The Great American Band

Sometime in the late 60’s early 70’s Steven Tyler was at a crossroads. He had been working as a professional a drummer in a band but they weren’t exactly going in a direction that Tyler wanted. He was ready for a change and so found himself at his parents summer house in the early winter freezing and trying to figure out what would come next. He ran into a guy he knew and they talked a but and the guy knowing Tyler already had a couple of records under his belt invited him to come out and see his band play. Tyler felt the band was just absolutely horrible but when that kid came out and played it brought electricity to his soul. Thus began the strange and sometimes hostile relationship between Joe Perry and Steven Tyler. Years later after Perry had left Aerosmith and Aerosmith was struggling to fill even clubs Tyler went to see the Joe Perry Project at another venue. Again he felt it was a horrible band but there was Perry and the way he played guitar and all that electricity. Thus began the comeback.

In the Summer of 1976 I was 13 years old. When I look back I can’t remember a better summer than that one. For some time my father had been talking about a trip to Fort Campbell, Kentucky where he had served with the 101st Airborne Division and my sister Sherry was born. So naturally my sister was excited. Normally a car ride with both my sister and myself was going to be a small war. We fought like cats and dogs but I don’t remember us fighting much. Because it was a long trip there was some bribery going on that began with the radio. Normally we listened to what my dad chose but on this trip he chose radio stations that he knew we would like the music. W also made a stop at Vicksburg where I gave everyone a tour of the battlefield. It seemed the same song was being played on every radio station. My dad was making fun of it and since I could not understand any of the lyrics I joined in too. In every state on every station the same song was plying. My sister was the only one who even knew who the band was. I am sure that Aerosmith had some airplay prior to the album Rocks, but Toys in the Attics the prior album had been a failure and mostly the band was struggling to get more than a foothold. And so we laughed at the song Last Child over and over again but by the time we got home I wanted that album and Rocks became my first Aerosmith album. Soon after Walk this Way was released as a single from the album Toys in the Attic and I had both albums.

Rocks remains a really special album because of that summer vacation.  I believe side 1 of Rocks is the greatest side of any rock album of all time. Now let me qualify as there are a couple o Beatle albums that I think have better sides and an Elton John side that I think is greatest side of all time. But Aerosmith is really a different kind of band, they are a rock band like the Stones, like Led Zeppelin. I will put Back in the Saddle, Last Child, Rats in the Cellar and Combination against any of those bands and their best sides and remember I have most if not all of the albums that could challenge Rocks side 1.

I followed Aerosmith until their slow fall from grace.  I hated to hear the stories of Tyler’s addicton. He was one of my heroes and I just did not want him to die and did not want the band I loved slip into something pathetic but lets face it they became pathetic and ultimately Perry and Tyler split. Tyler stayed with a bastardized version of Aerosmith and despite everything he kept it alive. Now I love Run D-M-C. They are total greatness but I hated their version of Walk This Way. Because of how much I loved that band it was irreverent for me to hear them mess with a great song even if Aerosmith loved it and participated. It did get Aerosmith noticed but it was still a slow crawl back to the top. They had a really good album in Permanent Vacation and then re-invented themselves with Pump. What an album, and every song and every video just audacious. How could you not love that band that album those songs.\? They became hit makers helped along the way by the greatest video chick ever Alicia Silverstone. They had wonderful hit songs. I love I don’t Wanna Miss a Thing. Its a beautiful song.

You never really know if they are coming or going. Its been awhile since they have had a hit song. That’s okay. Joe Perry has had a couple of heart attacks and I worry that soon they will be gone, and gone for good. We make jokes about the old rockers especially Keith Richards, but the truth is they won’t live forever. One day they will be gone and while they leave behind a wonderful legacy and for most of us a slew of memories it wont be the same knowing they aren’t part of the world. Right now Aerosmith is in Las Vegas doing a residency. How awesome. I have seen some videos. They don’t jump around as much, Tyler can’t hit the notes that he used to but there is something about them, like Steven Tyler seeing that kid Joe Perry play for the first time; electric down to the roots of your soul.

I get a little frustrated when people talk about the greatest bands of all time. Now I will give you this the Rolling Stones are the greatest band to ever walk the planet but throw the Beatles out. They were a studio group only and they never could rock like the Stones. I will put Aerosmith right there though. They are every bit as good as the Rolling Stones and they are an American Band.

Mike Out

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