Thursday, February 11, 2010

SONG #78: Sick As A Dog


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.


  1. Welcome back, Jefe. We missed you. So did the fridge, apparently.

    Classic- "Steven Tyler is...starting to look more like a melted candle than a person."

    Enjoy that saltine, skinny!

  2. I actually think the true legacy of these guys might be their cross-over with Run-DMC, which I think is the most important single of the 80s. No, really.

    O Aerosmith! Without even knowing, you played a kind of Moses to the hip-hop nation, bringing it to the commercial promised land and ushering in the dominant musical genre of the last 20 years. Even though they had nothing to lose when they did it, they don't get enough credit for making the decision to collaborate with those guys. It was goofy and gutsy. The video had a lot to do with it too -- the self-depricating humor, the influence of a nascent MTV.

    And now, because I am so fond of you, my 80-minute Aeorsmith mix from summer 2009. You can't miss with the ladies with this in your woofers!

    Back In The Saddle
    Walk This Way
    Same Old Song And Dance
    Last Child
    Rag Doll
    Seasons Of Wither
    Dude (Looks Like a Lady)
    Mama Kin
    Livin' On The Edge
    Girls Of Summer
    Just Push Play (Radio Remix)
    Falling In Love (Is Hard On The Knees)
    Draw The Line
    Sweet Emotion
    Love In An Elevator
    Big Ten Inch Record
    Dream On

  3. SOLID!! Let's not forget the importance of the Chubby Checker / Fat Boys collaboration. To your choices, I would humbly suggest:

    One Way Street
    Train Kept A Rollin'
    Toys In The Attic
    No More No More

  4. Weird, I have three Aerosmith songs in my top 600 and neither of you hit one of them! I have What it Takes, F.I.N.E., and Mama Kin as my three favorite aerosmith songs apparently. I left Back in the Saddle and Dream On off because I've just worn them out over time, so I guess those two plus the three above would be my five favorite Aerosmith songs. Since two of them are from Pump you can guess that I'm a pretty big defender of that record. Although it came out in 1989 I really wore that record out Fall 90 in our senior year in college. I listened to "what it takes" daily after I broke up with me junior year girlfriend and it helped me limp through the hilarious 20 year old angst that lasted exactly three weeks until I met the next girlfriend.

  5. Copy of Pump: 10 dollars.

    Answer to "What It Takes" to get over girlfriend: three weeks.

    Use of acronym F.I.N.E. in a pop song: Priceless.

  6. Such fun writing while recovering from sickness, especially the bit about a melted candle! When people ask how you lost weight, perhaps you should tell them you used The Silverstone Method... ;-)

    Get well soon!

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  8. Very pleased to get Combination this summer on the short lived tour...

    ...walking on Gucci, wearin' Yves Saint Laurent
    barely stay on, 'cause I'm so God damn gaunt...