Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Aerosmith 1st Album (1973)


Back in 1973, the band’s debut album often induced comparisons with the Rolling Stones. Oh sure, the influence is right there from beginning to end, but as far as I can see, the only really exclusive motive – and the most obvious one – was that Aerosmith ended the album with a cover of ‘Walking The Dog’, thus repeating the same move that the Stones had employed for their debut nine years ago.

Whether it was intentional and symbolic (Aerosmith announcing themselves as the new incarnation of the “withered” Stones who’d just released their last ‘epochal’ album) or just a weird coincidence, is left overboard. The fact is, the album as a whole does pretty little to justify the “claim” if there ever was one.

What we basically have here is eight hard rock pieces, highly derivative (goes without saying – not that anybody would hold this against any debut album) and, frankly speaking, not too exciting. Of course, these guys made a good job of capturing the American youth spirit of the Seventies, but hey, let’s face it, that spirit, when captured properly and correctly, without any extra purification or exaggeration, actually sucked. In addition, the tone of the record is at least ten times as monotonous as that of the Stones’ debut album – just your standard hard rock sludge driven in mid-tempo by two guitarists that don’t as of yet seem to understand what a proper riff should sound like and a hoarse screamin’ guy that never had any real “rock’n’roll mystique” in his strong, but annoying voice.

Their style would certainly get perfected later on, but for the most part, all the bad trademarks are already here as well. Yes, even including Aerosmith’s rotten approach to “power ballads”: I know everyone and their grandma will take me to court for that one, but I still find ‘Dream On’ pretty much abysmal, the ultimate in bad taste (okay, pen-ultimate, considering what was to follow twenty years later), its only interesting quality being the stately ascending riff (the one where Tyler shouts ‘dream on, dream on, dream on’) that the band ripped-off of Big Brother And The Holding Company’s ‘I Need A Man To Love’. Otherwise, it’s just a lot of overemoted screaming, bland guitar chords and a bleak, undistinguishable (but jangly!) melody that’s not at all compensated by the song’s overbloated pretentions; in brief, everything that defines the wretched genre of ‘power ballad’.

It may so be, though, that I’m just psychologically unprepared to grant Tyler any possible right to exercising ‘spiritual catharsis’. I could take it even off the hands of some greasy-sleazy rockers, provided they demonstrate a bit of ‘stylishness’ and psychological depth throughout their career (and yes, Mick Jagger definitely qualifies in that respect). But a guy like Steve Tyler is so firmly associated in my mind with the basic, undiluted, unrefined concept of “I’m only here to get me some” that falling for any kind of lyricism emanating from the ‘gentleman’ and his bandmates is absolutely out of the question.

“So”, asks the nitpicking inquisitive reader, “maybe if the Rolling Stones sang ‘Dream On’, you’d like it, Mr Self-Contradictory Reviewer?’ Hmm. No idea. Would have to hear it, I guess. Let me ask you a counter-question, Mr Nitpicking Inquisitive Reader: which one would you rather take on a desert island? ‘Dream On’ or ‘Shine A Light’? Whichever answer you prefer, the crucial thing is the subtle – and at the same time endless – distance between the two. (Actually, it seems more reasonable to think of ‘Dream On’ as Aerosmith’s “reply” to ‘Stairway To Heaven’ – both songs share the same kind of mystique, have similar build-ups and serve similar purposes, but this doesn’t change things much. There’s giants and midgets in every branch of business).

Okay, we’re back in business. The best material on Aerosmith’s debut album is all on the first side, together with the worst (‘Dream On’): both ‘Make It’ and ‘Somebody’ are fairly catchy and decent rockers, with nice vocal hooks and eminent danceable/headbanging potential, and the latter is even interesting in its instrumentation – I like the weeping solo that goes along with Tyler’s doo-doo-doos. But it also features the seven-minute long ‘One Way Street’ to which I have very mixed feelings. It starts out as another pretty attractive, harmonica-driven rocker, with lots of self-assurance, steady beats, and “cool staying power”, whatever that means.

But it goes on and on and on, with a lengthy guitar solo that doesn’t do anything interesting, not to mention original, and the simplistic melody really gets tedious towards the third minute or so. If we should continue the silly Stones comparison and say this is the band’s take on ‘Goin’ Home’, it’s a very poorly thought-out take: where Jagger was able to hook the listener with his never ending, mighty inventive vocal improvisation, and Keith Richards would always throw in an unpredictable guitar line now, Aerosmith just plunder on through the same predictable power chords and the same shouts and screams. Although it’s somewhat interesting to examine the contents of Steve’s trachea at the end of each verse.

But then the second side is just plain dull. ‘Walking The Dog’ adds nothing to the Stones’ version… okay, so it sure sounds different, with a more metallic touch, but Tyler ruins the song with his screechy vocals, and I sure miss the cool whistling. And the other three rockers? Okay, so it’s good party music, for sure, but hardly anything more; after the more or less acceptable vocal hooks on the first side, these songs just don’t do anything for me.

‘Mama Kin’ is an inferior version of ‘Make It’; ‘Write Me A Letter’ plods along in stupid mid-tempo again, but doesn’t even have the harmonica punch of ‘One Way Street’; and ‘Movin’ Out’ shows that the boys better not mess around with generic blues… In short, there’s nothing to separate Aerosmith from zillions of long-haired young punks roaming neighbourhood bars in hopes of getting a record contract, and it’s little wonder that the record flopped; it actually took them some careful career-building to make the public aware of the hit potential of ‘Dream On’ which they ran up the charts in 1976, if I’m not mistaken.
The only saving grace here is that the lyrics are… not awful. At least, not as awful as you’d expect from a mid-Seventies heavy metal band. Sure ain’t no Kiss.

Just the standard ‘girl don’t mess around with me’ themes, rendered so as not to offend the good taste of those who prefer ‘parking lots’ to ‘vaginas’, or even a little bit of harmless social critique around the way, never too prominent and even with a couple wonderful lines lying around, if there’s anybody to pick ’em up, of course. But who the hell listens to mid-Seventies heavy metal bands for the lyrics, anyway? Certainly not Lou Reed fans.

May 25, 2013 Posted by | Aerosmith 1st Album | | Leave a comment