10 Years Ago: Steven Tyler’s Stage Fall Triggers Aerosmith Meltdown
Aerosmith had more or less seen and done everything onstage by the time they performed at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in Rapid City, S.D., on Aug. 5, 2009.
Their 40th anniversary was looming, and they’d delivered more than 1,500 concerts, so it was no big deal for singer Steven Tyler when they encountered a technical problem with their sound.
Ever the showman, Tyler strutted up the catwalk and began performing some dance moves for the crowd, since he couldn’t speak to them. Just as he went into a turn, he stumbled, lost his footing and staggered off the stage into the security area below. As the audience looked on, it took staff about 45 seconds to lift him back on the platform, and carefully walk him away.
Watch Steven Tyler Fall Offstage in 2009
After Tyler received medical attention on the scene, the decision was made to fly him to a hospital for further treatment. “He was good-natured about it,” an event spokesman told Billboard at the time. “He was in good spirits when he got in the helicopter. He was talking and joking with the physician. It was an unfortunate end to an extraordinary evening.”
The frontman was later confirmed to have suffered a broken shoulder and a cut to the head that required 20 stitches. “I was doing the Tyler shuffle and then I zigged when I should have zagged ... and I slipped, and as I live on the edge … I fell off the edge!” he said in a statement. However, that statement also included news that the rest of Aerosmith’s tour was being canceled.
The singer wasn’t the only one with health issues – guitarist Brad Whitford and bassist Tom Hamilton both faced medical emergencies that led to missed shows. Seven concerts had already been postponed as a result of a leg injury sustained by Tyler.
“It hasn’t really felt like a tour,” guitarist Joe Perry lamented in an interview with Billboard. “It's been such a stop-and-go thing. In some ways the band has played the best it ever has. ... It was building up to be the best show and best tour we've done in a long time. In another couple weeks it was going to be a really unique kind of tour for us. Right now I don't know what's going to happen.”
Soon the rest of the story slipped into the public arena. Tyler, it was reported, hadn’t spoken directly to any of his bandmates for several months. He’d hung up the phone on Perry the last time the guitarist tried to make contact. He’d hired his own management, separate from the band’s, and had become interested in pursuing solo projects under the banner of “Brand Tyler.” Things were so bad that none of Tyler's bandmates joined him on the flight to hospital.
In November, after Aerosmith performed three more shows, Perry said that he understood – though it hadn’t been directly confirmed – Tyler had left the group, and that the other members were “positively looking for a new singer to work with.” He said the singer refused invitations to write new material during the previous decade, but insisted the band was playing “hotter than ever." “You can’t take 40 years of experience and throw it in the bin!” he said.
In another interview, he noted that he didn't "know what path it’s going to take at this point … but we’ll probably find somebody else that will sing in those spots where we need a singer, and then we’ll be able to move the Aerosmith up a notch, move the vibe up a notch.”
Among Perry’s specific complaints were that Tyler had shown less interest in Aerosmith than in joining a band with Jimmy Page following Led Zeppelin’s one-off reunion in 2007. He also didn't tell Aerosmith that the idea was in the air; they found out on their own. On top of that, Tyler shot down plans to record a new album once everyone else had committed and pre-production was underway.
“After the Jimmy Page thing happened, [producer] Brendan [O’Brien], who was waiting for us to get something together, ran out of time and went off to produce Pearl Jam, who got a No. 1 record,” Perry told Classic Rock later. “Steven didn’t want to work with him – that was the vibe I got. It was like, ‘Let’s go into the studio and we can finish the record in a month with Marti Frederiksen, then we can be off Sony and take two years off.’ I wanted the last record on Sony to be at least as fucking good as it could be, so why wouldn’t you want to work with a Brendan O’Brien or Rick Rubin? We hadn’t done a studio album for about eight years and I felt it was time to make a real Aerosmith record. Steven just wanted to get off Sony so he could do his solo album.”
In another strange twist, the Toxic Twins reunited onstage when Tyler made a surprise appearance at a Perry solo show in New York. “I am not leaving Aerosmith," the singer announced. "Joe Perry, you are a man of many colors. But I, motherfucker, am the rainbow!” Perry then told the audience that despite rumors of “some kind of fight, or some kind of bullshit, it ain’t true.” Tyler disappeared as quickly as he arrived once the pair performed Aerosmith's classic "Walk This Way."
Steven Tyler Guest With Joe Perry in 2009
It wasn’t over. In December 2009, four months after Tyler’s stage fall, he announced he’d gone to rehab, after having become addicted to prescription painkillers as a result of a previous injury.
“I am taking responsibility for the management of my pain and am eager to be back on the stage and in the recording studio with my bandmates Joe Perry, Joey Kramer, Tom Hamilton and Brad Whitford,” he told Rolling Stone. “I wish to set the record straight and say that I have read reports of a rumored two-year hiatus and want to be clear that this is completely false, and I will enthusiastically be writing, recording and performing with Aerosmith as soon as things are handled.”
While Tyler did embark on solo projects, risking the ire of his bandmates, he also kept his word about getting back to work with them. Touring again in 2010, they went on to release Music From Another Dimension! two years later.
“I have an addictive personality, so I found certain drugs I loved and didn’t stop to the point of hurting my children, hurting my life, hurting my family, hurting my band,” the singer noted in 2018. “There was a point where I didn’t have a band and I didn’t care. I went down the worst path. I went down the rabbit hole. … I went chasing Alice.”