It’s a criminal shame that Aerosmith never enjoyed the same level of success over here as they have in their native America. A cross between The Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, in the states they are rightfully heralded as rock gods and are one of the most commercially successful music acts of all time. As well as being commercially successful they have heavily influenced a wide-range of rock acts that followed, most notably Guns N Roses and Nirvana.
To balance out some of the karmic injustice dealt to Aerosmith, I’m going to shine a loving light on their 15 best tracks. Get ready to rock out with your you-know-what out!
- Walk This Way - (Toys in the Attic – 1975)
I’ve gone for the hard rock 1975 classic version over the pop/rock/hip-hop hybrid 1986 Run DMC version as the original has more grungy-heart to it than the ‘sequel’. The band’s original, seen on their third, and most critically acclaimed album, Toys in the Attic, was dripping in dirty, behind-the-bike-sheds school sex and announced the start of what would become known as ‘cock rock’. Aerosmith are the masters of shining a light on the seedy underbelly of the world … and boy is it fun!
“Backstroke lover always hidin’ ‘neath the cover
‘Till I talked to my daddy he say,
He said, you ain’t seen nothing
‘Till your down on a muffin,
Then you’re sure to be a-changin’ your ways”
-Walk This Way
- Magic Tough - (Permanent Vacation – 1987)
‘Magic Touch’ is a personal favourite of mine and is something a little different from the rest of the ‘Bad Boys from Boston’s’ usual output. Aerosmith suffered a very famous public breakup that lasted a while, before guitarist Joe Perry saw sense and reunited with his band mates. Whilst their first album back was a bit of a dud, Permanent Vacation (their second come-back album) announced to the world that the Toxic Twins were back in business, and ‘Magic Touch’, for me, is the best thing on the album … even though it features the classic ‘Dude (Looks Like a Lady)’.
“I need your magic touch, don’t you know?
I got a habit and I can’t let go.
Feel the fire burnin’ slow.
You better get it while it’s hot now babe
‘Cause I can’t let go, yeah.”
- Mama Kin - (Aerosmith – 1973)
‘Mama Kin’ is the first of two songs I’ve chosen from their debut album, Aerosmith. The album sounds little like their signature sound, that would be developed over the course of the next couple of decades, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some classic ‘smith songs. ‘Mama Kin’ has remained a classic of their repertoire and is still played frequently at their live gigs to this day.
- Draw the Line - (Draw the Line – 1977)
The album, Draw the Line, is often overlooked, even by Aerosmith fans, as it was towards the end of their 70’s output, when the wheels were starting to come off, however the album is one of the best collective pieces the band produced, even if there is only a couple of classic Aerosmith songs featured (including ‘Kings and Queens’ which narrowly missed out a spot on the list). The song, ‘Draw the Line’, is a no-nonsense Aerosmith rocker, with little to no studio experimentation that marked their 1976 album, Rocks.
- Janie’s Got a Gun - (Pump – 1989)
Most of Aerosmith’s output is about sex, drugs, sex, sex, drugs, rock and roll, and more sex, however they occasionally put on a serious hat and talk about more shocking aspects of life. They first discussed rape and child sexual assault on their 1975 song, ‘Uncle Salty’, but it wasn’t until 1989 that they had a hit with such a strong and important lyric. ‘Janie’s Got a Gun’ deals with the story of a young girl who is abused repeatedly by her father before she snaps and shoots him dead, before being unjustly punished for the murder. Unlike anything written by Aerosmith, the song remains a very powerful piece to this day.
“Her whole world’s come undone
From lookin’ straight at the sun.
What did her Daddy do?
What did he put you through?”
-Janie’s Got a Gun
- Nobody’s Fault - (Rocks – 1976)
‘Nobody’s Fault’ marked a change in Aerosmith’s sound, as it was a much darker song, musically, and featured a more ‘grunge’ esque sound. This song would go on to inspire the likes of Kurt Cobain who was one of the original Grunge artists. The song is also a favourite of Slash from GNR, James Hetfield of Metallica, and most of the band themselves cite it as one of their favourite songs. The song is the heaviest Aerosmith songs and the lyrics deal with the bands’ inner fears. This is a song that the casual Aerosmith listener won’t get on with, but for the fans, it will always remain a true classic.
“Holy lands are sinkin’,
Birds take to the sky,
The Prophets are all stinking drunk,
I know the reason why.”
- Same Old Song and Dance - (Get Your Wings – 1974)
Now we get to a song from Get Your Wings, one of my personal favourite Aerosmith albums, and one of the best albums from the 1970s, in my opinion. The albums is often over-shadowed by Toys in the Attic which is, hands down, a contender for ‘best 70s album’, but Get Your Wings features some of the band’s best work and all the songs could have easily featured on this list. ‘Same Old Song and Dance’ is a perennial favourite of rock radio and fans alike (my mother is rather partial too, I’ll have you know) and features the bands signature duelling guitars. It’s hard to talk about the song, without saying that it is just plain and simply cool.
“Gotcha with the cocaine they found with your gun,
No smoothy face lawyer to getcha undone.”
