Aerosmith Biography

One of America’s most popular heavy rock acts, Aerosmith was formed in 1970 when vocalist Steven Tyler (Stephen Victor Tallarico, 26 March 1948, Yonkers, New York City, New York, USA; vocals) met Joe Perry (b. Anthony Joseph Perry, 10 September 1950, Lawrence, Massachusetts, USA; guitar) while the latter was working in a Sunapee, New Hampshire ice cream parlour, the Anchorage. Tyler was in the area visiting the family-owned holiday resort, Trow-Rico. Perry, then playing in the Jam Band, invited Tyler (who had previously released one single, ‘When I Needed You’, with his own band Chain Reaction, and another, ‘You Should Have Been Here Yesterday’, with William Proud And The Strangeurs) to join him in a Cream -styled rock combo. Together with fellow Jam Band member Tom Hamilton (b. Thomas William Hamilton, 31 December 1951, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA; bass) and new recruits Joey Kramer (b. 21 June 1950, the Bronx, New York City, New York, USA; drums) and Ray Tabano (b. Raymond Tabano, 23 December 1943, the Bronx, New York City, New York, USA; guitar), the band’s founding line-up was complete. However, Tabano was quickly replaced by the former member of Justin Tyme, Earth Inc., Teapot Dome and Cymbals Of Resistance, Brad Whitford (b. 23 February 1952, Reading, Massachusetts, USA).

After playing their first gig at the Nipmuc Regional High School, the band took the name Aerosmith (rejecting other early monikers including Hookers). Their popularity throughout the Boston area grew rapidly, and a triumphant gig at Max’s Kansas City, witnessed by Clive Davis, led to a recording contract with Columbia Records. In 1973, Aerosmith secured a minor chart placing with their self-titled debut album. Although its attendant single, ‘Dream On’, initially peaked at number 59, it became a Top 10 hit in April 1976. Get Your Wings inaugurated a fruitful working relationship with producer Jack Douglas. Nationwide tours established the quintet as a major attraction, a position consolidated by the highly successful Toys In The Attic, which has now sold in excess of eight million copies worldwide. A fourth album, Rocks, achieved platinum status within months of its release. Aerosmith maintained their pre-eminent position with Draw The Line and the powerful Live! Bootleg, but despite popular acclaim, they failed to gain the approbation of many critics who dubbed the band ‘derivative’, particularly of Led Zeppelin. Tyler’s physical resemblance to Mick Jagger, and his foil-like relationship with guitarist Perry, also inspired comparisons with the Rolling Stones, with whom they shared several musical reference points.

In 1978, the band undertook a US tour of smaller, more intimate venues in an attempt to decelerate their rigorous schedule. They appeared in the ill-fated Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band movie (as the Future Villain band), and although their rousing version of ‘Come Together’ reached the US Top 30, tension between Tyler and Perry proved irreconcilable. The guitarist left the band following the release of the disappointing Night In The Ruts and subsequently founded the Joe Perry Project. Jimmy Crespo (b. James Crespo Jnr., 5 July 1954, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA) joined Aerosmith in 1980, but the following year Brad Whitford left to pursue a new career with former Ted Nugent band member, guitarist Derek St. Holmes. Newcomer Rick Dufay (b. Richard Marc Dufay, 19 February 1952, Paris, France) debuted on Rock In A Hard Place, but this lacklustre set failed to capture the fire of the band’s classic recordings.

Contact between the band and Perry and Whitford was re-established during a 1984 tour. Antagonisms were set aside, and the following year, the quintet’s most enduring line-up was performing together again. The first fruits of a lucrative new contract with Geffen Records, the Ted Templeman -produced Done With Mirrors was a tentative first step, after which Tyler and Perry underwent a successful rehabilitation programme to rid themselves of drug and alcohol dependency, synonymous with the band’s hedonistic lifestyle. In 1986, they accompanied rappers Run-DMC on ‘Walk This Way’, an Aerosmith song from Toys In The Attic and a former US Top 10 entry in its own right. The collaboration was an international hit, rekindling interest in Aerosmith’s career, with the following year’s ‘Dude (Looks Like A Lady)’ reaching number 14 in the US charts. Recorded with producer Bruce Fairbairn, Permanent Vacation became one of their bestselling albums, and the first to make an impression in the UK, while the highly acclaimed Pump (1989) and Get A Grip (1993, also produced by Fairbairn) emphasized their revitalization.

Fêted by a new generation of acts, the quintet entered the mid-90s as elder statesmen. Big Ones was a well-chosen compilation, satisfying long-term fans, but more importantly, it introduced a younger audience to a dinosaur band who still sounded fresh and exciting, refusing to compromise and certainly having not ‘gone soft’. Those wishing to immerse themselves should invest in 1994’s impressive 13-CD box set Box Of Fire, which comes complete with rare bonus tracks and a free, ready-to-strike match!

The band returned to Columbia Records in the mid-90s and spent an age recording Nine Lives. In Tyler’s words, ‘this album has taken me as far as I’ve ever wanted to go and gotten me back again’. It was worth the wait, bearing all the usual trademarks, and yet sounding strangely fresh. The hit single ‘Falling In Love (Is Hard On The Knees)’ preceded its release in February 1997. Tyler reached his half-century the following year, but still seemed ageless on stage - even Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen seem jaded compared to this rock ‘n’ roll ballet-dancer, apparently still in his prime. In September 1998, the band achieved their first ever US number 1 with the Diane Warren -penned ballad ‘I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing’, taken from the soundtrack of the movie Armageddon. The song stayed at the top for four weeks, and provided the band with their first UK Top 10 single, eventually climbing to number 4 in October.

The new century saw Aerosmith as sharp as ever, with Just Push Play proving to be another strong album in a career that now spans four decades. The follow-up Honkin’ On Bobo was more of a surprise, a collection of blues chestnuts performed in blues rock mode. Veteran pianist Johnnie Johnson featured on a couple of the tracks. Tom Hamilton was diagnosed in late 2006 as suffering from throat cancer, although he was planning to be back with the band as soon as his chemotherapy was completed.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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