Aerosmith – Part 2

 Philadelphia, PA – Spring  1977

One evening, I was sitting on the steps inside a friend’s house talking to a girl named Jill whom I didn’t really know. She lived a few blocks away, and back then, if a kid lived more than three blocks away you didn’t know them. They played and hung on their own streets. Unless they went to your school, you didn’t know them. Jill went to the local Catholic School with my friend Michael, so he knew her. I thought she was beautiful and couldn’t believe she was even speaking to me, let alone sitting next to me on a stairway chatting.

At that time I was still a disaster. Poor grades in school, bullied on a daily basis by boys in the neighborhood and teachers at Fel’s Junior High. Zits all over my face, chest, and back, glasses, braces, greasy hair, and nerd clothes, and weird buckle shoes. Puberty was kicking my butt worse than anybody I knew. My comic books and music were all that sustained my existence at that point in my life.

There were some other kids in the room and the lights were low. We were all just hanging out, drinking soda, and eating chips. The house belonged to a lady who Michael’s friend Anne babysat for, and the lady was cool enough to let her have her friends come over and hang out because we were all good kids.

Obviously, the radio was on and we were either tuned into local FM rock station WMMR 93.3 or WYSP 94.1. They were pretty interchangeable and so close on the dial, that you could bounce back and forth between them to listen to the songs you liked. If Styx or REO Speed Wagon was playing, on WYSP, you could always slide over to WMMR and maybe Led Zeppelin was playing.

A song came on the radio that I had heard maybe once or twice in passing. It was called, Walk This Way. I knew who played that song.

Me: “I love this song. It’s so good!”

Jill: “Me too. Who is this?”

Me: “Aerosmith.”

Jill: “Oh, I like him.”

I always found it funny that girls would refer to a band as HIM. Jethro Tull, Aerosmith, Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper. “I like HIM” Like it was one guy.

I already liked Aerosmith from what I had heard and my adoration for them was growing rapidly.  This new song, Walk this Way was so much better than their last hit, Dream On. It was faster, sexier, and funkier. This was something I could really embrace. A song about teen angst and high school tomfoolery. I liked what Steven Tyler was saying in the lyrics. He was singing what we all were thinking, and doing it with such cocksure bravado.

One afternoon I was sitting in a chair in the living room of my friend, RJ McMeans. RJ, stands for Raymond John.  He was named after his father. RJ was my age and he had an older brother Danny who was my older sister’s age. Having older brothers and sisters was always a conduit to new music. For some reason, those just ahead of us in age seem to be exposed to things just before we can get to them. We have our own things, but I think it’s a social thing. I remember most kids I knew found music through their older siblings.

We were just chatting and listening to music. That’s what people did before the advent of all of the technology we have today. You read books, magazines, and listened to records or watched whatever was on TV, which wasn’t much back then.

At RJ’s house played Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, Led Zeppelin IV, Heart’s Dreamboat Annie, and Aerosmith’s, Toys in the Attic. I liked holding the album in my hands. It was the follow-up to the disappointing, Get Your Wings. The photo above is from the back of the record. The band looks tired and a bit strung out. Back then, bands had to tour non-stop for years to get the word out about their band to sell records. It’s a grueling lifestyle that can only be lived by the most talented and the strongest of will.  Columbia records had pushed all of the promo money to a guy named Bruce Springsteen, whom they called the new Dylan. I understood why he was popular, but his happy Jersey bar band sound never appealed to me. I liked my rock to be a bit more rough house. More guitar-driven and heavier. A wink and a grin with a touch of evil. Bruce was a goodie two-shoe. But Aerosmith had a darker swagger that I really liked.

On Toys in the Attic, I feel that the band had really discovered their identity and defined their sound.

Let’s go track by track on this album just how I heard it for the first time at RJ McMeans’ house.

Aerosmith – Toys In The Attic – 1975

Toys in the Attic: A fast opener for the record that hits you in the face with fury. This would go on to be a classic show closer or encore for the band. Not one of my favorite tracks.

Uncle Salty: I like this song. It was on the B-side of the 45 RPM single for Walk this Way. I would always play this and Walk this Way at the arcade I hung out in Wildwood just to play all things Aero. It’s a sunny upbeat song with positive lyrics. (Oooh… it’s a sunny day outside my window.) Love that!

Walk this Way: The breakout hit for the band that immediately went into heavy rotation on FM radio, and put the band back in the spotlight after such a long wait after Dream On from their debut album. This song by Tyler and Perry showed the snappy songwriting of Steven and the creative, simple riffs of Joe. Everybody liked this one, and that widespread appeal pushed the band upward in the charts. To me, this is one of the perfect rock songs from the ’70s. It has everything, including a delicious, furious solo to end the song that I still air guitar to every time I hear it even today. LOVE!

Big Ten Inch Record: I don’t think they wrote this, and I never liked this song. To me, it was a throwaway, funny play on words song, that I felt this band didn’t need. We get it guys, your sexy, funny, and cool. It’s about you whipping out some old 78 RPM records and a euphemism for something else. There’s no need at this point to record songs like this anymore.

Sweet Emotion: The first song on side two of the album, is an amazing song. The dark ropey bass line, and Joe Perry using the talk box made famous by Peter Frampton. But thankfully not overused. As great as this song was, it never really got played on rock radio back then. It was worthy, but all that was played on the radio was Walk this Way. It’s a great song that got later acclaim during the band’s resurgence in the ’90s. They even shot a cool video for it, which didn’t exist in 1975.

No More, No More: I love this song. It’s a great rock/pop song with a great underlying keyboard to it. It’s a simple story song, but the solo at the end is really tasty. I always thought Brad played the solo because it was so good, but it may have been Joe. I always felt like Joe was the better riff guy and Brad was the Berkley-educated secret weapon in the band.

Round and Round: This song. This doesn’t sound anything like what the band had played before. It’s a laboring, heavy riff-driven song. I love this song, and other than Walk this Way, which is easy to love, this song appeals to my darker sense. The band is moving towards a heavier sound here. It doesn’t have to be tricky or fast. Round and Round moves at its own dizzy pace with nothing to prove. That heavy, howling sound of the guitar and its overall apocalyptic theme. It’s how my soul feels trapped in this horrible life and a 14-year-old body that’s a mess. I get up and go to school, hate my teachers, the classes, bullies, and life in general. I just feel like I’m going round and round in the same Hell every day… day after day. This is what my depression and anxiety sound like to me. I would say for my taste, this is the best song on the album for my own selfish reasons and a hint of what to was to come on their next album, Rocks.

You See Me Crying: This is a lovely closer to the album. Done in true Aerosmith style, but I like that this great album ends with a bit of a whimper. The boys have already taken me through my paces during the listening of this landmark album, and now I could take a breath and relax as they brought their album to a close. Just a beauty. You can really see after listening, the band has not only grown as musicians and artists, they’ve become a tighter heavier act that knows their identity and knows what’s to be done going forward. Rock the pants off the world!

Love this record!

Check out my Aerosmith playlist:

Tune in next Thursday for the next chapter of this 9-part series!

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