Aerosmith, sometimes known as "America's Greatest Rock and Roll Band" has sold more than 150 million records worldwide. The group have gone through a number of line up changes but currently comprises vocalist Steven Tyler, guitarist Joe Perry, bassist Tom Hamilton, drummer Joey Kramer, and guitarist Brad Whitford. Aerosmith’s eponymous debut album was followed by the enormously successful Get Your Wings in 1974, Toys in the Attic in 1975 and Rocks in 1976. The band then built on that success with a remarkable comeback in the late 1980s and 1990s, with a string of platinum albums. Aerosmith were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, and in 2013, the band's main songwriters, Tyler and Perry, were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. To celebrate Joe Perry’s birthday on 10 September, Guitars Exchange has selected five of their best records:
Sweet Emotion (Toys in the Attic; 1975)
Sweet Emotion was the single that kicked off a run of hits for the American band. Penned by Tyler and Hamilton, various interpretations have been offered by the band for the meaning behind the lyrics. Many believe that Tyler and the band disliked Joe Perry's first wife, Elyssa; particularly because of an incident in which she allegedly threw milk over Hamilton's wife. A second suggestion put forward by Tyler is that it is about not letting others drag you down; while a third is that it is about the ‘sweet emotion’ he felt towards his daughters. Take your pick!
Perry used a talk box, popularised by Peter Frampton, to create the distortion near the start of the song, before a rocking guitar duel commences. Perry, who is believed to own over 600 guitars, normally plays a Strat for Sweet Emotion performances. Choose the original version of the song to hear the guitar solo at the end, which was edited out in the later version.
Walk This Way (Toys in the Attic; 1975)
Walk This Way was a product of the ‘Toxic Twins’, Perry and Tyler’s, co-work; it originally made number 10 on the billboard charts in 1977 and then was a hit again in 1986 when Run DMC produced their rap version. The famous line ‘walk this way’ reportedly came after the band went to see the Young Frankenstein film in Times Square and were laughing together afterwards about the scene in which Marty Feldman told Gene Wilder to follow him as he limped.
The lyrics tell the story of a high school boy losing his virginity to a cheerleader, but they were sufficiently disguised to get pass the censors at radio and TV stations. The words ‘walk this way’ in this context apparently relate to the experienced girl showing the boy where to put his finger. As Tyler said “if you listen to the words, they're all really filthy!”
Crazy (Get A Grip; 1993)
The ballad Crazy, which peaked at 17 on the US Billboard chart, was co-written by Tyler, Perry and Desmond Child (who also wrote many of Bon Jovi’s, Kiss’ and Alice Cooper’s songs). It had originally been slated for the Permanent Vacation album in 1987, but it was felt too similar to Angel, and so it didn’t appear until the release of Get A Grip. The song earned a Grammy for best rock performance by a group, while the memorable video, which featured Tyler’s daughter, Liv, portrayed two schoolgirls (how not?) jumping into a fast car and using their ample charms to get what they want. The video got heavy rotation on MTV and ended up being ranked number 23 in VH1's Top 100 Music Videos of All Time.
I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing (Armageddon soundtrack; 1999)
The rock ballad I Don't Want to Miss a Thing was written by Diane Warren (who also wrote for Beyonce, Meat Loaf and Mariah Carey) for the disaster film Armageddon, which also featured Tyler’s daughter Liv. The song employed a 52 piece orchestra and was a massive hit, peaking at number 1 in the US Billboard chart and staying at the top spot for a month. The inspiration for the song came while Warren was watching an interview with James Brolin and Barbra Streisand. Brolin said he missed Streisand when they were asleep, and Warren scribbled down the words "I don't want to miss a thing", which later became the song’s hook; although she had never imagined a band like Aerosmith would sing it. The track was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song while the video which accompanied it also received heavy play on MTV. The ballad consolidated Aerosmith’s status as the hottest act on the planet.
Dream On (Aerosmith; 1970)
Penned by Tyler, Dream On is a power ballad that took around six years to come to fruition and was Aerosmith’s first single release. It peaked at number 59 on the Billboard 100, but reached number 1 in the band's home city of Boston as it was played on repeat by the AM station WRKO.
Tyler explained that the inspiration for the song came from his childhood when he used to lay underneath his father’s piano and listen to him play. "That's where I got [the original] Dream On chordage", he said. "The music for 'Dream On' was originally written on a Steinway upright piano… maybe four years before Aerosmith even started. I was seventeen or eighteen. ... It was just this little thing I was playing, and I never dreamed it would end up as a real song or anything. ... It's about dreaming until your dreams come true.” Less prosaically, Tyler has said that "this song sums up the shit you put up with when you're in a new band. Most of the critics panned our first album, and said we were ripping off the Stones.” Perry didn't think much of the song at first. "Back in those days you made your mark playing live. And to me rock 'n' roll's all about energy and putting on a show. Those were the things that attracted me to rock 'n' roll, but 'Dream On' was a ballad… it wasn't until after it became a single that we really started playing it,” he said.