411 Music Hall Of Fame Class of 2011: Aerosmith
AEROSMITH’S MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
In 1964, a young guy from New Hampshire named Steven Tyler started a band with a friend. At the same time, Joe Perry and Tom Hamilton formed a jam band creatively called “Joe Perry’s Jam Band”. Perry and Hamilton moved to Boston and met drummer Joey Kramer. They clicked and Kramer dropped out of Berklee to join their band. In 1969, Steven Tyler’s band and “Joe Perry’s Jam Band” met at a gig. They all got a long and wanted to combine the bands. Tyler, who was the drummer and backup singer in his old band, insisted on being the front man and singer for this newly collaborated project. They got stoned, watched some Three Stooges, and discussed a band name. After considering “The bananas” and “Spike Jones”, they went with “Aerosmith”. They say Joey Kramer used to write it in his high school notebooks after it popped into his head. The origin doesn’t really all that matter. The point here is that Aerosmith, almost as we commonly know it, was born.
The band added Ray Tabano on rhythm guitar and in 1970 the band played their first gig together as one collective band in Mendon, Massachusetts at a high school. Soon after, Tabano was replaced by Brad Whitford and the lineup we’ve all grown to love is born. An unfathomable forty one years later, they’re still kicking and going strong. Still, there’s one helluva story in between.
In 1971, the band gained local success. They signed on to some smaller promotion deals and took on David Krebs and Steve Leber as management. They turned around and involved Clive Davis, Columbia Records President, to a show in New York. The band wasn’t even booked that night, but bribed the show runners to get on the bill that night. It worked and they made an impression. By the middle of 1972 the band was signed to Columbia and their self titled debut album, Aerosmith was set to be unleashed. Out in January 73, their freshman effort landed them at #166 on the charts. The album was the baby steps in their blues inspired rock ways. “Dream On” was their first big single, but the album also had “Mama Kin” and “Walkin’ The Dog” which most Aerosmith fans could probably recite for you on the spot. The album has gone on to sell two million albums. They toured their asses off and in 1974 released Get Your Wings. The best on this one is easily “Same Old Song and Dance”, but like all their albums, it’s got plenty to enjoy. This one has sold three million copies. Yet, their third album actually trumps the first two.
1975’s Toys in the Attic is where it all changed. They go from being a good rock and roll band to being a band to really take notice of. They always had comparisons to The Rolling Stones because of Tyler’s somewhat resemblance to Mick Jagger. Then musically, they were clumped in with Zeppelin clones. Toys in the Attic opened the doors to the true potential of this little American rock band. Basically just listen to “Sweet Emotion” and “Walk This Way” and you’ll understand why. That’s the cheat sheet, but you’d be doing yourself a great treat if you just put on some big headphones and indulged. It’s one of the most underrated greatest albums of all time, if that makes any sense. It gets mentioned, but it should be heralded much more. After the success of the third album, the first and second albums were more received. This led to a successful rerelease of “Dream On” and bigger tours. Toys in the Attic has gone on to sell eight million albums in the United States alone.
Following that up sounds tough, but the “Bad Boys from Boston” were up for the challenge. Rocks was released in 1976 and was quick to sell platinum numbers. Then again imagine if you had a record, put it on the player, and the first thing you heard was the beginning of “Back in the Saddle Again”? How could your mind NOT be blown? Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, and Motley Crue have all cited this album and Toys in the Attic as an influence on their music. Needless to say, Rocks rocked and the band gained more love and attention. They were officially headliners. I’m not talking about headlining a House of Blues show. I’m talking about stadiums and festivals. This is the point their rockstar status turned that corner that most bands can only dream about. With that kind of status and power come a world of excess. While the 1977 release Draw the Line had two singles in the title track and “Kings and Queens”, it was almost the beginning of the end. Drugs and partying would get Steven Tyler and Joe Perry the nickname of “The Toxic Twins”. The band acted in the movie version of the Beatles Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and covered the band’s hit “Come Together”. Some people like me, as sacrilege as it may be, actually prefer the cover over the original. I know, crazy, right?
