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Aerosmith’s ‘Rock in a Hard Place’ Turns 30

Aerosmith Rock in a Hard Place
Columbia Records

‘Rock in a Hard Place,’ the aptly-named 1982 album that found Aerosmith recording without founding guitarist Joe Perry for the first time, celebrates its 30th birthday this month.

Perry had actually left the group in the middle of the previous album, 1979′s ‘Night in the Ruts,’ after relations between he and his bandmates — particularly frontman Steven Tyler, and partially because of everybody’s drug and alcohol abuse — had broken down to the degree where they could no longer get anything done together.

“After a certain point I said, ‘No, I’m not going back to New York and just sit around and not do anything,’” Perry told Creem (via Aerosmith: the Ultimate Illustrated History of the Boston Bad Boys) in 1980.

Actually, much of ‘Rock in a Hard Place’ finds the group without both of its founding guitarists; Brad Whitford left the group partway through the sessions for the album, also frustrated with the lack of progress allegedly caused by Tyler’s rampant heroin addiciton: “I wasn’t the cog in the wheel that wasn’t working.”

With Jimmy Crespo (and towards the end, Rick Dufay) taking over axe duties, Tyler, drummer Joey Kramer and bassist Tom Hamilton somehow managed to put a pretty damn good record together. Highlights include the quicksilver opening track ‘Jailbait‘ and lead single ‘Lightning Strikes,’ which emerges from a spacey keyboard intro to reveal itself as a gritty, tastefully understated riff-rocker.

There’s also the straight-up blues of ‘Cry Me a River,’ the blistering, swaggering ‘Jig Is Up,’ and the stunningly beautiful ‘Joanie’s Butterfly,’ a psychedelic, acoustic-guitar based song that turns ‘Exile on Main Street’-era Rolling Stones into something more expansive and poppy.

Unfortunately, the record failed to make much of a dent on the charts, and the new-look band struggled to fill venues much smaller than the arenas they were accustomed to packing in their not-that-distant heyday. Perry’s solo career similarly fizzled, and over the next few years, the original members of Aerosmith reconciled.

Their first comeback album, 1985′s ‘Done With Mirrors,’ died an undeservedly early death — if you haven’t done so, by all means run to your local used record store and buy a copy — but Tyler and Perry’s smash hit re-recording of ‘Walk This Way’ with rappers Run D.M.C. in 1986 re-ignited interest in the group.

Wisely, Aerosmith collectively decided to capitalize on the moment by entering rehab and counseling, eventually getting their drug and alcohol abuse in check. They then used this new-found sobriety and unity to build one of the most successful comeback albums in recent rock history, 1987′s ‘Permanent Vacation.’

Next: Bruce Springsteen's 'The Rising' Turns 10

Watch Aerosmith Perform ‘Lightning Strikes’

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