The band was in trouble after ‘Done With Mirrors’. What was supposed to be their comeback album, flopped big time. The drugs were still a big problem. So the band had to make a huge change…and they did. They got sober! ‘Permanent Vacation’ is the first album the band has ever made that they were sober…no drugs, no drinking…clean and sober. And people reacted to that in a big way. Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Tom Hamilton, Brad Whitford and Joey Kramer had a lot to prove and they couldn’t do it alone.
The studio that the first batch of help should come from a great producer. At the helm this time around was Bruce Fairbairn and his amazing engineering staff of Mike Fraser and Bob Rock which is one of the most impressive crew behind the boards every in music history. Heck, Bruce even played trumpet, cello and sang background vocals while Mike Fraser played something called a plunger mute. Huh??? Well, that is a trumpet with an attachment on the front that mutes the sound a little. I don’t see where Bob is credited with anything other than masterful engineering. The recorded at the very famous Little Mountain Studio in Vancouver, British Columbia. If you saw my interview with Paul Laine we talked about that studio a lot.
The second row of help came from some song doctors, however, this was one big area of contention with the band. They were forced to work with outside writers much in the way Cheap Trick had to with ‘Lap of Luxury’ that we discussed earlier this week. The biggest contribution came from Desmond Child who co-wrote 3 of the tracks, 2 of which were massive singles for the band. They also had help from Jim Vallance (Bryan Adams writing partner) and Holly Knight (Kiss and Cheap Trick).
With all that being thrown at the band, the record company was wanting this band to succeed in a big way. The album came out on August 25, 1987 and went on to sell over 5 million copies in the U.S. alone going to #11 on the Billboard Charts. It spawned 3 Top 20 Hits as well for the band. Aerosmith was back and bigger than ever. It also showed me, the band didn’t need the drugs to succeed and be creative…they just needed the right people behind them.
My copy is in incredible shape and looks amazing. Luckily, I still have the inner sleeve in pretty great condition as well. I don’t know how much the album had been played prior to me, but it is been loved nicely since. Sadly, it is the last Aerosmith studio album I have on vinyl so every album from this point on will be CD. I do have a set of 7″ Singles coming up and after that no more vinyl. Makes me sad a little. Enough chit-chat, let us let the music do the talking…I think I’ve made that joke before…oh well.
The album kicks off with “Heart’s Done Time” written by Joe Perry along with Desmond Child. This semi-autobiographical track opens slowly with a lot of different sounds and then Kramer slams home a drum barrage, Whitford and Perry bring in some cool riffs and rhythm and the song is off and running. Whitford even gets the solo on this one. Tyler sounds great and Hamilton’s bass lays down the rhythm and some funkiness later on in the song. The song has a swagger to it and a great opener to show these old boys still have some life in them bones. I love the jam feel to the song as well. It is like they are just getting warmed up.
“Magic Touch” is up next and this one was penned by Tyler, Perry and Bryan Adam’s mate, Jim Vallance. This one sounds very 80’s like and nothing like the 70’s Aerosmith classic sound. The guitars are immense, a little muddy at times, but still rip roaring fun. Steven’s vocals are very melodic on this one and the boys are fitting right in to the music scene of the time.
Then we get their final single off the album, “Rag Doll”. It was written by Perry, Tyler and Vallance as well as Holly Knight. Tyler was furious that Holly got a writing credit because he says all she contributed to the song was changing the name from “Rag Time” to “Rag Doll”. One word got her a writing credit. The song itself is famous for the Kramer opening drum beat, Tyler’s deliberate vocal stylings and the horn section that was arranged by Tom Keenlyside and featured Ian Putz (saxophone), Bob Rogers (Trombone) among others. Perry really works the slide guitar and who would’ve thought a bluesy/jazzy song would work in the 80’s…but it did. It went to #17 on the Top 40 Chart.
“Simoriah” is pure old school rock track and is another Tyler, Perry and Vallance track (no Knight this time around). It is full of riffs and Tyler’s vocals totally soars and screams. It is nothing fancy, just solid playing and singing. I have to say that I don’t really ever remember this song after I hear it though and has a little filler status for me.
Then we get the 2nd single and the one that took the band back to rock gods and that is “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” which was written by Tyler, Perry and Desmond Child. Desmond heard Tyler play around with this one and loved it. The song was supposedly inspired by Vince Neil of Motley Crue when they saw him sitting alone at the bar. They joked that he looked like a lady. The song thought is about a female stripper that turned out to be a man. They band catches a little heat for the song now, but no denying its effect back in the day. People loved it. There are some killer guitar work by Whitford and Perry, more horn section and Tyler’s killer vocals and his well designed screams and noises. A totally fun rocker that caught hold of everyone’s good time spirit and propelled the song to #14 on the charts.