The sixth album was when things pretty much fell apart. In the middle of recording Night in the Ruts, Joe Perry left the band to do his own thing. They brought in replacements over the next few years, but it just wasn’t the same. The album didn’t do so hot and the band just fell down and literally in a few cases. In early 1980, Tyler collapsed onstage and then in the fall of the same year he got into a horrible motorcycle accident that put him in the hospital for two months. Meanwhile, the first Greatest Hits album gets released. It would go on to be the band’s biggest seller with over eleven million to date. I’m certain I had two cassettes of it and one CD if that counts for anything. With all the drug drama going on, 1981 saw Brad Whitford leave the band to record with others. They tried to replace him too, but like Perry, it’s not the same without him. The remains and the replacements of the band recorded Rock in a Hard Place in 82. It didn’t do much at all. During the tour for the album they hit their home crowd in Massachusetts. There, Tyler met up with Joe Perry and got high before the show. Tyler would go on to perform for a little while before again collapsing on stage. In early 84, Perry and Whitford went to an Aerosmith concert. Two months later the band was back together.
The “Back in the Saddle” reunion tour hit the road in 1984. It was a success, but drugs were still a problem for the band. They signed with Geffen Records and started hammering out plans for a comeback. In 1985, they released Done with Mirrors. It didn’t do all that much, but it at least got them back out there on the road and in people’s ears.
1986 would be a huge year in the history of Aerosmith. They were in the public eye again as Run DMC put out a cover of “Walk This Way” in what pretty much everyone considers the first steps in hip hop gaining mainstream appeal and crossover success. Tyler and Perry both appeared in the iconic video and the two groups would always be interlinked by the song. In years to come, they’d perform it together on stage. Another huge step was Tyler went into rehab and successfully completed it. After everyone around him pleading for him to go, he did and the rest of the band followed. Clean, the band was more focused than ever.
You know how some music “experts” say a band or artist’s work suffers once they got off the drugs? That’s the opposite of what happened with Aerosmith. 1987’s Permanent Vacation was a major hit. All three singles, “Dude Looks Like a Lady”, “Rag Doll”, and “Angel” all hit the Top 20 and they had a huge tour with Guns N’ Roses. Keeping the ball rolling, they went right back to work. In fall of 89, Pump was released. This one would go on to fill the radio waves with four hit singles in “The Other Side”, “Love in an Elevator”, “What It Takes”, and “Janie’s Got a Gun”. The videos were huge and MTV ate it up. They toured for 12 months on the album, appeared on SNL’s “Wayne’s World”, put on a great performance on MTV’s “Unplugged”, and how could you forget the “Flaming Moe’s” episode of The Simpsons that came out during this stretch? If you grew up in the late 80s/early 90’s and had access to eyes and ears you had absolutely no choice in the matter. You were going to see and hear Aerosmith, love it or hate it. The seven million albums sold tell us that most folk went with “love it”.
The band cooled off for awhile and took a break before getting back into the studio. The time off and adapting to sobriety resulted in 1993’s “Get a Grip”. It debuted at #1 and ended up selling over 15 million albums. I remember when this came out. It was huge. The singles “Livin’ on the Edge” and “Eat the Rich” were some of the best tracks the band ever put out. This was nothing compared to the success of their trio of ballads. “Cryin”, “Crazy”, and “Amazing” were really popular on the radio, but especially on MTV. These videos featured a young actress by the name of Alicia Silverstone and her costar in the “Crazy” video ended up being this girl named Liv, Steven’s daughter. The videos were huge, the album won Grammys, and you could say the band were at a whole new peak. They did 18 months on the road in support of the album, made an appearance in “Wanes World 2”, rocked Woodstock 94, opened their own club in Boston, and put out another successful greatest hits installment with Big Ones. Even as music got harder with metal bands like Metallica and more stripped down with the grunge scene Aerosmith kept going, stronger than ever.
After some time off and some business side drama, the band finally go Nine Lives out in 1997. It did well and put some more singles out there with “Falling in Love Is Hard on the Knees”, “Hole in my Soul”, and the Grammy winning “Pink”. They toured on this album for two years, but it was not without issues. Steven Tyler messed up his leg and Joey Kramer got burnt up pretty bad when his car caught on fire at a gas station. In 1998 the band achieved something they never quite did before. They released their one and only number one single in “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”. The song was from the Armageddon soundtrack from the movie starring Liv Tyler. The success was crazy and put Aerosmith in the ears of yet another generation proving where there is cool; Aerosmith can’t be too far away.
