Band of Brooders

After everything Aerosmith has been through in the past year — rehab, injuries, infighting — the question isn’t why America’s most dysfunctional rock band would finally break up, it’s what the hell has kept it together for so long.

Later, videos of Tyler’s fall became a minor YouTube sensation. But amid all the armchair analysis of what had happened, one curious detail passed with little comment. A full 45 seconds elapsed between the moment when Tyler fell and when a couple of roadies finally pulled him back up onstage, an interval that seemed even longer as a worried hush descended on the audience. But that wasn’t the odd thing. The odd thing was that, during those 45 seconds, not one of Tyler’s bandmates came over to see if he was okay. Perry didn’t even stop playing his guitar.

Eight days after Tyler’s fall, on August 13, Aerosmith canceled the remaining dates on its tour, and Perry went to Twitter to make clear who he thought was to blame: “I am so sorry about vocalist Steven Tyler having to cancel our Aerosmith shows.” On the same day, a haggard-looking Tyler, his arm in a sling, bought a bottle of booze at a Pembroke package store and made the mistake of posing for a snapshot with another customer, who then put the photo on the Internet. As speculation swirled that Tyler had fallen off the wagon, band insiders whispered to gossip columnists that he had spent two days leading up to the South Dakota show “partying” with various hangers-on. In response, Tyler publicly insisted that he had been sober.

Had it not been for certain business realities, the band might have called it a career right then. But Aerosmith, of course, is no longer just a band. It’s a multimillion-dollar corporation, and it was contractually obligated to perform four one-off shows in the upcoming weeks — such is the burden of America’s most successful rock group. Tyler would fulfill his commitments, but he made sure the band’s other members knew he was unhappy: He communicated through his new managers that he wouldn’t be speaking with them, and demanded that his dressing room be far from theirs. After one show in Hawaii, Perry called Tyler to say they’d been offered a chance to tour South America. Did he want to do it? Tyler said no and hung up.

Shortly after Aerosmith’s last contracted gig, a November 1 concert in Abu Dhabi, Tyler told a reporter from Classic Rock magazine that he was leaving the band to work on solo projects. “I don’t know what I’m doing yet, but it’s definitely going to be something Steven Tyler,” he said. “Working on the brand of myself — Brand Tyler.” When Perry read the story online, he told another interviewer, “Steven quit, as far as I can tell.”

After 40 years of surviving addictions, divorces, and near bankruptcies; after selling more albums than any other American rock band in history — and, by the looks of it, having more fun doing it than anyone who’d ever stepped onstage — it seemed as though Aerosmith was finally over.