As befitting a band with its own “rock ‘n’ rollercoaster” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, you’d be hard-pressed to find a group with more ups and downs over its nearly 50-year career than Aerosmith. Far and away the most successful New England rock band ever, and one of America’s biggest acts, their durability and commitment to rock and roll ensures their legacy is secure for decades to come.
Formed in 1970 from the ashes of several local groups, guitarist Joe Perry and bassist Tom Hamilton joined forces with singer Steven Tyler and drummer Joey Kramer, woodshedded in an apartment at 1325 Commonwealth Avenue and gigged locally, gaining a reputation and a second guitarist in Ray Tabano, who was replaced by Brad Whitford in 1971, solidifying the band’s “classic” (and, save a five-year period in the late ’70s and early ’80s, only) line-up.
Columbia Records, Debut Album
The quintet, all in their early 20s, signed with Columbia for their eponymous 1973 debut (recorded at Intermedia Sound Studios in late ‘72), a blooze-rock burner indebted to The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds and early Fleetwood Mac. While not a commercial success at the time, Aerosmith went on to sell two million copies and delivered two of the band’s most enduring songs, “Mama Kin” and the power ballad “Dream On”.
Get Your Wings, Toys in the Attic, Rocks
The sessions for 1974’s Get Your Wings found the band working with producer Jack Douglas, who helped establish the band’s template: hooky, bluesy hard rock (“Same Old Song and Dance,” “Pandora’s Box,” a cover of The Yardbirds’ “Train Kept a-Rollin’”), odes to sex (“Woman of the World,” “Lord of the Thighs”) and a ballad for good measure (“Seasons of Wither”).
But it wasn’t until 1975’s octuple-platinum-selling Toys in the Attic and 1976’s Rocks that the band found themselves firmly ensconced in the hard rock firmament. The former, anchored by the title track, “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion” (the band’s first Top 40 hit), and the latter’s one-two punch of “Back in the Saddle” and “Last Child,” ensured the band a lifetime of rock radio airplay, and more importantly, a deep reservoir of goodwill that the band nearly depleted in the coming lean years.
Draw the Line, Night in the Ruts, Rock in a Hard Place
The perils of fame, intra-band squabbles and drug abuse began catching up with the band for 1977’s Draw the Line and 1979’s Night in the Ruts, during the making of which Perry left the band to front his own band, The Joe Perry Project. (Perry was replaced by Jimmy Crespo, though he returned to the ‘Smith in 1984.) Whitford defected for 1982’s nadir Rock In A Hard Place, (replaced by Rick Dufay) eventually joining the Joe Perry Project; he too returned to the motherband in 1984, and the band’s line-up has remained stable ever since.
Geffen Records, Done with Mirrors, “Walk This Way”
Though they hadn’t addressed their chemical abuses and were largely painted as past-their-prime rock stars, Geffen Records General Manager Al Coury signed the band for 1985’s underrated effort, Done with Mirrors. However, it wasn’t until Perry and Tyler guested on Run DMC’s 1986 seminal rap-rock hybrid cover of “Walk This Way” that the band’s fortunes went on the upswing.