Aerosmith – Part 7

Wildwood, NJ – 1984

I was working one Saturday afternoon at my job at Home Video Centers. We rented movies and sold all sorts of video equipment. We played MTV on all of the televisions all day long. It was good background music for the store and the video images looked great on all of the different sets. I was standing with a couple of the sales guys and we were just chatting and watching videos. Then Kurt Loder came on and did the music news. He made the announcement that the original members of the band Aerosmith had drifted back together, put their differences aside, and had gotten back together as a group again. My heart skipped a beat I was so happy. I was glad they were all okay, and prayed a new album would come out soon!

Aerosmith – Done With Mirrors – 1984

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Done_with_Mirrors

All of the text on this album was backward. (No idea) What did the title mean? (It was all just a reflection, or was it a magic trick? (Did the title mean that the band was done snorting coke off of mirrors?) Who knows. I bought the cassette and took it home to listen to it. Let’s review.

  1. Let the Music Do the Talking: They took the title track from Joe’s first solo album and reworked the lyrics and arrangement and made it their own! Great version of an already good song. It’s a great, ‘welcome back song’ for the band.
  2. My Fist Your Face: As the title says, this song hits hard and kicks ass!
  3. Shame on You: Another solid laboring rocker. All of these songs have great Joe Perry riffs!
  4. Reason a Dog: Okay, not bad. Typical slow song for this point on an album.
  5. Sheila: Okay… a song about a girl. Not bad.
  6. Gypsy Boots: I can’t remember this one, but it works okay.
  7. She’s On Fire: Love this one. Solid build and good swing.
  8. The Hop: A jumping tribute to the band!
  9. Darkness: Great ominous closer with some real positive glimmers of more to come.

I loved this record just as much as Rock in a Hard Place. It feels like Rocks 2. I know that’s a bold statement but the band took a few years off from each other and worked to get clean. It doesn’t have the warmth of Rocks and the whole production seems sparse and a bit chilly, but it really kicks ass as an album, and a powerful return of America’s greatest rock n roll band! LOVE!

But… would this be the last time I really loved an Aerosmith album?

Wildwood, NJ – 1987

By 1987, I was out of retail and now working as a loan assistant at a local bank. Aerosmith had been working hard on writing songs, and their sobriety. I was happy about all of that and would buy anything they put out because of my decade-long love affair with them.

This next record feels like a transition for the band. They’re moving towards a more commercial sound. This was the first time I heard Aerosmith songs that I didn’t really care for. I think by then, I loved what I loved and if it didn’t look or sound like what I liked, then I wasn’t that into it. But I’m loyal so I bought it.

Overall this is a solid record for the masses. I never thought of Aerosmith like that. I’m not going to go track by track, which may sound surprising to most, but I’m losing my attraction to the band. It kind of hurt. It was like the beginning of the end of any relationship. You’re trying for a few years, and then the inevitable happens. A few hits came out of this record that were very popular on FM and MTV, but I sort of have lost that loving feeling for Aero. There are moments on this album when I hear the old band, but that ship is vanishing on the horizon. But I’m not 14 anymore. I’m a 25-year-old man now. Anyone expecting to feel what you felt at 14 when you first saw Star Wars or heard the Rocks album is kidding himself and setting himself up for disappointment. But I still love Aerosmith.

Aerosmith – Permanent Vacation – 1987

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permanent_Vacation_(Aerosmith_album)

Hits: Dude (Looks Like a Lady) Rag Doll, and Angel.

The song Angel is the kiss of death for this band. It’s like the song, ‘Nothing Else Matters’ by Metallica. The hardcore fans know the honeymoon is finally over.

My favorites on this record: St. John, Girl Keeps Coming Apart, The Movie. Because they sound like the band I loved!

 

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Aerosmith – Part 6

Los Angeles, CA – Summer 1982

I may have seen an ad for the new record in a magazine or when I was browsing new rock titles at Tower Records in Hollywood. But I bought the cassette and took it back to my apartment to listen to it. I didn’t know what to expect of the band without Joe and Brad. Both guitarists gone from Aerosmith? How could that work? Would it be any good? Would this record be more Tyler-driven or go in a new direction? I was in great anticipation to get the album home.

