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Then & Now: Aerosmith
The number of acts that can claim Aerosmith’s four decades of dominating the airwaves can be arguably counted on the fingers it takes to make the good old devil’s sign of rock and roll. Come June, fans in this country will get a chance to see the band perform live at Bangalore’s Palace Grounds ~ as they give their first ever Indian concert! In celebration, we look back at what’s made this band unique and groundbreaking for its time. Theirs is the story of maybe the world’s greatest rock and roll group, with constant ups, downs, and detours, that never fail to grab you and forces you to stick around with them ~ if only to see what train wreck awaits around the next corner for Steven Tyler and his boys. If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to live the life of a rock star without having to go through rehab, read on.

Aerosmith: Then
After working through a series of bands and a stint as a roadie for the now legendary Yardbirds through the mid-60s, drummer/singer Steven Victor Tallarico changed his name to Steven Tyler and began fronting an NYC band called Chain Reaction. In 1969, while vacationing at his parents’ pad in Sunapee, New Hampshire, Tyler dropped into the local dive in, a club called the Barn, to check out the music scene. That night, the Jam Band took center stage, and seeing guitarist Joe Perry (born Anthony Joseph Perry) and bassist Tom Hamilton perform together, took Tyler’s breath away. Tyler recalls that night: “I thought, if I can get my melodic sensibility in with this f---all, this music that is just pure feeling, we’ll have something.” The hookup backstage led to the beginning of a fruitful friendship; and a few months later, the three got together to start their own group. Tyler’s old Yonkers buddy Joey Kramer was recruited as the drummer, while Brad Whitford, a talented young guitarist from the Boston area, completed the quintet.

Rock as we know, was in disarray in the beginning of that decade: the Beatles had bitterly broken up, members of Led Zeppelin were strung out on heroin and packing guns, and the Rolling Stones turned businessmen, churning out pop music. Aerosmith, only too aware of this, wanted to put the shaking and rolling back in rock. After rejecting such names like the Hookers, drummer Kramer christened the band Aerosmith, and the boys moved in together and began sharing an apartment in Boston. Struggling to get gigs, the beginning of the 70s was a very trying time for the band, the boys began working in factories to support their music, as there was a constant threat of eviction ~ from their apartment ~ hanging over their head; there were even nights where it was a struggle to put grub on the table. Perry remembered those days: “We weren’t unlike so many other kids coming into Boston for school with so much idealism and being away from home for the first time, and living with a bunch of roommates, and seeing who you could meet, who liked your kind of music, who else was in town, what other bands were playing. That’s really what it was about.”

The band’s big break came about in 1972, the night the band played New York’s happening Max’s Kansas City Club. Unbeknownst to them, in the audience that night was Clive Davis himself, the famous record executive who was responsible for signing acts like Pink Floyd and Santana to Columbia Records. Davis was so impressed with their performance that he signed them on the spot to his record label. Tyler immortalised that moment in Aerosmith’s song No Surprize and recalls how it happened: “After the show, Clive Davis put his arm around me, gave me a little squeeze and said, ‘Steven, you’re gonna be a big star.’” Their debut self-titled album Aerosmith was released in 1973, and the band took to the road to spread the word, and spread they did. Touring relentlessly over the next two years and taking time off only to record the 1974 follow up Get Your Wings; by the time they got off the road and went home, the second album had gone gold, and spent a total of 86 weeks on the US charts. Aerosmith were on their way.

Aerosmith: Now
Few comebacks in rock and roll history have been as amazing as that of Aerosmith. Almost losing it, all thanks to their excessive substance abuse, they eventually rose up from the ashes to become clean and sober ~ and their triumphant return to the charts in the mid-80s not only rekindled the band’s earlier success, but significantly surpassed it. Refocused, locked and loaded, their 1986 collaboration with Run DMC (on a cover of the band’s Walk This Way) jumpstarted Tyler and the boys straight into rock’s high stratosphere; and they’ve never come down since. Permanent Vacation (1987) was the first in a string of #1s that brought them more fame, success, and accolades than ever before. Pump (1989) went on to sell millions of copies; but it was 1993’s Get a Grip ~ which introduced a young Alicia Silverstone and Liv Tyler in its videos ~ that made Aerosmith the mainstay of modern MTV.

Nine Lives appeared in the spring of 1997, and debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts ~ thanks to hit singles Pink and Falling In Love Is Hard On The Knees. I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing, a song recorded for the Armageddon soundtrack, became the biggest hit of 1998, as the single topped both the US and the UK charts, and went on to win a slew of awards. Their first release of the new millennium ~ Just Push Play ~ featured the top ten hit Jaded, and arrived just in time for the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2004, they released their blues-flavoured Honkin On Hobo; though greeted with positive reviews, it quickly disappeared from the charts. Though the members are now all in their late 50s, wear wedding rings and have families and kids ~ and claim to have left behind their reckless sex, drugs and rock and roll lifestyle ~ the band continues to churn out rowdy rock and roll, even in this new millennium. Tyler confirmed that the band’s currently in the studio working on a brand new album, and plan to release it as soon as they’re done. Their so-called second run has proven to be even more spectacular than their first go around in the 70s, and their reputation as an unbeatable live act only continues to grow. To sum up what their achievements mean to us: without bands like Aerosmith, it’s likely that hard rock would’ve died a long time ago.

You can read the rest of our feature on Aerosmith in the May 2007 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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