Color promo photo of Aerosmith


© Bob Gruen
  • Tom Hamilton
  • Joey Kramer
  • Joe Perry
  • Steven Tyler
  • Brad Whitford

Aerosmith sound like the Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones having a battle of the bands at a low-key dive bar.

In other words, the Boston-based bad boys—led by the combustible, magnetic duo of frontman Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry— ooze confidence, danger and rebellion.

The secret to their success? Gigantic riffs, swaggering grooves and plenty of devil-may-care attitude.


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Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler always wanted to be a rock star. Even as a rabble-rousing teenager, when he was drumming in bands such as the Strangeurs and Chain Reaction, the New York City native had designs on being famous.

Unlike many other kids with this fantasy, however, Tyler's dream actually came true. Not only was he blessed with magnetic charisma, a raspy vocal yowl and the ability to channel Mick Jagger, but he found bandmates that possessed as much ambition as he did.

Guitarist Joe Perry—who dug Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced?, Jeff Beck, John Mayall and Cream—in particular possessed a sleazy, bluesy style that matched Tyler's swagger. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the pair discovered they also had dynamic songwriting chemistry—as heard on "Walk This Way," "Toys In The Attic," "Back In The Saddle," "Same Old Song and Dance" and "Love In An Elevator."

Tyler's life changed thanks to a fortuitous August 1969 night out in Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire, when he caught Perry and bassist Tom Hamilton playing with their group the Jam Band. Tyler was blown away after seeing the group run through Led Zeppelin, MC5 and early Fleetwood Mac tunes, and felt drawn to the musicians.

The next summer, the trio decided to form a band. Tyler joined Perry and Hamilton in Boston, where the pair had moved in September 1970 to pursue music. Drummer Joey Kramer, who actually went to school with Tyler back in New York, linked up with the nascent group next. A Berklee School of Music student, Kramer brought the idea for the band's name—Aerosmith—and ensured his old acquaintance could finally retire his drumsticks and move to the spotlight.

Aerosmith started writing songs and playing shows, and gained steam after guitarist Brad Whitford joined in summer 1971. The now-quintet's hard work paid off the following year, with a $125,000 major label record deal with Columbia. A self-titled debut followed in 1993, and while the LP wasn't a hit at the time, Tyler's harrowing ballad "Dream On" and the hard-edged "Mama Kin" became live staples.

Although comparisons to the Rolling Stones dogged the group early on, Aerosmith found their footing in a big way on their next three albums: 1974's Get Your Wings, 1975's Toys In The Attic and 1976's Rocks. This triptych found the band members growing into their influences–the Yardbirds-popularized barnstorming boogie "Train Kept A-Rollin'" and bluesy "Same Old Song and Dance"—and covering new ground: the rebel-with-a-cause jam "Toys In The Attic" the sinewy grooves of "Sweet Emotion" and hard rock strut "Walk This Way."

Post-Rocks, Aerosmith were also finally a huge live draw playing arenas and then stadiums. Their offstage lives were also larger-than-life: Perry and Tyler became known as the Toxic Twins due to their mutual fondness for illicit substances.

Such indulgences would soon become a problem for all of Aerosmith on the downside of the decade, as diminishing commercial success and band members' drug use culminated in turmoil. Perry left the band after a 1979 show in Cleveland, and Whitford followed in 1981.

Aerosmith kept chugging along, but tours and albums with replacement members didn't connect. Even a 1984 reunion with Perry and Whitford—and 1985's Done With Mirrors LP—didn't turn their fortunes around.

Things started looking up after Perry and Tyler collaborated with future Rock Hall inductees Run-D.M.C. for a 1986 remake of "Walk This Way," a worldwide hit which bridged the (perceived) sonic and cultural gap between rock and hip-hop. A band intervention to get Tyler off drugs helped even more—and soon Aerosmith, improbably, was on their way to even greater heights.

Both 1987's Permanent Vacation and 1989's Pump boasted radio-ready, contemporary updates of Aerosmith's ragged '70s boogie, highlighted by the winking "Love In An Elevator," power ballad "Angel" and loose-hipped, bluesy heartbreak of "What It Takes." The band also embraced MTV, although that wasn't without controversy: The David Fincher-directed clip for "Janie's Got A Gun" especially had a controversial storyline hinting at violence and incest.

In the '90s, Aerosmith continued their multiplatinum ways and career renaissance with 1993's Get A Grip—whose videos for "Cryin'" and "Crazy" helped raise the profile of actress Alicia Silverstone—and 1997's Nine Lives. The band even had a No. 1 pop hit with the ballad "I Don't Want To Miss a Thing," a crucial part of the movie Armageddon.

No matter how slick or commercial Aerosmith sounded on tape, however, they remained a fiery live act. In fact, the band honored their roots with 2004's blues-based covers record, Honkin' On Bobo, and returned to hardscrabble hard-rock form with their most recent studio album, 2012's Music From Another Dimension! After 45-plus years together, Aerosmith sound as hungry and urgent as they did back in their early days.