Who is Aerosmith?
Formed in Boston in 1970, Aerosmith is the best-selling American rock band in history, earning them the moniker “America’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band”. Also known as the “Bad Boys from Boston”, Aerosmith’s famous sound incorporates rhythm and blues, pop rock, and heavy metal, and their catchy riffs and raunchy lyrics made them the arena rock attraction of the 1970s.
Currently, there are five members in Aerosmith, all of which were members in the principal lineup of the 1970s. After an infamous career revival in the mid-1980s, Aerosmith has continued to produce albums for over five decades and actively tours today. Well-known hits from the band include “Sweet Emotion”, “Dream On”, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”, and “Walk This Way”, and their best selling album is their third studio release, Toys in the Attic.
What is the Origin of Aerosmith?
In Yonkers, New York in 1964, vocalist Steven Tyler formed a band called the Strangeurs (later Chain Reaction). Around the same time, guitarist Joe Perry and bassist Tom Hamilton formed the Jam Band, and in 1969 they moved to Boston, Massachusetts where they would meet Joey Kramer. A drummer from Yonkers, Kramer had hoped to play in a band with Tyler someday, but joined the Jam Band initially.
It was in 1970 that Steven Tyler’s band Chain Reaction and the Jam Band encountered each other at the same gig. Tyler loved the Jam Band’s sound and proposed to combine the two bands, insisting he be the frontman and lead vocalist. All members agreed, they moved into a home together in Boston where they would rehearse, write music, and relax between shows.
The name Aerosmith came from Kramer, who wrote the word “aerosmith” all over his school notebooks. The name came to Kramer after listening to Harry Nilsson’s album Aerial Ballet, which featured jacket art of a circus performer jumping out of a biplane.
Soon after, the band hired a childhood friend of Tyler’s, rhythm guitarist Ray Tabano, and Aerosmith played their first gig at Nipmuc Regional High School on November 6, 1970. In 1971, Tabano was replaced by Brad Whitford, and the classic line-up of Tyler, Perry, Hamilton, Kramer, and Whitford was finalized.
Band Members of Aerosmith
- Lead vocals, harmonica, percussion (1970-present)
- Founding member, primary lyricist
- 73 years old
- Net worth: $150 million
- Guitar, backing vocals (1970-1979, 1984-present)
- Founding member, primary songwriter
- 71 years old
- Net worth: $140 million
- Bass (1970-present)
- 69 years old
- Net worth: $100 million
- Drums, percussion (1970-present)
- 71 years old
- Net worth: $100 million
- Guitar (1971-1981, 1984-present)
- 69 years old
- Net worth: $40 million
- Guitar (1970-1971)
- 74 years old
- Net worth: NA
- Guitar, backing vocals (1979-1984)
- 67 years old
- Net worth: $2.5 million
- Guitar (1982-1984)
- 69 years old
- Net worth: $5 million
Styles and Themes in the Music of Aerosmith
Originally, Aerosmith started as a blues-based hard rock band with tunes featuring boogie and blues riffs. While their overall sound continued to be rooted in rhythms and blues, the band added elements of heavy metal, pop rock, and glam metal as they progressed into the 1980s and 1990s.
Famous for their balance between raunchy rock and Zeppelin-esque riffs, Aerosmith’s lyrics explored subjects of youth, coming of age, romance, desire, and swagger. Some of both their early and later music also includes drug references and the struggles of fighting drug addiction.
Legacy and Influence of Aerosmith
As they took the 1970s by storm, Aerosmith established the style, sound, and fundamentals of hard rock and heavy metal in future years. They proved to be a major influence on subsequent bands and musicians such as Guns n’ Roses, Metallica, and Motley Crue to name a few, and are one of the most popular rock bands in American history. Being among the most popular hard rock bands, Aerosmith had a following of fans referred to as the “Blue Army”.
Although there was a temporary lull in their career from 1979-1984, the band made a spectacular comeback in the late 1980s with the return of previously departed guitarists Perry and Whitford along with a complete drug clean-up. They’ve since continued to be prevalent in pop culture, taking the stage at Super Bowl XXXV along with Britney Spears, N’Sync, Mary J. Blige, and Nelly in 2001.
Aerosmith is also the first band to have its own band-centered video game title with Guitar Hero: Aerosmith – one of the best-selling band-centric video games – which was released in 2008.
