How ‘Angel’ set a new precedent for Aerosmith

Steven Tyler could regard it as the devil in Aerosmith‘s discography, but “Angel” helped save the band’s career when it was released as a single on Jan. 5, 1988.

The song that Tyler co-wrote with Desmond Child for 1987’s Permanent vacation, played a central role in Aerosmith’s resurgence in the late ’80s. Coming after a long fallow period that included the temporary departure of guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford and a shaky reunion in the 1985s Made with mirrors“Angel” followed lead single (and fellow Child co-write) “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” into the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100. It peaked at No. 3, marking their first Top 5 hit and the highest chart until “I don’t want to miss a thing” hit No. 1 in 1998.

Aerosmith met Child through John Kalodner, the A&R executive who signed the band to Geffen Records after their career hit rock bottom in the early ’80s. The independent Made with mirrors was a tentative step back, but as the group neared its second album for the label, Kalodner tightened the screws hoping for some hits. Unimpressed with what the band had done at their rehearsal facility in Somerville, Massachusetts, he suggested bringing in outside writers to help.

“I told [Kalodner] if he knew someone I could write lyrics with and have as much fun as I write songs with Joe Perry, bring them along,’ Tyler recalled in Walk This Way: The Autobiography of Aerosmith. After initially approaching Mincemeat bread partner Jim Steinman, Kalodner reached out to Child, who drove high off hits along Kiss (“I Was Made For Lovin’ You”) and Bon Jovi (“You Give Love a Bad Name”, “Livin’ on a Prayer”). Within days, the collaboration yielded “Dude” and “Angel,” as well as “Heart’s Done Time,” which Child wrote with Perry.

Watch Aerosmith’s ‘Angel’ video

“I learned how to operate in this system,” Tyler explained Go this way. “When I tried to use Desmond as a song doctor, someone to make a song after it was finished, it didn’t work for me… But when I used his skills and started writing with him, it became like a tapestry we worked on together. I showed him the chords to ‘Dream On’ and we wrote ‘Angel’ 10 minutes later.” Tyler, Perry and Child also wrote the future hit “Crazy” around the same time, but the band saved it for 1993 Pull yourself together.

However, the system was not always smooth. Kalodner portrayed his relationship with Aerosmith as “years of struggle,” with the group occasionally berating his strong hand. “To this day, Tyler says I ruined his career by making him write ‘Angel’ with Desmond,” Kalodner said. But the statistics say otherwise: “Angel” ranked No. 35 on Billboard‘s 1988 year-end chart and its exuberant music video, directed by Marty Callner (who also worked with White snake and Married) was heavy MTV rotation during the year.

By the mid-’90s, Tyler seemed to have made peace with it all. “Yes, we used some other writers to help us out of the hole,” he said Go this way. “Yeah, I did a whole lot of lame stuff: ‘Magic Touch,’ ‘Angel.’ I love sappy ballads, The Beatles songs like ‘In My Life.’ Half of me loves them. The other half whispers: ‘You fucking bitch. Don’t put out any more of that shit!'”

Aerosmith put out more of that shit. The five times platinum success of Permanent vacation set a new precedent for the group, who continued to mix their rockers with a steady stream of power ballads like “What It Takes”, Cryin’, “Amazing”, “Crazy” and of course “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing .” With total sales of 19 million in the US at Permanent vacation, Pump and Pull yourself togetherafter all, the formula turned out to be rather angelic.

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