Aerosmith’s 10 best riffs

By Sergio Ariza

Aerosmith is the American hard rock band that has sold the most albums in the world; above bands like Metallica, Bon Jovi, Guns N 'Roses, Kiss and Van Halen. Steven Tyler’s band were formed in 1971 and reached a peak in the mid-70s with records like Toys In The Attic and Rocks. Their sound is a kind of mix between the dirty swagger of the Stones and the monolithic riffs of Led Zeppelin, and that sound comes from a pair of guitarists composed by Joe Perry, the other half of the 'toxic twins’, and Brad Whitford, the underdog of the group. These are 10 of our favourites from their extensive career.  

Walk This Way

Toys In The Attic
prove that third time lucky was right for Aerosmith, as after finishing all the material they had written in the early days for their first two albums, they were in need of composing new material and new influences appeared. Perry had fallen in love with the New Orleans funk band The Meters, after one of his idols, Jeff Beck, recommended it. During a sound test he began to fool around with a 'riff' that reminded him of the band, when Tyler Heard it he went to the drums and begin to develop it. This is how Walk This Way came about, the song that was going to convert them (twice) into stars. The first in the 70s, and the second in the mid-80s when, at the suggestion of Rick Rubin, Run DMC made a version with Joe Perry and Steven Tyler, becoming the first ‘rap song for a rock audience’ and the triumphant return of Aerosmith after years of decline.


Sweet Emotion

Toys in the Attic
was full of great songs, starting with the song that opened this list, the title track, with another furious 'riff' by Perry, and Sweet Emotion, where the guitarist uses a Talk Box at the beginning before returning to give another monumental riff on which Perry sings. Best of all, that riff is not even the best of the song, a place that is occupied by the instrumental that leads back to the chorus. The closest that Perry has ever been to Jimmy Page; although live, he tends to opt for a Stratocaster instead of his beloved Les Paul.

Toys In The Attic

The song that gave its title to one of the band’s best albums opens with another one of those unstoppable riffs but, as it advances, Perry adds another that is equally addictive. It is one of the best examples of how well Perry and Whitford combined together on the six strings, achieving an incredible sound with Ampeg and Music Man amplifiers. Years later, a group as distant as R.E.M. would pay tribute to them with a version that was in their live repertoire for years.

Back In The Saddle

A threatening start on a drone beat rhythm gives way to an incredible riff written by Joe Perry on a Fender Bass VI, while Whitford takes care of the lead guitar and Tyler shrieks, delighted to be back in the saddle (it seems clear that he is not talking about a horse ) again. It may be the best example of Perry's funk and the best possible start to another of their essential records, Rocks.

Draw The Line

Another indisputable classic, with Perry using a Dan Armstrong Lucite for his spectacular work with the 'slide'. It is the song that opened, and gave title, to the last great album of their classic stage, the one in which the 'toxic twins', at the top of their game (and their addictions), delivered 90% of the songs on this list.  

Mama Kin

Focused on a powerful and simple chord riff, Mama Kin proves that Tyler and company also liked the filth and rawness of Johnny Thunders and the New York Dolls. The singer was so convinced of the possibilities of the song that he had Ma 'Kin (his arm was so small that the full title did not fit) tattooed on his arm. Time proved him right and in 1986 a group of ragtags from Los Angeles made a live version. A year later, after the appearance of Appetite For Destruction, they became the best possible heirs of those of Perry and Tyler and claimed their title as the best rock band of the decade - they were Guns' N'Roses and, in a whim of fate, their guitarist Slash would end up with Joe Perry’s beloved Les Paul Standard 59 in his hands (although years later, in a gesture that enlarges him, he would return it for his 50th birthday).


Same Old Song and Dance

Another great riff recorded in the memory of all lovers of classic rock; Same Old Song and Dance is the best song on their second album, Get Your Wings. It is also one of the first examples of collaboration in writing between Tyler and Perry; the 'toxic twins' would continue to make classics for the rest of the decade.


Last Child

Many forget that in Aerosmith there is another excellent guitarist beyond Joe Perry. This is one of the best songs of that 'other', the great Brad Whitford. The song starts as a mid tempo but soon transforms into another one of those funk rocks so to the liking of the band, the interaction of the two guitarists is spectacular, with a riff that makes it impossible not to dance, or to walk, in that particular way. For the cherry on top Whitford is on fire with his Les Paul in the excellent solo.  

Nobody's Fault

If you happen to be one of the favourite songs of people like Slash, James Hetfield of Metallica or Kurt Cobain, you are, beyond doubt, a great song. This is the case with Nobody's Fault composed by Brad Whitford in collaboration with Tyler. No wonder that many consider Whitford the great hero in the shadow of the band; here he gives them one of his heaviest and strongest riffs, although the one that shines at the end with a solo with a lot of wah is that of Perry.

Love in an Elevator

After their commercial resurrection, thanks to Walk This Way by Run DMC, Aerosmith did not take long to return on their own to the charts, and in 1987 Permanent Vacation arrived, which included Dude (Looks Like a Lady); but the real artistic resurrection would come in 1989 with Pump and songs like Love in an Elevator, in which Perry showed that he had not forgotten how to build gigantic riffs and develop them with his Les Paul.