In my mind, Aerosmith is the greatest rock band of all time. Some of you may disagree violently. What about the Beatles? What about the Stones? What about Zep? There is no question that the Beatles
were the most individually talented group of all time. There is no question that the Stones pioneered the rock ‘n roll lifestyle. There is no question that Led Zeppelin
were some of the greatest musical innovators rock had ever seen. But Aerosmith is the greatest band. You want to know why? I’ll tell you why. The members of Aerosmith have been making music since the late 1960’s and yet their sound has not aged. Unlike the Beatles, they stuck together. Unlike the Stones, their music evolved with the time. And unlike Zep, they produced music everyone could relate to and love.
Given how many incredible songs Aerosmith has produced, choosing their top ten songs is a more difficult task that it may first appear. The group has released fourteen studio albums, five live albums, eight compilations and more than fifty singles since their self-titled debut in 1973. However, difficult does not mean impossible, so let us begin! For the sake of interest, we shall proceed in reverse order, starting with number ten.
The tenth greatest Aerosmith song is “Janie’s Got a Gun” from the group’s 1989 “Pump” album. The song’s upbeat riffs belies its dark story of a young girl getting revenge on her abusive father. At the same the unique musical arrangement is more 1990’s than 1980’s in its sound and underscores Aerosmith’s ability to remain on the rock scene’s leading edge.
For the ninth greatest Aerosmith song, we reach all the way back to the group’s sophomore album – “Get Your Wings” – and pick out “Same Old Song and Dance” from 1974. The song has it all – a great rock sound, terrific energy, and a timeless story about life on the wrong side of the tracks which rings as true today as it did three decades ago. Some bands have amazing music, some have talented singers, some have phenomenal lyricists – Aerosmith has it all.
For the eighth greatest Aerosmith song, we travel thirty years forward through time, arriving at the group’s version of “Baby, Please Don’t Go” from their 2004 “Honkin’ on Bobo” album, which celebrated blues music and represented a throwback to the band’s raw 1970’s sound. The original song was created by Big Joe Williams in the 1940’s just as the second World War was coming to an end. Aerosmith’s ability to reach back half a century and re-create this great song with power and verve showcases their unique talent. They meld old blues influences with modern rock, creating a powerhouse of a single.
The seventh greatest Aerosmith song of all time is “Rag Doll” from one of the group’s best known albums – Permanent Vacation released in 1987. The song has a sound reminiscent of “Same Old Song and Dance”, but simplified, refined, and repackaged. It has a great energy and beat and makes listeners want to sing along and get “tap dancing on a land mine” along with Steven Tyler.
The sixth greatest Aerosmith song is “Sweet Emotion” which landed smack in the middle of the 1970’s along with the band’s third album: “Toys in the Attic”. It hit #36 on the U.S. chart in 1975 and, in retrospect, became one of the songs personifying that decade in America. It was featured as one of the songs in the film “Dazed and Confused” which captured the essence of growing up in that decade. Perhaps like no other, this song draws upon and showcases each of the group members’ unique talents.
Having made it halfway through, we are really going to be getting into exalted territory, talking about some of the top rock hits ever created. Aerosmith’s fifth greatest song of all time is “Angel” – another smash hit from the incredible “Permanent Vacation” album which, by the way, went triple platinum. The song “Angel” gave Aerosmith the highest position on the charts they had ever enjoyed, reaching #3 in the U.S. For the first time since the 1970’s, the group showed that its rock ballads remained as powerful, if not more, as its hard-hitting, high energy rock songs.
The band’s fourth greatest song is “Walk This Way”. Originally released as part of the “Toys in the Attic” in the 1970’s, the song captures the energy excitement of adolescent sexual exploration. In 1986, the song was remade with rappers Run-D.M.C. and became an international sensation. It threw open the doors to collaboration between rap music artists and rock artists and went on to be the first rap music video to receive heavy rotation on MTV.
Aerosmith’s third greatest song of all time is “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”. A lot of hard core rock aficionados may disagree, as this song was specifically written as a love song for the “Armageddon” film soundtrack and has more of a pop quality than the group’s other singles. However, taken on its own, the song represents one of the greatest rock love ballads ever created and showcases Aerosmith’s incredible versatility. The song was released in 1998 and debuted at #1 on the U.S. charts and made it to #4 in the U.K. The group’s ability to capture the top spot in music a full 25 years after their first album was released underscores their timelessness and incredible talent.
The group’s second greatest song is “Cryin'” from their 1990’s album “Get a Grip”. This song has it all – powerhouse sound, superb singing, and amazing lyrics. It captures the pain and pleasure associated with being in a difficult, but passionate relationship better than any other song. In addition, the video was incredible, jumpstarting the acting careers of Alicia Silverstone and Stephen Dorff. The only reason this is not the group’s greatest song of all time is because, incredibly enough, they were able to create one that was even better.
And the greatest Aerosmith of all time, which many of you familiar with the band have doubtless guessed by now is “Dream On”. The band’s first major hit from their first major album, it remains one of the greatest rock ‘n roll songs ever recorded. It features a unique and absolutely timeless sound, heart-rending vocals, and one of the top ten lyrical efforts of all time. It is telling that Eminem, one of the greatest lyricists of all time, specifically chose the refrain from this song to incorporate into his “Sing for the Moment”. An incredible power ballad, “Dream On” encourages all of us to seize the moment and reach for our dreams.