-Same Old Song and Dance
- Dream On - (Aerosmith – 1973)
Whether you know this classic as it is, or are more familiar with the Eminem song that samples it, ‘Sing for the Moment’, ‘Dream On’ is often cited as one of the finest power ballads in existence, a form of rock music that Aerosmith is famous for … and I would say do better than anyone else (with the possible exception of Meatloaf, of course). The song was written by Steven Tyler when he was still a teenager at school and is about as fine a rock piano ballad as has ever been recorded.
“Every time I look in the mirror
All the lines on my face getting clearer.
The past is gone,
It went by like dust to dawn.”
- I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing - (Armageddon: The Album – 1998)
I’m sure any casual fans will now be rejoicing as it’s time to talk about the famous one. ‘I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing’ catapulted Aerosmith back into the limelight and granted them a horde of new fans who were still crying over the fate of Bruce Willis in the film. ‘I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing’ will still be played on local radio stations and school discos long after the name of Aerosmith ceases to be remembered. It is their most famous song and one hell of a power ballad … possibly the power ballad to end all power ballads.
- No Surprize - (Night in the Ruts – 1979)
Night in the Ruts (a brilliant spoonerism of a title) is probably the most underrated album in the Aerosmith canon. Featuring brilliant songs like ‘Chiquita’, ‘Remember (Walking in the Sand)’, ‘Bone to Bone (Coney Island White Fish Boy)’, and ‘Mia’, this album deserves better! The highlight, however, is ‘No Surprise’, which is a song about the band getting signed to Columbia by legendary producer Clive Davis and Tyler exclaiming that it was ‘no surprise’. It has all the gusto and arrogance of a classic Aerosmith song, all rolled up with a catchy lyric.
“We all shot shit at the bar,
With Johnny O’Toole and his scar
And then old Clive Davis said
I’m surely gonna make us a star”
- Back in the Saddle - (Rocks – 1976)
If you try to sing along with this song, you will tear your throat out. If you ever wonder why one of Steven Tyler’s many nicknames is ‘the Demon of Screamin’’, you need look no further than this song. Featured on one of the Aerosmith’s best albums, Rocks (Get it? Aerosmith rocks…), ‘Back in the Saddle’ is a western influenced rock classic, that growls its way through nearly five minutes of screaming vocals, screaming guitars, and one of the heaviest bass lines in an Aerosmith song.
- What It Takes - (Pump – 1989)
‘I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing’ may be Aerosmith’s most famous power ballad, but as far as I’m concerned, ‘What It Takes’ is their best one. Finishing off their best 80’s album, Pump, ‘What It Takes’ is a country infused belter, that in Tyler’s hands, will have you in awe of his vocal prowess. For complete and utter power, Steven Tyler is the king, but he is also able to show us a softer, more melodic side on this song (even if his signature screaming is still at full force as well).
“Tell me what it takes to let you go.
Tell me how the pain’s supposed to go.
Tell me how you can sleep
In the night”
-What It Takes
- F.I.N.E. - (Pump – 1989)
This might seem like a strange choice to some, as it’s not one of Aerosmith’s best-known songs, however if you’re looking for a stomping, rocking Aerosmith song, then this may be one of their best. The lyrics are full of sex, sweat, and heat and showcases Steven Tyler and co.’s ability to write absolute show-stopping, bedazzling rock songs. Aerosmith, throughout their career, have pretty much been consistently brilliant and they’ve been going since around 1973 … I can’t really say that about any other band that has been going as long. This mid-career song, rightfully deserves a place in the Aerosmith hall of fame.
“I got a girlfriend with hoochy-coochy eyes,
Cause in the pink she look so fine.
She got the cracker jack now all I want’s the prize.”
- Sweet Emotion - (Toys in the Attic – 1975)
Is this one of my personal favourite Aerosmith songs … kind of … but I’ve decided to put it here at number two because I think it showcases what made the band so hot in the 70s. This is the song that made them a household name in the States and helped their early song, ‘Dream On’ crack the top 10. The song has spawned one of the most well-known riffs in rock music and the song’s use of a talk box device is one of the most famous in popular music. Often cited as Aerosmith’s signature song (even though it has strong competition from ‘Dream On’ and ‘Walk This Way’), ‘Sweet Emotion’ is undisputedly one of the best rock songs from the 1970s.
- Cryin’ - (Get a Grip – 1993)
Is this my favourite Aerosmith song of all time? Yes. Am I being biased by putting it in the number one spot? Probably. I will say though, that it is a bloody good Aerosmith song, and proves one of their catchiest … plus Alicia Silverstone was in the video, so it has that going for it. Yes, it was also released the same year I was born, so it was never going to be anything else at number one, was it? If you don’t sing along with this song, then you are lying, as it’s chorus is one of the best in rock music. One of the other reasons why I love this song, is it proved that Aerosmith were still a massive force to be reckoned with and when pretty much every other rock act from the 70s had faded to obscurity, Aerosmith were still releasing top 40 hit after top 40 hit … and so with this song, it’s easy to see why they have cemented themselves as one of the best musical acts in the history of rock and pop.
This list was one of the hardest I’ve had to write as I had 44 years of incredible rock music to whittle down to 15 entries. I had to leave off classics like ‘Dude (Looks Like a Lady), ‘Love in an Elevator’, ‘Livin’ on the Edge’, ‘Crazy’, ‘Amazing’, ‘Last Child’, ‘Rats in the Cellar’ … and about 50 others … If you really wanted to see one that I’d missed off, let me know on Twitter @MugwumpBlog.