The final track on Side 1 is “St. John” which is a down & dirty, full of nastiness, blues infused rocker. This is a Steven Tyler written track and takes you back to early Aerosmith. The guitar solo is just a gritty as the song. It is one of those deep cuts that is better than most everything else on the album.
Side 2 kicks off with “Hangman Jury” written by Perry, Tyler and Vallance. They seem to work well together. The harmonica infused, steel guitar blues sound is back again and they do what they do best. If you want more 70’s Aerosmith, then this song will do it for you. The opening piece makes the song as the rest is just a typical rock song. Give me a whole song of that bluesy goodness please. How good is that opening blues piece, well, Lead Belly’s estate sued the band for royalties saying they stole it from him. Funny thing, this was the first single off the album and it did nothing. This had to have the record company sweating bullets as they probably thought they were going to flop again…little did they know.
“Girl Keeps Coming Apart” is an uptempo track with a ton of energy and good time fun. It was written Tyler and Perry. Kramer really shines on this one with so many great drum fills. It has some Tyler harmonica and even more great playing by Perry and Whitford who gets another lead here. It isn’t conventional in style, but it works and makes you want to have a good time.
Then we finally get what every 80’s rock album is supposed to have and that is a ballad. Written by Tyler and Desmond Child, “Angel” is one of the band’s biggest hits up to that time going all the way to #3 on the Billboard Charts. It is as cliched as any power ballad at the time with the obligatory guitar solo, the emotive vocals and the somewhat acoustic feel at times and going all rocker during the chorus…it checked every box. The only difference is that it was really great on top of that. Aerosmith could hang with the big boys at the time and the fully engrained themselves into the scene.
The title track, “Permanent Vacation”, is up next with the monkey sounds and all. It was written by Tyler and Brad Whitford and so nice to see him get a writing credit. It is a Caribbean-infused track, lots of fun sounds and a little over-the-top cheesy as well especially with the steel drums at the end. Not a favorite of mine and pretty much can skip this one.
Then we get a cover. The band cover’s The Beatles song “I’m Down” and yet, I’m so not. Totally skippable, totally awful and should’ve never been on here. Why or why include this. If you cover a song, make it a blues one. It has no heart and is pure filler. We could’ve kept this album to 10 tracks and it would’ve been almost perfect…now, not so much.
Lastly, we close with an instrumental which is credited to every member of the band. “The Movie” has a bass thumping opener with some keyboards and then it goes with guitars and has a nice groove and rhythm. For me, the guitar has a whole “Switch 625” vibe like Def Leppard’s song, but adds some spoken words that feels like something Steve Vai would do. All around a cool track. Strange closer, but cool nonetheless.
- Heart’s Done Time – Keeper
- Magic Touch – Keeper
- Rag Doll – Keeper
- Simoriah – Delete
- Dude (Looks Like a Lady) – Keeper
- St. John – Keeper
- Hangman Jury – Keeper
- Girl Keeps Coming Apart – Keeper
- Angel – Keeper
- Permanent Vacation – Delete
- I’m Down – Delete
- The Movie – Keeper
The Track Score is 9 out of 12 or 75%, but the album is a little better than that. The boys are back and in a good way. The production quality is as good as it gets as a team like Fairbarin, Fraser and Rock is probably the best you can ever get. Songwriters like Desmond Child and Jim Vallance didn’t ruin the band, it enhanced them. Being sober helped as they seemed focused and determined. It was the right time for the band. And being ’87 with bands like Def Leppard, Guns ‘N Roses and Whitesnake ruling the roost, it really is amazing anyone noticed at all, but with such a good album, how could they not. My Overall Score is a 4.0 out of 5.0 Stars. It isn’t their best, but it is a step in the right direction.
UP NEXT: “DUDE (LOOKS LIKE A LADY)” (1987) – 7″ & 12″ Singles – Bonus Edition
THE AEROSMITH COLLECTION SERIES:
- ‘Aerosmith’ (1973)
- ‘Get Your Wings’ (1974)
- ‘Toys in the Attic’ (1975)
- ‘Rocks’ (1976)
- ‘Draw the Line’ (1977)
- ‘Live! Bootleg’ (1978)
- ‘Night in the Ruts’ (1979)
- ‘Greatest Hits’ (1980)
- ‘Rock in a Hard Place’ (1982)
- ‘Done With Mirrors’ (1985)
- Run DMC – “Walk This Way” 12″ Single (1986)
- ‘Classics Live!’ (1986)
- ‘Classics Live! II’ (1987)
- ‘Permanent Vacation’ (1987)