Synopsis of Pop Music
“I know, nobody knows,
Where it comes and where it goes,
I know it’s everybody’s sin,
You’ve got to lose to know how to win…”
With the right mix of blues licks and double entendres, any band can score a hit rock single. Good bands can take that breakout single, tour a bit, and turn that into a career that lasts a few years. Great bands can burn out on all that success, clean up, and manage to make a big comeback years later. And then there’s Aerosmith… Not only did those bad boys from Boston do all of the above, they actually came back even bigger than they’d been before, turning a whole new generation on to the barroom blues raunch that made Aerosmith one of the biggest hard rock acts of the 1970’s.
Formed in 1970, the future Aerosmith came into this world when New York native Steven Tyler met Boston native Joe Perry in a New Hampshire ice cream parlor where Perry worked. Joining forces with Perry’s bandmate, bassist Tom Hamilton, the trio began jamming on rock classics in the style of The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones, etc., with Perry on guitar and Tyler on drums as well as vocals. Tyler’s old schoolmate Joey Kramer soon took over on drums, and Ray Tabano joined as a second guitarist. By the end of the year, Brad Whitford had replaced Tabano on guitar, and the now-complete Aerosmith lineup relocated to Boston for the beginning of a legendary career.
Two years of gigging in the New England and New York areas gave Aerosmith time to work on the strutting stage theatrics and crowd-pleasing jams that would help carry the band to the big time, and the groundswell of fan support led to a record contract with Columbia in 1972. The following year, the band released Aerosmith. Despite the presence of future concert favorites like “Mama Kin” and “Dream On” (a modest radio hit at the time), the album was only a minor success, as was its 1974 follow-up, Get Your Wings.
Although both albums contained the same kind of dirty blues rock that would eventually take the band multi-platinum, most of the kids out in radioland just hadn’t tuned in yet. Doing what they did best, Aerosmith simply kept touring, giving songs like “Same Old Song and Dance” and the band’s cover of blues legend Tiny Bradshaw’s “Train Kept A-Rollin’” the kind of high-octane treatment that could only fully be appreciated up close and in person.
In 1975, the world started to clue in to what fans had been saying all along: Aerosmith rocked. The dirty grooves and hanky panky lyrics of the single “Sweet Emotion” took the band into the Top-40, and its accompanying album, the seminal 70’s rocker Toys in the Attic, soon hit #11. Aerosmith’s first two albums re-entered the charts, and the once-neglected “Dream On” suddenly became a #6 smash single. 1976’s Rocks kept the hits coming—“Last Child,” “Back in the Saddle,” etc.—and “Walk This Way” (from Toys in the Attic) gave the group another Top-10 single in early 1977.
Finally getting their bluesy dues, Aerosmith turned out more hit albums with 1977’s Draw the Line, 1978’s Live! Bootleg and 1979’s Night in the Ruts, but by the time the latter album was released, Joe Perry had quit the group to form The Joe Perry Project. Though every band member had been in on the creative process (Tom Hamilton co-wrote “Sweet Emotion,” Brad Whitford co-wrote “Last Child,” and so on), the bulk of the songwriting had been done by Tyler and Perry. Unfortunately, the duo had been carrying on the proud traditions of The Rolling Stones in more than just their music. Tyler and Perry’s hard-living, substance-abusing ways had earned them the nickname 'The Toxic Twins,' and that lifestyle only worsened the friction that led to Perry’s departure. Whitford soon followed, exiting the band in 1980 to form his own supergroup, The Whitford-St. Holmes Band.
Guitarist Jimmy Crespo replaced Perry on the band’s next album, 1982’s Rock in a Hard Place. Aerosmith’s name on the cover assured the album a moderate success, but in the light of Aerosmith’s past successes, Rock in a Hard Place was a disappointment. Perry and Whitford rejoined the group in 1984, but the ensuing 'Back in the Saddle' tour was cut short when Tyler collapsed on stage. The comeback had begun, but it wasn’t yet complete.
