After breaking onto the scene in 1973, Aerosmith spent a couple of years being dismissed as a poor man’s Rolling Stones. They may have been making great music, but no one was interested. And then along came Toys in the Attic. Overnight, they went from zeros to heroes. Over the next few years, they churned out one hit record after the next. The 80s may have pushed them to the brink of obscurity, but unlike some of their contemporaries who crumbled at the first sign of trouble, they persevered, staged a comeback, and all these years later, are still packing out arenas. But the 70s was the decade that made them, and it’s the 70s that gave them some of their most memorable and lasting hits. Here, we pay tribute to the Bad Boys From Boston as we rank the 10 best Aerosmith songs from the 70s.
10. Same Old Song and Dance
As ultimateclassicrock.com writes, Same Old Song and Dance is one of the most notable songs in the Aerosmith songbook, being the first single from the band to feature both Perry and Tyler on writing duties. Taken from their second album Get Your Wings, the track didn’t enjoy huge chart success at the time of its release, but would later become a favorite at their live shows when the band dragged it out with an extended bass jam and some of Tyler’s signature scatting.
9. Last Child
By 1976, Aerosmith were flying high. Walk This Way had given them their first top 40 hit, they’d ditched clubs for arenas, and they’d just delivered a scorching new album in the form of Rocks. The album is remarkable for the absence of duds – from the opening Back in the Saddle to the closing Home Tonight, it delivers one belter after the other. The second track, Last Child, is a funky earworm of a song, with a bluesy thrash and some superb solo work from guitarist and co-writer Brad Whitford. Released as the first single from the album, it took the band straight to number 9, and remains one of their most popular live tracks to this day.
8. Mama Kin
When Mama Kin was released in 1973, Aerosmith hadn’t yet made it. The songs were as fine as they ever would be, but no one was buying them. It would be three years before they stopped being called a poor man’s Rolling Stones and started being called America’s greatest rock and roll band instead. Mama Kin, taken from the band’s debut album, failed to make any kind of an impression on the charts. That doesn’t mean it’s not a great tune. Tyler’s signature rasp may still have been a work in progress, but the band’s full-frontal rock and roll is out in force. As a piece of trivia, Tyler was so committed to the song and its message, he went so far as to get ‘Ma Kin’ tattooed on his arm. It’s a fair bet that more than a handful of the band’s fans have done the same.
7. Remember (Walking in the Sand)
Aerosmith might seem an unlikely band to cover the Shangri-La’s, but they did it with style on Remember (Walking in the Sand). They even managed to convince Shangri-La’s singer Mary Weiss to provide backing vocals. It wasn’t a great period for the band – their debts were mounting, Tyler’s addictions were raging, and Joe Perry had just quit. Even so, they were still able to pull it out of the bag when the occasion called.
6. You See Me Crying
As ultimateclassicrock.com says, despite being known for their potent, in-your-face attack, Aerosmith can occasionally show restraint. You See Me Crying is an understated rock ballad that shows exactly what happens when Tyler takes a step back, breathes, and ditches screaming for singing. Due to the complex arrangement, the band rarely plays the track live – something that, considering its greatness, is more than a small shame.
5. Back in the Saddle
After the riff and raunch of Toys in the Attic put Aerosmith on the map, they knew they had to go one better with the follow-up album. As Rolling Stone notes, they also knew they needed a huge, anthemic song to open it. After looking for inspiration from Gene Autry’s signature song Back in the Saddle Again, the band decided to use the saddle imagery to declare that they were back and ready to rock. It worked.
4. Draw the Line
As oprahdaily.com writes, Draw the Line was written at a time in the late 1970s when Aerosmith were in the throes of the rock and roll lifestyle. Soon enough, the endless partying would push them to the brink of obscurity, but they still had a few more tricks up their sleeve before that happened. The band’s then-producer, Jack Douglas, has since said the title is a reference to all the lines the band were crossing at the time – “the coke lines, heroin lines, drawing symbolic lines, and crossing them —no matter what.” Regardless of the toll their lifestyles would eventually take on the band, they’ve rarely sounded so good as they do here, with a pummeling beat and some downright venomous interplay between guitarists Perry and Whitford.
3. Dream On
Four years before Aerosmith formed, Tyler sat down at a Steinway piano and knocked out Dream On, a ballad focused on hunger and desire and, in Tyler’s own words, “dreaming until your dreams come true.” In 1973, Aerosmith were doing exactly that. Make It and Mama Kin were both great songs, but neither had managed to dent the charts. Dream On was intended to be their breakthrough. It wasn’t. But despite barely cracking the Top 60, Tyler felt it had legs. When the band re-released an edited version of it following the success of Toys in the Attic, it ran all the way to the top of the charts.
2. Walk This Way
Inspiration sometimes comes in the most unlikely of places. Walk This Way came about after the band went to see a late showing of “Young Frankenstein” after a recording session. Something about Igor telling Doctor Frankenstein to “walk this way” resonated with Tyler; that same night, he wrote out all the lyrics, only to lose them the next day in a cab. Stuck with music but no lyrics, he made up some lines on the fly about a high school loser trying to score with the ladies. The result gave the band one of their biggest singles, one of the most recognizable opening guitar riffs in history, and years later, the route out of obscurity when Run-DMC released their cover version.
1. Sweet Emotion
Sweet Emotion was the moment Aerosmith went stratospheric. It was their first Top 40 hit, the reason Toys in the Attic sold millions of copies, and their catapult to becoming the biggest band of the 1970s. Strangely enough, neither the song nor Aerosmith’s rise to glory would have happened if it hadn’t been for Joe Perry’s ex-wife, Elyssa – or rather, Tyler’s burning hatred for her. “I couldn’t get next to Joe when she was around,” he’s since recalled, “which was all the time. She was doing all his drugs. Before she came along, I was doing all his drugs. It was a big problem.” Big problem or not, it helped create the band’s most memorable tune of the 70s.