Aerosmith (Contemporary Musicians)
Although many critics of the 1970s dismissed the band as merely a vulgar imitation of the Rolling Stones and other British blues/rock acts, Aerosmith has become one of the most popular acts in rock 'n' roll history. Originally labeled rock's "toxic twins," founding members Steven Tyler and Joe Perry defeated alcoholism and drug use in the 1980s while retaining their characteristic anti-establishment charm and attitude. Chris Norris commented in Spin: "Aerosmith is as close to Hollywood as rock-n-roll gets The Boston crew of Tyler, Perry, guitarist Brad Whitford, bassist Tom Hamilton, and drummer Joey Kramer have gone from being the definitive 1970s hard-rock band to a textbook on economy, surliness, and soul to the ultimate comeback band brought back almost literally from the dead in the mid-1980s to the most bankable act in popular music."
Aerosmith began on the East Coast. Tyler was born Steven Tallarico, son of a second-generation Italian classical musician who played and taught music in Yonkers, New York. The Tallarico family also ran a resort in the Catskills in Lake Sunapee, New Hamp-shire, where Tyler and Perry, whose family had a summer house there, first met. Tyler formed his first band and named it The Strangeurs, later changing the band's name to Chain Reaction. In 1966, Tyler recorded two singles with Chain Reaction. Meanwhile, Perry and future Aerosmith bass guitarist Hamilton formed a combo, Pipe Dream (later Jam Band), also in Sunapee.
In 1970, Perry, Tyler, and Hamilton (whose family also vacationed in Sunapee), formed Aerosmith, with Perry on guitar, Tyler on vocals, and Hamilton on bass guitar. Tyler commented of Perry's hard-edged guitar playing in a 1975 interview with Circus: "I loved Joe's style. He always played out of tune and real sloppy and I just loved it." In 1971, the trio recruited rhythm guitar player Brad Whitford and drummer Joey Kramer and began playing in the Boston area. The band cultivated a young audience following their first successful appearance at Nipmuc Regional High School in Mendon, Massachusetts.
Recorded Debut Album
Aerosmith signed with Columbia Records in 1972. The same year the band entered Intermedia Sound Studios to record their debut album, Aerosmith, which was recorded in only two weeks. Although the album garnered little notice and achieved only modest financial success, Aerosmith got a generally positive critical response and introduced the band to the American public with their classic single, "Dream On." "We weren't too ambitious when we started out," Tyler said in comments at the Aerosmith Unwired website. "We just wanted to be the biggest thing that ever walked the planet, the greatest rock band that ever was. We just wanted everything. We just wanted it all."
Aerosmith's second album, Get Your Wings, further cemented the group's growing reputation, but received mixed reviews. The album, like its predecessor, fell short of achieving blockbuster status and provoked sarcastic comparisons to the Rolling Stones. Charley Walters of Rolling Stone, however, asserted that Aerosmith's second album "surges with pent-up avoids the excesses to which many peers succumb." Get Your Wings remained on the charts for a total of 86 weeks. Between 1974-76, Aerosmith released many of their biggest classic hit singles, including "Same Old Song and Dance," "Sweet Emotion," and "Walk This Way." The band toured heavily as their venues became larger and press coverage correspondingly increased. According to Phil Hardy and Dave Laing in the Encyclopedia of Rock, the band's third album, Toys in the Attic, "represented a milestone in the band's career and became their first album to represent the perfect distillation of the Aerosmith sound, a muscular but surprisingly agile rhythm section with the twin guitars howling and snapping around Tyler's vocal lines." Toys in the Attic stayed on the charts for almost two years.
Rocks, the band's next album, followed the formula of Toys in the Attic, also achieving widespread critical and financial success. "Back in the Saddle," "Sick as a Dog," and "Last Child" remained prominent requests on classic rock stations well into the 1990s. "We were doing a lot ofrugs by then, but you can hear that whatever we were doing, it was still working for us," Perry told Aerosmith Unwired. Draw the Line, released on Columbia Records in 1977, went platinum faster than any previous Aerosmith album. The band's Draw the Line tour lasted through 1978 and early 1979, and their previously hectic recording schedule slowed for the first time. In 1978, Aerosmith released one live album, Live Bootleg, and made their Hollywood debut with an appearance in Robert Stigwood's ill-received film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, in which they covered the Beatles' "Come Together."
