When you grew up in the 70s, you loved Aerosmith. I know I did.
A long time ago, I was out and about over at the old Lindale Plaza (now Mall), in the old Why Not Lounge parking lot I stumbled upon the leaves of a 20 dollar bill that back then brought a few 45s, a couple albums and about 2 hours playing pinball up at Aladdin's Castle, which was most a pinball playing place. Of course being a 14 year old, a 20 dollar bill did burn a hole in my pocket and I went to Target to buy 2 albums of note, one was 10cc The Original Soundtrack for 2 dollars (strange it was already a cut out in late 1975 despite I'm Not In Love being on it) and the other was Toys In The Attic, to which I played the grooves off that album, mostly on side 2 and Sweet Emotion and No More No More, the latter one of my favorite all time Aerosmith songs, a song that classic rock radio rarely plays although Sweet Emotion is always playing somewhere on the airwaves much to my chagrin. And then we had Round And Round, one of the heaviest numbers they ever did but I never paid much attention to You See Me Crying. Side 1 had the fun title track but I didn't like Uncle Salty all that much and I did play Walk This Way before it was ruined by the Run DMC version (more about that later).
A year later I quit playing pinball for about 2 months in order to pick up Rocks and that too was a winning album, some say their best and side 1 is just about as perfect as they got, with Back In The Saddle, minor hit Last Child going into Rats In The Cellar and Joe Perry's Combination. Side 2 the best track was Sick As A Dog although I didn't like it going into Nobody's Fault and the rest was okay. I have to point out that Home Tonight a single from that album didn't chart very high if it did but it was a ballad at the end of the record that I didn't play very much, I prefer my Aerosmith rock and roll and no ballads, something that they would become famous for but more about that later.
Dream On, when it came out in 1973 wasn't much of a hit but a second release of it three years later it became one of their biggest hits ever and of course played to death on radio, but the debut was meat and potatoes Boston rock and roll with Make It and Mama Kin but also featured a wild cover of Walking The Dog and Movin Out and produced by Adrian Barber (The Rascals). A promising start but their second album Get Your Wings was much better and rocked harder due to Jack Douglas becoming producer and he would be key in the next four albums, how could you not go wrong leading things off with Same Old Song And Dance and going into Lord Of The Thighs. Recently turned 66, Steven Tyler could really think up some interesting sexual innuendos as heard on Thighs. Side 1 was almost damn near perfect with Spaced and Woman Of The World concluding that side and the second side with FM classic S.O.S. (too late) and half studio half live Train Kept A Rollin, a song that they still use for a encore. Beginning Get Your Wings and ending with Rocks, Aerosmith put together three of the most amazing albums of the 1970s. Draw The Line begin to show cracks in their drug infused haze but believe it or not, I think it serves a nice purpose and the forth winning album of the 70s, although when it first came out, I wasn't that impressed but somehow in 1977 I played it a lot. Live Bootleg, shows Aerosmith in their Cocaine fueled glory and they sure sounded fucked up with all the bizzare missed notes, feedback, thrown firecrackers from the audience and you had to be there to really believe it. Time hasn't treated this record very well but it has moments, including a early 1970's performance of them doing I Ain't Got You and Mother Popcorn to which Joey Kramer could lay a funky beat before going into fucked up beats in the 1977 tour.
And then Joe Perry and Steven Tyler had a falling out which begins the downfall of Aerosmith and Night In The Ruts, an interesting 1979 play on words title, suffers from the fallout although the album isn't too bad, No Surprize being the highlight and a loud Gary Lyons mix, the rest of album isn't that good I don't think. It's one of the albums I still have on vinyl and not on CD. But I don't play it very often, nor do I on the 1982 Rock In A Hard Place which has actually held up better than Night In The Ruts. By then Joe Perry left to do his own project (Joe Perry Project) and Brad Whitford teamed up with Derek St. Holmes for Whitford/St. Holmes and made a very spotty one off in 1981. Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay were the replacements and although Jailbait still reminded us that Aerosmith could still rocked but without Perry and Whitford the inspiration was gone. Columbia mopped up with a half assed Aerosmith Greatest Hits which used the 45 edits rather than album cuts for the hits. The drugs won out it seemed and the best American Rock Band was no more....
