|Studio album by|
|Released||May 3, 1976|
|Studio||Wherehouse, Waltham, Massachusetts with the Record Plant Mobile and The Record Plant, New York City|
|Producer||Jack Douglas and Aerosmith|
|Singles from Rocks|
Rocks is the fourth studio album by American rock band Aerosmith, released May 3, 1976. AllMusic described Rocks as having "captured Aerosmith at their most raw and rocking." Rocks was ranked No. 176 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. It has greatly influenced many hard rock and heavy metal artists, including Guns N' Roses, Metallica, and Nirvana. The album was a commercial success, charting three singles on the Billboard Hot 100, two of which reached the Top 40 ("Back in the Saddle" and "Last Child"). The album was one of the first to ship platinum when it was released, and has since gone quadruple platinum.
Previously, Aerosmith had recorded three albums: Aerosmith (1973), Get Your Wings (1974), and the breakthrough LP Toys in the Attic (1975), which produced Top Ten hit "Walk This Way" and the popular "Sweet Emotion." Although often derided by critics, the band had amassed a loyal fanbase, following from relentless touring and their ferocious live shows. They also began living the rock-and-roll lifestyle to the hilt, indulging their already considerable appetite for drugs. However, their hedonistic lifestyle did not appear to hamper them creatively; Rocks was considered by many fans, critics, and fellow musicians to be one of the highlights of their career. Guitarist Joe Perry later recalled, "There's no doubt we were doing a lot of drugs by then, but whatever we were doing, it was still working for us."
Recording and composition
In the 1997 band memoir Walk This Way, guitarist Brad Whitford states that the band began work on the album by backing the Record Plant's mobile recording truck into their rehearsal space, named the Wherehouse, and "let fly...We were living the high life and not paying attention to anything except making this record. I had the beginnings of 'Last Child' and 'Nobody's Fault.' Tom [Hamilton, bassist] had 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' that became 'Sick as a Dog.' We had 'Tit for Tat'...which turned into 'Rats in the Cellar.' We cut all the basic tracks except two there." Producer Jack Douglas later insisted:
Rocks was the album where Tom and Brad had a lot more input and songs...This was a big album for Aerosmith. It had to make a big statement about how loud and hard they were, how unapologetic they felt about being who they were - this brash, rude, sexual, hard-core rock band.
The album's opening track, "Back in the Saddle", recalls the Gene Autry song "Back in the Saddle Again" (vocalist Steven Tyler yodels on the fade) and features the sound of a whip by whirling a thirty-foot cord in the middle of six Neumann mikes and adding a cap gun for the cracking sound effect. A real bullwhip was intended to be used for the whip effects and hours were spent trying to get it to crack. The band members ended up cut up and hurt without making any progress. The first verse features the sound of clinking spurs, which was actually produced using bells and tambourines strapped to Tyler’s cowboy boots by Perry and New York Dolls singer David Johansen. The song is also notable for the slow buildup of the drum beat and guitar riff in the beginning of the song, as well as the sound effects of a galloping horse. In 1997, Perry explained to Alan di Perna of Guitar World that he was inspired by Peter Green to write the riff on a Fender Bass VI and admitted that he was "very high on heroin when I wrote 'Back in the Saddle.' That riff just floated right through me." Brad Whitford plays the lead guitar part. "Back in the Saddle" also features one of the heaviest and noticeable bass lines by Tom Hamilton. When the song is performed in concert, Steven Tyler often makes more noticeable lyrical and visible references to sex. Although the lyrics, composed by Tyler, were written with the simple idea of cowboys and sex, this song took on new meaning after Aerosmith reunited in 1984 and embarked on their Back in the Saddle tour. Today, the song remains a staple on classic rock radio and in concert. It is arguably one of the heaviest songs of Aerosmith's Top 40 singles, and is cited by rock musicians Slash and James Hetfield as among their favorite rock songs. Hamilton, who had written "Sweet Emotion" with Tyler, collaborated with the singer again on "Sick as a Dog." In 1997 the bassist explained to Guitar World, "I think I came up with the verse part first. And then I did the parts for the intro, the B to E part, and then came up with this little, jangling arpeggio thing...I'm such a Byrds fan; it comes from that." In the same interview Perry added:
Tom played rhythm guitar on "Sick as a Dog." I played bass for the first half of the song. Then I put the bass down and played guitar in the end, and Steven picked up the bass and played it for the rest of the song - all live in the studio! One take.
