The last time Joe Perry was asked about the possibility of a new Aerosmith album, he certainly gave a no-bullshit answer. Speaking to HNGN.com, the guitarist said: “Why bother when we’ve got all the songs off the first three or four records right up to the songs in the ‘90s that people want to hear?”
Perry explained that he would prefer than the band just keeps on touring, rather than make another album. It’s difficult to argue with this logic, given that their last album, 2012’s Music From Another Dimension, sank without trace.
But there was something else that Perry said to HNGN that will resonate with hardcore Aerosmith fans. He talked about the great old songs that he still loves to play – not just the hits, but album tracks such as No More No More, from the band’s ‘70s masterpiece Toys In The Attic.
There are so many famous songs in Aerosmith’s 42-year recording career: Dream On,Walk This Way, Sweet Emotion, Back In The Saddle, Love In An Elevator, Cryin’, I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing. But what we’re focusing on here are the lesser-known classics – the 10 best deep cuts by this legendary band.
Joe Perry picked a real beauty in No More No More. Here are 10 others for the true Aerosmith connoisseur…
10. THE MOVIE (Permanent Vacation, 1987)
Permanent Vacation was the resurrection of Aerosmith: a legendary band of the ‘70s reborn in the ‘80s. Their comeback was achieved by bringing in hit songwriters from outside of the band to bring the music in line with contemporary arena rock. Two US top 20 singles, Dude (Looks Like A Lady) and Angel, were co-written with Desmond Child; a third, Rag Doll, was written with Holly Knight. But there was one song on the album that was credited to the five band members and nobody else. And it’s the weirdest thing they’ve ever recorded. The Movie is essentially an instrumental jam, built around a heavy, hypnotic riff. The one voice that is heard is not Steven Tyler’s – instead, it’s a woman speaking in an arcane language, reported to be Gaelic. What it proved is that Aerosmith didn’t need drugs to get totally out there. File next to ZZ Top’s Heaven, Hell Or Houston as one of the strangest songs ever made by a major rock band.
9. WRITE ME A LETTER (Aerosmith, 1973)
Aerosmith’s first album was one of a number of classic American hard rock debuts released in 1973, alongside those by Montrose and the New York Dolls and Lynyrd Skynyrd. For Aerosmith, the ballad Dream On became a signature song. Another,Mama Kin, was later covered by Guns N’ Roses. And among the deeper cuts is Write Me A Letter, a funky rock song rooted in rhythm and blues. With Steven Tyler blowing harmonica, it is, in the parlance of the times, a blast.
8. LET THE MUSIC DO THE TALKING (Done With Mirrors, 1985)
If ever a comeback album fell flat on its arse, it was the one that Aerosmith released in 1985. Although the original line-up reunited for Done With Mirrors, they struggled to recapture that old magic. And while their producer Ted Templeman had so many cut great records in the past – notably with Van Halen and Montrose – this was one turd he couldn’t polish. There was just one great song on the album, and even that wasn’t new. Let The Music Do The Talking was originally recorded by The Joe Perry Project in 1980. But it was always, in sound and spirit, an Aerosmith song. And what Steven Tyler brought to this version – smarter lyrics, and super-sized rock star charisma – took it to a whole new level.
7. MOTHER POPCORN (Live Bootleg, 1978)
In the early ‘70s it was the golden age of funk, with bands such as Parliament, The Commodores and The Ohio Players laying down the law with the heaviest grooves. There were rock’n’roll bands that got the funk – Free, Skynyrd, Trapeze. And Aerosmith were as funky as any rock band of the era – as proven by their version ofMother Popcorn, a song originally written and recorded by the Godfather Of Funk, James Brown. Aerosmith cut the track in 1973 for a Boston radio broadcast. It eventually surfaced five years later on the double live album Live Bootleg. For a bunch of white boys, they had an intuitive feel for the song. Tyler gets into it without resorting to parody. And in this were the seeds of the great funky songs that Aerosmith made in the mid-70s – Walk This Way and Last Child.
6. I WANNA KNOW WHY (Draw The Line, 1977)
By 1977, when Draw The Line was released, Tyler and Perry were pretty much gone – deadened by heavy drug use, they were running on empty, the band fast unraveling. Somehow, from the murk they pulled out a half-great record with a frantic, frazzled title track, a moody epic in Kings And Queens and, in I Wanna Know Why, a gloriously whacked-out, high-octane rock’n’roll song. The Bad Boys from Boston never sounded badder.
4. REEFER HEAD WOMAN (Night In The Ruts, 1979)
Joe Perry walked out on Aerosmith halfway through the making of their 1979 albumNight In The Ruts. Even so, it’s one of the band’s very best – just a notch down fromToys In The Attic and Rocks. There are so many doozies on this album: No Surprize,Cheese Cake, Three Mile Smile, Tyler’s beautiful ballad Mia, and inspired covers of the Yardbirds’ Think About It and the Shangri-Las’ Remember (Walking In The Sand). The standout is a version of Reefer Head Woman, a blues song first recorded by Bill ‘Jazz’ Gillum in 1938. Few hard rock bands have ever played blues as convincingly as Led Zeppelin, but Aerosmith matched them on this song. The guitar solo – introduced by Tyler yelling, “Mister Perry!” – is so good, so full of emotion, it’s hard to believe that the guy was about to quit the band.
Listen to the songs on our Spotify playlist: The 10 best Aerosmith songs you may have overlooked