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Aerosmith

+ {The Joe Perry Project} + {Whitford / St. Holmes}

America’s long-awaited answer to The ROLLING STONES (through singer Steven Tyler’s protruding Mick J-like lips and lead guitarist Perry’s flashy Keef-like blues licks), AEROSMITH were the masters of stadium rock from the get-go. The funky and strutting `Walk This Way’ single from the 70s to the MTV-friendly `Dude (Looks Like A Lady)’ referenced glam and glitz from a sleazy and camp viewpoint, the former song even finding its way in the mid-80s rap-rock era through its ground-breaking collaboration with RUN DMC.
Kick-started in Sunapee, New Hampshire, in the summer of 1970 by the aforementioned Tyler and Perry, who, with bassist Tom Hamilton formed the early core of the band, they were duly joined by Ray Tabano (almost immediately superseded by rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford) and drummer Joey Kramer in their new location of Boston, Massachusetts. By ‘72, through a Max’s Kansas City gig in the Big Apple, the quintet were signed for a six-figure sum to Columbia Records by Clive Davis.
The band released their eponymous debut album, AEROSMITH {*7}, early the following year and The ROLLING STONES and NEW YORK DOLLS comparisons were inevitable from the off. While the ‘Stones had taken American music, translated it and shipped it back across the water, AEROSMITH took the ‘Stones interpretation of the blues and customised it for a younger generation. Comparisons with LED ZEPPELIN were somewhat off the mark, the Tyler-Perry partnership closely mimicking that of Messrs JAGGER and RICHARDS, and while the latter two proclaimed themselves “the Glimmer Twins”, so it came to pass that Tyler and Perry were duly christened “the Toxic Twins” in recognition of their legendary mid-70s decadence. `Mama Kin’ and the RUFUS THOMAS cover, `Walkin’ The Dog’, were fine examples of AEROSMITH’s early revved-up R&B strut while their classy rock ballad `Dream On’ scraped the lower rungs of the singles chart.
The Jack Douglas-produced follow-up album, GET YOUR WINGS (1974) {*7}, consolidated the band’s raunch’n’roll, captured in full on `Lord Of The Thighs’, `Same Old Song And Dance’, `S.O.S. (Too Bad)’, `Pandora’s Box’ and a seminal reading of Tiny Bradshaw’s `Train Kept A-Rollin’. Sounding as hoarse and gritty as NAZARETH’s Dan McCafferty or BAD COMPANY’s Paul Rodgers, Tyler had filled the void for Stateside acts not willing to roll over from the influx of new Brit-invasion rock outfits saturating the market.
But it wasn’t until the release of TOYS IN THE ATTIC (1975) {*8} that Tyler and Co staked their claim as one of America’s biggest and sexiest rock acts. Featuring the swaggering `Sweet Emotion’ (a Top 40 hit), the suggestive “schwing” of Fred Weismantel’s `Big Ten Inch Record’, the balladry of `You See Me Crying’ and the supple funk-rock of `Walk This Way’, the record virtually made AEROSMITH a household name – Stateside at least. It went on to sell millions and saw the re-promotion of their debut LP nearly reaching the Top 20.
Quintessentially Stars’n’Stripes, the quintet cut little ice in Britain where pub-rock was just about the order of the day. While Britain was bouncing to the strains of DR. FEELGOOD (and a little later The SEX PISTOLS), American heavy metal kids were skinning up to AEROSMITH’s ROCKS (1976) {*9}, a seminal Top 3 record that saw the band at the peak of their powers. Dirty, sinewy riffs gyrated provocatively against diamond melodies, Tyler’s pout almost audible as he casually reeled off his lurid tales of life on the road. Top 40 breakers `Back In The Saddle’ and the funky crunch of `Last Child’ (penned by Tyler and Whitford; was IAN “Sex And Drugs And Rock And Roll” DURY listening) escalated the band’s profile ten-fold, while youngsters like huge fan SLASH loved the licks on `Sick As A Dog’, `Nobody’s Fault’, `Rats In The Cellar’ and just about everything else.
