1977 debut, this is one of the two mainstream hard rock records of the ‘70s to have if you’re only having two. If you have even the slightest passing interest in music louder than that of Josh Groban, you owe it to yourself to have purchased/downloaded/shoplifted this by now. If you don’t have it accessible to listen to right now – or, for that matter, if you somehow have never heard it – go acquire it immediately. You’re sitting in front of some sort of internet-enabled device reading this, right? Well then it shouldn’t be too hard to find. Go ahead. The rest of us will wait right here.
The truth is simple: any band with any sort of balls to their music at all learned something from these thirty-five minutes. It’s rock without genres: arena-rock, metal, blues-rock, punk, you name it. The common denominator is right here. Alright, I can hear you mulling the thought from here: Punk? Really? AEROSMITH? Yes indeedy, inquisitive listeners: it’s got all the ingredients. Velocity? Check. Subject matter of dubious moral value? Check. Singer who sneers it like he lives it? Big check. Songs with hooks as monstrous as their swagger? Biggest check of all. Look, as anyone who’s ever sifted through my record collection can attest, I’m a man who’d know. It’s funny that so much of the music writing on this blog is about classic (hard) rock, given that old-school punk is just as much my musical bread and butter. So trust me as knowledgeable when I tell you this: Johnny Rotten and his little pals never, ever came up with a rhyme as brilliantly punk as “Yves St. Laurent”/”so goddamn gaunt”. It’s the absolute truth.
I could break down the album track by track, but I'd simply be cutting into your precious listening time. It's a perfect record: not a note is out of place, not an ounce of fat, not a single second shorter - or longer - than it should be. Everything is placed for maximum impact, and Jack Douglas' heavy, raw, but also crystal clear production has ensured that it's dated beautifully. I don't really care if you don't think you like Aerosmith. I don't care what your opinion of their more pop-oriented success in later decades might be. If you've not fully immersed yourself in this record, I simply cannot take your opinion of rock 'n' roll all that seriously. If you have immersed yourself in it and still don't feel its genius, maybe we'd better not go out for drinks anytime soon.
Going back to the parallel I made in the opening of this post, this was one of two albums, along with Cheap Trick, that made me demand more than I'd previously known I could ask from music. Together, they taught me that music could be felt as well as heard, that it could make you want to go out and live rather than simply tap your toes to yet another pop song about cars and/or girls. Why sing about cars when you could crash one? Why sing about girls when you could be with one? Why deal with some poser with perfect hairspray when there's real trouble to be gotten into? As a mid-teenager, this music blew my little mind. I wasn't by nature a trouble-bound kid, but listening to Rocks made me know I had to break the shy-kid cocoon at least a little bit and find out what the big bad world really had to offer. I didn't even know exactly what it was that I wanted to try: no thanks on the heroin, maybe on the booze, certainly on the sex, but I wanted to try something...well, something more than I'd seen in my room or my high school, damn it. It made the process of that discovery seem irresistibly enticing - hell, even downright seductive. This is exactly what great rock 'n' roll is supposed to do when you're that age, and it's also what great rock 'n' roll should remind you of the feeling of once you're older and more experienced.
It also nudged me towards the punk rock I was talking about - and comparing it to - above. Once you've fallen in love with music so fast, so swaggery, so clever and so downright dangerous, it's really hard to go back to listening to the likes of Jon Bon Jovi prattle on about steel horses or whatever other nonsense. More, louder, faster, NOW!
It's one of the truly seminal albums in my life. It belongs in your life, too.