Finishing up yesterday’s blog on Van Halen, as I was looking for comparisons in late 1970s rock, I realized my list had completely overlooked another of the rock titans from that era. It is probably because their lead singer, Steven Tyler, annoys me to no end and is in elite company with Paul Stanley and modern-day David Lee Roth as the most obnoxious aging rockers. All of that being said, back in their day, Aerosmith definitely had some chops, so I’m going back to 1975 to contemplate their best album, “Toys In the Attic”.
While Tyler can absolutely drive me nuts, most of us can appreciate the cooler side of the band, starting with Joe Perry. Aerosmith, who come from Boston like many other of the 70s’ most successful bands, are an American blend of the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. Digging into the blues roots of rock, their sound is riff-heavy and very comparable to many of their peers.
The album opens with the title track, which is one of the best on the record. “Uncle Salty” and “Adam’s Apple” are less memorable, but we then have one of their true classics, “Walk This Way”. Some of the lyrics are a bit cringe-worthy, especially as I reflect on Steven Tyler making suggestive comments to underage girls while he was a judge on American Idol, but the riff is legendary, and the track was used nearly a decade later to help mainstream hip-hop when it was redone by Run DMC with Tyler and Perry on the new version. Side one ends with the double-entendre classic “Big Ten Inch Record”. I always thought this was just Steven pushing boundaries, but I was surprised to learn this song was actually written and released in 1952, which is actually a bit “hard” to imagine at that time. How’s that for double-entendre?
Anyway, on to side two. The first track is probably my all-time favorite Aerosmith song, another perfectly crafted riff, “Sweet Emotion”. As much as they can wear me down, I still love this song a lot. “No More No More” is definitely a Stones-Zeppelin soundalike, a good hybrid of their brands with Aerosmith’s own touch to top it off. “Round and Round” is a heavier riff that doesn’t quite hit, but they finish the album with a decent Tyler ballad, “You See Me Crying”. This is one of the first examples of a trick they relied upon way too much in the 1980s, bringing in an outside songwriter with Tyler to try and invent a hit when the well ran dry. Success is success and you can’t dispute the commercial success of this album and certainly their run in the 1980s, but I do tend to favor artists who fully create their own sound.
All of the ups and downs included, “Toys In the Attic” was a massive hit that remains a rock classic to this day, and absolutely deserved to be on the list. By 1979, Joe Perry and Brad Whitford had actually left the band. During this gap, they recorded a song called “Lightning Strikes” which is another of my favorite Aerosmith songs, even if it has basically been discarded as a non-Joe Perry song. I also think it would serve as a great song for my favorite hockey team, but what do I know? I’m glad this record came to mind and that I took the time to give it a listen. Any stadium rock festival was just as likely to have Aerosmith present as their peers like Van Halen, ZZ Top, AC/DC and their British rock counterparts, and it is a part of music culture that has all but disappeared today.