While AEROSMITH continued to pack out stadiums across America, their fabled penchant for nose-candy was beginning to take its toll on their creative output. Recorded in an abandoned convent just outside the confines of the Big Apple, DRAW THE LINE (1977) {*6} showed signs of fatigue, although judging by the opening screeches of the Top 50 hit title track, it’d might be hard-pushed to see why. With Jack Douglas still at the helm in the studio, the rest of the band had their two-penn’orth worth; Perry sang lead on `Bright Light Fright’, while others contributed to minor hit, `Kings And Queens’ and others such as `Sight For Sore Eyes’ (a joint effort with former NEW YORK DOLLS frontman DAVID JOHANSEN). Maybe it was chugging of the ZZ TOP-esque take of KOKOMO ARNOLD’s `Milk Cow Blues’ that was the catalyst. As covers go, 1978 took on a different shape to the band as they churned out a US Top 30 version of The BEATLES’ `Come Together’, a song spawned from the movie, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The LIVE! BOOTLEG {*6} concert double-disc was exactly what it said on the sleeve, no overdubs, nasty, raw and er… scrap-metal. With punk-rock all the rage, why not AEROSMITH getting in on the act – by default! Anyway, there was room for covers of `Come Together’, Richard Supa’s `Chip Away The Stone’, Clarence Carter’s `I Ain’t Got You’ and JAMES BROWN’s `Mother Popcorn’.
Their sixth studio album in as many years, NIGHT IN THE RUTS (1979) {*5} fell woefully short of the band’s capabilities, although it still managed a Top 20 peak spot; the opening autobiographical `No Surprize’ just about said it all. Tension between Tyler and Perry had eventually led to the latter leaving and forming The JOE PERRY PROJECT, his place on tour and a smidgen of tracks taken up by Jimmy Crespo. With no less than three covers (a third of the set!), fans would have to suffer readings of The SHANGRI-LAS’ `Remember (Walking In The Sand)’ (a QUEEN-like minor hit), The YARDBIRDS’ `Think About It’ and obscure blues nugget, `Reefer Headed Woman’.
With a lack of fresh Tyler material, fans were duly compensated by The JOE PERRY PROJECT, a quartet in the mould of – not surprisingly – early AEROSMITH. Comprising Perry as lead axeman, vocalist Ralph Mormon, bassist David Hull and drummer Ronnie Stewart (all relatively unknown local players), the outfit hit the Top 50 with LET THE MUSIC DO THE TALKING (1980) {*6}. As rousing and rollicking as any hard-rock machine-metal act should be, the title track, `Conflict Of Interest’, `Discount Dogs’ and `Rockin’ Train’ were worthy of inspection.
Scraping into the Top 100, had anybody really noticed that the quartet was led out by another singer; the talented songwriter/rhythm guitarist Charlie Farren superseding Ralph on sophomore set, I’VE GOT THE ROCK’N’ROLLS AGAIN (1981) {*5}; check it out for the turbo-infused `East Coast, West Coast’, South Station Blues’, `Soldier Of Fortune’ and the title track. A complete overhaul for the “Perry Project” saw fresh faces Cowboy Mach Bell (vocals), Danny Hargrove (bass) and Joe Pet (drums) produce a third set, ONCE A ROCKER, ALWAYS A ROCKER (1984) {*4} – glam-metal was taking shape, although a little retro in parts as they covered the T. REX hit, `Bang A Gong (Get It On)’.
Meanwhile, back at the “raunch”, the departing Brad pursued his own project of sorts, as he teamed up with former TED NUGENT guitarist Derek St. Holmes for a one-off WHITFORD/ST. HOLMES (1981) {*5} album. Augmented by drummer Steve Pace and bassist David Hewett, the set sold poorly by comparison to the PERRY equivalent, but one could at least fit `Whiskey Woman’, `Spanish Boy’ and `I Need Love’ into the hair-metal category.
