has defined, for more than 30 years, American Rock and Roll.
Just a brief overview of their remarkable career is truly mind-boggling:
over 100 million albums sold, countless awards (Grammy's, American
Music Awards, Billboard Awards, MTV Awards), and a diehard fan-base
in the millions worldwide. As the band embarks on yet another
world tour to support their 25th release Honkin' On Bobo, they
remain creatively vital, and are the platinum standard for artistic
and commercial success in the music business. Through it all they
have defeated the odds, silenced their critics and have undeniably
withstood the test of time.
It began almost by
chance back in 1969, in of all places, Sunapee, NH. Drummer/singer,
Steven Tyler, then fronting a NYC band called Chain Reaction,
dropped into the local dive, a club called the Barn to check out
The Jam Band featuring guitarist Joe Perry and bassist Tom Hamilton.
Steven was blown away; "The energy was just so intense. I
looked and it was like Joe Perry was the electric guitar. If I
can put that energy together with something that my father gave
me, that classical influence, we might have something." By
the next year, the three had joined forces. They recruited Tyler's
old Yonkers buddy, drummer Joey Kramer, and christened the new
band; Aerosmith, though one key slot remained open. Brad Whitford
was a talented young guitarist from the Boston area who seemed
destined to round out the Aerosmith line up. "The first time
I played with Brad, it just seemed to work." says Joe Perry.
"The Chemistry was right."
Brad climbed aboard,
and with the legendary line up now in place, the quintet soon
set to work establishing their reputation for fiery live shows
and bad behavior. Sharing an apartment in Boston at 1325 Commonwealth
Ave, the band lived and breathed their music. It was a time when
the only sure things in life were the threat of eviction and their
shared determination to rock the world. But as their reputation
grew, it seemed only a matter of time.
Their time came in
1972 in NYC, the night the band played the legendary Max's Kansas
City Club. Aerosmith's self-titled debut album was released in
the fall of 1973, climbing to number 166. "Dream On"
was released as the first single and it was a minor hit, reaching
number 59. For the next year, the band built a fan base by touring
America, supporting groups as diverse as the Kinks, Mahavishnu
Orchestra, Sha Na Na, and Mott the Hoople. The performance of
Get Your Wings (1974), the group's second album and the first
produced by Jack Douglas, benefited from their constant touring,
spending a total of 86 weeks on the chart.
1975 saw the band back
in the studio working on their watershed album Toys In the Attic.
Joe Perry: "When we started to Make Toys In the Attic, our
confidence was built up from constant touring." "Toys"
was a breakthrough album for Aerosmith, selling copies in the
millions; Tom Hamilton: "We knew this album would launch
the band like a missle ... it was an incredible time." The
momentum continued with the 1976 release of Rocks. The band turned
a significant creative and commercial corner in this era. The
hits came fast and furious: "Last Child," "Sweet
Emotion," "Back in the Saddle," "Walk This
Way," plus the surprise re-released smash "Dream On,"
a gem that was overlooked from their first album. Their endless
roadwork paid off in platinum and exploded into sold out pandemonium
culminating before massive crowds of over 80,000 at the legendary
Texxas Jam, and to a sea of over 350,000 at the famous CAL Jam
in 1978. Aerosmith's status as one of the most popular live acts
of the decade was achieved by word of mouth alone, a fact that
was hard to swallow for the radio programmers, and the press who
had somehow missed the boat on the Aerosmith phenomenon.
It wasn't long before
the intoxicating pace of rock stardom took its toll. The fire
that had fueled them began to burn them from within. "We
were drug addicts dabbling in music rather than musicians dabbling
in drugs," recalls Joe Perry. As the decade drew to a close,
half-hearted albums (1977's Draw the Line and '79's Night In the
Ruts), canceled performances, and internal strife dogged the band
and began to weaken them at their core.
In early 1977, Aerosmith
took a break and prepared material for their fifth album. Released
late in 1977, Draw the Line was another hit, climbing to number
11 on the U.S. charts, but it showed signs of exhaustion. In addition
to another tour in 1978, the band appeared in the movie Sgt. Pepper's
Lonely Hearts Club Band, performing "Come Together,"
which eventually became a number 23 hit. Live! Bootleg appeared
late in 1978 and became another success, reaching number 13. Aerosmith
recorded Night in the Ruts in 1979, releasing the record at the
end of the year.
After a final dressing
room blowout in July 1979, Joe Perry announced his departure from
the group to form The Joe Perry Project. Brad Whitford followed
suit shortly thereafter to form Whitford-St. Holmes. The remaining
3 members soldiered on to eek out 1982's Rock In a Hard Place,
but the magic was gone. Joey Kramer: "I wish somebody would
have smacked us back then. But we were one of the biggest bands
in the world. There was literally no one who could tell us anything."
By the early 1980s, Aerosmith was all but over.
Night in the Ruts performed
respectably, climbing to number 14 and going gold, yet it was
the least successful Aerosmith record to date. Brad Whitford left
the group in early 1980, forming the Whitsford-St. Holmes Band
with former Ted Nugent guitarist Derek St. Holmes.
Brad Whitford: "People
kept coming up to me and saying, "When are you guys getting
back together? I just told them when Steven and Joe bury the hatchets.'"
