Aerosmith are an American, blues-based hard rock band from Boston, Massachusetts. The band formed in 1970 with original members Joe Perry (lead guitar) and Tom Hamilton (bass), who met with Steven Tyler (vocals), Joey Kramer (drums), and Ray Tabano (rhythm guitar). Tabano would be replaced in 1970 by Brad Whitford. Aerosmith are best known for their songs “Dream On,” “Walk This Way,” “Sweet Emotion,” “Mama Kin,” “Janie’s Got a Gun,” “Cryin’,” “Livin’ on the Edge,” and “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.” Aerosmith have influenced a number of rock and heavy metal bands, including Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, Motley Crue, Skid Row, and Stone Temple Pilots.
Aerosmith’s story is one of the most dramatic in rock n’ roll, with the band falling from grace in the late 70’s, then regaining their status as the “greatest rock n’ roll band in America” in the late 80’s. Their self titled debut album was released in 1973 to Columbia Records. It includes the live staple “Mama Kin,” as well as the song “Dream On,” which is sometimes referred to as the first power ballad. Aerosmith received little attention in 1973, however, began to chart in 1976 after Toys in the Attic became a success. Their second album, Get Your Wings, produced by Jack Douglas, introduced a variation of the famous winged logo Aerosmith would come to use on all subsequent albums. With growth by leaps and bounds, Get Your Wings performed better, reaching number 74 on the Billboard 200. It contained the dark blues-hard rock songs “Lord of the Thighs,” “Seasons of Wither,” “Same Old Song and Dance,” and the band’s cover of the Yardbird’s song, “Train Kept a Rollin’.”
Their next album would receive major commercial success. Toys in the Attic peaked at #11 on the Billboard 200 on its release date in April, 8, 1975. The album would go on to sell 8 million copies, driven by the success of the songs “Sweet Emotion” and “Walk This Way.” The LP is regarded by fans as one of their best, with favorites “Ten Inch Record,” “Uncle Salty,” “No More No More,” and the classic title track, “Toys in the Attic.” The album would propel the band to superstardom, prompting the re-release of the single “Dream On,” which hit #6. Aerosmith and Get Your Wings recharted due to the success of Toys in the Attic, both going multi platinum in the process.
The follow up album Rocks would be another massively successful album, largely regarded as their best album ever recorded. Rocks, released May 3, 1976, contained the hit singles “Back in the Saddle” and “Last Child.” It is highly praised from those within the hard rock and heavy metal community for its strong influence on those genres. “Combination,” “Nobody’s Fault,” “Lick and a Promise,” and “Rats in the Cellar” are excellent heavy tracks from the album. After the success or Rocks, the band began to headline major festivals and toured relentlessly in support of the album.
Draw the Line, the band’s fifth studio album, was released in 1977. It achieved double platinum status, and is known for the singles “Draw the Line” and “Kings and Queens.” The famous cover art was depicted by caricaturist Al Hirschfeld. During this time, the band began to fall into heavy alcohol and drug abuse, which affected their live performances, leading to the nickname of “The Toxic Twins” referring to Steven Tyler and Joe Perry’s intoxication and toxic drug relationship. The live album Live! Bootleg, released in October 1978, featured many of the band’s classic songs, along with the first appearance of the song “Chip Away the Stone.” Interestingly, the song is one of the band’s first to be penned by outside writers, a foreshadowing of things to come later in their career. Richard Supa wrote the song, who would later co-pen the hits “Lightning Strikes,” “Amazing,” and “Pink.” Later, he’d write songs for Ozzy Osbourne, Richie Sambora, and Pink.
In 1978, the band had an acting role in the critically and commercially panned film, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. The song “Come Together,” the Beatles cover song, was released for the soundtrack and still receives frequent radio airplay. Their role as “Future Villain Band” was a big disappointment, since they were defeated by the far less rock oriented Bee Gees.
Amidst the recordings of their sixth studio album, Night in the Ruts, founding guitarist Joe Perry left to form The Joe Perry Project. Perry was replaced by Jimmy Crespo to finish the songs Perry had not yet completed. In November 1979, Night in the Ruts was released with little fanfare and only the single “(Remember) Walking in the Sand,” a cover of a song originally by the The Shangri-Las. The album, compared to previous releases, performed poorly, and only reached #67 on the Billboard 200. The band continued to tour in support of the album through 1980.
In 1980, Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits was released, a ten track “best of” compilation which featured shortened cuts of some of their classics like “Sweet Emotion” and “Kings and Queens.” It sold a staggering 11 million copies since its release, but did not sell well initially.
In 1981, lead singer Steven Tyler was hospitalized for a motorcycle injury that would put him out of commission for months. Later in the year, original rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford left the band, and recorded his album Whitford/St. Holmes, featuring Ted Nugent vocalist and guitarist Derek St. Holmes. The band recruited guitarist Rick Dufay as his replacement for the upcoming album Rock in a Hard Place. That album cost the band $1.5 million to record, and only resulted in the minor hit “Lightning Strikes.” During the touring for the album, Steven Tyler famously collapsed onstage after getting high backstage with Joe Perry, who was in attendance at the Worcester, MA homecoming show.
The original lineup of the band regrouped after Joe Perry and Brad Whitford were in attendance at a show at the Boston Orpheum on February 14, 1984. Two months later, the five original band members would reunite for the successful Back in the Saddle tour. The band was signed to Geffen Records at this time, and began to work on their next album, Done With Mirrors. While the album didn’t have any hit singles and only went Gold, their touring in support of the album, as well as the release of Classics Live I & II, and the compilation album Gems, began to reignite interest in the band.
In 1986, the band collaborated with RUN-DMC on a remake of their classic song, “Walk This Way.” It was a defining moment in the history of both RUN-DMC and Aerosmith, as the rap-crossover helped introduce them to a new generation of fans. It reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was in heavy rotation on MTV.
