Saturday, January 28, 2012

Steven Tyler - Does The Noise In My Head Bother You? [book review]

Released in May 2011 and earlier this month in paperback (part of an ongoing series of reviews covering older releases from the past year that "fell through the cracks")
"I've been mythicized, Mick-icized, eulogized, and fooligized. I've been Cole-Portered and farmer's-daughtered, I've been Led Zepped and 12-stepped. I'm a rhyming fool and so cool that me, Fritz the Cat, and Mohair Sam are the baddest cats that am. I have so many outrageous stories - too many - and I'm gonna tell 'em all. All the unexpurgated, brain-jangling tales of debauchery, sex and drugs, transcendence, and chemical dependence you will ever want to hear."
The above teaser from Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler pretty much sums up what you'll get in Does The Noise In My Head Bother You?, his autobiography co-written with Rolling Stone magazine founding editor David Dalton. Tyler, ever the acrobatic wordsmith, lays bare the adventures (and perils) of his rock 'n roll decadence and throws Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry under the bus more than a few times. If even half of what's in the book is true, it's a miracle Tyler is still alive, considering he estimates he's snorted or injected about $20 million worth of drugs alone,
along with numerous addictions to alcohol and painkillers. At one point, the band is so brazen about its cocaine use that they're snorting it off the top of their amps during shows.
The obligatory "early years" portion, which finds the man born Steven Tallarico growing up in Yonkers, New York and spending his summers in New Hampshire, can be a bit of a chore to slog through as the reader makes their way to the meat and potatoes of the book - the period after Aerosmith forms in 1970. There's a decent number of reflections on the band's music, with their 70's heyday and late 80's comeback period getting most of the focus. In discussing specific songs or albums, Tyler frequently brings up several lines of his own lyrics; one would expect this, but it gets a little old because he usually comes off seeming just a little too pleased with his verbal wit. This self-satisfied tone also infects a lot of the non-lyrical prose from the book, which is overweight with sex-related metaphors and has an annoying propensity for rhyming, as is illustrated in this excerpt: "Gotta fly back to my hive, talk that jive, and hit the road again with that beautiful, dirty Aerosmith liquid hydrogen snarl that makes the liver quiver, the knees freeze, and the booty shake". I found myself worn out over the course of the memoir's 350+ pages.
The most fascinating parts of the book reveal the contentious relationship between Tyler and Perry, the two main cogs in a band that would appear to me more dysfunctional than most. Friction between the pair has never been a secret, but it's surprising to discover just how deep their bad blood runs. Tyler's side of things paints that of a love/hate relationship that immediately brought to mind Keith Richards' recollections about his relationship with Mick Jagger in his 2010 memoir, Life. Both yins demonstrate a fierce loyalty to their yangs and are hugely admirable of their talents, but are driven batty by their perceived failings. The similarities are even more interesting, considering how the Stones are Aerosmith's biggest influence and were ripped early in their career for being a pale imitation. Aside from their opposite personalities and expected creative differences, one of Tyler's biggest issues with Perry seems to be the female company he keeps (his wives and girlfriends are regularly ripped). Tyler is put off by the perceived lack of character in all of Perry's romantic partners and that they allegedly infringed on the business of the band, along with his own bro-mance with Perry. Tyler, it should be mentioned, expectedly writes about his own fair share of relationships, sexual conquests, and marital infidelities, so his beefs about Perry's relationships feel like petty jealousy. One of the book's nastier anecdotes has Tyler taking great glee in describing how he practically forced himself onstage at a lightly attended 2009 solo Perry show in New York City. Aerosmith bandmates Joey Kramer, Tom Hamilton, and Brad Whitford receive surprisingly sparse mention throughout the book, occasionally receiving some harsh words; one of those mentions I could have done without, though, where Tyler compares everyone's dick size.
Does The Noise In My Head Bother You?, not unlike Tyler's personality, tends to be somewhat all over the place, wandering occasionally from a linear timeline. This, along with the overly slick wordplay, makes it a challenging read, although I'll give him credit for seemingly holding back little about his colourful life and career.
Rating: ★★


  1. I read the book and thought it was good. I agree with you about being worn out by the funky language.

  2. Uh, what about it? I did mention the music in paragraph three.


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