There's an old show biz adage that goes "I have a friend who's a friend of this guy who's good friends with so and so at (insert record label name). It was just this convoluted connection that worked for Aerosmith.
A Boston movie theater owner let Aerosmith rehearse in the space. The owner then invited a local music promoter to see the group. The promoter became the group's manager who, in turn, employed a New York artist management team to secure a recording contract. Columbia Records president Clive Davis was invited by the New York team to see the band perform at Max/Kansas City (a NY club). An impressed Davis signed them providing a six-figure advance.
Early Aerosmith was slammed for being a second-rate Rolling Stones. Stones songs had certainly composed a large part of the band's pre-fame repertoire. Singer Steve Tyler possessed more than a passing resemblance to Mick Jagger. It wasn't his fault. Jagger just got to the look first. Guitarist Joe Perry was pegged as a Keith Richards knock-off. (Of course, Richards was once dismissed as a Chuck Berry knock-off). But Aerosmith wasn't as deeply steeped in the Blues. Their music was Rock based. And like all great Rock, it was over the top. Helping push the ragged edges with Tyler and Perry, were Brad Whitford (rhythm guitar), Tom Hamilton (bass) and Joey Kramer (drums).
The self-titled debut didn't do much in '73 nor did the single "Dream On" (it would rise from the ashes a couple years later). A second effort, "Get Your Wings," also initially failed to garner much attention even though it contained a blistering version of "Train Kept a-Rollin'" and "Same Old Song and Dance." On the plus side, these records got the band out of Boston. They opened for Mott The Hopple, Kinks and even Sha Na Na. Opening for Sha Na Na, that's the true test.
"Toys In The Attic" hit the streets in '75 and featured two Aerosmith classics "Walk This Way" and "Sweet Emotion." The following year a resurrected "Dream On" exploded. Also, "Rocks" was released with "Back In The Saddle" and "Last Child."
"Draw The Line" drew poor reviews and probably deserved them. Aerosmith bounced back with a decent cover of "Come Together" for the ill conceived and just plain awful "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" movie. After a live album Perry departed over alleged musical differences with Tyler and launched the Joe Perry Project. He was replaced but the damage was done. Aerosmith continued to exist but had nowhere near the power. And that's the way it stayed until the mid-80s.
Geffen Records decided to ink a five record/seven million-dollar deal with the out-of-rehab, re-grouped Aerosmith. "Done With Mirrors" did OK but "Permanent Vacation" was a classic. The unforgettable "Dude (Looks Like A Lady)," with the sax riff and sly lyrics (pulled off perfectly by Tyler), was accompanied by a comical MTV video. Perry and Tyler also teamed up with Run D.M.C. to create a Rap/Rock version of "Walk This Way." It too was an MTV fave. To close out the '80s, the band scored with "Love In An Elevator" delivering all the innuendoes that situation provided. Aerosmith rolled into the '90s with another hit, "Janie's Got A Gun." "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing," a ballad, from the Armageddon soundtrack was Aerosmith's biggest worldwide hit (figures). The '98 release was written by pop songwriting machine Diane Warren. Tyler and Perry also managed to show up in a GAP commercial.
Taking a turn toward R&B, the kind that inspired the group decades earlier, Aerosmith released a covers album, "Honkin' On Bobo," in '04. The following year Perry returned with his fourth solo album "Joe Perry" (catchy title).
Keeping with the recycling theme, Aerosmith released the live DVD "Rockin' The Joint" in '05. It was recorded during a January '02 Vegas show at the Hard Rock Hotel and included "Draw The Line" and "Walk This Way" as well as behind-the-scene clips. The CD side featured 11 songs, six of which were from Areosmith's '75 classic "Toys in the Attic."
Usually, a group releases a live album after a tour but this effort arrived prior to a North American jaunt. The tour had a bumpy start. Kramer, suffering from a rotor cuff injury, enlisted his son Jesse to help out on drums. It's hell to get old.
