Make It: Aerosmith’s Debut LP at 50

The legendary Boston band rolled into 1973 with swagger to spare

Aerosmith 1973 (Image: Pinterest)

When they initially made their recorded debut on January 5, 1973, Aerosmith were seen by some as the American equivalent of the Rolling Stones.

They possessed the same swagger and arched attitude as their British counterparts, and front man Steve Tyler’s physicality and onstage antics might have easily qualified him as Mick Jagger’s American cousin, given only the slightest stretch of the imagination. 

On the other hand, a better comparison might have been to David Johansen and the New York Dolls, especially given the pouting and posturing the two bands shared in common.

Certainly Columbia president Clive Davis saw enough of a striking connection to pique his interest. After catching them at Max’s Kansas City, he signed them to a label deal. His confidence paid off, and although the band had never stepped foot inside a recording studio, they came up with one of the most formidable first albums of the modern rock era. That’s not to say it was entirely original; the band’s influences were entirely on display. Naturally the Stones were at the top of the list, but the Yardbirds, early Fleetwood Mac and any number of British blues bands could also be included. 

Notably, Tyler later admitted that he stole the riff for the song “Mama Kin” from a song by the otherwise obscure English band Blodwyn Pig.

 

VIDEO: Aerosmith “Dream On”

That particular song didn’t necessarily resonate, but the one that did, “Dream On,” clinched the band’s success. Still, it took time. “Dream On” didn’t hit the top of the charts until nearly two years later. Nevertheless, it established the template that would ensure Aerosmith’s success — Tyler’s wailing — some might say screeching — vocals over the solid twin guitars of longtime foils Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, and the solid support of bassist Tom Hamilton and drummer Joey Kramer.

Yet in retrospect the band claimed that their first studio experience was less than satisfactory. They were nervous throughout the process and Tyler was forced to adjust his vocal approach because he was uncertain about how his high-pitched phrasing was coming across in his attempt to establish a more powerful presence. 

Mostly though, the band were critical of producer Adrian Barber for his lack of insight and oversight, which accounts for the album’s somewhat lackluster sound. A cover of the old Rufus Thomas hit “Walking the Dog” fit the formula, but seemed less than inspired. “Make It” aspired to greater glories as a stadium sized rocker of powerful proportions. “One Way Street” and “Write Me a Letter” fare better, showing hints of the attitude and aptitude that would surface later, once the band hit their stride. 

Consequently, the album was not especially well received by critics at the time, even though it eventually managed to skirt the outer fringes of the top 20. Still, it wasn’t until the band’s third album, Toys in the Attic, that Aerosmith solidified their stance, by which time they became a staple on album rock radio. 

Aerosmith Aerosmith, Columbia Records 1973

The group’s reputation has had its up and downs ever since — the praise reaped on them by bands that followed, particular Guns N Roses who give them credit for inspiring their sound, evaluated them to the rock and roll hierarchy. On the other hand the recent scandal that’s come to light involved Tyler’s affair with an underaged girl has soiled their reputation as well.

Nevertheless, these bad boys from Boston had to start somewhere, and with their eponymous first effort, there was ample reason to dream on from there. 

 

 

 

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Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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