During the two-year tour that followed Draw the Line, Aerosmith developed a reputation for drug abuse of legendary proportions, and deep personal animosities developed between the primary band members. Tensions between Perry and Tyler escalated, and during the making of 1979's A Night in the Ruts, Perry bowed out to pursue a solo career with his own group, the Joe Perry Project. The band's 1980 debut, Let the Music Do the Talking, garnered Perry a minor hit with its title cut. Guitarist Jimmy Crespo replaced Perry and the band continued recording, keeping several tracks that Perry had recorded. However, shortly after A Night in the Ruts was completed, Brad Whitford left the band as well. In 1981, Aerosmith replaced Whitford with Rick Dufay.
Regrouped and Got Clean
In late 1981, Tyler was injured in a motorcycle accident, one in which his alcohol consumption was a factor. The accident took off his heel and put him in a hospital for over six months. By the time Aerosmith's next album, Rock in a Hard Place, appeared in 1982, Tyler found that the band's popularity had been eclipsed by a wide range of second-generation heavy metal bands. But in April of 1984, Aerosmith announced to the press that the original band would reunite and tour. The band's members also took their first steps toward defeating their various drug and alcohol addictions. After auditioning for Geffen Records, the band won a new contract.
For their 1986 comeback album, Done with Mirrors, Aerosmith recruited heavyweight producer Ted Templeman, who had worked with Van Halen on its first six albums. Recorded at the Power Station, the album was recorded quickly when, according to Perry, the band went in with some riffs and winged it. Some critics were skeptical about a sober Aerosmith, including a Stereo Review writer who suggested: "A mediocre Aerosmith concert was two hours of imitation Stones. A great Aerosmith concert was a two-minute sound check punctuated by Steve Tyler hurling a bottle of Jack Daniels against Perry's amplifier, followed by ten minutes of pugilism, after which the band would stumble off-stage." Although the album's sales were flat, possibly indicating that Aerosmith's once-loyal audience had lost faith, Aerosmith re-entered the charts for the first time in six years and successfully teamed with Run-D.M.C. for a Rick Rubin-produced remake of 'Walk this Way." The cover was a hit and a new generation of young MTV viewers suddenly became interested in Aerosmith. Robert Christgau of Village Voice asserted, "Against all odds the old farts light one up: if you can stand the crunch, you'll find more get-up-and-go on the first side [of Done with Mirrors] than on any dozen random neogarage EPs."
In 1987, Aerosmith achieved undeniable success following the release of the album Permanent Vacation. The recording went multiplatinum and featured several blockbuster hits, including "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)," "Rag Doll," and "Angel." The album also signaled Aerosmith's introduction to the video medium, initiating a tradition of releasing some of the most popular videos MTV has aired.
Aerosmith continued to build upon their new, younger audience by touring with many of the groups they had helped to inspire, including Dokken, Guns n' Roses, and Poison. From 1987-88 the band produced two live albums, Classics Live! and Classics Live II, as well as a greatest hits compilation, Gems. In 1989, Aerosmith released their second chartbuster of the 1980s, Pump, which went multiplatinum and garnered several MTV Awards, as well as their first Grammy Award for "Janie's Got a Gun."
Continued to Win Awards
Over the next seven years, Aerosmith received two more Grammys and many MTV Awards as they achieved increasing respectability for their ability to deliver high-charged rock while avoiding drugs during an era in which many rock stars succumbed to drugrelated tragedies. In late 1991, Sony signed Aerosmith away from Geffen, investing an estimated $30 million in the band despite the fact that their contract would not begin until 1997. In 1993, the band released Get a Grip, which sold more than five million copies and scored Billboard hits with such singles as "Livin' on the Edge," "Cryin'," "Crazy," and "Amazing."
