Aerosmith is an American rock band, sometimes referred to as “the Bad Boys from Boston” and “America’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band”. Their style, which is rooted in blues-based hard rock, has come to also incorporate elements of pop, heavy metal, and rhythm and blues, and has inspired many subsequent rock artists. They were formed in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1970. Guitarist Joe Perry and bassist Tom Hamilton, originally in a band together called the Jam Band, met up with vocalist/pianist/harmonicist Steven Tyler, drummer Joey Kramer, and guitarist Ray Tabano, and formed Aerosmith. In 1971, Tabano was replaced by Brad Whitford, and the band began developing a following in Boston.
They were signed to Columbia Records in 1972, and released a string of gold and platinum albums, beginning with their 1973 eponymous debut album, followed by Get Your Wings in 1974. In 1975, the band broke into the mainstream with the album Toys in the Attic, and their 1976 follow-up Rocks cemented their status as hard rock superstars. Two additional albums followed in 1977 and 1979. Their first five albums have since attained multi-platinum status. Throughout the 1970s, the band toured extensively and charted a dozen Hot 100 singles. By the end of the decade, they were among the most popular hard rock bands in the world and developed a loyal following of fans, often referred to as the “Blue Army”. However, drug addiction and internal conflict took their toll on the band, which led to the departures of Perry and Whitford in 1979 and 1981, respectively; they were replaced by Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay. The band did not fare well between 1980 and 1984, releasing the album Rock in a Hard Place, which was certified gold but failed to match their previous successes.
Perry and Whitford returned to Aerosmith in 1984 and the band signed a new deal with Geffen Records. After a comeback tour, the band recorded Done with Mirrors (1985), which won some critical praise but failed to come close to commercial expectations. It was not until the band’s collaboration with rap group Run–D.M.C. in 1986, and the 1987 multi-platinum release Permanent Vacation, that they regained the level of popularity they had experienced in the 1970s. In the late 1980s and 1990s, the band scored several hits and won numerous awards for music from the multi-platinum albums Pump (1989), Get a Grip (1993), and Nine Lives (1997), and embarked on their most extensive concert tours to date. The band also became a pop culture phenomenon with popular music videos and notable appearances in television, film, and video games. Their comeback has been described as one of the most remarkable and spectacular in rock ‘n’ roll history. Additional albums followed in 2001, 2004, and 2012. After 48 years of performing, the band continues to tour and record music but is embarking on a farewell tour that will likely last several years.
Aerosmith is the best-selling American hard rock band of all time, having sold more than 150 million records worldwide, including over 70 million records in the United States alone. With 25 gold albums, 18 platinum albums, and 12 multi-platinum albums, they hold the record for the most total certifications by an American band and are tied for the most multi-platinum albums by an American band. The band has scored 21 Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, nine number-one Mainstream Rock hits, four Grammy Awards, six American Music Awards, and ten MTV Video Music Awards. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 and were included among both Rolling Stone‘s and VH1’s lists of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. In 2013, the band’s principal songwriters, Tyler and Perry, were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Aerosmith started in 1964 when Steven Tyler formed his own band called the Strangeurs—later Chain Reaction—in Yonkers, NY. Meanwhile, Perry and Hamilton formed the Jam Band (commonly known as “Joe Perry’s Jam Band”), which was based on free-form and blues. Hamilton and Perry moved to Boston, Massachusetts in September 1969. There they met Joey Kramer, a drummer from Yonkers, New York. Kramer knew Tyler and had always hoped to play in a band with him. Kramer, a Berklee College of Music student, decided to depart from the program and joined Jam Band.
In 1970, Chain Reaction and Jam Band played at the same gig. Tyler immediately loved Jam Band’s sound and wanted to combine the two bands. In October 1970, the bands met up again and considered the proposition. Tyler, who had been a drummer and backup singer in Chain Reaction, adamantly refused to play drums in this new band, insisting that he would take part only if he could be the frontman and lead vocalist. The others agreed, and a new band was formed. The band moved into a home together at 1325 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, where they wrote and rehearsed music together and relaxed in between shows.
The members of the band reportedly spent afternoons getting stoned and watching Three Stooges reruns. One day, they had a post-Stooges meeting to try to come up with a name. Kramer said that, when he was in school, he would write the word Aerosmith all over his notebooks. The name had popped into his head after listening to Harry Nilsson’s album Aerial Ballet, which featured jacket art of a circus performer jumping out of a biplane. Initially, Kramer’s bandmates were unimpressed; they all thought he was referring to the Sinclair Lewis novel they were required to read in high school English class. “No, not Arrowsmith,” Kramer explained. “A-E-R-O…Aerosmith.” The band settled upon this name after also considering “the Hookers” and “Spike Jones.”
