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Aerosmith lives different kind of high life

On the surface, it might seem a little surreal that a man eligible for AARP dresses the way he does – and does what he does. If you can recognize his lips, we know how old you are. He is Steven Tyler, the lead singer for Aerosmith.
Steven Tyler
Steven TylerDateline NBC
/ Source: Dateline NBC

On the surface, it might seem a little surreal that a man eligible for AARP dresses the way he does – and does what he does. If you can recognize his lips, we know how old you are. He is Steven Tyler, the lead singer for Aerosmith. And he’s about to turn 56.

Hoda Kotb: “What's the magic? What makes it work with you guys?”

Steven Tyler: “Ego. I watch these shows, ‘Where Are They Now?" and I have to turn it off. I wanna be up there. I love that. I love to entertain, and bring myself such great joy. And my kids can't believe it. You know?  And I can't believe it.”

If it seems like Aerosmith has been around forever, well, it has. The band started out in the 1970s, the Boston boys who made it big. Ruling the airwaves and arenas, Aerosmith was going platinum with every album, five of them. But they were also the epitome of a drugged-up, sexed-up, out-of-control rock group.

Tyler: “I was living it. You know you don't sleep when you're doing blow, cocaine.  You know?  And so, I would have not slept for two or three days and then I'd come in to go on stage. My ritual was to gulp down, hold my nose two beefeater martinis. And then just eat the olives.  That was dinner. And I got on stage it would hit by the third song.”

By the end of the decade, that excess took its toll. It got so bad that at a 1980 concert in Portland, Maine, Tyler collapsed on stage -- mid-song.

Tyler: “And I fell over, because I can't get up. Kind of thing, reaching for –“

Kotb: “Were you embarrassed the next day?”

Tyler: “Very. You know, very.”

By the early 80's, the hits were gone, and Aerosmith was literally falling apart -- practically penniless, addicted to booze and drugs.

Tyler: “It stole us like a crook, it just raped us. It took every want and need to write a song, and what were you doing. The lost weekends were piling up. I lost my wife and my daughter and my band, and everything that i lived for up until that moment, and didn't care.”

It seemed that they were on their way to becoming yet another rock and roll footnote. But what sets Aerosmith apart is that Steven Tyler got off the mat. By 1986, the then 38 year-old finally cleaned up. The whole band did, and lived to tell about it.

Kotb: “You cheated death a bunch of times.”

Joe Perry: “Of course.”

Kotb: “I mean the fact that you're sitting here talking about what it's like out on the other end is a success.”

Perry: “We used to think why us, why are we chosen and if there's any reason, then God said part of the deal is you got to go out there, and pass the word." 

And they have been ever since, by playing clean and sober. In fact, they have been clean now for far longer than they weren't. So much has changed over the years. The focus that used to be on groupies is now on family. Joe Perry has four kids and his wife of 18 years, Billy.

Kotb: “So when a girl throws herself at you Joe, what do you say?”

Perry: “Oh, I'm usually too fast on my feet to have to worry about it.”

That 70s pre-game meal of a mountain of drugs with a Jack Daniels chaser is long gone. Now

fresh salmon is flown in every day from Alaska.

Back in the day Aerosmith's competitors were The Who, Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, but where are those groups now? Somewhere in rock n’ roll replay land and where is Aerosmith? Well they are now, where they always have been, center stage. They may be clean, but they still give the audience the illusion of wildness a group unhinged. Yes, they are at it again on tour, at a new concert.

They have a new blues album, called "Honkin' on Bobo,” and some of the same old favorites like "Dream On.”

Kotb: “To steal one of your lyrics, ‘When you look in the mirror, what do you see?’”

Tyler: “It depends on what time of day. Early in the morning, I got all these lines on my face getting clear.”

Tyler: “It’s funny, because when I was a teenager, I used to think, oh, my God. I'd look in the mirror, and try to pretend what I'd look like when I'm 50 and it looks pretty good now. At least it's happy.”

Steven Tyler isn't the only famous face in the family. Actress Liv Tyler is his daughter.

Kotb: ”What was it like seeing Liv up there at the Oscars?”

Tyler: “I'm just so proud that she's up there doing what she loves, and she's become successful doing it. And that she's happy.”

Steven Tyler actually has four children. The youngest, Taj, is 12, and Tyler's had that talk with him -- the one about sex and drugs.

Tyler: ”There's absolutely no secret to bringing up children. You just talk to 'em. You tell 'em everything.  You talk about smoking pot, about what it was like when I was shooting coke. You open all hailing frequencies horror.”

Kotb: “So, do you say, ‘I don't ever want to see that stuff in this house?’”

Tyler: “Absolutely not. No, I don't  cause I'm no fool.  I know that they will sometime try it. And I want to know when you do. Tell me.”

He and his second wife, Theresa, and family live out in the ‘burbs, drive an SUV, and they have, well, a typical  life.

Tyler: “And now I get to watch my son Taj at the talent show and I watch my daughter Chelsea sing at school . You know, and redo my backyard. I put a roof over my pool. You should see how sexy that looks.”

But let's face it. There is not one other SUV-driving guy with a pool who does this on the weekends. And they say there is no better high than that being in front of an audience.

Tyler: “There is no stoned more stoned than being on a stage with this band and walking off after two hours and just dripping, soaking wet, making that connection with every boy and girl in the audience, black and white, and everybody.And making that total connection.”

Guitarist Joe Perry says the group is so excited about the new record that it feels like they're back in the early days, playing in the garage really loud, with their mothers yelling to "turn it down." Aerosmith, the 50-something teenagers. The band's now in the middle of a nationwide tour until June.