AEROSMITH, ROCKS, 1976
I offer this song as explanation for the dead airspace. Sorry for the week of blog silence, but I got a sadistic stomach bug right after the Super Bowl that a) caused me not to eat anything for 65 hours b) made me lose so much weight that multiple people have asked me how I did it (answer: you don't want to know) and c) allowed me to quote Richard Pryor* as I thanked Newton for gravity over the toilet bowl multiple times.
One of my favorite liner note moments comes from R.E.M.'s Dead Letter Office, which features a great cover of "Toys In The Attic." In the notes, Peter Buck says, "If you grew up in the 70s, you liked Aerosmith." It's such a wonderfully true statement. Aerosmith got terrible press all through the 70s. They were derided as a cartoonish version of The Rolling Stones, and critics just savaged them as they drugged themselves into a late 70s stupor that almost claimed the group. But you know what? Those critics didn't grow up in the 70s, and so Aerosmith's American brashness and unapologetic love for pop hooks wasn't for them. Critics couldn't forgive the band for so obviously wanting to be popular, but Aerosmith has always had as much to do with the Raspberries as Led Zeppelin. At their best, they sound like a power pop band pretending to be a heavy metal band, and sometimes that's a fabulous combination.
It certainly is here on one of my favorite Aerosmith tunes, from a silly, 29 minute record from the bicentennial year. There's nothing subtle about Rocks-- the songs are blunt and short, the cover obviously took at least five minutes to conceive and shoot, and the stylistic variations of the previous year's and far superior Toys In The Attic are gone. In its place is some hard pop-rock with a series of show-offy vocal performances that steal the show every time. What sells this song is not the solid but predictable guitar lick but those wonderful, multitracked "Please"s that are the cornerstones of each verse. Steven Tyler is generally a complete weirdo, and these days he's starting to look more like a melted candle than a person, but he's a fantastic musician. In the documentary about the making of the Pump album, Tyler proves himself to be a terrific, effortless singer, a great drummer, a natural songwriter, and a narcissist that would make Charlemagne say, "Wow, that guy needs to think about other people every once in a while." He sounds great on this track, even if his vibrato at the end of the verse lines is sometimes almost Striesandesque. The chorus is fine, the half-time bridge at 2:45 is a nice touch, and it fades on a classically tasty Joe Perry solo, but the song will always be the "Pleeeeeeeease" song to me.
Other than "Please," the lyrics are pretty dumb and utterly forgettable. It's definitely one of those songs you sing along to that ends up sounding like "Pleeeeeeese... you gotta rawp me in the long/ Pleeeeeeese... I gotta snop the blue ba song..." I love the use of the word "loo" in line two-- it's so great when bands try to use slang from other cultures. It just never works, even when your British accent has become second nature (looking at you, Billy Joe Green Day). But this song is not about communicating anything-- just turn it up and yell "Pleeeeeeeeeze" at the right moments, and it should make you feel good. Better than I have this week, at any rate.
I like a bunch of tunes from Pump, and I thought Alicia Silverstone was a great second guitarist (she was in the band in the 90s, right?) but for the most part I can take or leave Aerosmith's second act, remarkable as it is. For me, the years worth knowing about are 1975-1976, and "Sick As A Dog" is as fun a place to start as anywhere.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a saltine calling my name.
* It's a family blog, so you'll just have to know which bit I'm talking about.