Or so we thought. The Joe Perry Project failed to duplicate the Aerosmith and Perry along with Whitford returned to the mothership for a new start and new album on Geffen, the much maligned Done With Mirrors, a album that the band didn't care much for, it sounds like one off demos and perhaps that was the way Ted Templeman wanted to record them. To me, it was their best since Draw The Line, the discovered how to rock and roll once again and even Tyler is still thinking up words to sing to the songs, the music mattered more. Let The Music Do The Talking is more in your face than the Ralph Morman sanged verson on the JPP 1980 album of the same name. If the songs are one take works in progess, so be it but the sloppiness fun of Gypsy Boots, The Hop and failed single Sheila is what I rather remember Aerosmith for, real rock and roll. But Done With Mirrors sold poorly and the label was wanting hits.
A couple things happened in 1987 that got Aerosmith back on the map and back on the charts. 1) Perry and Tyler appeared in the Run DMC version of Walk This Way, the original selling out of a band but back then it was actually a fresh take, they took a chance with the rap upstarts and managed to get a number 4 single from this. 2). The band hooked up with Bruce Fairbairn (Bon Jovi, Prism) and hired outside songwriters to help find the missing single they sorely needed. It turned out to be the number 3 led Angel, a ballad and some say this is where the Aerosmith we knew and loved finally sold out to the major label. The band was moreorless drug free (although relapses would occur on occasion throughout the next 25 plus years) and their sound was more polished. With Fairbairn holding production and Desmond Child, Holly Knight and Jim Vallance being the paid song doctors, Permanent Vacation is Aerosmith as rock professionals The album comes roaring out with Heart's Done Time and of course Dude Looks Like A Lady (ruined by classic rock radio overplay) and St. John the record isn't bad, but side 2 has way too much filler for it to be a true Aerosmith classic album. But say what you will about 1989's Pump, it's actually better with Young Lust, Monkey On Your Back and Love In An Elevator (another classic rock radio ruination) and song for song a more listenable album. But with more and more emphasis on the slower songs (Jennie's Got A Gun and What It Takes) and reliance on the song doctors, the Aerosmith that I known and loved was gone.
Which becomes the problem with each ensuring album and 1993's Get A Grip, the ballads overtake the rock and Aerosmith started making subpar albums. I wouldn't say shitty but they disappointing to these ears and Grip is their worst since Night In The Ruts. With that came the endless supply of Greatest Hits packages from both Sony Music and Geffen themselves, Aerosmith excused themselves from Geffen with the shoddy Little Past Insanity album, which was okay but for me I had enough and for the rest of the 90s gave little notice to their return to Columbia and the forgettable Nine Lives and even worse Just Push Play. It didn't help that the band started using Marti Fredericksen for co producer and still do to this day, Fredicksen helped out Brother Cane and was part of a band called Motherland, featuring Jason Bonham on drums for a so so album for 550 Music in the mid 90s. But Marti was out of his league when it came to co producing the two drab albums in the 90s. Maybe Aerosmith was becoming a nostalgia act.
In some ways Jack Douglas returning to help out the band do their blues tribute album Honkin For Bobo helped considerably, with the boys covering some of their favorite Bo Dilddley, Little Walter numbers it felt like a return to the old days but Marti Fredericksen was still around, still maintaining a sense of looking for a hit and they didn't get on this album. But they did get the late Jimmie Johnson (Chuck Berry, Kentucky Headhunters) playing the piano. The next year, they put out Rockin The Joint, another failed live effort but it did capture Aerosmith on a good night, but then again they had to put the odious ballad I Don't Want To Miss A Thing (their only number 1 record single ever, :-( ) to put a damper on things. And then for the next six years go through different producers (failed sessions with Steve Lillywhite and Brendan O'Brien) to give us perhaps their final statement about rock and roll...2012's Music From Another Dimension.
