Boston rock n roll legends international breakthrough album is 40 years old. Four decades on how good is it?
Blues-infused hard rockers Aerosmith were formed in Boston, Massachusetts in 1970. Guitarist Joe Perry and bassist Tom Hamilton were in their own band, The Jam Band, when they met vocalist Steven Tyler, drummer Joey Kramer and guitarist Ray Tabano to form the “Bad Boys of Boston”. Tabano lasted barely a year before being replaced by Brad Whitford and so the classic line-up was created and remains to this day, aside from a few temporary splits, in true rock n roll fashion.
The band released their self-titled debut in 1973 which featured future classics “Mama Kin” and “Dream On”. The following year saw album number two appear in the guise of “Get Your Wings”. Although the album or singles never bothered the charts it was becoming clear, to those in the know, that something special was about to happen. This confidence was derived from such tracks as “Same Old Song and Dance”, “Lord of the Thighs” and “Seasons of Wither”. The future was looking bright but they needed that breakthrough track to catapult them into the rock mainstream and alongside industry heavyweights like The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. Step forward Toys In The Attic.
In many ways this was make-or—break stage of Aerosmith’s career. They needed a big album, or even a big song, just to rise them above the rank of also-rans. The drugs were in full-flow within the band and if they wanted to keep living the life of rock stars they needed to break the mainstream, at least that was Columbia Records position.
Producer par-excellence Jack Douglas was re-recruited, alongside Jack Colcord after Get Your Wings to provide the know-how and the ear. The band recorded at the famed Record Plant in New York City.
The album spawned just two singles “Sweet Emotion” in May 1975 and “Walk This Way” in August of the same year. Both tracks are still key parts of their live set today. “Sweet Emotion” was a radio hit which became the band’s first Top 40 record but that was dwarfed by the Top 10 success of “Walk This Way”.
The band toured furiously throughout 1975 to support the album and that determination paid off for them as it brought them the recognition that many felt they were due.
Kicking off the album with the high energy title track was a smart move. It’s a track that perfectly sums up what is great about the band. Memorable and quotable lyrics, hard driving guitar riffs and attitude flowing out of every lick.
“Walk This Way” speaks for itself. There is no need for description. If you haven’t heard the song then you haven’t heard of Aerosmith. The languid strut of “Uncle Salty” demonstrates the other side of Aerosmith. The chilled out, bar-room band, equal in the company of fast-packed rockers and soulful bluesy troubadours.
Tyler’s songwriting craft would also take on a new lease of life for this album as tracks like “Adam’s Apple” and “No More No More” demonstrate. By contrast the unsubtle innuendo jazz-romp of “Big Ten Inch Record”, originally recorded by Bull Moose Jackson in 1952, is a fine example of the band’s humour and willingness to introduce their influences to a new audience.
“You See Me Crying” was an early attempt at perfecting the power ballad that 15 years or so later they would become synonymous with.
Overall the album is what we now come to know as classic Aerosmith. The album does not feature a single lacklustre track. It’s energy and vitality, as well as the musicianship, is still as vibrant and toe-tappingly/head-bangingly inducing as it was 40 years ago.
The album was released in April 1975 has it received generally excellent reviews. A few harsh critics labelled them as “Stones Clones” but overall the response was very favourable.
This album is seen by many of the fans as the band being in the middle of their first real creative peak, following Get Your Wings and preceeding the equally superb Rocks in 1976. Their second peak was generally considered to be between 1987’s Permanent Vacation to 1993’s Get A Grip with the all-conquering Pump inbetween. This second peak occurred following Aerosmith’s hugely successful collaboration with RUN DMC on “Walk This Way” in 1986.
Currently the album sits at #229 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Over 8 million copies have been sold in the US to date making it their most successful album.
Standout Tracks: “Toys In The Attic”, “Sweet Emotion”, “Walk This Way”, “Uncle Salty”, “Adam’s Apple”
Donnie’s Rating: 9/10
Toys In The Attic
Walk This Way
Big Ten Inch Record
No More No More
Round And Round
You See Me Crying