Steven Tyler: “Like An Au Pair Girl Doing The Hoovering”

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When Aerosmith had toured the UK in 1976 they hadn’t gone down well. The gigs were promoted with the slogan “Hey Britain, wake up! This is America’s greatest rock n roll band!”

Britain, of course loves to be told that it has arrived late to something by Americans. Cough*WW2*Cough.

Lemmy remembers, “I went to the Hammersmith Odeon show and actually thought they were quite good” he laughs “But they were slagged unmercifully by the papers. One guy said Tyler looked like “an au pair girl doing the hoovering” because he used to wear a leotard with a bustle on the backside and he used to push his mike-stand around the stage. It was cruel but very funny….”

So when, in 1988, Aerosmith announced a show to promote their Permanent Vacation album at The Hammersmith Odeon supported by Guns n Roses I was literally first in line. Front row. In the middle. The Karma Sutra couldn’t have come up with a better position.

Then Guns n Roses had a number one hit in the USA and the tour was called off. Just my luck. Best seats I ever had and the show got cancelled.

I had to wait until November 1989 and the Pump tour for Aerosmith to play the UK and this time I didn’t take any chances. Two shows at Hammersmith Odeon sold out straight away: but I was one of the lucky ones – I had tickets. Not front row, but good enough.

14th November 1989 at the Hammersmith Odeon marked the first British Aerosmith show for over a decade. Opening with Rats In The Cellar, Same Old Song and Dance, Big Ten Inch Record, Heart’s Done Time and Lick And A Promise, the band played a storming, urgent set, with Steven Tyler performing a back flip as if looking to banish the 1976 shows from memory (assuming the years of cocaine abuse hadn’t done that task for him). In case we thought it couldn’t get any better, in addition to mixing up the set list, Steven Tyler introduced David Coverdale onstage for the second night’s encore to sing along with their cover of The Beatles’ I’m Down. For the first and last time ever, I waited outside Hammersmith Odeon with a friend, a hopeful bag of records under my arm, just in case they were the sort of band who would sign albums for fans outside gig venues. They weren’t. I don’t blame them. It was a cold night. Before too long a large coach swept the band away and my chance had gone.

Next followed a show at Wembley Arena, followed by two consecutive nights at Birmingham NEC.

I booked The Birmingham Midland Hotel at £20 for the night, travelling up on the train. The door-man refused me entry: “No Trainers in the hotel” he proclaimed, looking a disaster himself in a ludicrous red tailcoat and needlessly formal hat. I dug into my bag, pulled out what were in hindsight a dreadful pair of ankle height cowboy boots and was waived through. Later that afternoon I went down the high street and sneaked a pizza into my room as a token act of defiance.

For the first N.E.C. show I had bought a front row seat advertised in the back page in Kerrang! for the then princely sum of £30 which I sent through the post by cheque. (Who needs Seatwave?) With ticket in hand, I rang the N.E.C. to ask if I could take photos from my front row position. In those days they used to search the audience and confiscate cameras, so I didn’t want to take a risk. Naive of me. They put me through to the band’s tour manager, which was quite scary. The voice on the other end of the phone quickly said “no” and put the phone down, and that was that. I left the camera behind, and of course, they didn’t search me. Damn. By this time I had seen the band five times in a week.

For the NEC gigs, the band had tweaked the set. Although a single, the rather ploddy Jamie’s Got a Gun had been ejected, Voodoo Medicine Man inserted (which was great live) and the set opened with Train Kept a Rollin’. If anything Aerosmith had improved as they went along. The tour was a triumph.

Aerosmith returned to the UK to play Donington in 1990 when not even having the lyrics to Young Lust written down on a bit of paper (presumably because Tyler couldn’t remember the words) prevented them from stealing the show from headliners Whitesnake, especially when Jimmy Page came on for the encore. A few days before, Page had joined the band onstage when Aerosmith played a “secret” warm up gig at London’s Marquee Club. I had suspected they might play a warm up and was on the look out. I even rang The Marquee to enquire about tickets – especially when there was a mystery gig with an oblique reference to “brothers”. A Toxic Twins reference perhaps? Sadly not. It was reserved for a secret Bros gig! By the time I had found out about the Aerosmith show, the tickets had all gone.


Joe Perry at The 100 Club. Picture by Every Record Tells A Story

It’s all a long time ago, of course. I made up for the missed Marquee show slightly when I saw Joe Perry play a solo show at The 100 Club in front of a few hundred people a few years ago…it might not have been The Marquee – and there were a fair few bald patches in the audience – but just for an hour or so the place jumped up and down like it was 1990 all over again…

Record #158: Aerosmith – Hoodoo / Voodoo Medicine Man

The Fall and Rise of Aerosmith by Mark Putterford

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Categories: Hard Rock

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16 replies

  1. Must admit I saw them at Wembley Arena on the ‘Pump’ tour and they bored me no end. The Hammersmith show was much better.


    • I have far stronger memories of the Hammersmith gigs and NEC gigs than Wembley. It’s not a great place for atmosphere, after all. I did once witness the very rare sight of Ritchie Blackmore actually playing an encore at Wembley Arena – you will know he was famous for disliking the venue.


  2. I saw them at Donnington 1990 and I thought they were brilliant! This probably owing to the fact that the only other time I had seen them was in 1986 in Philadelphia. I remember when I first came to these shores in the same year, a British lad thinking it was great that I had seen Aerosmith live and then rather insulted when I explained that they weren’t at the top of the game and actually Ted Nugent had blown them away that night. I had to quickly explain that Aerosmith didn’t give their best show in Philly because the city still wasn’t forgiven for the 1978 bottle incident. That is why to me, they rocked Donnington


  3. I went to both NEC shows too, the future Mrs 1537 was 3 rows in front of me apparently – who cared I just wanted to see the band and buy the commemorative Picture Disc version of their Greatest Hits LP. Thunder supported too.

    Memories are a bit hazy but I’m sure I had seen Tyler / Perry do an encore of ‘Walk This Way’ with Bon Jovi at BJs gig at Milton Keynes with Skid Row / Vixen supporting – but can’t remember f that was before, or after the NEC gigs.

    I remember ‘Magic Touch’ being brilliant live.


  4. I was watching a DVD of Queen Live at the Wembley Area….I can’t imagine what it must feel like to actually be at that area during a concert. You are very fortunate to have that experience.


  5. That Queen gig was at Wembley Stadium (usually more famous for hosting football cup finals than rock gigs although all manner of major artists have played there over the years including those who performed at Live Aid as well as Bon Jovi and, er, the Spice Girls). Wembley Arena is the indoor venue next door, previously known as the Empire Pool Wembley.


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