When Aerosmith’s self-titled debut arrived with a whimper

In the mid-70s, Aerosmith were one of the biggest, baddest, most legendarily depraved rock bands on the planet, selling out stadiums, swallowing drugs by the pound and engaging in unspeakable sexual escapades. But that trajectory was hardly evident from the sound of the band’s modest self-titled debut, which arrived with a whimper Jan. 5, 1973.

Aerosmith had formed a few years earlier Steven Tyler‘s band Chain Reaction and Joe Perry and Tom Hamilton‘s Jam Band shared a bill and the musicians hit it off. They completed the lineup with a drummer Joey Kramer and guitarist Ray Tabano (soon to be replaced by Brad Whitford) and began playing in late 1970. The quintet lived in an apartment in Boston at 1325 Commonwealth Ave. and began writing songs together, signing to Columbia Records in 1972 after impressing label boss Clive Davis at legendary New York club Max’s Kansas City.

The band went to Boston’s Intermedia Sound studio in late 1972 to record their debut album with producer Adrian Barber, who had previously worked with e.g. Cream and Allman Brothers Band. Despite knowing their bluesy bar-band boogie inside out, they struggled to capture the energy and spontaneity of their live sets on record.

“We were tight, afraid to make mistakes,” Perry recalled in the 1997s Walk This Way: The Autobiography of Aerosmith. “There was no one chasing us. It was pressure from within ourselves, so much pressure that the record sounded thin and sterile. We were total beginners with no idea what we were going for. about songwriting. So we just went in there , pushed the buttons up and said, ‘Go for it.’ Then the red light went on and we froze like goddamn Eskimos. It was a big move.”

One of the biggest differences between Aerosmith’s debut and their successive albums was Tyler’s voice. The singer was still developing his libidinous alley cat screech – which later earned him the nickname Demon of Screamin’ – and he distorted his voice in an attempt to emulate the black blues and R&B singers he grew up listening to .

“Yeah, I changed my voice when we did the last vocal,” Tyler said Go this way. “I didn’t like my voice, the way it sounded. I was insecure, but nobody told me not to do it. I thought I didn’t sound right on the tape. To me, it sounded like a neutered or castrato voice, and I wanted to sound a little bit black because I was from Yonkers, and back then, James Brown and Sleek Stone were the only ones who said anything in music so I put that crap on. I’ve got a lot of shit for it too.”

Listen to Aerosmith’s ‘Dream On’

Despite the band’s nerves and naivety, there was no doubting their musical chops or creative potential, especially the burgeoning songwriting partnership between Tyler and Perry. Album opener “Make It” is a riff-driven statement of purpose that lures listeners into the rock ‘n’ roll circus with its bold opening lyric, “Good evening guys welcome to the show.” “Mama Kin” is another infectious riff-rocker, with a sweaty sax solo that betrays the band’s R&B affiliation. (Guns ‘n’ RosesAerosmith’s spiritual successors, famously covered the song in the 1988s GN’R Lie.) The slow-burning “Movin’ Out” — the first ever Tyler-Perry co-writer, born on the guitarist’s waterbed — showcases their early knack for dynamic, evocative storytelling.

Then there’s “Dream On,” the album’s centerpiece and the band’s magnum opus. Tyler wrote the wistful ballad on an upright piano as a teenager, and it’s the only song on it Aerosmith to feature his natural singing voice and trademark scream. “Dream On” became a regional hit upon its initial release and was re-released in 1975 following the breakthrough success of Toys in the atticwhich peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1976.

“I’ve always said it’s about hunger, desire, ambition — a song to give to myself,” Tyler recalled in his 2011 memoir Does the noise in my head bother you? “Something about it was nostalgic and familiar, as if it had been written by someone else years before (but if no one has it, then you know you’re on to something), or maybe as if I’d written it years later and looked back on all the things that have happened to me over the last four decades.”

Although fans would retroactively discover gems on Aerosmith and pushing it to double platinum status, the LP was dead on arrival on its initial release. Columbia was far more invested in Bruce Springsteenanother new signing who released his debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ, same day. The label couldn’t even be bothered to proofread, and early pressings of Aerosmith misspelled the last song, a cover of Rufus Thomas’ “Walkin’ the Dog,” as “Walkin’ the Dig.”

“If the release of a record is the birth of a band, ours was a stillbirth,” Perry lamented in his 2014 memoir Rocks: My Life In and Out of Aerosmith. “We kept running to the newsstand to pick up Rolling stones and read a review. But Rolling stones never driven one. It’s one thing to have your debut criticized; it’s even worse to have your debut ignored. We were mad.”

It wasn’t all bad news, though. Aerosmith hit the road with a vengeance in support of their debut, bringing their music to the masses as they had done for years. Their next album, 1974’s Get your wings, would give them their first gold record and they would be well on their way to world domination. Aerosmith moved out and moved up.

Aerosmith Albums Ranked

Any worst-to-best ranking of Aerosmith must deal with two distinct eras: their seedy ’70s work and the smarter, more successful ’80s comeback. But which one was better?

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