Friday, October 05, 2007


Anyone who knows me knows that I was a huge fan of early Aerosmith. I don’t remember what song I first heard of theirs, but I know I was already hooked by the time I saw them during their Toys in the Attic tour, watching from a few feet away. (My high-school girlfriend was definitely hooked and practically came in her pants over Steven Tyler’s see-through lace outfit!)

I loved the first two records, but Toys in the Attic really hit with me. The almost punk-rock mania of the title song was enough to draw in any serious rock’n’roller, but the lasciviousness of “Adam’s Apple” and “Big Ten Inch Record” (those two songs convinced me that I was seeing one of the filthiest rock band around at the time – aside from bands like the Fugs, of course) really resonated with a teenage boy. Add to that the rockers like “Walk This Way”, “Sweet Emotion” and “No More No More” and you had a near-perfect 70’s rock album.

Having recently found their autobiography “Walk This Way” (this phrase was, funnily enough, stolen from Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein”), I have been listening to them again. The book is good, by the way, and shows everyone to be more intelligent than you might have originally thought, but still “dumb” enough to have their careers destroyed by drugs. There are some good insights though, such as discovering that Joe Perry and Tom Hamilton were covering bands like the MC5 before starting Aerosmith and that Joe is a big Sex Pistols fan. One of the things that I found more ironic is that Joe was embarrassed by “Dream On” (a great song, though overplayed these days) and thought that they were selling out by doing songs like that. Considering some of the drek that they put out in the 80’s, I consider this to be pretty funny.

One of the other revelations from the book is that Steven would hold up records for months at a time because he couldn’t come up with the lyrics. Not the melodies, not the music, but just the words! I’ll admit that he has had some clever turn-of-phrases (in a dirty, teenage way), but it’s not like he’s writing poetry here! And no one else could jump in with some words? This seems really bizarre to me. Apparently, it got so bad that this is one of the reasons why they started working with outside writers, who contributed to some of the worst crap (though some of the biggest sellers, oddly enough) that the band ever released.

Probably due to the onset of punk shortly after “Toys…” came out, I kinda lost interest in the band and didn’t really pay too much attention when the next record, Rocks, was released. Looking back now, though, it really is a strong r’n’r record – almost up there with “Toys…”. “Back in the Saddle”, “Sick as a Dog”, “Lick and a Promise” all make this another classic album.

By the time that “Draw the Line” appeared in December of 1977, punk had taken over and Aerosmith had started to fall apart due to the absurd ingestion of drugs and alcohol mixed with egos. The title tune is still a good song, but they were definitely decaying by this point.

Most people know about their clean-up story and their resurrection in the 80’s. I even think that they did some good songs at this time, though most of it is pretty different from the old r’n’r band – a lot cleaner and pop-oriented.

My local library provided me with a chance to listen to their 2002 live record Rocking the Joint – live at the Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas. This actually is a pretty good album overall, though it includes the incredibly insipid “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”, which has to be one of the worst songs ever recorded by anyone, much less by Aerosmith (and, of course, I understand that this was their biggest hit). When I hear pap like this coming from this band it really makes me wonder why albums were held up for 6 months for lyrics. This song has some of the most forgettable words ever written down – truly pathetic.

Other than that horrifying tangent, the rest of the record is pretty rockin’, and includes relative obscurities like “Seasons of Wither” and another song that Joe & Tom used to do pre-Aerosmith: Fleetwood Mac’s “Rattlesnake Shake”, which is a great blues-rocker. There’s a very cool version of “Big Ten Inch Record” and the ubiquitous “Walk This Way” and “Train Kept a’Rollin’”.

This live record certainly isn’t their strongest and I couldn’t recommend it as an introduction to the band, but it’s pretty damn solid, especially for a band whose members were pushing 60 at the time!

The Aerosmith story is at times inspiring, at times infuriating (that they would give up the things that most people would kill for simply for drugs), but usually entertaining. The guys know the importance of looking good, playing good and giving a performance. Steven has always been a great showman – especially in the old days – and Joe is a super foil for him – in the Mick & Keith tradition. They still look pretty damn phenomenal for their age and they can still rock, so gotta give ‘em credit! They’ve made some bad moves in order to stay popular, but I still respect a band that can continue to rock like they do.


Post a Comment

<< Home