This doesn’t happen often, though I’ve actually bumped into Paul Weller once or twice unexpectedly (in Holland Park and also in the Surrey village of Shere near where I now live), and I’m not talking about concerts, front or back stage, where it’s more likely to happen. But I can’t resist recalling my funniest one… when Steve Tyler surprised me (and a girl he knew) in New York back in the summer of 1975.
It was a Saturday morning when I awoke in the studio apartment on New York’s West Side of my friend Karen, who worked for Aerosmith’s booking agency. We’d been out the night before and wound up back at her place, and in the morning we were woken by the doorbell, so Karen climbed out of bed, slipped into her bathrobe and spoke to whoever was outside on the street. A moment later she put down the entry-phone and turned to me.
“It’s Steven,” she said. “He’s coming up.”
“Steven who?” I asked, sitting up in bed and fumbling for my glasses. I hadn’t a stitch on. My clothes were strewn around the floor, as were hers.
“Tyler. He’s been recording all night and needs a bed.”
“Doesn’t he have a hotel?”
“Yes, but he’d rather sleep here, with me.”
“I don’t blame him. Are you and him er… ?”
“Not really. He just stays here sometimes.”
Indeed, I thought. Well, so do I.
There was a knock on the door and Karen let Steven Tyler in. He was young then, and very eye-catching in a stylish, Jaggeresque, rock-star sort of way, all mouth and hair, sunglasses and silk scarves, and pencil-thin in tight black jeans, yellow t-shirt and velvet jacket the colour of claret. He looked like he was about to kiss her on the lips and pull open her robe, but then he clocked me in her bed on the other side of the apartment and thought better of it. Before he could say anything Karen said, “Hi Steve. This is Chris. He works for Melody Maker, the English music paper.”
“Hello Steve,” I called from across the apartment. I tried to sound cheery. “We’ve met before, with Laura who works for Leber-Krebs.” This was true. Laura Kauffman was the PR at Aerosmith’s management company, and she’d introduced me to Steve Tyler once or twice at Ashley’s, the music industry hang-out on 5th Avenue and 12th Street.
“Oh yeah,” he said, stepping into the apartment. “How’yr doin’?”
Steven looked quizzically at Karen and then at me in her bed, and seemed stuck for words. He was evidently used to meetings with music writers being structured, pre-arranged affairs, not spontaneous, probably unwelcome, surprises like this. Eventually he said: “Karen, I need to use your bathroom.”
He went into Karen’s bathroom – can’t think why – and locked the door. This enabled me to get out of bed and step into my jeans, very quickly. Equally quickly Karen shed her robe and pulled on her knickers and an XL sweat-shirt. “Do you want me to go?” I asked, quietly, so that Steven wouldn’t hear.
“Not really,” she replied. “It’s up to you.”
Karen was making coffee when Steven came out of the bathroom, rubbing his nose – can’t think why. He took in that we were both now half dressed and sat down at the dining table opposite me. We grinned at one another but didn’t speak. It was pretty obvious he wasn’t too delighted to find me here, any more than I was delighted at his arrival. I also got the impression that Karen wasn’t really in the mood to entertain him either, not at 9am on a Saturday anyway. It was a bright, sunny morning and since Karen had no curtains daylight flooded into her apartment.
We drank our coffee and made small talk. Karen joined us around the table, keeping an even distance from us both so as not to appear to be taking sides. She asked how things were going in the studio and Steve said things were going great, as he would in front of a music writer. She asked after the other members of the band and Steve said they were all great. He asked after people he knew at the booking agency and Karen said they were all great. We all smiled at each other. I can’t remember contributing much to the conversation, only that I was determined to sit it out and not abandon my position, not in these circumstances.
As lead singer with the then rapidly up-and–coming Aerosmith, Steve Tyler was obviously more than a match for me in the pulling stakes, but I was here first and was unwilling to relinquish Karen to him, especially as she seemed fairly indifferent to his charms. Indeed, I think she was a bit put out that he’d turned up without warning, taking it for granted that she’d welcome him and invite him to stay. I was tempted to reach out and touch her hand, an affectionate gesture that might communicate “she’s mine now mate”, but thought it unnecessary. About 20 minutes went by before Steve realised I was definitely staying put and lost his patience, so he rose to his feet, a bit reluctantly I think, thanked Karen for the coffee and headed for the door.
“See you ‘round man,” he said in my direction.
“Bye Steve,” I murmured, probably a bit smugly.
Karen walked across the room with him. At the door he pecked her on the cheek, opened it and stepped out. She closed it quietly behind him.
“Thank you for staying,” she said, turning round and walking back towards where I was sat.
“There’s no need to thank me Karen,” I said. “I didn’t want to leave.”
“Thank you anyway,” she said.