But there was another, more serious, band aliment. Hamilton announced that he'd been diagnosed with throat cancer requiring seven weeks of radiation and chemotherapy. As a result, he dropped from the group's '06 Route Of All Evil Tour. Prior, Hamilton had never missed an Aerosmith show. David Hull (The Joe Perry Project) filled in. When the tour hit Boston, Hamilton appeared onstage for "Sweet Emotion" before permanently rejoining the group, three months later, at a show in New York's Beacon Theatre.
Apparently not content with GAP commercials and the occasional Aerosmith TV appearance, Tyler played himself in an '06 episode of the CBS sitcom Two And A Half Men. Tyler claimed he really enjoyed filming his guest role and "would love to" be asked back." It was Tyler's second appearance on the comedy having done a voice-over during the '03 season. "I had such a good time, it made me think of changing careers," he joked to the press.
Next, Aerosmith's compilation "Devil's Got A New Disguise" dropped. The 16-track disc included two previously unreleased tunes, the title track and "Sedona Sunrise." Why release yet another compilation? "We were working on getting a studio record out (this year - '06), but we just couldn't do it," said Perry. "There wasn't enough time." The group had a pending North American tour. So there you go.
Not having an album of new material out didn't prevent Tyler from making a rather unusual TV appearance. An '07 National Geographic Channel special called the Incredible Human Machine featured Tyler's vocal cords. There was high-definition footage of his larynx taken during his spring '06 throat surgery. Tyler underwent an experimental operation to repair a burst blood vessel in his throat that caused the cancellation of a number of Aerosmith tour dates.
Also, Tyler auditioned to front a Led Zeppelin reunion after founding vocalist Robert Plant declined to participate. Apparently, Tyler failed to mention the audition to his Aerosmith bandmates (which goes a long way toward explaining their issues with him). As it turned out, Tyler was not prepared for his try-out and that was the end of that. A Whole Lotta Love became Dream On.
At the '07 Boston Music Awards, Hamilton received a Personal Achievement Award. The bassist was honored for his successful bout against cancer and his help in supporting the community. A few days later, Tyler attended the Champagne Ball and Ride For Children events in Hollywood, FL. He autographed a guitar custom-made by the Red Wing Motorcycle Company that was part of a charity auction. Proceeds benefited young people with life-threatening diseases.
Hamilton donated a Harley-Davidson motorcycle and other memorabilia to the Hard Rock Boston the following year. In return, the Hard Rock company presented $30,000 to Massachusetts General Hospital's YouthCare behavioral-therapy program, which Hamilton and his wife supported. "We've wanted to use the bike to raise funds for the program, and we're excited and grateful (for) such a fat check," said Hamilton.
Sometimes things are just too good to last. The '09 joint Aerosmith/ZZ Top tour was a perfect example. These two bands - one stage - awesome. Even Perry was stoked. "We got our work cut out for us, and the audience gets the benefit. It's gonna be a riot." During the tour Aerosmith played songs from select albums "front-to-back." That was June.
In early August Tyler suffered serious injuries when he fell from a catwalk during the band's concert at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. Tyler was airlifted to a hospital for treatment. He had a broken shoulder, gashes in his back and his head needed stitches. With Tyler on the mend, Aerosmith pulled the plug on the remaining dates. "Words can't express the sadness I feel for having to cancel this tour," said Perry. "We hope we can get the Aerosmith machine up and running again as soon as possible."
But the 'Aerosmith machine' slipped a few gears. Following weeks of speculation, Perry confirmed that the band was looking for a singer to replace Tyler. "Aerosmith is definitely not breaking up," wrote Perry on his Twitter page. "Aerosmith is positively looking for a new singer to work with. You just can't take 40 years of experience and throw it in the bin!"
The very next day, Tyler made a surprise onstage appearance with the Joe Perry Project in New York. "I just want New York to know, I am not leaving Aerosmith," Tyler told the audience. But Perry still claimed landing another singer was a consideration. "He [Tyler] wants to take two years off from the band (to pursue his own projects)," he said. "The rest of the band wants to keep on working. We have so many different options to fill up that time. Anything is possible at this point."
