For My Sunday Song #303, we are talking about the song “No Surprize” off the Aerosmith’s 1979 album ‘Night in the Ruts’. It wasn’t the band’s most successful album as the drugs had really taken hold of them by this time. It was amazing an album was even made. The album went to #14 on the Billboard Album Charts, but didn’t stay for long. It was panned by the critics and fans alike. But it isn’t half bad (it ain’t half good either). One of the best songs is “No Surprize” yet it was never released as a single so now we will give it its dues.
The opening track of the album was “No Surprize” which took a long while to write. Joe and Steven had been working on a song together and Steven was having trouble with the lyrics. After two months of blockage, Steven finally got his second wind and wrote a great song that tells the story of the band. It covers from the humble beginnings in 1971, the struggles of making it, the drug problems and the wondering where their royalties were. I can tell you, they went in to the drugs!! Lots and Lots and Lots of Drugs!! There is a cool line in it with “Vaccinate your ass with a phonograph needle” and I wonder now if that would work to battle Covid. Probably not.
The song is a mix of blues and old time rock & roll with a Chuck Berry vibe on guitar coming from Perry. It is rough and raw and Tyler’s vocals a real grit to them like he had lived a tough life and currently he was doing just that. Hamilton and Kramer were the heart of the song laying down a great rhythm and keeping the song driving forward while Joe and Brad laid down some cool riffs. It is a down and dirty rock song, just the way I like it.
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.
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.