How Aerosmith Fashioned a Comeback on ‘Done With Mirrors’ Tour
Permanent Vacation is credited with reigniting Aerosmith's career, but they actually took the first steps into the limelight two years earlier with a tour in support of Done With Mirrors.
They began these dates on Aug. 23, 1985, two months before the record hit shelves, at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wis.
Tensions had finally cooled between Steven Tyler and estranged guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, and they were welcomed into the fold again. Their well-documented drug problems more or less in the past – Perry's rehab was successful but Tyler was still trying to quit – for this stretch of dates, which saw 58 shows spread out over two legs and six months.
Everyone immediately noticed the difference sobriety had made during sessions for Done With Mirrors, with production chores handled by Ted Templeman (Van Halen, the Doobie Brothers). That carried over into these early dates.
"I didn't think you could have so much fun straight in the studio," Perry told the Sun-Sentinel at the time. "But it's just a state of mind. It's learning that you don't have to be overwhelmingly loaded to create. We did some amazing studio things in the past when we were off-kilter, but you can still do those things straight."
Aerosmith wrapped up their comeback tour a year later, on Aug. 31, 1986, at Sullivan Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. But not before hitting highlights from the catalog as well as a few new tunes from Done With Mirrors. The drugs may have been written out of the story, but the attitude was still front and center. "We still have a jaded image and probably more so," Perry added. "We just don't need chemical addictions anymore."
Done With Mirrors was released in November 1985 to mixed reviews and less-than-triumphant sales. Although the album wasn't the huge hit it was hoped for, the shows were very well-attended, ranking among the highest-grossing tours of that year. Then, in July 1986, something happened that would forever change Aerosmith's fortunes.
Rappers Run-D.M.C. recorded their own take on the "Walk This Way," and brought in Tyler and Perry to guest on the track. They ended up with a huge hit on their hands, peaking on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 4 and ultimately making the song a bigger hit that the original version a decade earlier.
Between the success of the cover and their newly found sobriety, Aerosmith were ready for their biggest commercial triumphs yet. Permanent Vacation would mark the line between the ragged, outlaw rock 'n' roll band and the highly stylized pop machine that enlisted outside writers and turned in more than a handful of power ballads. The band would become healthy physically and financially in the process, but were never quite the same again.
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