While the band’s future seemed to be improving, drug problems still plagued the band. All band members entered rehab at the insistence of manager Tim Collins, who promised the band would become the biggest rock band in the world by 1990 if they could become clean and sober. Over the next two years, the band moved towards sobriety, and worked on their album Permanent Vacation. The album yielded three high charting singles on the Billboard Hot 100, which were “(Dude) Looks Like a Lady,” “Rag Doll,” and “Angel.” The last song bears the mark of many power ballads recorded at the time, which were the hallmark of glam metal bands. It also is the first instance of the band using the help of outside writers with their music to produce hit songs. The band’s use of outside writers worked, and the album sold five million copies. In 1987, the band embarked on a successful tour where Guns N’ Roses opened for them throughout the concert dates.
On September 12, 1989, the band released their album Pump. It was a massive critical and commercial success, selling 7 million copies, making it their highest charting release since the 70’s. The hits “Love in an Elevator,” “Janie’s Got a Gun,” “What it Takes,” and “The Other Side” were all popular songs that received major radio airplay. The cover of the album featured a black and white photo of a truck with another smaller truck on top of it, with the word “Pump” (insinuating two trucks having sex). In 1990, the band won a Grammy for their song “Janie’s Got a Gun,” and performed on the massively popular sketch Wayne’s World on Saturday Night Live. They would tour in support of Pump throughout 1990, which included the episode of MTV Unplugged in August, 1990. In 1991, the band recorded a video for the song “Sweet Emotion,” which was remixed for the box set Pandora’s Box.
In 1992, the band recorded the followup to Pump, titled Get a Grip. It was released on April 20, 1993, and was a continuation of the use of outside songwriters. Though the album was released during the height of grunge, it was enormously successful, selling 7 million copies, with the band winning MTV’s Video of the Year Award in 1994. The album contained the hits “Cryin,” “Crazy,” “Amazing,” (the three of which were parodied on Saturday Night Live for their similarity), as well as the harder rock songs “Livin’ on the Edge,” and “Eat the Rich.” This was the last album that Aerosmith would record for Geffen Records. In 1994, the band released Big Ones, a compilation album from the Geffen years, which contained three new songs, “Blind Man,” “Walk on Water,” and “Deuces are Wild.”
The band returned to Columbia Records for their next album, Nine Lives. It was initially to be produced by Alanis Morissette producer, Glen Ballard, who wound up co-penning three of the album’s best tracks, “Falling in Love is Hard on the Knees,” “Pink,” and “Taste of India.” The rest of the album was produced by Kevin Shirley, and had songwriting help once again by Desmond Child. The album contained the singles “Hole in My Soul,” “Full Circle,” and the huge hit, “Pink.” On August 8, 1998, the band released their song “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” a song penned by famous songwriter Diane Warren. The ballad reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, the band’s only song to do so. It was officially released on the Armageddon Soundtrack. In 2000, the band entered the studio to record their 13th studio album.
The band performed at Super Bowl XXXV to perform their song “Walk This Way” guest starring Mary J. Blige, N’ Sync, Britney Spears, and Nelly. Notably, Justin Timberlake of N’ Sync was unfamiliar with the classic song and had to learn it for the performance. Just Push Play was released on March 6, 2001, which went Platinum and contained the hit single “Jaded.” The songs “Fly Away from Here” and “Sunshine” received MTV airplay, while the song “Just Push Play” received rock radio attention in late 2001. The album received mixed reviews, and again used outside songwriters. It would turn out to be their last studio album for eleven years.
In 2004, the band recorded a blues cover album, Honkin’ On Bobo. It was produced by Jack Douglas, who produced Get Your Wings, Toys in the Attic, Rocks, and Draw the Line. It received positive attention from fans and critics, and was driven by the single “Baby, Please Don’t Go.” Later, Joe Perry would release his self titled solo album, while the band continued to release various compilation albums and live albums.
The band continued to work on their next studio album with producer Jack Douglas, taking breaks to play long headlining gigs throughout the 2000’s. With several delays, including Tyler’s injury in Sturgis, South Dakota onstage, the recording of their album was put on hold indefinitely when Tyler pulled out of a South American tour to reportedly focus on “brand Tyler.” His pursuit of a solo album and penning his autobiography took up much of his time, which led to much drama between Tyler and Perry, including statements by Perry that the band were looking for replacement singers to replace Tyler. Tyler’s lawyers sent a cease and desist letter to Aerosmith to halt their search for a new singer, which resulted in more bad blood between the band and Tyler. The band, however, with Tyler on vocals, went on tour in 2010.
In 2010, Steven Tyler became one of the judges on American Idol, which was often criticized by Joe Perry. This took time away from the recording of the much delayed new Aerosmith album, while the band was not consulted in Tyler’s choice to become a talent judge. Ultimately, the band released their single “Legendary Child” on American Idol on May 23, 2012, while the album Music From Another Dimension was released on November 6, 2012. The reviews were mostly positive for the album. The album contained the singles “Legendary Child,” “Lover Alot,” “What Could Have Been Love,” and “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You.” The album failed to yield a successful ballad, which may point to the demise of the success of the tried-and-true outside songwriters formula the band has used since Permanent Vacation.
- Aerosmith (1973)
- Get Your Wings (1974)
- Toys in the Attic (1975)
- Rocks (1976)
- Draw the Line (1977)
- Night in the Ruts (1979)
- Rock in a Hard Place (1982)
- Done With Mirrors (1985)
- Permanent Vacation (1987)
- Pump (1989)
- Get a Grip (1993)
- Nine Lives (1997)
- Just Push Play (2001)
- Honkin’ on Bobo (2004)
- Music From Another Dimension (2012)