Thursday, April 13, 2017

Aerosmith's "Draw the Line": When the Drugs Took Hold

By the time Aerosmith had finished touring in February, 1977 in support of their amazing Rocks album, the rock 'n roll lifesytle had caught up to them.

The drugs had taken a firm hold, and the band was worn out after years of non-stop touring and recording.

But they had to go in and write the follow-up to what was arguably their best album.

"Draw the Line was untogether because we weren't a cohesive unit anymore," guitarist Joe Perry said in the Stephen Davis band memoir Walk This Way. "We were drug addicts dabbling in music, rather than musicians dabbling in drugs".

Knowing drugs had a hold on the band (cocaine and heroin), the plan was to try and avoid them while working on what would become Draw the Line. To that end, the band rented an old estate known as the Cenacle, a 300-room former convent near Armonk, NY., where they would be isolated without drugs around so they could focus on writing new songs.

But drug dealers deliver, and deliver they did.

As vocalist Steven Tyler said in his autobiography Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?, the band was climbing up a mountain of cocaine carrying backpacks of heroin. Drummer Joey Kramer said of that time: "I don't know if we did any of those sessions, or made any of that record, straight."

Heck, even the album cover, depicting the band drawn with lines, is a nod to all the cocaine they were consuming, according to Tyler.

Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry were pretty out of it, and didn't contribute much in terms of songwriting together on Draw the Line. The band was also fighting amongst each other a whole lot as they recorded from June-October 1977.

The only songs contributed by Perry and Tyler were the amazing title track, "Get it Up" and "I Wanna Know Why". Perry didn't even play on "The Hand that Feeds" as he decided to stay in bed that day.

In fact, the process was so slow, producer Jack Douglas had to step in and contribute some lyrics, which included the words to "Critical Mass", which came from a weird dream he had at the Cenacle. He also co-wrote the "Kings & Queens" lyrics with Tyler.

Perry came up with the edgy "Bright Light Fright", a punky track about running out of "zoom", but the rest of the band didn't like it. Perry ended up singing it since Tyler presumably wanted nothing to do with the song.

While many critics hated Draw the Line, it's still a pretty good album. The title track is pure Aerosmith and a song like "Kings & Queens" shows the band spreading its collective wings to churn out a drug-induced medieval track that is just a great effort with a sublime Joe Whitford solo.

Draw the Line would ultimately be a huge turning point for Aerosmith as Perry would leave the band during recording of the follow up Night in the Ruts in 1979. He didn't return until 1984.

Check out the the five most underrated Led Zeppelin songs.

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