He may be in rehab, but you can dream on if you think Steven Tyler is about to give up being the lead singer of Aerosmith without a fight — even if that means taking his band mates and management to court.
As rumors circulated that Billy Idol or Bad Company’s Paul Rodgers could replace the 61-year-old singer and be fronting the legendary bay boys of Boston on tour this summer, a four-page cease-and-desist letter was sent to the band’s management last week from Skip Miller, Tyler’s lawyer.
The letter, a copy of which Billboard obtained, demanded manager Howard Kaufman, guitarist Joe Perry and the others in the band “immediately” discontinue “engaging in acts and conduct to the harm and detriment” of Aerosmith and the singer himself.
Making sure everyone concerned was clear about the potential consequences, Miller also reminded Aerosmith and their management that "we reserve all of our legal rights and remedies in this matter, including, without limitation, pursuing legal action for damages and other appropriate relief."
According to Billboard.com, Miller says Tyler has requested a meeting between all of the band’s “shareholders” on Feb. 9 to discuss the situation, as well as any future Aerosmith tours or recordings. Jill Siegel, spokesperson for 10th Street Entertainment, Tyler’s management, told TheWrap that she “did not know of any response” from Aerosmith’s management to the letter from Miller.
She added that “Steven is doing well, still in recovery and still looking forward to working with Aerosmith.”
This all seems like a familiar but more intense version of the bickering that the band went through early last November. On that occasion, after the Aerosmith frontman injured himself falling from a stage in August and several tour dates had to be canceled or rescheduled, Perry started advertising for a new singer on Twitter.
With names like Lenny Kravitz suggested, the guitarist claimed that Tyler was considering quitting the band.
That messy situation appeared to resolve itself when Tyler affectionately joined Perry onstage in New York on Nov. 10 at a solo gig by the guitarist. The singer told fans that night that he was not leaving the band.
Since then, Tyler pulled out of a planned South American tour, told the press he was concentrating on “Brand Tyler” and on Dec. 22, admitted himself to a rehabilitation facility for addiction to painkillers.
Earlier this year, Perry told press while on tour in Canada that Aerosmith will "start having some auditions, making some phone calls” for a new singer soon. “Hopefully, we’ll have found a new singer by the summer, and Aerosmith will be able to go back out on the road."
Of course, big bands replacing key members are nothing new in rock ‘n’ roll, especially when the bottom line can benefit.
Members of Queen, one of the best-selling bands of all time, started touring with Paul Rodgers in 2004, replacing the seemingly irreplaceable Freddie Mercury. INXS went through several frontmen, including Terence Trent D’Arby, to replace Michael Hutchence in the last decade before going the reality TV route with “RockStar: INXS” and signing up J.D. Fortune in 2005 — who the band has since fired and rehired at least once.
In the late ‘70s, the Who brought in Kenny Jones from the Faces to be the first of several drummers to replace Keith Moon behind the British band’s kit.
The thing is, Mercury, Hutchence and Moon were all dead. The flamboyantly former having passed away from HIV in 1991, Hutchence having committed suicide in 1997 and the legendary latter having succumbed to a mix of drink and pills in 1978.
The only comparable situations to the what’s going on right now in Aerosmith’s camp is the 1985 firing of David Lee Roth by Van Halen at what seemed to be the height of the band’s popularity, and the Rolling Stones shedding Brian Jones in 1969, and replacing him with Mick Taylor.
Jones, of course, was by that time unable to work due to heavy drug use. But Roth’s replacement by Sammy Hagar — after Patty Smyth of Scandal declined guitar virtuoso Eddie Van Halen’s offer to front the pop metal band — was initially met by outrage on the part of some fans who couldn’t imagine Van Halen without the larger than life Diamond Dave.
Initially, it seemed like Roth would be the one with the last laugh as his solo career took off. However, Roth soon started to falter on the charts. Van Hagar, as the band came to be informally known, on the other hand, was actually more successful with Sammy than it had been with Dave.
Hagar lasted as Van Halen’s lead singer until 1996, when he was replaced or fired, depending on who you ask, by former Extreme singer Gary Cherone who lasted until 1999. In 2003, the band reunited with Hagar. In 2006, after years of on again/off again attempts and several Greatest Hits albums, David Lee Roth rejoined the band, which had now kicked out bassist Mike Anthony to be replaced by Eddie’s son Wolfgang, for a reunion stadium tour in 2007/2008.
Without having even put out an album of new material since 1998, the tour was Van Halen’s most successful ever — grossing nearly $94 million dollars. At present, David Lee Roth is still the lead singer of an admittedly inactive Van Halen.
The risk for a Steven Tyler-free Aerosmith is that history might not so generously repeat itself.
“This must be a publicity stunt,” one music industry insider told TheWrap, “because no one in his right mind considers Aerosmith Aerosmith without Steven Tyler. No one.”