In his memoir, Tyler stated that he wrote "Rats in the Cellar" as a "tip of the hat, or an answer to 'Toys in the Attic'...Meanwhile, in real life, 'Rats' was more like what was actually going on. Things were coming apart, sanity was scurrying south, caution was flung to the winds, and little by little the chaos was permanently moving in." Although it was never a popular Aerosmith number, "Nobody's Fault" remains a favorite of the band's, with Tyler calling it "one of the highlights of my creative career" and Kramer insisting "it's some of the best drumming I did." Tyler claims the lyrics have to do with the band's fear of earthquakes and flying, while "Lick and a Promise" is about the band's determination to deliver a rocking live show. "Combination" features Perry sharing lead vocal duties with Tyler for the first time, and the guitarist admitted in 1997 that the song was "about heroin, cocaine, and me". In his memoir, Tyler calls the line "Walkin' on Gucci wearing Yves St. Laurent/Barely stay on 'cause I'm so goddamn gaunt" the best lyric Perry ever wrote: "It was the truth, it was clever, and it described us to a tee". Regarding his vocal on the song, Perry later commented, "This was touchy because singing was Steven's jealously guarded territory...Beyond that, anytime the spotlight shone on me I detected a bit of jealousy from the other guys. After a while, though, the band came around and supported me, as long as I sang the song as a semi-duet with Steven." "Home Tonight" features Perry on a lap steel guitar as a lead guitar and his Les Paul for the rhythm guitar, and has drummer Joey Kramer, Tom Hamilton, and producer/arranger Jack Douglas performing backing vocals. Of the song Perry recalled, "Steven could always be counted on to come up with some little piano riff that would be our ballad for the record. And that was it."
Reception and legacy
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
|The Village Voice||A−|
|The Daily Vault||A|
Contemporary reviews were mixed. John Milward of Rolling Stone wrote that "the material is Rocks’ major flaw, mostly pale remakes of their earlier hits", concluding that the return to the "ear-boxing sound" of Get Your Wings and Tyler's vocal performance cannot save the album from mediocrity. In his review for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau wrote that with Rocks Aerosmith were doing a good job of imitating Led Zeppelin, and that after this album the band began to lose steam.
Modern reviews are very positive. Greg Prato of AllMusic described Rocks as "a superb follow-up to their masterwork Toys in the Attic" and remarked how it captured "Aerosmith at their most raw and rocking". He wrote that "Back in the Saddle" and "Last Child" are among their most remowned songs, but all the "tracks prove essential to the makeup of the album". Ben Mitchell of Blender magazine, said that the group members' drug use actually helped Rocks and he also called the album "raw."
Many musicians have cited Rocks as one of their favorite albums:
- Slash says that Rocks was the album that inspired him to learn guitar.
- Rocks was one of Kurt Cobain's favorite albums, as he listed in his Journals.
- In 2003, the album was ranked number 176 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
- Mötley Crüe songwriter and bassist Nikki Sixx refers to Aerosmith frequently in his book The Heroin Diaries.
- Metallica leader James Hetfield has identified Rocks, as well as Aerosmith, to have been important influences in his music, stating that Aerosmith was the reason why he wanted to learn guitar.
In his autobiography Rocks, Joe Perry states the driving purpose of Rocks "was to reidentify us as America's ultimate garage band, with blistering guitars, blistering vocals, balls-to-the-wall smash-your-eardrums production. When it came out in May 1976, the cover showed five diamonds, one for each of us. We saw that record as a jewel, the culmination of all our angst and anger and excitement and joy as go-for-broke rock and rollers.
In popular culture
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- The song "Last Child" is a playable song in the video game Guitar Hero II.
- Also released as a 4-channel quadraphonic mix.
- "Back in the Saddle", "Nobody's Fault", "Rats in the Cellar" and "Combination" are playable songs on Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. "Back in the Saddle" is the only playable song from Guitar Hero: Aerosmith that appears in Guitar Hero: Smash Hits.
- Professional wrestler Chris Benoit used "Back in the Saddle" as his entrance theme in Extreme Championship Wrestling from 1994 to 1995.
- "Back in the Saddle" was featured in the movies Shanghai Noon, Red and The Fighter.
- "Rats in the Cellar" was released as a downloadable song for "Rock Band 4".
|1.||"Back in the Saddle"||Steven Tyler, Joe Perry||4:40|
|2.||"Last Child"||Tyler, Brad Whitford||3:26|
|3.||"Rats in the Cellar"||Tyler, Perry||4:05|
|1.||"Sick as a Dog"||Tyler, Tom Hamilton||4:16|
|2.||"Nobody's Fault"||Tyler, Whitford||4:21|
|3.||"Get the Lead Out"||Tyler, Perry||3:41|
|4.||"Lick and a Promise"||Tyler, Perry||3:05|
Adapted from the liner notes. Track numbers refer to CD and digital releases of the album.
- Steven Tyler – lead vocals, keyboards, harmonica, bass guitar on "Sick as a Dog"
- Joe Perry – guitars, six-string bass on "Back in the Saddle", bass guitar on "Sick as a Dog", pedal steel guitar on "Home Tonight", percussion and outro solo on "Sick as a Dog"
- Brad Whitford – lead guitars on track 1,2,5,6,9 and rhythm guitars
- Tom Hamilton – bass guitar, guitar on "Sick as a Dog"
- Joey Kramer – drums, percussion, backing vocals on "Home Tonight"
- Additional musician
- Paul Prestopino – banjo on "Last Child"
- Jack Douglas – producer, arrangements with Aerosmith, backing vocals on "Home Tonight"
- Jay Messina – engineer
- David Hewitt – remote truck director
- Rod O'Brien, Sam Ginsburg – assistant engineers
- David Krebs & Steve Leber (for Leber-Krebs, Inc.) – management
- Pacific Eye & Ear – album design
|US||RIAA||2001||4x Platinum (+ 4,000,000)|
|Canada||CRIA||1976||Platinum (+ 100,000)|
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