All five members of Aerosmith were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001. The band is still active and is scheduled to tour worldwide in 2021-2022.
Aerosmith (January 5, 1973)
In the summer of 1972, Aerosmith signed with Columbia Records and produced their debut album. Members of Aerosmith have expressed how nervous they were for what was the first studio experience for many of them, and Tyler’s voice sounds different on this album compared to all others following it.
The album received little fanfare, which the band has retrospectively claimed to be because of nerves, lack of promotion, and bad chemistry with producer Adrian Barber. Originally released in 1973, the single “Dream On” became an American top ten hit when re-released in 1975. The album peaked at number 21 on the Billboard 200 album chart.
Get Your Wings (March 15, 1974)
Intensive rehearsals began and the band worked with producer Jack Douglas for their second studio release at Record Plant in New York City. A well-known track from the album is a cover of “Trains Kept A-Rollin’”, which was originally made popular by the Yardbirds and has since become Aerosmith’s signature show-stopper. Get Your Wings peaked at number 74 on the Billboard chart, but none of the singles charted.
Toys in the Attic (April 8, 1975)
After abundantly touring, the members of Aerosmith had built confidence and skills that would contribute to the sophistication of their third studio release, Toys in the Attic. This album includes some of Aerosmith’s best-known songs, such as “Sweet Emotion” and “Walk This Way”, which would become a Top Ten hit.
Their most commercially successful album, Toys in the Attic peaked at number 11 on the US Billboard 200 chart
Rocks (May 14, 1976)
It was no secret that the band lived a rock-and-roll lifestyle that included a considerable appetite for drugs. Their hedonistic lifestyle did not hamper their creativity, however, and many fans and critics consider the album Rocks to be one of the highlights of the band’s career. In fact, it has greatly influenced many hard rock and heavy metal artists, including Guns n’ Roses, Metallica, and Nirvana.
Three singles charted on the Billboard Hot 100, with “Back in the Saddle” and “Last Child” reaching the top 40. Rocks peaked at number 3 on the Billboard 200 chart.
Draw the Line (December 9, 1977)
Aerosmith had achieved stardom with the previous two albums, and at this point in the band’s career, their excessive lifestyle began to take a toll. Guitarist Joe Perry has referred to this time as “the beginning of the end” because the band was not a cohesive unit anymore, and efforts for the record were half-hearted.
Despite the chaos and lethargy, the album did peak at number 11 on the US Billboard 200. It would be the final album with the principal line-up of members for nearly a decade.
Night in the Ruts (November 16, 1979)
Originally slated for completion in June of 1979, the album was delayed due to Tyler’s rampant drug use resulting in a lack of lyrics. Along with dire financial issues and tensions between members, the band was in a state of turmoil. Midway through recording, Joe Perry left Aerosmith following a heated disagreement with Tyler and being fed up with the state of the band. Columbia Records also replaced producer Jack Douglas with Gary Lyons.
The album was met with some early success, charting at number 14 on the Billboard album charts.
Rock in a Hard Place (August 27, 1982)
Aerosmith reunited with producer Jack Douglas for their next studio album release, Rock in a Hard Place. After departing the band in 1979, Joe Perry was replaced by Jimmy Crespo, and in 1981, guitarist Brad Whitford left and was replaced by Rick Dufay.
For some fans critics, music from the album was missing the chemistry of the 70’s classics, but many found the song “Joanie’s Butterfly” to be a highlight. Although the album was met with mixed reviews, it peaked at number 32 on the Billboard 200.
Done with Mirrors (November 4, 1985)
In 1984, Joe Perry and Brad Whitford returned to Aerosmith and the group began a reunion tour dubbed Back in the Saddle. Their first for Geffen Records, Done with Mirrors was the original lineup’s first record since 1979 and was intended to be their great comeback. It did not live up to commercial expectations, however, and band members had not conquered their addictions either.
Done with Mirrors charted at number 36 on the Billboard 200 and featured singles “Let the Music Do the Talking” and “Shela”. After the album’s release, Tyler and Perry completed rehabilitation programs.
Permanent Vacation (August 25, 1987)
While the album Done with Mirrors reestablished the band, the true comeback for Aerosmith arrived with the release of Run-D.M.C.’s cover of “Walk This Way” in 1986. Aerosmith collaborated with the rapper on the recording and video, and the mash-up became a hit.