At the time I was rocking out in my own right. I had also picked up a tape by a new band on the LA scene called Motley Crue. When I listened to their record it sounded like their demo. But it had a simple ferocious sound. It was as if Crue were the bastard sons of Aerosmith.

Anyway, let’s review.

Aerosmith – Rock In A Hard Place – 1982

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_in_a_Hard_Place

Here’s the back cover with the two new guys Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay.

  1. Jailbait: Fantastic song to kick off the new band. It’s reminiscent of the song Toys in the Attic from their 3rd album. It’s a wicked little number that sounds like the Aerosmith I grew up loving. A nasty song that has Steven and the boys in top form.
  2. Lightning Strikes: I would say this is the commercial hit from the album. Solid riff and a badass rocker. Full of swagger. So far, so good.
  3. Bitches Brew: Not bad. Not their best but it’s the third song and we deserve a little break.
  4. Bolivian Ragamuffin: Another good one. Has Steven been saving up songs on his own?
  5. Cry Me A River: This is a cover, but I love this song. They take a tender sad song and turn it into a vengeful screamer. Love!
  6. Prelude to Joannie: Cool little intro.
  7. Joannie’s Butterfly: Kind of a psychedelic retro tune. It’s nice, and a sweet departure that could have fit nicely on Toys in the Attic. (But isn’t Joanie’s Butterfly a sex toy for women?)
  8. Rock In A Hard Place: Title track. A kick-ass apocalyptic rocker. Love this song.
  9. Jig Is Up: I think some of these songs are Steven speaking about the loss and bitterness of losing his buddy Joe Perry. (Lyric: “Let the music do the talking, but all you do is talk about it.”)
  10. Push Comes To Shove: Another solid closer, that sounds like they recorded it in a bar somewhere.

Overall, I love this record. Despite all of their problems and the loss of key members, Steven navigates his ship like a twin-engine speedboat. It proved to me that even without Brad and Joe, this is still a great album that sounds like a real Aerosmith record. This shows that Steven Tyler IS Aerosmith.

Great record! But sadly by now, I’m already cheating on them with Ratt and Motley Crue.

Wildwood, NJ – 1984

I was back from California. Working at the video store and living my life back in Jersey. I saw that this album advertised and out of pure loyalty bought it on cassette.

Joe Perry – Once A Rocker, Always A Rocker – 1983

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Once_a_Rocker,_Always_a_Rocker

This album sucks. Don’t waste your money on it. Sorry, Joe. You look angry and sick on the cover. You’re not Jeff Beck, or Eric Clapton, or Robin Trower, or Stevie Ray… Go to rehab and get yourself together. You’re only cool in Aerosmith next to the other half of “The Toxic Twins” Steven Tyler.

 

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Aerosmith – Part 5

Where’s Joe Perry in the featured pic? Yep. He’s been replaced by now. These are dark days for Aerosmith and me.

Wildwood, NJ – Autumn/Winter – 1979

My older sister was off to college and my father had moved the family to the seashore. It was a dark time for me, having been ripped from my life in Philly. My friends, my band, my school. All gone. I basically had to start over in Wildwood. You can read all about that mess and ultimate triumph in the series, Wildwood Daze on this blog.

But, through all of this darkness, my beloved heroes put out a new record. Somehow they put their drugs down long enough to crank out this album. I will note here that Joe Perry quit the band halfway through the making of this record. Steve Crespo plays on many of the tracks, but The original band is pictured on the cover. I thought the cover was awful. I thought the name sucked too. Oh, what’s your next album going to be called? “A Bic in the Cut?” “Dig Ol’ Bicks?” Come on, guys! What’s happening? I’m counting on you!

Aerosmith – Night in the Ruts – 1979

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_in_the_Ruts

The cover is bleak and the band looks dirty and worn out. Pretty much how I felt much of the winter of 1979 in Wildwood, so I guess it sort of fits.

