Revisiting Aerosmith’s Troubled ‘Night in the Ruts’
Aerosmith grudgingly acknowledged the dire state of affairs inside their operation with the title of their sixth studio album, Night in the Ruts. Released on Nov. 1, 1979, the album presented like some kind of condemned spirit of good times past, returning to haunt those left behind.
If anything, it was no small miracle that Aerosmith — overworked, overtired and over-drugged — had even managed to keep their leaky ship afloat that far. The already trying conditions surrounding 1977’s Draw the Line and the grueling tour regimen that interrupted the recording of Night in the Ruts finally pushed guitarist Joe Perry over the edge.
By the time the shambles that was now Aerosmith reconvened in late summer of ’79 to complete Night in the Ruts, Perry was gone. The remaining guitar workload had to be shouldered by his six-string partner Brad Whitford, plus session hires Richie Supa, Neil Thompson and Jimmy Crespo (who later became Joe’s official replacement).
And still, a few songs did in fact convincingly sound like vintage Aerosmith, namely the rambunctious opener "No Surprize," "Three Mile Smile" and eventual concert favorite "Bone to Bone (Coney Island White Fish Boy)." But those had been Perry co-writes, unlike remaining the knock-offs like Steven Tyler’s sappy "Mia" and a pair of space-filling cover tunes in "Reefer Headed Woman" and the Yardbirds’ "Think About It."
To be fair, other Tyler/Perry collaborations written as their relationship frayed, like "Chiquita" and "Cheese Cake" proved equally forgettable. Still, a third cover, the Shangri-Las' "Remember (Walking in the Sand)" — though clearly cut as a desperate grab for something that could be issued as a single — turned out well enough in spite of these deteriorating band conditions.
Aerosmith went on to pull a Kiss-type, "No, Ace Frehley is still in the band, seriously" ruse by placing the already-departed Perry on the Night in the Ruts cover photo. But their charismatic guitarist and songwriting force was as good as gone, and his former guitar foil, Whitford was soon to follow.
In light of all this, the play on words that inspired the album’s title, “Right in the Nuts,” would lend itself to the band’s next exhausting concert tour. It felt just about right in describing how Night in the Ruts impacted Aerosmith’s ailing career until their unlikely late-‘80s comeback.
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