The band put forth their full come-back effort with the next studio album, Permanent Vacation. “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)”, “Ragdoll”, and “Angel” were major hits from the album, all three charting in the Top 20. The album peaked at number 11 on the Billboard 200 and marks the band’s shift to a glam metal sound.
Pump (September 12, 1989)
Aerosmith’s next release continued with the glam metal style that was established with the previous release. Hit singles from Pump include “Love in an Elevator”, “Janie’s Got a Gun”, “The Other Side”, and “What It Takes”. Pump peaked at number 5 on the Billboard chart.
Get a Grip (April 20, 1993)
Aerosmith’s next album release would be their last with Geffen Records before returning to Columbia Records, their original label. The album Get a Grip features guest musicians Don Henley on the tune “Amazing” and Lenny Kravitz on “Line Up”.
The album also includes numerous song collaborations from outside the band,such as Desmond Child, Jim Vallance, Mark Hudson, Richie Supa, Taylor Rhodes, Jack Blades, and Tommy Shaw. Get a Grip was very well received, being the first to reach number one in the U.S.
Nine Lives (March 18, 1997)
Plagued with personal problems, the next album nearly caused the band to break-up. Its troubled conception inspired the title, Nine Lives.
Elements of Indian music are included in the style, along with the cross-over pop smash hit “Pink”. Although it peaked at number one on the Billboard 200, reviews were mixed and it fell down the chart quickly.
During the tour for Nine Lives, Aerosmith released their first and only number one single, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”. This love theme was written for the 1998 film, Armageddon, starring Steven Tyler’s daughter Liv and helped bring the band to a new generation.
Just Push Play (March 6, 2001)
The first album to feature rap metal, Just Push Play quickly went platinum, fueled by its first single, “Jaded”. “Jaded” became a Top Ten hit in the US and around the world.
While critics found it to be a mediocre album overall, Just Push Play peaked at number 2 on the Billboard 200.
Honkin’ on Bobo (March 30, 2004)
Released in 2004, Aerosmith’s long promised blues album features one new song, “The Grind” and eleven covers of blues and blues rock songs from the 1950s and 1960s, most notably “Stop Messin’ Around” by Fleetwood Mac. The album highlights the rawer sound reminiscent of earlier work from the band in the 1970s.
Many tracks feature Tyler playing the harmonica, and the record reached number 5 on the Billboard 200.
Music from Another Dimension! (November 6, 2012)
Recording sessions for Aerosmith’s next album release were delayed on and off due to injuries, disputes, touring, and solo projects among the band members. Despite the long gap, the album came through and debuted at number 5 on the Billboard Hot 200.
Singles from the album include “Legendary Child”, “Lover Alot”, “What Could Have Been Love”, and “Can’t Stop Lovin’ You” (featuring Carrie Underwood).
Awards and Notable Nominations
- 1990 – Billboard Music Award for Rock Album Artist
- 1990 – MTV VMA for Best Metal/Hard Rock Video & Viewer’s Choice with “Janie’s Got a Gun”
- 1991 – AMA for Favorite Pop/Rock Band, Duo, or Group & AMA for Favorite Heavy Metal Artist
- 1991 – Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal with “Janie’s Got a Gun”
- 1991 – MTV VMA for Best Metal/Rock Video with “The Other Side”
- 1993 – MTV VMA for Viewer’s Choice with “Livin’ on the Edge”
- 1994 – AMA for Favorite Pop/Rock Band/Drop/Group & AMA for Favorite Heavy Metal/Hard Rock Artist
- 1994 – Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal with “Livin’ on the Edge”
- 1994 – Billboard Music Award for #1 Rock Artist
- 1994 – MTV VMA for Video of the Year, Viewer’s Choice, and Best Group Video with “Cryin’”
- 1994 – People’s Choice Award for Favorite Rock Group
- 1995 – Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal with “Crazy”
- 1997 – MTV VMA for Best Rock Video with “Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)”
- 1998 – AMA for Favorite Pop/Rock Band, Duo, or Group
- 1998 – MTV VMA for Best Rock Video with “Pink”
- 1998 – MTV VMA for Best Video from a Film with “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”
- 1999 – Billboard Music Award – Artist Achievement Award
- 1999 – Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal with “Pink”
- 1999 – People’s Choice Award for Favorite Musical Group
- 2000 – AMA International Artist Award
- 2001 – Billboard Music Award for Best Hard Rock Clip of the Year with “Jaded”
- 4 Grammy Awards from 17 nominations
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