Soon, the band hired Ray Tabano, a childhood friend of Tyler, as rhythm guitarist and began playing local shows. Aerosmith played their first gig in Mendon, Massachusetts at Nipmuc Regional High School (now Miscoe Hill Middle School) on November 6, 1970. In 1971, Tabano was replaced by Brad Whitford, who also attended the Berklee School of Music, and was formerly a member of the band Earth Inc. Whitford, from Reading, Massachusetts, had already played at Reading’s AW Coolidge Middle School. Other than a period from July 1979 to April 1984, the line-up of Tyler, Perry, Hamilton, Kramer, and Whitford has stayed the same.
Influenced by bands such as the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, Led Zeppelin, and the New York Dolls, Aerosmith proved to be a major influence themselves on subsequently massively successful bands and musicians; according to Perry, Eddie Van Halen once told him that his band Van Halen “started out on the suburban L.A. club circuit, playing Aerosmith songs”. Aerosmith’s influence was evident on the next generation of hard rock and heavy metal bands, namely Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Guns N’ Roses, Tesla, L.A. Guns, Cinderella, Faster Pussycat, Skid Row, Extreme, Warrant, Inglorious, the Black Crowes, and the Quireboys, as well as Metallica, Metal Church, and Testament. Especially, Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver guitarist Slash has stated that Aerosmith is his favorite band, and Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx has expressed massive admiration for the band and its early records in both The Dirt and The Heroin Diaries. Members of alternative rock bands such as Nirvana, Mother Love Bone/Pearl Jam, Stone Temple Pilots, Staind, and Godsmack are also self-professed early Aerosmith fans.
The interplay between Joe Perry and Brad Whitford has been inspiring to many bands, especially Guns N’ Roses. Joe Perry has received wide recognition and praise as a lead guitarist and has shared the stage many times with Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, who Perry cites as primary influences. He and Tyler were asked by Page to induct Led Zeppelin into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; during the ceremony, which took place in 1995, Tyler and Perry delivered their speech and joined the band onstage for a brief set. During Beck’s and Metallica’s induction in 2009, they invited Perry and Page to play the Yardbirds/Zeppelin/Aerosmith classic “Train Kept A-Rollin'”. Other collaborations, either by individual members of the band or by Aerosmith as a whole, have included Alice Cooper on his Trash album, Guns N’ Roses (who opened for Aerosmith during their 1988 tour and had covered “Mama Kin” on their first release) and B’z. As a testimony to their importance in American popular culture as a whole, Aerosmith have also collaborated with popular non-rock artists, such as Run-DMC, Eminem (“Sing for the Moment”), and Carrie Underwood, and performed with ‘N Sync, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, and Nelly for the Super Bowl XXXV halftime show. Country artists Garth Brooks and Mark Chesnutt both scored hit singles with covers of Aerosmith songs; Brooks in 1995 with “The Fever”, a reworking of Aerosmith’s 1993 song, and Chesnutt in 1999 with a cover of Aerosmith’s 1998 song “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing“.
Like many of their 1970s contemporaries including Led Zeppelin and Alice Cooper, the members of Aerosmith were prone to excess and debauchery. Drug consumption was rampant; the recording sessions for 1976’s Rocks and 1977’s Draw the Line were especially noted for their substance indulgence, including heroin. In the words of Bebe Buell, “They [Aerosmith] were like a gang of kids with their own planes, Porsches, millions of dollars, limitless resources. […] Mick Jagger and Jimmy Page had control, but these boys did not care. They won the prize, hands down, for the rowdiest rock ‘n’ roll band in that era. No question.”
In the mid- to late-1970s, the band enjoyed tremendous popularity in the United States and in Japan, though they failed to make a big impression in Britain. Still, they were among the most popular hard rock acts in America in the late 1970s, along with Heart, Kiss, Ted Nugent, ZZ Top, and Boston. Their massive popularity waned, however, following Perry and Whitford’s departures. Following both guitarists’ return to the band and its complete drug cleanup, Aerosmith made a prodigious return to success, once described as “the single most successful comeback in the history of heavy metal, if not all of popular music.” During both the 1970s and the 1987–1995 era, Aerosmith undertook grueling world tours that numbered in the triple digits numbers of dates, headlining or co-headlining festivals along the way, such as the Texas Jam in 1978 and 1987, the Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donington, England in 1990 and 1994, and Woodstock ’94.
Initially resistant to this medium, the band later became renowned and received numerous awards for pioneering expansive, conceptual music videos, such as those for “Janie’s Got A Gun” (directed by future Fight Club director David Fincher), “Livin’ on the Edge“, “Cryin’“, “Amazing“, “Crazy“, “Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)“, and “Pink“.
The band’s music has also been featured in several video games, such as episodes of the Dead or Alive and Grand Theft Auto series, and some video games are centered on the band, like Quest for Fame and Revolution X. Aerosmith was the first band to have its band-centered Guitar Hero title, Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, which is considered to be the best-selling band-centric video game across both the Guitar Hero and Rock Band platforms.