Friday, March 10, 2017

"Rocks" - Inside Aerosmith's Greatest Album

Aerosmith have pumped out a bunch of amazing records over their long and stellar recording career.

But when you throw on Rocks, there's just something about it that makes it stand out from the rest. Certainly part of what makes Rocks such a great album is Aerosmith wore everything on their sleeve and crafted it into some amazing music.

Coming off their highly successful breakthrough Toys in the Attic album, the Boston rockers were flying high in 1976 - figuratively and literally - and had found their groove with American audiences.

They had been touring their asses off and were reaping all the benefits of the rock' n roll lifestyle. So when it came time to record Rocks, the band was a well-oiled machine because the heroin and cocaine hadn't taken them down, as was the case when they began work on Draw the Line in 1977. It took just two months to record Rocks.

"There's no doubt we were doing a lot of drugs by then, but whatever we were doing, it was still working for us," recalled Joe Perry.

They set up in the Wherehouse in Waltham, Mass. with the Record Plant's mobile recording truck. Again, they enlisted Jack Douglas to help with production (he did Toys as well). Douglas notes that this was a time when bassist Tom Hamilton and guitarist Brad Whitford took more of an active role in writing songs.

Rocks was the album where Tom [Hamilton] and Brad had a lot more input," said Douglas, the unofficial sixth member of Aerosmith. "This was a big album for Aerosmith. It had to make a big statement about how loud and hard they were, how unapologetic they felt about being who they were - this brash, rude, sexual, hard-core rock band."

Rocks Rolls with Stellar Songs

Whitford helped write "Last Child", while Hamilton was key in creating "Sick as a Dog", a song rumoured to be about meeting Mick Jagger, although it makes more sense that's it's about meeting Keith Richards, given his heroin addiction at the time.

Rocks also features the amazing Joe Perry-penned "Combination", which sees him writing a phenomenal riff and sharing lead vocals with Steven Tyler. Perry said he wrote the song about "cocaine, heroin and me" to make the combination. Tyler loved the song and the lyrics, saying in his memoir "Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?" that the line "Walkin' on Gucci wearing Yves St. Laurent/Barely stay on 'cause I'm so goddamn gaunt" was the best lyric Perry ever wrote: "It was the truth, it was clever, and it described us to a tee".

There's also "Back in the Saddle", which comes from a riff Perry wrote while stoned on heroin. Tyler's sexual innuendo lyrics are perfect with the western feel of the song - all the while "riding high".

Another great song is the highly underrated apocalyptic "Nobody's Fault" which Tyler lists as being among his greatest efforts as a member of Aerosmith.

While Rolling Stone magazine said in its 1976 review the album was filled with "mediocre material", the album was a major influence on the likes of Slash, James Hetfield, Kurt Cobain, and Nikki Sixx, to name a few.

Check out our in-depth look at Black Sabbath's Sabotage album.

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