Let’s go through this album…

  1. No Surprize: Solid opener to the record. I like it and I think it got some airplay. It’s about how the band came up. It’s good.
  2. Chiquita: It’s good. But I’m not thrilled.
  3. Remember (Walking in the Sand): This is a cover of an old Shangri La’s song. It’s not bad, but why this song? Does Steven miss Joe?
  4. Cheesecake: Just more Chiquita stuff here.
  5. Three Mile Smile: Fantastic song. Hard rock kick-ass song in the spirit of Rocks. I’m assuming it’s about the near-meltdown out in Pennsylvania. But the guitar work on this song is searing and I love it. The guitar work is outstanding.
  6. Reefer Head Woman: Another cover here. An old Buster Bennet tune. We get it. It’s about pot. The boys are running out of gas musically at this point. It’s a good song, but I miss the original stuff.
  7. Bone to Bone (Coney Island White Fish Boy): This is a solid rocker. I dig this song a lot. It’s got that manic quality that Rats in the Cellar on Rocks had so I’m in on this one. (Incidentally, a Coney Island White Fish is slang for a spent condom.)
  8. Think About It: Still another cover. This is an old Yardbirds song. But you know what? I kind of love this version. It’s a blast. I can hear the 1960’s sound in there, but the boys supercharged it on this number.
  9. Mia: This is a sad song about I think Steven’s baby daughter at the time. Nothing’s wrong with her, it just feels sad, like You See Me Cryin’ the final track on Toys in the Attic. It’s a haunting ballad, by an absent, drug-addicted father.

Overall I like this record. I like it better than Draw the Line. But we’d be getting another record in the Spring of 1980, but it wouldn’t be an Aerosmith record.

Wildwood, NJ – Spring 1980

I was sitting in the back of our bass player’s station wagon smoking cigarettes and listening to this on cassette. I was the guitarist in a band called Union Jacks by then, and he and I both loved much of the same music. He kind of reminded me of the bassist from my last band, Renegade, because he was a huge music lover.

The Joe Perry Project – Let The Music Do The Talking – 1980

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Let_the_Music_Do_the_Talking

Was I sad that Joe Perry had quit Aerosmith and their future was uncertain? You’re darn right I was. But… I still had all of their previous albums to make me happy, and anything that even resembled Aerosmith was at least something!

I still loved Joe and wanted to be like him, and I would take what I could get at this point. I really couldn’t complain. I had plenty of Aerosmith music and anything new by anyone in that band was welcome.

This brings us to this album. Let’s discuss. I’m not going to go track by track on this one. But I will say this. Joe put out a rock-solid solo album. This a really good hard rock album. It’s not Aerosmith by any stretch, but it still feels good, and I liked just about every song on this album. There are some real kick-ass tracks on this record. Well done, Joe!

The best ones are: Let the Music Do the Talking, Shooting Star, Break Song, and The Mist is Rising. 

Wildwood, NJ – Summer of 1981

Still, nothing from Aerosmith at this point, and the future of the band is unsure. I’m living my life at the seashore, playing in my own band, and working at Hunt’s Pier. Life was good and there’s plenty of rock out there to listen to.

Then this quietly comes out.

Joe Perry – I’ve Got The Rock ‘N Rolls Again – 1981

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%27ve_Got_the_Rock%27n%27Rolls_Again

I really liked his first solo album from last summer and anything was better than nothing at this point. Was Aerosmith finished and all I’d be left with was Joe’s records and my sweet memories from the ’70s?

Joe gives us another 10 new songs to listen to and enjoy. But did we enjoy it this time around? Not really. The songs just aren’t strong enough on this follow-up record. I appreciate that he’s trying, but I’m just not feeling it. I feel like I was the only person who bought this record. Sadly, Joe has withered down to a skinny, frail junkie at this point.