Remarkably, the ice slowly began to thaw over the next few years,
and in 1984, Perry and Whitford rejoined the group, and Aerosmith
hit the road for the Back in the Saddle Tour. "We paved the
road so to speak," said Tyler. "So why not fucking get
in our cars and drive down it again." In 1985 they signed
a new record deal with Geffen Records and released Done With Mirrors,
but things really began to take off in '86 with a most unusual
collaboration. At the suggestion of Def Jam's Rick Rubin, Aerosmith
and the groundbreaking hip-hop band Run DMC "walked their
way" into rock and roll history by remaking their classic,
"Walk This Way" mixing in. The experiment was a success,
and gave rise to a massive hit single and video that redefined
MTV, not to mention, put Aerosmith back on the map for good. The
song's timeless, groovacious, rhythm driven lyric became the landmark
hybrid of rap and rock that has stood the test of time as evidenced
most recently by Eminem's and Dr. Dre's master mix of "Dream
On" into "Sing For The Moment."
The success of the
"Walk This Way" remix with Run DMC sparked the same
determination in the band that won them their first fame more
than a decade earlier. Refocused, locked and loaded, they released
1987's Permanent Vacation. It was just the first in a string of
chart-topping releases that brought them more fame, success, and
accolades than ever before. Their videos tormented the sensors
and raised the bar for music video excellence and controversy
with the hot, edgy "Dude Looks Like a Lady," "Angel"
and "Rag Doll." Never one to rest on their laurels,
Aerosmith answered with 1989's mega smash Pump, which spawned
hits; "Love in an Elevator," "Janie's Got a Gun,"
"The Other Side," and "What it Takes."
Proving that it's not
all about Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll, Aerosmith made a statement
of unyielding support for America's first amendment right for
freedom of speech in 1992 when they stood up to defend and restore
funding for a sexually explicit art exhibit at the List Visual
Arts Center at MIT, whose original support was rescinded by the
federal government. That same year, the band participated in campaigns
for MTV's Rock the Vote, including the organization's groundbreaking
massive national TV campaign encouraging America's youth to vote
in the 1992 Presidential election.
The band's first musical
offering of the nineties was the 13 Million selling Get a Grip,
again loaded with radio slam dunks; "Livin' on the Edge,"
"Cryin," "Eat the Rich," "Crazy,"
"Amazing," Nine Lives followed in 1997, debuting at
#1 on the Billboard charts, and boasted the hit singles, "Pink"
and "Falling in Love is Hard on the Knees." Aerosmith's
so called "second run" proved to be even more spectacular
than their first go around in the seventies. Their concert dates
sold out, not only North America, but in Japan, Australia, South
America and Israel, They closed out the decade with a first in
their career, a number one hit single "I Don't Want to Miss
a Thing" from the Armageddon Soundtrack, and wrung in the
new one with the release of Just Push Play, featuring the hit
By the time the band
was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, they
had already received 2 People's Choice Awards, 6 Billboard Music
Awards, 8 American Music Awards, 23 Boston Music Awards, 12 MTV
Video Awards, 4 Grammys, an Academy Award nomination for Best
Song, "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," as well as being
selected as one of the Best Rock Bands by Rolling Stone and Hit
Parader magazines. They were then chosen as the first rock band
to be honored as MTV Icons.
While Aerosmith was
at the height of its revitalized popularity in the early '90s,
the group signed a lucrative multi-million dollar contract with
Columbia Records, even though they still owed Geffen two albums.
It wasn't until 1995 that the band was able to begin working on
their first record under the new contract -- nearly five years
after the contract was signed. The making of Aerosmith albums
usually had been difficult affairs, but the recording of Nine
Lives was plagued with bad luck. The band went through a number
of producers and songwriters before settling on Kevin Shirley
in 1996. More damaging, however, was the dismissal of the band's
manager Tim Collins, who had been responsible for bringing the
band from the brink of addiction. Upon his firing, Collins insinuated
that Steven Tyler was using hard drugs again, an allegation that
Aerosmith adamantly denied. Under such circumstances, recording
became quite difficult, and when Nine Lives finally appeared in
the spring of 1997, it was greeted with great anticipation, yet
the initial reviews were mixed and even though album debuted at
number one, it quickly fell down the charts. The live A Little
South of Sanity followed in 1998. Three years later, Aerosmith
strutted their stuff on the halftime special on CBS with the likes
of Mary J. Blige, Nelly, *N Sync, and Britney Spears, just prior
to issuing their heart stomping Just Push Play in March 2001.
Since 1972 they have
toured so much that they've criss-crossed the globe nearly 36
times, almost nonstop, performed at 2 Super Bowls (reaching a
combined viewing audience of nearly 2 billion), and turned on
millions of fans along the journey. In the meantime they also
pioneered the role of rock on the Internet with Aerosmith World
3D chat environment, and in interactive videogames such as Quest
for Fame and Revolution X.
So how did
a bunch of misfit rockers go from the Barn in Sunapee New Hampshire
to the stage of the Super Bowl, not once but twice? Perhaps Steven
Tyler sums it up best: "We weren't too ambitious when we
started out. We just wanted to be the biggest thing that ever
walked the planet, the greatest rock band that ever was. We just
wanted everything. We just wanted it all."