It turned out Tyler's solo desires were not the main sticking point and that there was a lot more to his fall in South Dakota than initially reported. The incident prompted the band to insist that Tyler deal with his addiction issues. "There was a lot of reconciling and processing feelings and stuff," Hamilton later stated in a Boston Herald interview.
Finally, it was a February, '10, band meeting that decided Tyler would remain Aerosmith's frontman for the Cocked, Locked and Ready To Rock European tour. "I just auditioned and I got the gig," said Tyler in a video announcing the trek. "We will carry on and do what we do best," added Kramer in a separate interview.
"It sucked," Hamilton said of the controversy. "I hated that it was that way for a few months."
So with that crisis over, or at least under control, it was on to the next one.
Though rumored for months and publically discussed for weeks, the official announcement finally arrived that Tyler was an American Idol season 10 judge. He joined fellow newcomer Jennifer Lopez and the last standing original judge, Randy Jackson. So how would this TV commitment impact Aerosmith (considering Tyler's past traumas)? "We might actually get more work done because we haven't always been so disciplined when it comes to schedules," said Whitford. "When Steven's filming, it'll only be two days a week, so it's our intention to do some new recording on his days off."
Perry wasn't quite so supportive. "It's his business, but I don't want Aerosmith's name involved with [American Idol]. We have nothing to do with it," Perry added. "[Idol] is a reality show designed to get people to watch that station and sell advertising . . . it's one step above Ninja Turtles."
With Idol cranking up, Aerosmith began recording again. While word from the studio was all positive, Perry was absent from those sessions.
So what was Perry's status? Via Twitter he confirmed he was still in Aerosmith and that the rest of the band had merely gotten together to write songs. Just to drive the point home Perry tweeted, "I am in AEROSMITH. I am not going anywhere."
Meanwhile, Tyler was taking advantage of his national exposure. He released a solo single, "(It) Feels So Good" with the accompanying video making its premiere on American Idol.
Not to be outdone, two instrumental tracks by Perry were featured on the CBS crime series CSI. "It was really exciting that CSI gave me this opportunity to contribute to the show," said Perry. "The first piece is pure adrenaline Rock 'n Roll. The second gave me a chance to work for my DJ son Roman, who contributed some of his electronic dance music." The episode was titled "Dune And Gloom."
Then the attention shifted back to Tyler who surprised many (nearly everybody) by announcing he was leaving his post as a judge on American Idol. "After some long... hard... thoughts… I've decided it's time for me to let go of my mistress 'American Idol' before she boils my rabbit," said Tyler, who added that he wanted to focus his energy on the band.
"Music From Another Dimension," Aerosmith's first album of original material in 11 years, had "LUV XXX" as the lead track. "Instead of mentioning peace - which is an overused name - I figured I would say 'love three times a day'," said Tyler, who wrote the lyrics. "That's partly joking and partly truth."
John Lennon's son, Julian, sang harmony. "When Julian sang with me, we used the same mic and set it up like his father and Paul [McCartney]," continued Tyler. "He sounds so much like his dad, and he's so good. He has such a character to his voice."
"That's just one of those songs that we pounded away on for at least two full days of arranging and trying different ideas before we went out in the big room and played it," added Hamilton, referencing the 15x15 rehearsal room the band used to work out songs.
While Tyler and Perry composed the majority of songs on "Music From Another Dimension," Hamilton wrote two songs, "Tell Me" and "Lover Alot." "I felt really strong about wanting to make a contribution to this record that I could point to," said Hamilton.
"Music From Another Dimension" only sold 63,000 copies in its first week (to debut at #5 on the Billboard 200). That isn't bad unless expectations are 10 times greater (which, at a minimum, they were). To add insult to injury, Rod Stewart's Christmas album, released at the same time, moved 160,000 copies. C'mon!
Many stops on Aerosmith's supporting tour failed to sell-out which led to reports of internal squabbling (later denied by the band's management). Tyler countered claiming the trek had helped heal some long standing wounds. "It's funny that it took that for the band to realize how important we are to each other," explained Tyler to Billboard. "Somewhere along the line there it got the band happy again." Rock For The Rising Sun, a tour DVD, dropped in July of '13.