I remember listening to it on cassette on my boombox on the beach. I was with my best friend and lead guitarist from my band. The title track came on and the singer was singing, “I’ve got the rock and rolls again!” My buddy says: “What’s he singing? Is that, I’m a rock and roll chicken?

I laughed but I can never listen to that song without thinking of that funny bit. Actually, I haven’t listened to that record in over 30 years.  If you’re a hard-core fan, go ahead, but it’s just not that good. Joe needs to get off drugs and get himself together at this point.

Whitford St. Holmes – 1981

Here’s something else that was released in 1981, after Brad Whitford also quit Aerosmith. He teamed up with Derek St. Holmes from Ted Nugent’s band. I didn’t know it existed when it came out. I saw it in a cut-out bin in a record store several years later. I’ve never heard the album, so it can’t be part of this series. I assume if I never heard of it in 1981, and didn’t buy it, no one else did either.

Sorry, Brad. You’re awesome but without Tyler and Perry, it ain’t happening. No one cares… (Oh, and the cover blows)

 

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Aerosmith – Part 4

Philadelphia, PA – Winter 1977

I remember coming off the wonderful summer and beginning the next chapter of my life at Frankford High School. It was so much better than where I was a year ago. I had grown and changed. Things were good. At 15 I was almost on the other side of puberty at this point.

It was Christmas morning and one of the presents I got that year was the following record. Of course, my mother had picked that up for me because she knew the rock and knew what I liked. She had also gotten me Heart’s last record called Little Queen which is an okay album. But it does have the song Barracuda on it which could have been a Led Zeppelin tune. But I digress…

Aerosmith – Draw The Line – 1977

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draw_the_Line_(Aerosmith_album)

At this point, Aerosmith could have put out a whole album of them just chatting and drinking at a bar and I would have loved it and listened to it. That’s how much I worshipped this band. The guys who helped pull me through my early teenaged years. Toys in the Attic and Rocks were such great back-to-back albums, it would be nearly impossible for the band to top them. But this a decent attempt. The cover was drawn by the great Al Hirschfeld. The most brilliant caricature artist I’ve ever seen, and I loved his pen and ink work. An artist myself, I loved his simple, elegant, and spot-on style. I would go on to draw replicas of his work on Draw the Line on all of my notebooks at school.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Hirschfeld

To be honest this is a band like many that had barely survived the 70’s mired in grueling tours and hard drug use. The band was tired and fraying a bit. But managed to crank out another decent record. Let’s go through this record.

  1. Draw The Line: This is the title track and the song that was played on the radio. I liked it well enough, but it’s not Walk this Way, or Back in the Saddle. This song would later be the first Aerosmith song I learned how to play on guitar and played it in my first band. I was also the only one who could figure out the words to the last verse of the song, where Steven just screams them out and they are not printed in any sheet music available.
  2. I Wanna Know Why: I love this song. It hits hard with a simple message. It’s probably my favorite song on this entire record. It would have been a welcome addition to Toys in the Attic.
  3. Critical Mass: A cool song but never my cup of tea. It just never lit me up. (Funny, it was the song playing on the cassette when I got in a car accident in 1986)
  4. Get It Up: Neither did this song. What’s it about? Are Steven and the boys having some ED issues due to drug use?
  5. Bright Light Fright: A crap Joe Perry song. Sounds like it’s about a hangover. It’s juvenile and I don’t really care for it.
  6. Kings and Queens: This is a great song. Not my favorite, but a strong medieval-themed tune and a solid progressive rocker.
  7. The Hand That Feeds: More tired crap.
  8. Sight For Sore Eyes: A funky, heavy, delicious song. This one could have been an extra for the Rocks album. For years it was my favorite from this record, but I Wanna Know Why ultimately won out.
  9. Milk Cow Blues: Like Walkin’ the Dog and Big Ten Inch Record before it, this was a cover. It’s just a jam at the end of the album because I’m guessing they just were out of creative work for this album.

