Aerosmith Ruled The 70’s

Sex. Drugs. Rock and Roll. Amplified to 11 with the power of a freight train. For those who rabbit on about being a “rockstar”, know that the Bad Boys from Boston wrote the book and then set it on fire. #aerosmith #classicrock #hardrock #rockandroll #loveislove #LGBTQ

NOTE: There is only one ballad in this program, but it’s the original power ballad, so maybe that doesn’t count.

A few years ago, when my husband Travis and I were early in our relationship, I happened to be a member of Aerosmith’s fan club, Aero Force One. The band were having contests revolving around the release of what I consider their best studio album of the 90’s, Nine Lives, in 1997.

“Name our new album” was a contest they were running. After talking to Travis about this, the first word out of his mouth in describing an Aerosmith song from their perspective was pussy. I added that the whole album would probably be “more songs about pussy”, and that is what we submitted. Needless to say, we didn’t win, but were awarded 4th row center stage tickets to their San Diego show in December. They were the first rock band to play a new arena in town. It was billed as “Aerosmith at the Cox” in the newspaper, with a screaming cat as the image. I can’t even make this up.

Steven Tyler, 1978, at Giants Stadium, New York. Courtesy of Getty Images.

Of the numerous times we had seen them, Travis in the 70’s and myself in the 80’s and 90’s, it was by far the best performance either one of us had even witnessed by the group. At the end of the night, after the band finished bluesman Tiny Bradshaw’s “Train Kept A-Rolling” (Aerosmith’s version was heavily influenced by the Johnny Burnett Trio and The Yardbirds covers of the song), lead singer Steven Tyler was heaving, as if he was almost about to collapse.

Two solid non-stop hours of hits, album cuts and covers; a whole lot of energy, speed, volume and most importantly, fun. We both remember seeing Tyler smiling from ear to ear, knowing that Aerosmith had literally broken the venue’s cherry that night. At the end of the month, the San Diego Union-Tribune music editor, who was typically averse to anything loud or heavy, called it one of the ten best live performances of the year.

There will never be a rock group more all-round great than Aerosmith.”

Brian May of Queen

It wasn’t always sunshine and roses, though. Starting out in 1970 playing at a high school gymnasium, Aerosmith were the hardest working rock band of the decade. They opening for acts they would eventually outsell, including Rush, Queen and Mott The Hoople. They even were on bills with banjo player Eric Weissman and opened for Jazz fusion group The Mahavishnu Orchestra.

They were the last act signed to Columbia Records by legendary music mogul Clive Davis before he was fired from the label. Their first album was released on the same day as the debut album by Bruce Springsteen. According to the band in their best-selling autobiography Walk This Way (Dey Street, 1997, Aerosmith with Stephen Davis), “For every $100 they spent on Springsteen, they spent a dollar on us.” For the record, in the 1970’s, Aerosmith also outsold Springsteen.

Aerosmith. (l-r) Brad Whitford, Tom Hamilton, Joey Kramer, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. From the TV program “Midnight Special” June 1974 Burbank, CA. at the NBC Studios in Burbank, California (Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)

The band were also utterly hated by many in the so-called “hip” musical press as sloppy Stones seconds, without even realizing they were blowing away the world’s greatest Rock and Roll band at every conceivable turn. Sadly, sycophants seemingly surrounded the band as their stature grew in spite of the negativity from the establishment.

Even Annie Leibovitz, the famed photographer, stalked the band in 1976, forced her way into a hotel they were staying in, woke up lead singer Tyler in the middle of the night and offered him drugs just to get a photograph for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, which at the time had never run one positive review of the group. She also lied and did not produce any illicit substances, but her photograph did grace the front of the publication.

 “Jerry Garcia says that we were the druggiest bunch of guys the Grateful Dead ever saw.”

Steven Tyler to David Wilde, Rolling Stone magazine, 1990.

