The end that could have been

Three missed Aerosmith break-up opportunities
By DAVID THORPE  |  November 18, 2009

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For a few wonderful days, it seemed that Aerosmith were finally kaput. After decades of age-inappropriate sex-guy posturing, it appeared Steven Tyler was finally gonna do the right thing — he cut off contact with his bandmates, and Joe Perry announced that the group were looking for a new singer. Unfortunately, Tyler yanked the rug out from under us by showing up at a recent Perry solo show and announcing his intention to stay in the band.

After a year of canceled tour dates and geriatric folly, this would have been a great — albeit long overdue — time to call it quits. Really, they've already missed some prime break-up opportunities:

1979–1984 | Although they were still stars, the late '70s saw Aerosmith on the decline. Their 1979 album, Night in the Ruts, represented a commercial dropoff. Tensions were high on the subsequent tour, and Perry quit the band to pursue a solo career. Brad Whitford followed in 1981, leaving Tyler to record the unsuccessful Rock in a Hard Place with a retooled line-up. With the band selling poorly and hemorrhaging core members, the early '80s would have been an ideal time to close up shop.

It could have been such an elegant trajectory: success, decline, collapse. This would have left Aerosmith in their most perfectly preserved state — no need for laborious two-hour Behind the Music accounts of comebacks and trials and triumphs, just a brief mention on a "where are they now" segment. (God, we'd say, look at how old they are!) We'd have remembered them like Boston or Blue Öyster Cult or any other '70s rock juggernaut who made it big and fell off: rarely, unless we were falling asleep to one of those late-night Time/Life infomercials.

1985 | Freshly reunited with Perry and Whitford, Aerosmith seemed ready for their big resurgence. Unfortunately, their "Back in the Saddle" tour was plagued by rampant drug use, and their comeback album, Done with Mirrors, was a critical and commercial disappointment. "Aerosmith may be back in the saddle," quipped Rolling Stone, "but they picked the wrong horse."

This too would have been a great time to break up. They'd have been cut off a few years before their most obnoxious period, before the endless interchangeable Alicia Silverstone ballads. Most important, one of the greatest æsthetic travesties in our history might have been averted: had they thwarted the fateful Run-DMC "Walk This Way" collab of '87, the hybridization of rap and hard rock would never have occurred — meaning no Kid Rock, no Limp Bizkit, no Linkin Park.

1997 | After a winning streak of hit albums, the boys hit another rough patch. The recording of Nine Lives was a tense ordeal that saw them fire their long-time manager, Tim Collins (who claimed that Tyler was back on hard drugs), and re-record it with a new producer after label execs panned their first attempt. Tempers were so high that at one point, the Globe reported, the band got together without Tyler and drafted him a scathing memo condemning his "irrational behavior."

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