Fifty years ago, in a shared Boston apartment, five guys — some still in their teens — were dreaming about becoming rock stars and writing songs about those ambitions. They called themselves Aerosmith and, after kicking around at high school dances and getting some local radio play, landed a record deal and a first hit single: “Dream On.”
Now Aerosmith are celebrating their 50th year with the same lineup heard on their first album: Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Tom Hamilton, Joey Kramer and Brad Whitford, all of whom spoke to People for a new special edition, Aerosmith: In Their Own Words.
It is an astonishing milestone, considering there were times when they nearly split up—Perry and Tyler, the “Toxic Twins,” fought like brothers, and even mild-tempered guitarist Whitford briefly quit after Perry did—and more than a few issues with drugs and alcohol. By the grace of the rock and roll gods, today “we’re all healthy and happy and doing Vegas,” Steven Tyler, 71 and sober, tells PEOPLE now. Retirement? No. They are currently in residence at Las Vegas’s Park-MGM’s theater through June 4.
The anniversary coincides with Aerosmith being honored during Grammy Week as the MusiCares Person of the Year, recognition for their influence on music and philanthropic efforts. “Aerosmith has walked the walk when it comes to raising funds to impact music people in recovery,” said Deborah Dugan, president and CEO of MusiCares and the Recording Academy, in an announcement.
While Tyler, Perry, Hamilton, Whitford and Kramer are most excited to talk about the present (“We put out a hard-rock show . . . with a lot of energy,” says Perry of their Vegas run), they indulged PEOPLE’s request to reflect on the past five decades for this photo-filled 96-page issue. They share the stories behind their earliest hits, their ground-breaking collaboration with Run-DMC, making videos with Alicia Silverstone and Steven’s daughter Liv Tyler, and what it was like to be worshipped by Wayne and Garth on SNL’s “Wayne’s World.” It was then, recalls Tyler, that he thought “The band’s back.”
For more pick up PEOPLE’s Aerosmith: In Their Own Words, available wherever magazines are sold.