Despite a near-fatal road accident, Tyler soldiered on with a re-vamped AEROSMITH line-up (Rick Dufay for Whitford) for the equally uninspired Top 40 set, ROCK IN A HARD PLACE (1982) {*3}. The all-important chemistry was gone, while the chemicals seemingly continued to take their toll, and it was clear the injection of another Richard Supa song (`Lightning Strikes’) or a cover of the JULIE LONDON classic, `Cry Me A River’, were hardly metal.
Just as it looked like the end for the band, the Toxic Twins settled their differences and the original AEROSMITH line-up signed up to Geffen Records, getting it together for the DONE WITH MIRRORS (1985) {*7} comeback album, their best effort since the 70s heyday. Buoyed by a re-tread of Perry’s `Let The Music Do The Talking’ as it opener, but no solid hits as such, tracks such as `Shela’, `She’s On Fire’, `Gypsy Boots’ and `Shame On You’ showed a fresh promise for the once greats of rock.
AEROSMITH always had the funk and it seemed fitting that their miraculous commercial and creative rebirth was kick-started by black hip hop crew RUN-D.M.C. Their re-working of `Walk This Way’ (a US Top 10 hit a decade ago) was released in the UK at the height of the rock/rap crossover in 1986 when Def Jam roster was a force to be reckoned with and VW badges were in short supply, duly exposing AEROSMITH to a generation of kids who had never even heard of the band.
Bang on cue, the quintessential rockers released PERMANENT VACATION (1987) {*8}, produced by Bruce Fairbairn and a masterful return to form which spawned a classic slice of AEROSMITH sleaze in `Dude (Looks Like A Lady)’. Their first US Top 20 single in yonks, there was further fruits by way of Top 3 smash, `Angel’ (the second to be co-authored with DESMOND CHILD), and the Top 20 gate-crasher `Rag Doll’ (not the FRANKIE VALLI tune but one penned with help from Holly Knight and Jim Vallance); in fact, the only cover was another BEATLES helping: `I’m Down’.
Moreover, the band had almost singlehandedly inspired a whole scene; almost every band in the late 80s glam-metal movement modelled themselves on prime 70s AEROSMITH (i.e. GUNS N’ ROSES, FASTER PUSSYCAT, JUNKYARD, L.A. GUNS, et al). While the majority of these bands quickly faded into obscurity, AEROSMITH left the young pretenders for dust, releasing the adventurous and critically acclaimed, Grammy-award winning PUMP (1989) {*8}. The accompanying Top 5 single `Love In An Elevator’, Tyler’s tongue planted, as ever, firmly in cheek (probably not his own though), gave the band their first UK Top 20 hit. With the album reaching No.3, it finally seemed Britain had cottoned on, albeit fifteen years too late as re-issues of “Permanent” 45s, `Dude’ and `Rag Doll’ completed a resurgence of sorts. A classic period for AEROSMITH, Americans went crazy for further gems such as `Janie’s Got A Gun’, `What It Takes’ and `The Other Side’, although just about anything from “Pump” could’ve succeeded.
Although three or four years in the making, GET A GRIP (1993) {*6} sounded somewhat formulaic (co-writers Child, Vallance and others were still employed), it was still another massive hit nevertheless, as were ballads `Livin’ On The Edge’, `Cryin’’, `Amazing’ and `Crazy’; note too that LENNY KRAVITZ combined for `Line Up’, DAMN YANKEES’ Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw contributed to `Shut Up And Dance’.
