Bostonians tend to harbor a soft spot for any thing or person to which they feel within even ten degrees of emotional separation. (Three words: "Mahky Mahk's kuzzin!") Me? I've always been a big Aerosmith fan for a few reasons: one, they played their first concert at my old high school, Nipmuc Regional in (then) Mendon, Massachusetts, a tiny town with few other claims to fame. (Aside from its awesome drive-in, of course.) Two, I grew up listening to my grandfather talk about how he worked at the same Hopedale mill factory as Joe Perry's grandpop. (Note: unverified and potential crazy-talk.) Three, my older brother's Aerosmith albums were among my earliest memories of a musical education.
Last night I saw them play the MGM Grand at Foxwoods Resort, and they were as spry as ever. Given that, and the fact that their debut album celebrates its 40th (!) anniversary this year, I thought I'd take a walk down memory lane to share my favorite 8 Aerosmith songs. And by that I mean "singles," not album tracks, die-hards. I'm sure there's an Aerosmith blog out there for those of you that want to dig deep; for the sake of argument, I'm sticking to hits everyone knows.
What are your favorites?
8. Walk This Way (1975/1986)
One of the band's signature songs, "Walk This Way" is also one Aerosmith has shared with surprising collaborators. The 1986 revisit by Run-D.M.C. was a then-gutsy pairing between established rock and emergent rap. And in the half-time show of Super Bowl XXXV in 2001, Aerosmith invited the ambassadors of the au courant teen pop boom, Britney Spears and NSync, to share the stage for it. It's the kind of combo that could have backfired, but the spirit of Good Fun prevailed and left everyone looking cooler than they should have. Plus it showed Tyler, future American Idol judge, was not that most cliched curmudgeon: the aging rocker showman shaking his fists at the "talentless" next generation of entertainers.
7. Rag Doll (1988)
But really, when you think about it, aren't we all rag dolls living in a movie? It's all one big movie, man. Who brought these brownies?
6. Love in an Elevator (1989)
Yeah, it's a great song. But it also gets big bonus points for its video, which manages to fit in two symbols of late '80s excess, flamboyant stadium rock and the intoxicating sex appeal of deco shopping malls, and still leave enough room for all that hair.
5. Dude Looks Like a Lady (1987)
He may not have parlayed the more obvious on-stage androgyny of say, David Bowie, but there's no doubt that part of Steven Tyler's sex appeal comes from the ease and confidence with which he organically flirts with effeminacy. (Something he willingly admits, and just last night, I'm confident, the concert cameras caught Tyler playfully batting his eyes at a cherubic Suit in the front row.) "Dude" was actually written about a meeting with Motley Crue, one of the many other bands in the late '80s whose penchant for eyeliner and neon fishnet stockings was a much more affected, postured and performative style of gender blending.
4. Dream On (1973)
Their breakthrough song, a general rock classic, and what many would dub Aerosmith's best. During last night's concert, Tyler played a dramatic white piano while Perry wailed on his guitar atop it. Geysers of arena fog shot up from the floor. Mid-fifties women in the front row looked like they were about to lose their ish, and I thought how nice it must have been to grow up in a time when your rock idol felt removed, and glimpses of him were rare, and you had no idea what mop bucket he peed in last night, courtesy of TMZ.
3. Cryin' (1993)
I am a product of my generation, and lawd, does this song scream "The Nineteez." Before she gave us the definitive modern valley girl in Clueless, Alicia Silverstone was the tomboy hottie from the Aerosmith vids: channeling a mini-Courtney Love in her floral grunge dress, and flipping off the camera in her flannel button-downs. Swoon, still.
2. Angel (1988)
I'm actually happy to miss "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" any time. (Beer break!) But on the epic ballad side of life, "Angel" is a slice of pure heaven.
1. Sweet Emotion (1975)
When you're a nine year-old boy glued to the I-wish-this-had-more-boob tube, the phone sex operator subplot of the "Sweet Emotion" video was probably the most exciting thing you'd watch between episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Though the video was for the song's 1991 re-release, it's the smooth mid-'70s vibe that gets me. Some people hear the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack and imagine themselves strutting Travolta-style down a sidewalk; I hear this, and picture myself hopping out of a smoke-filled Scooby van. Ah, how sweet it would be.
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