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(Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Music

Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler was "hurt" by comparisons to Mick Jagger

Throughout his career as the frontman of Boston rock band Aerosmith, Steven Tyler has often been compared to his counterpart in The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger. One can understand why the media jumped on the comparison early on in Tyler’s career, a time when America had ostensibly come forward with their answer to the biggest British rock band at the time, topping it off with a lead singer striking an extremely close resemblance to Jagger. However, these comparisons were allegedly a source of “hurt” for Tyler and the group have revealed that their inability, throughout their career, to escape the shadow of The Rolling Stones has, at times, been irritating. 

In a 2013 interview, Tyler and his bandmate Joe Perry reflected on 43 years in the rock ‘n’ roll business. The two had just been honoured with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers founders award for songwriting, and when asked about how it felt to be honoured for their songwriting, Tyler explained: “[The Awards] feel really good. But we’ve always just played our music and haven’t given a shit. Still, the ‘Cheap imitation of the Rolling Stones’ criticism was constant. And it hurt for the first couple of years”.

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He continued: “It was constantly Mick Jagger this and Mick Jagger that – that I copied him, and Janis Joplin too. Mick was the cheapest, easiest shot. ‘Well, he looks like him, so let’s write about that.’”

His bandmate, Perry, added, “You could tell that they weren’t listening because we definitely weren’t sounding like the Stones,” and Tyler interjected, “Done our best to try to, though.”

“We steal from everybody,” Perry concluded. “Amateurs copy and pros steal, and we’re professionals. We make no bones about the fact that we took from the people that came before us.”

To make the comparisons worse, a year before the interview in 2012, Jagger had appeared on Saturday Night Live in a skit where he impersonated Tyler. During the parody skit, comedian Bill Hader introduced “Tyler” saying, “On loan from ‘American Idol’ and those weird Burger King commercials. We’re lucky to have her… Steven Tyler”.

Mick Jagger entered wearing a full Steven Tyler costume complete with a giant black wig streaked with bleach, a ladies snake print shirt and a red bandana tied around his neck. During the show, Jagger squints his eyes to mimic Tyler’s facial expression while reciting a mock of Tyler’s voice complete with mannerisms. 

Fortunately, it appears that Tyler saw the comical side of the skit and even weighed in, explaining shortly after that he didn’t think Jagger did him justice. “Ohhh, [Mick] got it so wrong,” Tyler said. “He could have done the, ‘Yeah yeah yeah’”.

He then explained, however, that Jagger’s appearance was spot on: “I thought he looked good with long hair,” Tyler commented. “I’ve always wanted him to grow it back.” Overall, it seems Tyler wasn’t too upset with the impersonation. “It was good,” Tyler admitted. “It was fun.” After all, it’s nice to be recognised by one of your heroes, even if it is through a comedy skit. 

It appears that despite wanting to creep from under the shadow of Jagger, he will always remain one of Tyler’s icons whether he likes to admit it or not. As he once explained: “[Jagger] was my hero, there was actually a six-or-seven-year period when I was afraid to tell the press so I was all like, ‘No, he isn’t.’ And then, of course, I came out of the closet and went, ‘He is!’ To this day, to this minute, to this second, Mick Jagger is still my hero.”

Watch part of Jagger’s impersonation of Steven Tyler on Saturday Night Live below.