This brings us to 1999. Disney Studios opened a ride dedicated to the band, Tyler and Perry rocked with Run DMC and Kid Rock at the MTV VMAs, and they had a song on the Charlie’s Angels soundtrack. They just kept going and kept busier than ever. In 2001 the band performed the half time show at Super Bowl XXXV. This was great timing and promotion because a few months later, the band’s thirteenth album, Just Push Play was released to an almost instant platinum reception. The title track and “Jaded” got a lot of play and again, they toured their asses off. Over the next few years, VH1 recorded a “Behind the Music”, the band gets a tune on the Spiderman soundtrack, performers at FIFA, gets awarded the mtvICON award, and toured with artists like Kid Rock, Run DMC, and Kiss.
In 2004 Aerosmith released Honkin’ on Bobo, a blues album. It was long time fan’s dream as it was often rumored and promised that the band would one day put out a blues genre album. It didn’t do that much commercial success, but at this point Aerosmith can afford a few off-kilter passion projects. The band branched out. Tyler took on more of a public role with movies and things like that. Joe Perry put out a solo project. Still there seemed to be no issues. People just did their own thing for awhile. They still got together and did a tour with Lenny Kravitz and were consistently out there. Sadly, their 2006 tour with Cheap Trick was cancelled once it was announced that Steven Tyler needed throat surgery. They did a run with Motley Crue, put out another compilation album, and plans for a huge world tour. We fast forward and there was some drama within the band. Tyler wasn’t around and the band wanted to keep going. Illness and injury delayed plans and shows. Gossip and nonsense went on for awhile before the band got back together and hit the road. Recently, Steven Tyler did the impossible. He almost made it cool to watch American Idol. Damn him and his cool ways. Forty one long years after that first show Aerosmith continues to record and you can bet your ass they’ll be coming to a town near you.
Why Aerosmith Was Selected:
You can always think back to those blurry and fuzzy early memories of youth. It feels so distant and dream-like, but family and friends confirm the events did happen. Memories make the person. For me many memories were backed to the soundtrack of the art that Joey Kramer, Tom Hamilton, Brad Whitford, Joe Perry, and Steven Tyler has provided.
I had to be around five years old when I first really exposed to Aerosmith. It was the 80’s and the Run DMC version of “Walk This Way” was huge. The video was all over MTV and it was awesome for some many reasons. These reasons would become clearer as time progressed, but at the time I just enjoyed it. The song watch catchy and the performers were larger than life. My father had the vinyl of Aerosmith’s Toys in the Attic and I took it upon myself to play it. What I noticed was that it was missing the Run DMC parts. The resourceful child that I was paid close attention to what Jam-Master Jay was doing with his record. So to get that sound that I heard while watching the video, I began to scratch the record. Mission failed. It sounded nothing like what I had heard and the record would never be of any use ever again.
From there, Aerosmith has always been around. They were my first mp3s, my first CDs, my first cassette tapes, and I guess you could say my first vinyl. In junior high we were assigned the lesson to write a biography of a famous person. I wrote on Aerosmith, which in retrospect I suppose also seconds as my first “music journalism” piece. Still to this day I insist that I spoke to Steven Tyler on the phone. It was my first real job, telemarketing on behalf of major credit card companies, and my computer dialed out to a man named “Steven Tyler” in California. A maid answered and when I informed her it was in regards to Mr. Tyler’s credit card she put him on. The man kindly asked me to call back another time and he would gladly listen to what I was trying to offer him because at the moment he was eating dinner with his daughters. I’m not jaded, I know there is more than just the one “Steven Tyler” out there, but I didn’t spend most of my life listening to his music to not recognize his voice. I could be wrong, but I’m just going to allow myself to enjoy the thought.
For as long as my ears could hear and my mind and soul could appreciate music this band has been there. I know I’m not alone in that. No matter your personal opinion and personal taste, there are bands that you just can’t turn your nose up to. You could argue the second best all time all day, but there is not even a whisper of doubt that Aerosmith is the best American rock and roll band of all time. No matter if I’m feeling like a “Rag Doll”, “Cryin'”, or if “Janie’s Got a Gun”, if I “Just Push Play” I’ll be “Back in the Saddle”. I was “Crazy” when I met you, but no matter what “Sweet Emotion” I have “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” and I will always “Walk This Way”.