Another bright moment appeared when Tyler and Perry received the '13 ASCAP Founders Award during the 30th annual Pop Music Awards at the Loews Hollywood Hotel. "To be recognized by ASCAP (a performing rights organization) with the Founders Award is a huge achievement," Tyler said in a statement.
Well, Aerosmith is not just Tyler and Perry doing things. Later in the year, Kramer announced the launch of Kramer's Rockin' & Roastin' coffee. "I'm a coffee addict forever," the drummer told the Boston Herald (well, of course!). The brand was available throughout New England.
1974 Get Your Wings
1975 Toys In The Attic
1977 Draw The Line
1979 Night In The Ruts
1982 Rock In A Hard Place
1985 Done With Mirrors
1987 Permanent Vacation
1993 Get A Grip
1997 Nine Lives
2001 Just Push Play
2004 Honkin' On Bobo
2012 Music From Another Dimension
Well, somebody's got to do it. There has to be a group that really lives the Rock 'n' Roll lifestyle to the hilt. In the '70s it was Aerosmith's turn. That means getting the albums that were recorded before drugs, alcohol, internal disputes and God knows what else took over. Aerosmith's self-titled debut with the raving "Dream On" and sophomore effort "Get Your Wings" are good but they pale in comparison with the two that followed. "Toys In The Attic" and "Rocks" represent the group's '70s peak. "Sweet Emotion" and "Walk This Way" highlight "Toys In The Attic." The scorching "Back In The Saddle," "Last Child" and the ever-popular "Rats In The Cellar" shoot out of "Rocks." After that, Aerosmith hit the skids. Their label, figuring the end is at hand, put out "Aerosmith's Greatest Hits" which is one great compilation.
Cleaned up and back in action Aerosmith starts on the comeback trail in the mid '80s but doesn't really click until '89 with "Pump" ("Janie's Got A Gun") and the follow up "Pandora's Box." "A Little South Of Sanity" and "Get A Grip" are nearly as good as "Pandora's Box" and carry Aerosmith through the '90s.
"Honkin' On Bobo" finds Aerosmith returning to their R&B roots. The trick to doing a covers album is picking songs that work together and are within a group's grasp. The next thing is to bring something different or unique, to each song. No arguing the song selection. On the other two counts - Aerosmith is a tight, well-oiled unit. There's probably not a whole lot in the Rock/Blues canon they can't handle. What they bring is their easily identifiable reading of the material. This isn't Stax-Volt, Chess or early Atlantic, it's a Rock take on R&B. "Road Runner," "Shame, Shame, Shame" and "Baby, Please Don't Go" are pure rave-ups like the Yardbirds used to do. Only Aerosmith has been around much longer, is far looser and more fun. The Chicago influence shows up on "You Gotta Move" and "Stop Messing Around." The one trip to the delta comes on set closer "Jesus On The Mainline." Aerosmith careens through a no tears run at the Blues and R&B. "The Grind," an original, fits in perfectly.
After an extended recording absence and public bickering, "Music From Another Dimension" is a make or break album for Aerosmith. And in typical Aerosmith fashion, they do both. It's not 'music from another dimension', rather it's music from Aerosmith's glory days.
"Legendary Child" has Tyler and Perry vying for attention, each upping their game, above a killer rhythm track and 'whoa, whoa, whoa' backing vocals. But "What Could Have Been Love" is just another version of their huge '90s hit "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing." It is every bit as good as any Bryan Adams ballad. "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" was written by Diane Warren (see above). She is represented on this album by "We All Fall Down." It must have been a confidence builder knowing they had a pop (sales) ace with a Warren-composed track.
Aerosmith recovers with "Lover Alot." The song just kicks with the band in total synch - which happens more often than not.
"Rockin' The Joint" DVD is just what you'd expect - a roll through the group's "A" material with a couple relatively obscure tracks just to keep it interesting.