In 1974 Aerosmith were struggling to break through: then they flew to LA to appear on The Midnight Special and it all changed

Aerosmith on The Midnight Special
(Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives)

In the first half of 1974 Aerosmith were struggling. Same Old Song And Dance had been released as a single in March but failed to chart. The same fate befell two more singles, S.O.S. and their cover of Tiny Bradshaw's Train Kept A Rollin'. The album from which all three were taken from, Get Your Wings, stalled at #74 on the Billboard chart.  

The band ploughed on, hitting the road with Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult, Kiss and Lynyrd Skynyrd. "We toured all of 1974 and nearly killed ourselves," wrote drummer Joey Kramer, in his memoir Hit Hard: A Story of Hitting Rock Bottom.  

Then the balance began to shift. And it all began in June, when the band flew to Los Angeles to film a segment for NBC's long-running music show The Midnight Special.  The episode, which was hosted by Little Richard, was eventually broadcast on August 9, and Aerosmith were joined under the studio lights by Blood Sweat & Tears singer David Clayton-Thomas, Dutch rockers Golden Earring, R&B star Eddie Kendricks and funk outfit Kool & The Gang.

For many Americans, Aerosmith's performance of Train Kept A Rollin' was their first glimpse of the band, and they did not hold back. Newly restored footage uploaded to The Midnight Special's official YouTube channel finds Steve Tyler and Co. looking like a youthful gang and in electrifying form, from Joe Perry's loose introductory solo to the song's clattering finale.  

The band also performed Dream On on The Midnight Specialthat footage was uploaded in June – and would go on to achieve huge success in the wake of the broadcast. Third album Toys In The Attic, released eight months later, would nearly hit the top 10 and go on to sell nine million copies, while even the faltering Get Your Wings would eventually be certified triple platinum. 

Aerosmith were on their way.

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.