After yet another four years away, AEROSMITH’s return for Columbia Records was heralded by the wittily titled Top 50 hit, `Falling In Love (Is Hard On The Knees’)’, a preview of yet another massive selling opus, the Kevin Shirley-produced NINE LIVES (1997) {*6}. Having supplied a few contributions on their preceding venture, Mark Hudson, Marti Frederiksen (both Boneyard Boys), Rhodes Tyler, Desmond Child (as always), Glen Ballard, etc., assisted well on various tracks; the likes of modest hit, `Pink’ (an even bigger UK hit in ’99) and `Hole In My Soul’ overtly infectious for the converted.
AEROSMITH duly unplugged their amps to power-ballad their way to the top of the Hot 100 with `I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’; almost as sentimental as the film it was lifted from (`Armageddon’); Tyler and his cohorts crooned through every filled up wrinkle whilst leaving a few mascara stains on their female fans. The live double-disc A LITTLE SOUTH OF SANITY (1998) {*6} was little more than brainwashing attempt at re-uniting old fans with old songs.
Come the new millennium, the veteran campaigners were back to the hard stuff (music, that is) through JUST PUSH PLAY (2001) {*6}, the Boneyard Boys helping tease out a set which many believed AEROSMITH’s best since Pump more than a decade earlier; `Jaded’, `Beyond Beautiful’ and the title track were typical Tyler-Perry fodder, boisterous and brash while coming up smelling of roses.
Three years on, the Toxic Twins were HONKIN’ ON BOBO (2004) {*6}; no, not some dodgy new drug craze, but a near full scale covers set in the grand tradition of `Train Kept A-Rollin’; the odd one out was the group’s `The Grind’. Rollin’ all the way back to the British blues boom, AEROSMITH indulged themselves with the kind of track listing which their London-centric idols based their career on: BO DIDDLEY’s `Road Runner’, Big Joe Williams’ `Baby, Please Don’t Go’ and WILLIE DIXON’s `I’m Ready’ were the pick of the bunch. Critics were divided on both its merits and motives, reflected by fans in a paltry Top 30 UK placing. Others covers were JIMMY REED’s `Shame, Shame, Shame’, SONNY BOY WILLIAMSON’s `Eyesight To The Blind’, R. Shannon’s `Never Loved A Girl’, MISSISSIPPI FRED McDOWELL’s `Back Back Train’, the REV. GARY DAVIS’ `You Gotta Move’, LITTLE WALTER’s `Temperature’, Clifford Adams’ `Stop Messin’ Around’ and the traditional `Jesus Is On The Main Line’. Over the years, AEROSMITH tried their hand at `My Adidas’ (RUN-D.M.C.), `Love Me Two Times’ (The DOORS), `All Your Love’ (OTIS RUSH), `Helter Skelter’ (The BEATLES), among them.
On the evidence of subsequent live set, ROCKIN’ THE JOINT (2005 – but recorded in Las Vegas in January 2002!) {*4}, Tyler and Perry still had their heads stuck in PETER GREEN territory for quite a few years, grinding out `Rattlesnake Shake’ alongside a set list drawing heavily on their 70s golden era.
Taking a somewhat lengthy sabbatical, AEROSMITH pushed forward again in November 2012 via MUSIC FROM ANOTHER DIMENSION! {*5}. A recent celebrity upgrade for Tyler in the prestigious judging panel of American Idol (as Simon Cowell’s replacement), there was indeed a sheen on the fifteen rockers or ballads presented here. Dusting down the double-decade-old, `Legendary Child’, and roping in outside writers/co-writers, including Diane Warren (on `We All Fall Down’) and Marti Fredericksen respectively, the set lacked none of the schlock and sleaze of previous efforts; American Idol 2005 winner and contemporary-country star, Carrie Underwood, made a guest appearance on the lightest track, `Can’t Stop Lovin’ You’.
Not immune to some stick for his part in the American Idol enterprise, STEVEN TYLER went all country-rock on his summer 2016-released debut album, `We’re All Somebody From Somewhere’.
© MC Strong 1994-2006/GRD / rev-up MCS Dec2012-Jul2016

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