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Friday, April 1, 2011

Aerosmith, "Toys in the Attic"

"Toys In the Attic"
Columbia (1975)
1000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die + 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die

Back in the day, you had to be clever to get your sexual innuendos past censors. Okay, maybe not really, but artists were way cleverer about making sex talk. In a day where artists can say exactly what they intend to do (see Enrique Iglesias’ “Tonight (I’m F---in’ You)”), you have to appreciate the work of Aerosmith, the master of underhanded intimacy.

“Toys In The Attic,” the band’s third album, contains some of its worst songs for listening to with your parents. “Adam’s Apple” ties the group’s wayward tendencies to the Bible of all things, depicting how Eve bit Adam’s apple, only this time there was no fruit involved (although there may have been a snake. Sorry. Couldn’t help it). Perhaps the group’s all-time best innuendo (even rivaling “Love in An Elevator”) is “Big Ten Inch Record," in which vocalist Steven Tyler sings of whipping out the subject of the title, only he leaves a few moments of breathing room between the words “inch” and “record.”

Aerosmith wasn’t exactly breaking new ground however. Their wink-and-nod odes to sexuality were a tradition in the blues music that they drew from. Robert Smith had long been notorious for his references to women “squeezing his lemon,” an image that Led Zeppelin referenced in multiple tracks. As Moon writes, Aerosmith wasn’t doing anything new with its music, but I would argue that they were doing it best.

When it comes to blues influence in classic rock, most immediately look toward Eric Clapton. Clapton has spent nearly half of his career making albums dedicated to the craft of the blues, but as for his own originals, it hardly fits the bill. Good stuff, but when it comes to emulating the blues riffs of old, Joe Perry of Aerosmith takes the cake.

The band’s hit “Walk This Way” is a great example. Listen to Perry’s jangling riff and you’ll hear how it’s been done for generations. Perry’s solos are typically over-the-top compared to classic blues, but that’s to be expected for most “blues-rock” bands of that day. Still, his licks sound way more authentic than say, Clapton’s.

Considering how much the blues played into Aerosmith’s reputation, it’s somewhat ironic that its biggest hit on the album is “Sweet Emotion,” a track that disregards the band’s roots. No matter; it’s still a blast.

INTERESTING FACT: To have toys in ones’ attic is the same idea of having a few screws loose. Read: insanity. As such, Tyler said his original idea for the album’s cover was a teddy bear with its wrists cut, stuffing spilling onto the floor.

Walk This Way by Aerosmith on Grooveshark

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