For My Sunday Song #301, we are kicking off the next 10 song set with Aerosmith and first up is “Lightning Strikes” off their 1982 album ‘Rock in a Hard Place’. The song was released as a single on August 27, 1982 and is noted as the only charted song the band had without Joe Perry in the band. This had Jimmy Crespo on guitar who replaced Joe after he left in 1979. The song went to #21 on the U.S. Mainstream Rock Tracks Chart.
The song was written by Steven Tyler, Jimmy Crespo and Richie Supa (who replaced Joe first before the full time replacement was found in Crespo). It is basically about a gang fight. Not any old gang fight, it seems like an old 50’s/60’s style fight with leather jackets and knives. It is only missing Fonzi!! All seriousness aside, it does capture the toughness on the streets and has a solid story.
This is one of the best Aerosmith songs of all time…Sorry…but it is…get over it!! “Lightning Strikes” has this slow build up that explodes in to this rough and tumble, balling and brawling masterpiece. The song is heavy, it is tough, it is mean and it is fan”freaking”tastic! It actually starts off with some keyboard before Joey slams down some drum beats then the guitar slowly build in with more Joey fills. Steven sounds like he is ready to rumble which makes sense it is about gang fighting. It even ends with some Thunder rolling in. This was the only song Brad Whitford appeared for the album and it was as rhythm guitar since Crespo did the solo .
Back in 1984, Aerosmith left Columbia Records and signed with Geffen. The great thing for Columbia was that despite them leaving the label, the new deal with Geffen still allowed the release material as they still had control of the bands earlier work. They took full advantage of that by releasing ‘Classics Live!’ in 1986 and ‘Classics Live! II’ in 1987. Then the bands new found fame was with the song “Walk This Way” and their smash album ‘Permanent Vacation’, Columbia records didn’t miss another opportunity to capitalize on that success. This time around they went for another greatest hits compilation package called ‘Gems’ which was released on November 15, 1988.
The great thing about this greatest hits compilation is that there are no repeats from the band’s first Greatest Hits album from 1980. Columbia purposefully delivered a much heavier set of songs that were extremely popular with fans even though they might not have all been huge hits. They were “gems”. All but one song on the release are basically the album cuts so no real reason to buy except for one. The album contained the studio version of the song “Chip Away The Stone” which had never been released prior except as a live version on ‘Live! Bootleg’. That gave reason enough for the serious fan to grab hold of this release. It didn’t do that great, only going to #133 on the Billboard Album Chart, but it has since been certified Gold.
The first track, “Rats in the Cellar” (off ‘Rocks’), was Steven’s answer to the hit song “Toys in the Attic”. The song was frantic in pace and was pretty much about the disaster of the band that was going on behind the scenes with the drugs and arguing as well as it being inspired by the death of their drug dealer. The song is a total blast with its maddening quick tempo and then Kramer’s drumming was incredible on this one as well. You get a harmonica solo and a full on jam section. It is the closest thing to heavy metal you are going to get from the band.
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.
By the time the 80’s hit, Aerosmith was a mess. Joe Perry was out of the band and Steven’s drug use was way out of control. During the Fall of 1980, Steven was in a horrendous motorcycle accident which put him out of commission for months upon months. When the band finally went back in to the recording studio, things weren’t any better. After recording the first song and single, “Lightning Strikes”, Brad Whitford was done as well. He picked up his toys from the attic and walked away.
Was the band near the end? Probably pretty close. But there was an old friend that came back in to the mix. Famed producer, Jack Douglas, was back to produce the album. Jack had done all the band’s big albums and they really needed a friendly face to help them navigate this mess.
So who was still in the band? You have Steven Tyler, Joey Kramer and Tom Hamilton of course. Then Jimmy Crespo was still around after replacing Joe Perry and the newest member was guitarist Rick Dufay. However, he was brought in after the album was done and didn’t actually play on it although he was credited. The album is also notable for its price tag. Because of how long it took to record (1981-1982), the cost of the album was immense at around $1.5 million. That was an unheard of price tag in those days.
Drugs…wives…tension. Those three things were all starting to boil over with Aerosmith during the recording of the band’s sixth studio album, ‘Night in the Ruts’. What is a night in the ruts anyway? Actually, it is a play on words for “Right in the Nuts”. Pretty funny actually. But wasn’t funny was the drug use was immense at this point. The band could barely function. Steven wasn’t writing lyrics, Joe owed the band money for his room service bills and he hadn’t been in the studio for months, longtime producer Jack Douglas was fired and Gary Lyons was brought in to produce, and the album was taking forever to finish. The band’s relationship with their label was strained as well. At this point, the band was completely and utterly out of control.
The album was taking so long, the band was forced to go out on the road and that was not a good place for them to be. More drugs meant horrible shows. Horrible shows meant more tension. More tension bled over in to the wives starting to fight and things got really ugly in Cleveland, OH on July 28, 1979 when Joe Perry’s wife through milk at Tom Hamilton’s wife. The band I believe already hated Joe’s wife so after the show, Steven and Joe got in to a nasty altercation and by the end, Joe Perry was no longer in the band. He was done and he was out!
Well, that didn’t bode well as the album wasn’t even finished. The band brought in Richie Supa to help on the guitars as well as Jimmy Crespo to finish others. Jimmy was the one that stayed and toured with the band until 1984. The album finally was finished and released on November 16th, 1979. It didn’t do well at all. It did got to #14 on the Billboard Charts but barely went gold. They had one single, “Remember (Walking in the Sand)” which didn’t even break the Top 40 landing at #67.