We heard this time and time again, that every new Aerosmith is a return to their roots and they returned to Jack Douglas to help things...................And Marti Fredricksen once again, the burr in their saddle, and the one that they look for to get the elusive hit single, now long gone. Joe Perry got to sing on two numbers and there's plenty of guest stars all around (Julian Lennon and Carrie Underwood). While Can't Stop Lovin You, the duet with Underwood would have fit better on a Steven Tyler album, it serves no purpose on a full Aerosmith album and the ballads here may have been the worst things they ever done this time out. Sony Music promoted the hell out of this album, Aerosmith talked a good talk about this album but in the end, while it was better than Nine Lives and Just Push Play, Music From Another Dimension simply didn't rock hard enough and suffered greatly from bloated ballads and a hour and 8 minute total time. And too many song doctors left and right don't help things either, the usual suspects and Diane Warren too, Music From Another Dimension ends up a big commercial disappointment and another false promise of going back to their roots, but what roots are they talking about? It's certainly not the days of Toys And The Attic or Rocks, the logical guess would be a return to Permanent Vacation, to which they relied too much on the help of outside songwriters and occasionally doing a rock and roll song to make you think they have return back to their roots.
So I guess in all fairness is that the Aerosmith that I know and love so well, remains the band from the 70s all drugged up and ready to blow everybody and themselves off the stage to be the best rock and roll band in the world, to which we all rode the trainwreck all the way down and hope that the toxic twins wouldn't kill each other in the process. In some ways they do mirror The Rolling Stone of the past, knew how to rock and when they finally reached the top, coasted on past laurels and outside help to maintain their status in radio world but now as senior citizens it has proven that from here on out whatever Aerosmith chooses to put out, they will do so with a calculated eye and ear to a declining corporate rock world that has written them off as classic rockers. They have earned their way in the rock hall despite Tyler's ill advised appearance on American Idol that tarnish their street cred. Like the Stones, Their Music From Another Dimension is their Bridges To Babylon. But their Toys In The Attic and Rocks are their answer to Beggar's Banquet and Let It Bleed. Once upon a time, Aerosmith was the greatest rock and roll band that took the stage, even if they don't remember that from all the drugs that they took.
Albums of note (omitting the 25 greatest hits comps out there)
Aerosmith (Columbia 1973) B+
Get Your Wings (Columbia 1974) A+
Toys In The Attic (Columbia 1975) A
Rocks (Columbia 1976) A
Draw The Line (Columbia 1977) A-
Live Bootleg (Columbia 1978) B+
Night In The Ruts (Columbia 1979) C
Aerosmith's Greatest Hits (Columbia 1980) B-
Rock In A Hard Place (Columbia 1982) C+
Done With Mirrors (Geffen 1985) B+
Classics Live (Columbia 1985) B
Permanent Vacation (Geffen 1987) B
Classics Live Two (Columbia 1987) B-
Gems (Columbia 1988) B
Pump (Geffen 1989) B+
Get A Grip (Geffen 1993) C+
Big Ones (Geffen 1994) C+
Nine Lives (Columbia 1997) C
Just Push Play (Columbia 2001) C
Honkin On Bobo (Columbia 2004) B+
Rockin The Joint (Columbia 2005) B
Music From Another Dimension (Columbia 2012) B-
Joe Perry Albums (be it Joe Perry Project or solo)
Let The Music Do The Talking (Columbia 1980) A-
I Got The Rock And Rolls Again (Columbia 1981) B
Once A Rocker Always A Rocker (MCA 1983) C+
The Best Of Joe Perry (Raven 1999) B
Joe Perry (Columbia/Roman 2005) B+
Have Guitar Will Travel (Roman/Mailboat 2009) B
Whitford/St Holmes (Columbia 1981) B
Reunion (Mailboat 2016) C+
Steven Tyler-We're All Somebody From Somewhere (Dot 2016) C