So overall, this is a decent record, but the band is clearly slipping. They’re exhausted from touring and being stuck together for the last decade, and drugs and alcohol are taking their toll on this band creatively. But the good thing was, I could always go back and listen to Toys, Rocks, and the first album to get my Ya ya’s out if I needed to feel something.

Let’s move on.

Philadelphia, PA – Autumn 1978

I’m the singer in a band by now. Learning guitar and writing my own songs. We play Draw the Line, Seasons of Wither, and Train Kept a Rollin’ so I’m happier than a pig in poop. It felt wonderful to be part of a band and making the music of my heroes. I felt like I was joining an elite club that had special powers over me and especially the kids in the neighborhood. Especially to my delight… the girls.

The next album Aerosmith released was a live album. I didn’t buy it but our bassist, Larry was an avid music lover and collector and he brought it over. I was delighted that I had some new Aerosmith to listen to, and I’m hoping the band was relieved after Draw the Line to take a break and release this live record.

Aerosmith – Live Bootleg – 1978

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Live!_Bootleg

As I noted in the last chapter, I bought a bootleg of a concert by Aerosmith, called Look Homeward Angel. Apparently back then bootlegging was a rampant practice among touring acts. Aerosmith was bootlegged so much, that when they put out their own live album they gave it the title, Bootleg just to mess with all of the pirates they knew were ripping them off for years. I liked that my favorite band still had a sense of humor.

It’s pretty much a by the numbers double-live album. It was okay with little surprises. I had already heard all of these songs and there wasn’t much new material here. The song, Chip Away The Stone was a good song, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t write it. I like it though. But there were a couple of really old songs from their early live days that really make this album special and worth a listen.

I Ain’t Got You and Mother Popcorn are the two stand-out numbers on this live record. They’re simple and to the point. The band was really young and they’re doing covers. This may have been recorded before their first album. I loved those two songs because they had a young fresh feel. The band was primitive but tough. Kind of like the band I was currently in. Both of these tunes touched me, and I love them both to this day.

 

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Aerosmith – Part 3

Philadelphia, PA – 1977

The first time I heard a little bit of this album was over at my friend RJ’s house. I knew at that moment… I had to own it as soon as possible.

I think I bought this next record at Sam Goody records at the Roosevelt Mall in Philly before I went down the shore that year. I had the first album thanks to my older sister, I heard the second album thanks to my friend Mike, I owned Toys in the Attic, and now to collect the final piece of the Aerosmith catalog. This brings me to this masterpiece.

Aerosmith – Rocks – 1976

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocks_(Aerosmith_album)

Toys in the Attic is to A New Hope, as Rocks is to The Empire Strikes Back.

This is my first choice for desert island records. There are obviously others, but this is the album I’d reach for first if the ship was sinking and I was going to be stranded on a desert island. To me, this the finest work by the band. They have reached their creative zenith and playing. They are one of the certified platinum hard rock acts of the decade. This is what they’ve been building to. A rough house rock album, fueled by rage and drugs. Just an amazing watershed moment in the band’s history. This is the quintessential Aerosmith original recording.

Or as I used to call it… The Soundtrack to My Life.

I listened to this album every day for two years straight. I literally played it so much it lost some of its fidelity because the stylus was dragged through the delicious grooves on the vinyl created by this glorious band. This record is the crown jewel to the soundtrack of my young teenage life. There is no other recording at the time that makes me feel the way this record made me feel in the summer of 1977. It felt as though Aerosmith had recorded every song just for me as a thank you for my loyalty.

Rocks is a love letter to me to tell me that I will survive puberty and will be okay. “We know how you’re feeling, Chaz. We know it feels weird, and it hurts. We know you want everything now. So do we. Let’s get there together through these songs. Take this metal medicine every day, and you’ll get better. Life will get better for you. We’ll never hurt you. We’ll never betray you. We’ll never give you a hangover. We’ll never cheat on you or break up with you. We’ll never scold or hit you. We’re your band. We’re the boys from Boston. We’re Aerosmith, and we belong to you.

I’ll tell you what… I’m not going to do this one track by track. I don’t need to. This record is their finest work, and no matter what anyone says, it is.

