Top 10 Aerosmith Songs
Back when Aerosmith released their debut album in 1973, the Boston-bred band wanted to be the Rolling Stones. From the shotgun guitar riffs to Steven Tyler Jagger-like moves, the band rarely hid their elders’ influence in the early days. But over time, they turned into one of America’s best arena-sized bar bands. Some well-documented personal battles sidelined the group in the early ’80s before a triumphant comeback later that decade turned them into even bigger stars. Our list of the Top 10 Aerosmith Songs spans the ’70s through the late ’90s (yep, that ‘Armageddon’ song is here).
‘What It Takes’
Aerosmith’s comeback was in full swing when ‘What It Takes’ was released as the third single from their hit album ‘Pump.’ The power ballad sports a slight twang — a by-product of the group’s new commercial stance. This was their last Top 10 hit before ‘I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing’ became their only No. 1 nearly a decade later (see No. 6 on our list of the Top 10 Aerosmith Songs).
During the ’70s, Aerosmith rarely strayed from the booze-soaked guitar rock that influenced and defined them. But on ‘Last Child’ they get funky … or at least as funky as a band like Aerosmith could get. Structured on top of a looping bass line, the song settles into a shuffling boogie that recalls David Bowie’s ‘Fame.’ By far the funkiest cut on our list of the Top 10 Aerosmith Songs.
One of Aerosmith’s most durable songs (they still haul it out in concert) is also one of the toughest, no-nonsense rockers they’ve ever recorded. The saxophone ripping through ‘Mama Kin’ is a playful nod to the band’s early debt to the Stones. But mostly it’s all spitting lyrics and slicing guitar riffs — a template Aerosmith would return to again and again during their 40-year career.
‘Back in the Saddle’
The opening song on the band’s fourth album just cracked the Top 40, but it’s another sturdy rocker built on a killer riff and a solid performance by the entire group. The sterling production ranks among the best in the group’s catalog, even if the sound of horses, whips and Tyler yodeling may be a little too much in the end. But hurtling dangerously toward excess defined Aerosmith at this point.
‘I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing’
We get why you hate this song. Really — the power chords, the giant-asteroid movie it comes from, the way Tyler loses control of his voice (and presumably his bowels) at the end of the song. But here’s the thing: It’s a great song. Sure, anyone could have recorded ‘I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing’ and had a hit. But Aerosmith racked up their only No. 1 with it. Well-played and well-deserved.
‘Dude (Looks Like a Lady)’
This is where the comeback starts. After spending most of the ’80s broken up, drugged-out or in rehab, the group — buoyed by Steven Tyler and Joe Perry’s appearance on Run-D.M.C.’s rap version of ‘Walk This Way’ — scored its first Top 40 hit since the terrible cover of the Beatles‘ ‘Come Together’ back in 1978. The synth horns were a new touch, but they totally work in this hook-stuffed hit.
‘Janie’s Got a Gun’
The last thing anyone expected to hear from Aerosmith was a song about sexual abuse. Even more surprising: ‘Janie’s Got a Gun’ hit the Top 5. No small feat for a song that includes child abuse, a revenge fantasy and a hidden hook that doesn’t reveal itself until more than a minute in. It’s also the best song from the group’s ’80s comeback (see No. 5 on our list of the Top 10 Aerosmith Songs).
The band’s first Top 40 appearance includes one of the best uses of a talk box ever recorded (guitarist Perry is the manipulated voice you hear at the beginning of the song). But more than that, it includes one of classic rock’s most memorable guitar riffs, fired off after an extended intro that builds to the point of bursting. Aerosmith would have bigger hits, but ‘Sweet Emotion’ is where it all started.
Aerosmith’s first charting single was originally released in 1973, when their debut album came out. It stalled at No. 59. Three years later, following the success of the ‘Toys in the Attic’ album, ‘Dream On’ was reissued and reached No. 6 this time, becoming the band’s first Top 10 hit. It’s since turned into one of the ’70s most resilient power ballads and a perennial favorite among wishful strippers across the country.
‘Walk This Way’
Like ‘Dream On’ (see No. 2 on our list of the Top 10 Aerosmith Songs), ‘Walk This Way’ boasts a twisted chart history. It was originally released as the second single from ‘Toys in the Attic’ in 1975 but went nowhere. Two years later, it was reissued and made it to the Top 10. It remains one of the band’s best-ever songs, a knockout combination of elastic guitar riffing and tongue-twisting rhymes.