, but I’ve learned, don’t blame the girl, it’s the band members’ responsibility, it’s not Yoko, it’s John. It’s just one of those things. It’s almost “Spinal Tapian.”
VR: “That’s the first thing I thought of when I read the book and how she put a rift between Joe and the band to control him so she could keep him. Was there a defining moment in the band’s career for you when you thought, ‘Okay, I’ve finally made it?’”
Tom: “You know that’s funny because I really wanted that bad, I wanted that since I was a teenager. I wanted to make it, but I don’t remember a moment when I thought: ‘I’ve reached that goal.’ I’ve just very much kind of enjoyed it as it came along and tried not to find moments that are supposed to be singular moments. It’s all a bunch of little ones. But the first time I heard one of our songs on the radio was a huge one for me. That was a really cool feeling and I knew it was going to come but I wasn’t ready for it. That first album came out and ‘Dream on’ was coming out of that radio and I’m in that car thinking ; ‘Oh my God, there are people all over this city that are hearing this song right this minute.’ That was a real peak.”
VR: “Since you are the “sanest one of all”, are you ever going to write a book about all of this?”
Tom: “You know, I’ve been scribbling stuff, I tend to accumulate stuff and I’m kind of A.D.D. and when I see something that requires a lot of organization, I just kind of veer off into something else [laughs] but I’ve been writing alot and keeping a personal journal about the band for the website for material that I wrote for “Walk This Way” that was used in a certain way but not exactly how I wrote it. But yeah, I’m going to be doing something like that someday but right now music is the thing for me. Whatever I accomplish and show about myself is going to be based on musical goals.”
VR: “If AEROSMITH never came to be, what career choice do you think you might have chosen?”
Tom: “I probably would have gone to college and studied drama. Because that’s what I had in mind.”
VR: “Did you want to be an actor?”
Tom: “Yeah.”
VR: “Does it bother you when people refer to AEROSMITH as ‘classic rock’?”
Tom: “Not really because I know that it’s inevitable. If that means people kind of lump us in with bands that have maybe one or two original members but still call themselves the original name, I don’t like that association. But you have the situation… I don’t know if it was brought on by the ‘Guitar Hero’ game but I remember being in this hotel in Alabama sitting out at the pool reading U.S.A. Today and the front page had a story: ‘Why Are Kids Listening To The Music Their Parents Listened To?’ and how it’s not supposed to be like this and it was about all these kids that were seeking out bands from the ‘60s and ‘70s and guitar music. So what happened was, Hip Hop got to the point where it wasn’t the new shocking thing for kids and people in their teens think a lot about differentiating themselves and identifying themselves and so you had a whole bunch of kids that didn’t just want to follow everybody else and be a hip hop fan and they started looking outside that box and what they found was hard rock and guitar music from the late ‘60s and ‘70s. I remember a few years ago, a big influential rock magazine pointing out: ‘Who do these guys think they are? They’re too old to presume to be the voice of a teenage generation’ and I’m like; ‘What the f*&k!’, this over- intellectualization of music… to me, I like music because it feels good. I don’t remember ever looking for music as a way of identifying my personality. I just like the sensual pleasure of music and I think that’s really the truth of everybody. So that’s why you can have a generation that listens to music their parents listen to because you can’t resist the fact that it feels good.”
The voice of a legend tells it best. And one of the greatest ‘Classic Rock’ bands of all time, will be here to rock Las Vegas like only AEROSMITH can when they continue their residency at The Park Theatre!
Sally Steele




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