Things that make it easy for people to write-off Aerosmith:
- Any public appearance from Steven Tyler over the last decade or so.
- The way that their more recent work has almost completely undermined their earlier work.
- They came to existence during a time when their primary competition also happened to be the greatest rock band in the world at the height of their career: Led Zeppelin.
- Seriously, have you seen Steven Tyler lately?
- Their hits.
The first few are pretty self-explanatory, but that last one needs a little detail. Aerosmith has had 21 Top-40 singles. Of those, an incredible 14 of them came after 1987, with number 15 being that year’s “Dude (Looks Like a Lady).” Those 15 songs, and whatever you might think about them, fall in the category of “recent work that undermines their earlier work.” Of the six songs remaining on that list (“Sweet Emotion,” “Last Child,” “Dream On,” “Back in the Saddle,” “Come Together,” “Walk This Way”), all came between 1975 and 1978, and none of them represent the best Aerosmith has to offer.
Now, I’m not saying that I don’t like those songs or any of the 15 singles that came after that—or even that I don’t like the albums that those singles are drawn from. It’s just that none of it comes close to the level of their best work from early in their career. At their drug-fueled best, Aerosmith did sleazy bar-rock better than anyone else around. Songs like “Write Me a Letter,” “Walkin’ the Dog,” “Combination,” “Uncle Salty,” “Adam’s Apple,” and others. Not to mention the greatest not-actually-live live recording of all time in “Train Kept A-Rollin,” and the best double entendre song off all time, “Big Ten Inch Record.” (Sorry, “Big Balls.”)
And One Way Street might be the best of them. Few came closer to emulating the guitar style of Jimmy Page than Joe Perry does, and when you think about Steven Tyler’s high-pitched wail (not a criticism) it’s easy to forget about how smooth his voice could be at times, all before we get to his harmonica playing.
If you love classic rock, and you don’t love Aerosmith, you haven’t spent enough time listening to songs like this one.
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