Len O’Kelly at 45 Ruminations per Megabyte reminded me that Jan. 5 marked the 45th anniversary of Bruce Springsteen’s first album release.
Which reminded me that the first Aerosmith album, according to most sources, came out the same day and has also recently hit the big four-five.
There was a time when I would have told you with a straight face that the first Aerosmith album was their best. That was before I became acquainted with the flamethrowing genius that is Rocks.
If you’re of the right mindset, though, there’s still a lot to like about Aerosmith:
– It’s bare-bones. Like, band-playing-its-live-set-in-the-studio bare-bones. And that’s always good, because even if you don’t like the material (or even the band), you know you’re getting the core of what they have to give.
There’s no producer putting the music in a dress, nor outside song-doctors shining up the tunes. What you hear is what these five guys (and one unobtrusive guest) have to offer.
– It sounds all trebly and crappy like good garage-rock should.
Everybody always said Aero was trying to copy the Stones, and no doubt that’s correct. But when I listen to their first two albums, the suburban trashiness of Nuggets is more what I hear — it sounds like they’re ripping off that Troggsian basementy goodness that Lester Bangs waxed so eloquent about.
I find that positive because it bespeaks humility (would you rather be in a room with a band that wants to be jaded limo-riding royal fops like the Stones, or with a band that has Count Five in its heart?) and perhaps even that rarest of rock n’ roll qualities, a sense of humor.
(The truth is nowhere near so positive, I have to admit. Joe Perry has written that the band knew they sounded flat and crappy on their first album, but they lacked the cojones and experience to say anything about it. I’m sure they would have sounded all Zep II steamroller if they’d had a choice. I know what I hear on the finished vinyl, though, and it’s something closer to the Chocolate Watch Band.)
– It’s an authentic slice of rock history. My perception is that every good-sized U.S. city had, in the early ’70s, at least one hard-rock/boogie band (and probably a couple) grinding it out at bars, high schools, colleges, and wherever else they could gather a crowd. They stole riffs to churn out their own “originals,” augmented them with a ragbag of familiar covers like “Walkin’ The Dog,” and spent as much free time as possible getting lit up on pot and cheap beer.
I further suspect that Aerosmith, at this stage, was really no better than most of their American peer bands. They later lucked into a good producer, and had the eternal good fortune to cough out a few really good riffs just when they were needed. But in 1973, you could probably find a band like Aerosmith – give or take some charisma – in hundreds of venues across America on any given Friday night.
So what we have here ain’t just an album. It’s documentary evidence of an American cultural movement. How ’bout that?
– It was big in Boston. The ARSA database shows only two stations outside of Boston picking up on the album before 1976, when Aero’s rise to fame drew renewed attention to their debut record. (Since you asked, those stations were WYSL in Buffalo and WDRQ in Detroit.)
But in Boston, the first Aero album was in the Top Ten on WRKO and WMEX from mid-July 1973 all the way through early December. (It also shows up a few times on the old WBZ in Boston, as well.)
That’s kinda a remarkable run. Brings to mind the days when Bob Seger owned Detroit but couldn’t get arrested anywhere else. He did OK for himself in the end too.
Anyway, enough yacking. Here’s one of the rhinestones that makes Aerosmith a pleasure to listen to. It’s a simple, totally unsurprising boogie number, originally drafted under the working title “Bite Me,” and featuring a primitive-to-the-point-of-moronic Steven Tyler harmonica solo.
What’s not to love?