This album makes a singular statement. “Aerosmith. Rocks.”

And rock they do, sir.

Oh, and of course I had to buy this belt buckle and wear it every day!

If you can see it, it says 1977 on it so you know it’s legit!

Here’s a pic of my older sister and me. As you can clearly see from this old photo, I’m wearing not only an Aerosmith t-shirt, I’m wearing the very belt buckle I just showed you!

Okay, let’s move on.

Wildwood, NJ – 1977

Things had changed for the better for me. The nightmare of Fels Junior High was over and I was heading down the shore for the summer. Things were looking up for me.

I was on the boardwalk one day. I was probably just wandering around with my next-door neighbor. There was a cool store that was down by Marine Pier called The Fun Shop.

The Fun Shop was probably one of the most unique stores on the boardwalk. It had magic tricks, T-shirts, jewelry, music, and other cool junk for sale. Think Hot Topic before there was a Hot Topic. We were in there looking at some cool black and white prints of celebrities and bands. I was deeply in love with the actress from Charlie’s Angels, Farrah Fawcett, and of course all things Aerosmith.

What I didn’t realize at the time was probably all of their merch and memorabilia was bootleg stuff. The word “bootleg” originates from the practice of smuggling illicit items in the legs of tall boots, particularly the smuggling of alcohol during the American Prohibition era. The word, over time, has come to refer to any illegal or illicit product.

boot·leg
/ˈbo͞otˌleɡ/
adjective
  1. (especially of liquor, computer software, or recordings) made, distributed, or sold illegally.
    “bootleg cassettes”
noun
  1. 1.
    an illegal musical recording, especially one made at a concert.
    The only access we had to celebrities back then was television, movies, and magazines. That’s it. No internet and no social media. Celebrities and rockstars lived on an exclusive planet in our galaxy that we mere mortals could only look upon in limited places. I bought a few photos of Farrah to hang on my wall and a cool photo of Aerosmith.
    But I saw a rack of record albums by artists I was familiar with but not the albums. A two album set by Led Zeppelin called Moby Dick. A Rolling Stones record called Garden State, and the album pictured below.

Aerosmith – Look Homeward Angel – 1976

If you look closely it’s obvious it’s a bootleg. It’s not released by the band. It’s a concert recorded at Madison Square Garden in NYC. It’s on Fantasy Discos, not their label which was clearly Columbia at the time. Luis Martinez is not Jack Douglas.  Aerosmith isn’t recording any albums in Guatemala City. This product is a rip-off made by somebody to make money off the band. They wouldn’t see one cent from the sales of this record. All of the songs are from the 1975 tour to support Toys in the Attic. Because even though their next album was already out, there are no songs from that new record. This is a pure bootleg, through and through.

But to me, anything Aerosmith was something I had to own. The album was only five bucks. I didn’t really know what bootlegging and piracy was back then. I just wanted more rock by a band I loved. So I bought it and took it home.

To be honest, I loved this album. It’s not a bad recording and I got to hear Aerosmith play live for the first time. It was exciting and new to me. I played the hell out of this album and liked it as much as all of their albums. The second side is what really struck me about this record. The live rendition of Train Kept a Rollin’ is spectacular. It’s a furious explosion of hard rock live magic being performed by a great band. On a live recording, you’re lucky if you get those little improvisational extras you can’t get on a studio recording. Near the end of Train, Joe Perry just starts jamming the theme from Batman, the 1966 TV show. I went bananas. I loved that show as a child, and to hear my idol Joe Perry start playing Batman during one of their songs live was just sweet heaven. They close out the song and then burst into Toys in the Attic, which blows away the studio track. It’s so incendiary that it makes the original sound tame.

So even though at 14 years old I’m guilty of buying a bootleg record of Aerosmith, I loved it and it brought me hours of aural joy for many years.

I found this recently on YouTube. This to me really captures the band I fell in love with over 45 years ago. Just glorious!

Thank you, Gods of Rock!

 

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