For all the talk about people wanting to be “Rock Stars”, they honestly don’t have a damn clue what that era originally meant. It is the 21st century version of the myth of the old west cowboy, redone with glamour and none of the sleaze or ear-splitting intensity.

Yes, there was money and groupies, but their were also the aforementioned hangers-on, the girlfriends who fought with one another, the endless supply of yes men providing an endless supply of drugs, the Lamborghini’s wrapped around trees, $80,000 hotel bills, gun violence, managers stealing your money, constant negative press, record companies not supporting you and paranoia so bad by everyone involved that no one had control. And for some unknown reason, fans would thrown fireworks on stage, causing the band to erect a cyclone fence at shows.

They toured the country endlessly, and not just major markets. Unlike many top name acts of the day, they were the band you could actually see live.

Cover for Draw The Line, 1977. Illustration by Al Hirschfeld.

Aerosmith were always made out to be the villian, literally, as they were in the absolutely dreadful film Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. Narrator George Burns described the groups’s entrance into the movie in the following manner: “The evil force that would poison young minds, pollute the environment and subvert the democratic process.” JUST WOW.

Of course, it didn’t stop many from wanting a piece of them.

In spite of all of this, or possibly because of it, Aerosmith were hated by being the single best Rock and Roll live band around, playing stadiums when artists given more stature by the mainstream were struggling to fill far smaller venues. Aerosmith delivered, plain and simple. Even Parliament-Funkadelic used their sound system for the Motherhsip Connection tour.

Steven Tyler, Brad Whitford and Joe Perry during the filming of the “Sweet Emotion” video, 1975. Courtesy of Columbia/Aerosmith Partneship.

The original line-up eventually splintered over spilt milk (no, FOR REAL), and it took years for them the claw their way up to the most impossible comeback that no one saw coming.

Why would I even pick this act to celebrate my 25th anniversary? Darling, I only want the best, because I God-damn deserve it, and so does my husband. Aerosmith are Aerosmith are Aerosmith: say whatever the hell you want, but as disabled gay men with AIDS who somehow survived and celebrate life as much as possible, there is no better soundtrack to our lives than a band that has gone through absolute hell and still comes out winning.

Aerosmith is the playlist to our survivor history. Play it loud, or get the hell gone, because as people in our 50’s and 60’s, we ain’t got time to waste. Happy 25th anniversary to the single best thing that has ever happened to me. We are still here, still queer and literally living the dream.

First Part

  • S.O.S. (Too Bad), 1974, Get Your Wings
  • Draw The Line, 1977, Draw The Line
  • No Surprize, 1979, Night In The Ruts
  • On The Road Again, 1972, studio outtake*
  • Chip Away The Stone, 1978, single A-side
  • Dream On, 1973, Aerosmith
  • Sick As A Dog, 1976, Rocks

Second Part

  • Sweet Emotion, 1975, Toys In The Attic
  • Come Together (live at The Wherehouse, Waltham, MA, August 21), 1978, Live! Bootleg**
  • Walking The Dog (live radio broadcast aired on WKRQ, Cincinnati), 1973, Pandora’s Box***
  • Walk This Way (live in Detroit, MI, April 2), 1978, Live Bootleg
  • Big Ten Inch Record, 1975, Toys In The Attic+
  • The Hand That Feeds, 1977, Draw The Line
  • Bone To Bone (Coney Island White Fish Boy), 1979, Night In The Ruts
  • Lick And A Promise, 1976, Rocks

Finale

  • Train Kept A-Rollin’, 1974, Get Your Wings++

*Loving Spoonful cover
**Beatles cover
***Rufus Thomas cover
+Bull Moose Jackson cover
++Tiny Bradshaw cover

Love to you all.

Ben “Daddy Ben Bear” Brown Jr. 
Host, Show Producer, Webmaster, Audio Engineer, Researcher, Video Promo Producer and Writer

“Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for ‘fair use’ for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.”

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