The reunited band recorded a new album in 1985, Done With Mirrors, and the former 'Toxic Twins' finally cleaned up their act after successful rehabilitation programs. Once more clean and sober, Aerosmith was ready for another shot at the big time, and the window was opened with the help of an unlikely collaborator. Pioneering rap group Run DMC teamed up with the band for a 1986 cover of “Walk This Way,” and the accompanying ‘band vs. band’ video became an MTV staple, one of the earliest rap/rock crossovers. Kids who had missed out on Aerosmith’s first wave of popularity became enamored with this cool ‘new’ band, and the group capitalized on its regained fame with a new album, 1987’s Permanent Vacation.
Blending the old-school raw sleaze with the power-pop production of Bruce Fairburn (producer of Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet) and adding professional hit songwriters like Desmond Child to the mix on a few tunes, Permanent Vacation confirmed that Aerosmith was finally, truly back in the saddle again. The glam-metal-mocking “(Dude) Looks Like a Lady,” the ballad “Angel” and the saucy “Rag Doll” were all Top-20 hits, and the revitalized band hit the road for another marathon tour. The combination of old-school 70’s rock diehards and new converts to the Aerosmith fold helped make the band one of the biggest draws of the late 80’s and one of the greatest comeback stories in rock and roll.
If any doubts were still left after Permanent Vacation’s multi-platinum success, 1989’s Pump cleared them up instantly—Aerosmith was back to stay. The band proved the old ‘sex sells’ maxim with the album’s lead-off single “Love in an Elevator,” then turned more serious on the child abuse tale “Janie’s Got a Gun.” The latter song won the group both a Grammy and a pair of MTV Video Music Awards (the first of many for the band). “The Other Side” and “What It Takes” found even more singles success, and the enormous tours continued.
By 1993, Aerosmith was debuting at the top of the album charts with Get a Grip, which kept the hits coming with “Livin’ on the Edge,” “Crying,” “Amazing” and “Crazy.” A new, big-money contract with Columbia led to 1997’s Nine Lives, another #1 album that soon went multi-platinum.
By the time they reach their 25th anniversary, most bands get by on their long-term fan bases, but Aerosmith just kept adding new recruits to its army of followers. In fact, the band’s biggest mainstream singles success came exactly 25 years after the release of its first album. Written by pop tunesmith Diane Warren for the soundtrack to the 1998 asteroid disaster flick Armageddon, the power ballad “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing” finally gave Aerosmith its first #1 song.
Aerosmith has been back on top of the rock world for so long, it seems silly to refer to Tyler, Perry, Hamilton, Whitford and Kramer as 'comeback kids.' In fact, the teenyboppers who helped turn “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing” into a worldwide smash wouldn’t even remember the days before Permanent Vacation, much less the days of Toys in the Attic and Rocks. Aerosmith has been so good for so long, it’s easy to forget exactly how long they’ve been around. It’s not every band that can still release #1 albums and singles at the same time that they’re ripe for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. With a new album, Just Push Play, released in early 2001, Aerosmith has more than earned its way into that exclusive class, perhaps even entering a class all its own.
Artist Release History1973 - Aerosmith
1974 - Get Your Wings
1975 - Toys in the Attic
1976 - Rocks
1977 - Draw the Line
1978 - Live Bootleg
1979 - Night in the Ruts
1980 - Greatest Hits
1982 - Rock in a Hard Place
1985 - Done With Mirrors
1986 - Classics Live
1987 - Classics Live 2
1987 - Permanent Vacation
1988 - Gems
1989 - Pump
1991 - Pandora's Box
1993 - Get a Grip
1994 - Big Ones (compilation)
1994 - Box of Fire
1997 - Nine Lives
1998 - A Little South of Sanity (live)
2001 - Just Push Play
Pop Sub Categoriesrock
Essential Music Albums1980 - Greatest Hits (Columbia)
1994 - Big Ones (Geffen)
Band MembersSteven Tyler vocals, harmonica
Joe Perry guitar
Brad Whitford guitar
Tom Hamilton bass
Joey Kramer drums
Jimmy Crespo (1980-1984) guitar
Rick Dufay (1980-1984) guitar