Aerosmith's 1997 LP Nine Lives is one of the most appropriate album titles of all time, as over their 40-year career, every time it looked like the band was either out of touch or done for good, they regrouped and remained relevant. No matter how the music scene has changed, they continue to release hit albums and play sold-out arena shows. Aerosmith's run began in 1969, when a charismatic young drummer named Steven Tallarico met a dish-washing guitarist named Joe Perry while vacationing in Sunapee, New Hampshire. Perry was playing in a group with bassist Tom Hamilton at the time, and at the end of the summer, the trio relocated to Boston. The group picked up drummer Joey Kramer and rhythm guitarist Ray Tabano, and Tallarico—who would change his surname to Tyler—took over on lead vocals. In 1971, the group replaced Tabano with local guitarist Brad Whitford, and the legendary quintet was complete.
In the fall of '72, the group holed up in Intermedia Studio in Boston to record their self-titled debut. The disc, released in January of 1973, sold poorly at first, but was a slow burner, selling over two million copies to date. The record features one of their greatest songs, the sweeping power ballad "Dream On." Strangely, it wasn't a hit right away, and it only became popular when it was released in 1976, in line with their smash blues-rock LP Toys In The Attic. The LP, which was preceded by the group's successful sophomore release Get Your Wings, was extremely popular, especially because of two massive tracks, "Walk This Way" (which was famously reworked by Run DMC) and "Sweet Emotion."
On top of the world (and the charts), Aerosmith toured relentlessly and quickly gained the reputation of an extremely hard-partying band, prompting Tyler and Perry to be known as the "Toxic Twins" due to their impressive level of drug and alcohol consumption. The group pushed on, releasing what some critics contend is their finest album, 1976's Rocks, which was followed by 1977's Draw The Line. However, by the end of the decade, internal conflicts, massive egos, and budding drug problems were threatening to split the Boston Bad Boys up.
The in-fighting finally reached a head during a tour in advance of their 1979 release Night In The Ruts. After a furious argument, Perry—one of the group's most popular and famous members—quit the group. Though some of Perry's parts were used, he was replaced by Jimmy Crespo, and the album tanked, both critically and commercially. Quite incredibly, the album has still managed to go platinum, which is more a testament to the group's pedigree than a nod to the album's quality.
The group hit rock bottom on 1982's dreadful Rock In A Hard Place. Whitford left the group during its recording, and without their guitarists, the remaining members failed miserably. The album, which cost over one million dollars to make, feels bloated and soulless. On the supporting tour, Tyler collapsed on stage due to some pre-concert "activities" (read: shooting heroin). The band was falling apart. For all intents and purposes, Aerosmith was done.
Just when it looked like they could be counted out, they regrouped with Perry and Whitford back in the fold to release their 1985 LP Done With Mirrors. The title is an obvious allusion to the group's supposed newfound sobriety, and though it may not have been the storming comeback success they hoped, it was marginally popular among critics and signaled that there might be life in the old dogs.
If Done With Mirrors was a signal of intent, 1987's Permanent Vacation was a legitimate return to form. The quintuple-platinum disc put the group back on the map, featuring hit singles "Dude (Looks Like A Lady)" and "Rag Doll." Never ones to rest on their laurels, they built on their rediscovered relevance with 1989's Pump. Somehow outdoing themselves yet again, the album sold over seven million copies. While both albums feature the blues influence of their early work, they feature fuller arraignments and more bombastic melodies. They also were one of the rock bands to most effectively utilize the burgeoning art of the music video, especially apparent on the David Fincher-directed "Janie's Got A Gun," which could double as an episode of Law & Order.
After an uncharacteristic four-year absence, they returned with the 1993's Get A Grip. While it may have been too radio-friendly for many of the critics' tastes, the public couldn't have cared less. The album was an unmitigated smash, selling over 20 million copies worldwide. Though they first released the popular, rollicking singles "Eat The Rich" and "Livin' On The Edge," it was really the massive success of three undeniable power ballads with iconic videos (Hello Alicia Silverstone!), "Crazy," "Cryin'," and "Amazing," that drove the album to commercial heights not yet reached, save their 1980 Greatest Hits album.
Though 1997's Nine Lives didn't match its predecessor's success, it still hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts. While it sold well, it didn't feature any huge singles, and it looked like the group might fade into the sunset. However, the band had different ideas, and in 1999 they recorded the Diane Warren-penned ballad "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing," for Michael Bay's blockbuster Armageddon. The song was inescapable and basically lived at the top of the charts, proving once again that new Aerosmith music could still be totally relevant.
The group's most recent two albums Just Push Play (2001) and Honkin' On Bobo (2004) both landed on the Top Five of the Billboard Charts, and the group continues to sell out arenas all over the world. Besides selling more albums than any other American hard rock band, they have won basically every award on the planet, have a staggering 21 Top 40 hits, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.
While their last two albums may not have made the dent that some of their older work has, you would be crazy to bet that they don't have at least one more comeback left in them.