It has been years since we have been given any new, unreleased material from Aerosmith. The last studio album was 10 years ago in 2012 and there were two live albums back in 2015, but nothing to light the world on fire. That was until Black Friday Record Store Day on November 26, 2021 when they had a “first release” of a found recording that contains the earliest known recording of the band to exist. The album is called ‘1971: The Road Starts Hear’ which is around 18 months prior to the release of their debut album in January 1973.
The timeframe of the release is sometime during the Fall of 1971 as Brad Whitford was in the band as he was the last cog in the wheel as he joined in August 1971. So, we had Brad as well as Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Tom Hamilton and Joey Kramer and Aerosmith was born in the form we all know and love. However, the whereabouts of where this was actually recorded is in question. There are several possibilities, but no one actually knows for sure. We know it is not an actual concert as there is no crowd noise so thoughts are it is either a soundcheck or a band rehearsal, but whichever it is, it is totally amazing as we get a band that is fairly new, but extremely tight musically and destined to explode on to the world. The thought is it was recorded originally recorded in October 1971, Boston, Mass. on Joe Perry’s Wollensak 3M 1280 2-track tape recorder, but that is as much as we know for sure.
Released on October 28, 1998, ‘A Little South of Sanity’ was the final album to be released with Geffen Records. Funny thing with Aerosmith, three albums in to a 6 album deal with Geffen, Aerosmith signed a new contract with Columbia Records…who does that. At the time they signed the deal, they only had done 3 albums. ‘Get a Grip’ became #4, the greatest hits compilation was #5 and this live album was the 6th and final one. I guess Columbia Records and Geffen had a good relationship because before this 6th album came out, Columbia got to release ‘Nine Lives’. Only Aerosmith could pull something like that off.
But we are here to talk about the live album ‘A Little South of Sanity’. The album was pieced together from two entirely different tours. Some songs from the 1993-1994 ‘Get A Grip’ Tour and the rest from the 1997-1998 ‘Nine Lives’ Tour which was still going on after this album was released. And here is the strange thing, we don’t know the shows every song comes from which I think is nuts. Isn’t anyone tracking that information? Apparently not. We do know some songs, but a lot are still a mystery. What we do know are there are 23 tracks and almost 2 hours of live Aerosmith. That is perfect.
The cover art is said to be inspired by an incident where Joey Kramer’s Ferrari caught on fire at a gas station. Joey blamed the gas attendant for the incident. Therefore the picture of the gas attendant on the cover is said to be filmmaker Patrick Connolly. At least he is claiming it is him. I don’t know if it is confirmed. And it says filmmaker, but I don’t know what films he has done and I guess it isn’t important. Also on the cover, you notice the album got a Parental Advisory Sticker and it is the only album of Aerosmith to ever get one. It is for some of the colorful language Steven uses in between songs.
Columbia Records was taking full advantage of the band’s new found popularity on Geffen Records. Even though they lost the band to another label, they still could release Aerosmith material for everything they had rights to and that was quite a bit. They kicked off with two live releases ‘Classics Live!’ and ‘Classics Live! II’ as well as compilation called ‘Gems’. The cool things about those releases is there were no repeats from old live albums or greatest hits collection. It made it enticing for collectors. And this was no different. Released on November 19, 1991, this was a 3 CD compilation full of the bands greatest hits (while under Columbia) with a ton of previously unreleased material. That alone makes this worth getting. There are 31 previously released cuts and 21 unreleased consisting of live, alternative mixes and pure rarities.
I am lucky enough to have the long box version and it really is a box. It contains a book plus 3 CDs all in jewel cases with artwork. If you picked up a later version, the long box was replaced with a cardboard sleeve and the book was shrunk down to CD case size. The set I have is the one you want…in my opinion at least. The box set did real well going to #45 on the Billboard Charts and it was eventually certified Platinum on August 16, 1996. If I’m not mistaken, since the set includes 3 CDs, they only had to sell 333,334 copies to reach the 1 million sold platinum status. Someday, I might go song by song, but for now I am sticking to an overview of each disc and what I like about it each one. So let us get to it.
Back in 1984, Aerosmith reunited with Brad Whitford and Joe Perry and went out on tour to celebrate the reunion. That tour was the Back in the Saddle Tour. The band had been on Columbia Records, but jumped ship and signed with Geffen Records in hopes of getting back in the good graces of the buying public. They planned out and released their comeback album ‘Done With Mirrors’ with little fanfare at least that was until they were on the Run DMC cover of their song “Walk This Way”. That combination of Hip Hop and Rock joining together and being celebrated so much on MTV brought them back in to the limelight.
This new found fame was great for Columbia Records because the bands new deal with Geffen still allowed Columbia to release material they owned of the band, which was a lot. Columbia took full advantage of this opportunity and the first release was a live compilation called ‘Classics Live’ in April 1986. The songs were collected from live shows ranging from 1978 up to 1984 and there was a bonus track any Aerosmith had to have, an unreleased studio track.
Four of the tracks on here come from the February 14, 1984 show at the Orpheum in Boston, Massachusetts. This was a very important show for the band because in the audience was Joe Perry and Brad Whitford who were no loner in the band at this time. Of course, this mean Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay were on guitar. But that wasn’t the important thing about this show. This was the very beginning of the original band getting back together and would start the band’s climb back to stardom.
