Today is Joe Perry’s birthday. The Aerosmith guitar god turns 64, and we’re going to honor him by giving you some obscure facts about Aerosmith. If you’re a die-hard fan, you *might* know some of this stuff, but for all of you Aerosmith novices, this should be quite a learning experience.
1. They released their first album the same day as Bruce Springsteen.
January 5, 1973 was quite a day in rock n roll history. Aerosmith released their self-titled debut (which included “Dream On” and “Mama Kin”), while Bruce Springsteen released his debut offering, Greetings From Ashbury Park, New Jersey. If that weren’t enough, each album came out on Columbia Records, where Springsteen has remained for his entire career (Aerosmith eventually moved to Geffen). At the time, Columbia was more interested in promoting Springsteen, while Aerosmith remained on the backburner. Surprisingly, neither album sold a great deal at the time, as both acts slowly gained a following through word of mouth. We all know happened next: Aerosmith and Springsteen both became huge, and are both among the most celebrated rock acts in American history.
2. They made only one album without the original lineup – and it didn’t do very well.
As Aerosmith entered the 80s, things were not going well. “Night In the Ruts” was a disappointment both critically and commercially (although the years have been kind to it), and the band was suffering through internal turmoil. Joe Perry left in 1979, and Brad Whitford would soon join him. That left the band without either of their guitarists. They soldiered on anyway, releasing Rock In A Hard Place in 1982, with Jimmy Crespo handling most of the guitar duties (Rick Dufay also contributed to the recordings). The album was generally panned, and is considered not to be a “true” Aerosmith album. If you’re curious, it’s actually not all bad — tracks like “Lightnin’ Strikes” and “Bolivian Ragamuffin” are likely far better than you might think based on the album’s reputation. Still, Aerosmith just wasn’t Aerosmith without Joe and Brad, and sure enough, they would never record another album without them.
3. At one point, Sammy Hagar nearly became the lead singer.
If you weren’t a fan of Van Hagar, imagine how much you would’ve hated Aerohagar! Yes, this seriously was considered. Back in the early 2010s, when Steven Tyler was about to join American Idol, the band once again found themselves drifting apart. It briefly looked as though Tyler would leave Aerosmith, and the band began considering replacements, with Hagar being one of the names brought up. Thankfully, Tyler made up with his bandmates, and this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea was never spoken of again.
4. They gave up drugs in the 80s – and referenced that fact in a fairly clever way.
After the failure of Rock In A Hard Place, Joe Perry and Brad Whitford were brought back into the fold. But before they could continue, they had to kick their serious drug habits. After doing so, they recorded the 1985 album Done With Mirrors. The title is a rather witty double meaning, referring both to the band ending their heavy usage of cocaine (they were “done with mirrors,” get it?), but also to how quickly the album was recorded. But even with the band back together, and off drugs, it would take a bit more to get the public interested in Aerosmith again. Which brings us to our next point…
5. Their late 80s comeback was greatly helped by the presence of song doctors.
After Done With Mirrors failed to make a significant dent in the charts, the band was desperate to launch a comeback. Which is exactly what they did with the follow up, Permanent Vacation, which featured the smash hits “Rag Doll,” “Angel” and “(Dude) Looks Like A Lady.” What was their secret for getting back on top? Bringing in some song doctors to add a pop touch to their hard rock sound. Desmond Child was fresh off launching Bon Jovi to stardom with his work on Slippery When Wet, and he collaborated on several tracks here, including all of the major hits. The new, poppy sound brought several new fans into the fold, and allowed Aerosmith to rack up hits for years to come. The older fans might have seen the move as a sell-out, but with all of the albums they were selling, Aerosmith probably wasn’t too concerned about that.
6. “Toys In The Attic” was covered by R.E.M.
You might not think R.E.M. would be big Aerosmith fans, but you’d be wrong. On the 1987 b-sides compilation Dead Letter Office, they released a surprisingly rollicking cover of “Toys In The Attic.” It might be the heaviest thing R.E.M. has ever recorded, and it shows just how far-reaching Aerosmith’s influence was.
7. Their performance on Wayne’s World was named the greatest SNL moment ever.
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We’ve all seen it; Aerosmith are hanging out in the breakfast nook, Tom Hanks plays Wayne’s dorky cousin, and finally the band takes the stage and performs the best version of the Wayne’s World theme song ever. What you may not know: in 2004, the E! Network named the performance the most unforgettable moment in SNL history. As someone who watched it hundreds of times, it’s hard to disagree. Take that, Streisand on Coffee Talk!
8. Their biggest hit never appeared on a proper album.
If you were alive in 1998, you probably heard Aerosmith’s single “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing,” their contribution to the Armageddon soundtrack a lot. To the point where you probably never want to hear it again. The Diane Warren-penned power ballad became the band’s lone #1 hit. It came out between 1997’s Nine Lives and 2001’s Just Push Play, and thus, never appeared on any of their studio albums.
9. They cracked the Top 40 in four different decades.
Longevity, thy name is Aerosmith. After first cracking the top 40 with “Sweet Emotion” in 1975 (it peaked at #36), they were a consistent presence on the pop charts for many years. Their pop turn in the late 80s carried through to the 90s, with the massively successful Get A Grip. Their success even carried over into the 21st century, with 2001’s “Jaded” peaking at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100. They have yet to reach the top 40 in the 2010s, as 2012’s Music From Another Dimension! failed to yield a major hit. But since this is Aerosmith we’re talking about, they can hardly be counted out.
10. They were the first band to play at Moe’s Tavern.
In 1991, The Simpsons had officially gotten huge. Michael Jackson had already had his uncredited spot as a white mental patient who thinks he’s Michael Jackson, and just two months later, Aerosmith would go one step further by taking the stage at Moe’s Tavern. Who cares if they thought Springfield was St. Louis, this was awesome!