Nine Lives, Aerosmith's 1997 release for Sony, appeared amidst public allegations of drug relapse and a flurry of personnel changes. The trouble first started when the band fired their producer, John Kalodner, and replaced him with Glen Ballard, who had initially been hired as a songwriter. Next, drummer Joey Kramer temporarily left following his father's death. Kramer was replaced by studio drummer Steve Ferrone. Well into the recording process, Sony communicated its dissatisfaction with the rough cuts of Nine Lives. "I think they were right," commented Whitford. "I was listening to them and I just thought, Huey Lewis." Aerosmith replaced Ballard with producer Kevin Shirley of Silver-chair and Journey fame. Tyler commented of Ballard's release from the band: "the general consensus of the band and the corporation was that, mixed with the fact Joey wasn't down there when we did it, it might be to our advantage to re-record it with someone who has a little more of a rock head and is into the Aerosmith that we all know and love."
In 1998, Entertainment Weekly featured a "centered," "sober, happily married" Tyler, who boasted of an equally sober band. He said of the restraint, "I miss the insanity sometimes. The guy you're talking to who spent 23 years on the dark side of the moon, ripping people off and shooting cocaine with Penthouse models, kind of misses that side, yet I've gained so much more," quoted Sinclair. "Now I've got a couple mill[ion] in the bank, and my children love me, and I'm working on a successful marriage, and I've got my health." In 1998, Stephen Davis wrote a biography of the group titled Walk This Way, based on more than 200 hours of interviews with the band members. Reportedly, Aero-smith held back few details about their wild past. "My sister read it," said Joe Perry to People's Joseph V. Tirella, "and she told me, 'I knew you guys were bad, but I didn't know you were that bad."'
To release their thirteenth studio album, Just Push Play, Aerosmith decided to produce the album themselves. They built a studio in which to mix the albumn the farmhouse beside one of the band member's houses, which held the studio where they recorded. "We locked ourselves down there with the idea we were gonna write the best album that's ever been written," Rolling Stone.com quoted Tyler. Columbia released the hard, edgy album in 2001.
Finally Hit Number One
Despite Aerosmith's popularity, it took nearly three decades for them to get a song to number one on the Billboard charts. In 1998, the group recorded the Diane Warren-written "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" for the Armageddon film soundtrack. The new song won tons of airplay, and took its place among Aerosmith's legendary power ballads. The single stayed at number one for four weeks.
In 2001, Aerosmith joined 'N Sync, Britney Spears, and Mary J. Blige onstage for the Super Bowl halftime show. Aerosmith's performance was "stunning," and pushed the band into the limelight once again. The performance also helped make "Jaded" single from Just Push Play success. Years of just such success earned the group induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.
Into the 2000s, Aerosmith is "exploring just how deep into the middle ages grown men can play rock music without looking like total jacka**es," Entertainment Weeklys Tony Sinclair quipped. Three decades after forming, at the average age of 50, and in the words of Sinclair, "the band's train just keeps a-rollin."'
Aerosmith, Columbia, 1973.
Get Your Wings, Columbia, 1974.
Toys in the Attic, Columbia, 1975.
Rocks, Columbia, 1976.
Pure Gold, Columbia, 1976.
Draw the Line, Columbia, 1977.
Live Bootleg, Columbia, 1978.
A Night in the Ruts, Columbia, 1979.
Greatest Hits, Columbia, 1980.
Rock in a Hard Place, Columbia, 1982.
Done with Mirrors, Geffen, 1986.
Classics Live, Columbia, 1986.
Permanent Vacation, Geffen, 1987.
Classics! II, Columbia, 1987.
Gems, Columbia (compilation), 1989.
Pump, Geffen, 1989.
Pandora's Box, Columbia, 1991.
Get a Grip, Geffen, 1993.
Big Ones (compilation), Geffen, 1994.
Box of Fire, Geffen, 1994.
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A Little South of Sanity (live), Geffen, 1998.
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