Aerosmith was a mess by this point in time. The drug use was out of control and during a show in Portland, Maine, Steven Tyler collapsed on stage. Even if that didn’t make matters worse, Steven was later in a really bad motorcycle accident that left him hospitalized for two months. It was a scary time and they needed a break. One way to do that was for the record label to release a greatest hits compilation which they did and on November 11, 1980, the ‘Greatest Hits’ compilation was released.
The album didn’t do that well as it only charted at #43. However, over the years it grew in popularity and has wound up being one of their biggest selling albums of all times with sales well over 11 million which would certify it as Diamond. Hell, I’ve bought it twice at least.
The track list was short at only 10 songs, but they are 10 great Aerosmith classics. While some songs are straight from the albums they were on, others have been edited. The album also included the Beatles cover of “Come Together” off the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Soundtrack. Now, they have reissued the album with a bunch more tracks, but we are sticking with the original track listing. Now, my version is the CD version of it for some reason as I could’ve sworn I had a vinyl of this, but apparently not.
The band had been recording / touring and recording / touring non-stop for years now and it was taking its toll. The drug use was rampant as Tyler and Perry became known as the “Toxic Twins” if that gives you any indication of the toxicity of their drug use and relationship. The record company and management felt the band needed a break so they decided to put out a live album. I believe the record company wanted a clean, studio overdubbed album like every other band was doing at the time, but the band wanted it to sound real and raw.
Luckily for us, the band won out and we got a rough and raw record that was more representative of how the band really sounds live. They even took it a step further and made the album cover look cheap and dirty like a real bootleg album would look. You have coffee rings on the back cover and everything looks stamped and very unprofessional. One great thing about bootlegs are they are usually riddle with mistakes so the band purposely left the song “Draw the Line” off the setlist although it is really after the song “Mother Popcorn”. They were meticulous to make it look like a real bootleg. And to go even further with the bootleg theme, they recorded a couple songs on to a cassette and used that version so you get a slight hiss like a cassette usually has. I love the authenticity they were shooting for on this record.
The band pieced together songs from numerous shows over 1977 and 1978. They also threw in 2 songs from a radio broadcast from 1973 and those songs are obvious as they don’t sound anything like the other tracks and it does disrupt the live feel they established over the rest of the album, but we will get to that later. The album includes the same ol’ crew of Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Tom Hamilton and Joey Kramer but that would soon come to an end…more on that with the next review.
Welcome to another new series on 2 Loud 2 Old Music. Last week, we started the Cheap Trick Collection Series and this week we kick of the Aerosmith Collection Series. As a reminder, the Collection Series is simply all the albums by the band I have in my collection. I will stick to chronological order as best I can, but if I pick up something new after I’ve passed that part of the band’s timeline, I will put it in as fast as I can. I hope you enjoy it and why don’t we get started.
Aerosmith was formed back in 1970, but prior to their formation, you had Steven Tyler in his bands either Strangeurs or Chain Reaction playing gigs most Summers up in Sunapee, New Hampshire. While playing there, he saw future bandmates Joe Perry and Tom Hamilton’s band play called the Jam Band and thought he would love to play in that band. In 1969, the Jam Band moved to Boston where they met Joey Kramer and he joined their band. Well, Joey knew Stephen and had always wanted to be in a band with Steven so they got in to contact and Aerosmith was born. A second guitarist was added by the name of Ray Tabano and the band was complete. This was late 1970. Shortly there after, Tabano was replaced and on came Brad Whitford as the second guitarist and the classic Aerosmith line-up was not complete. They jammed together and played gigs constantly around Boston and signed a record deal in Mid-1972 and the rest was history.
The band all lived together in a house at 1325 Commonwealth Avenue and one thing very interesting about the band in these early years is that they were already deep and heavy in to drugs. From what I’ve seen with a lot of other bands, it would happen more so after they were successful, but not Aerosmith. After one of their drug filled afternoons watching The Three Stooges, the band held a meeting to come up with the name as they were no longer going to be called The Jam Band. Well, that is all thanks for Joey Kramer. He had the name written over and over again on a notebook which was inspired from a Harry Nilsson album called Aerial Ballet. Yes, that is a very simplified version of the start because if you’ve read the Aerosmith biography, you know they spent a huge chunk of time on the band’s formation and we don’t have that kind of time here, plus we are really here to let the music do the talking, are we not.
This next batch of songs will be 10 of my favorite songs of all time. They will be some very well known songs and maybe some that you don’t know, but either way, I think they are awesome. I hope you enjoy them as well…
My Sunday Song #41 is “Dream On” by Aerosmith. The song is off their debut album, ‘Aerosmith’ and was their first big hit. When it was originally released, it only made it to #59 on the Billboard Charts. When it was later re-released in 1976, it made it all the way up to #5, but for some reason never made it to #1. It was that re-release and hit that saved Aerosmith from being dropped by their record company, Columbia.
At 17 or 18, Steven Tyler started writing “Dream On”. It took him about six years to finish, but it is still amazing to me that someone so young could create something so amazing. The lyrics seem to speak about life and aging and how you have to keep trying no matter what to make your dreams come true.
The opening two lines – “Every time I look in the mirror / All these lines on my face getting clearer”, he is being reflective on his life at 17 as he is snorting the cocaine off the mirror and thinking how fast time has already gone by.