Tag Archives: Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits

Rocks In The Attic #348: Aerosmith – ‘Gems’ (1988)

RITA#348If any album reminds me of delivering newspapers on cold, foggy Sunday mornings, it’s this one. I know it’s clichéd to think of your formative years fondly (nostalgia ain’t what it used to be), but I really do look back on those times with a smile on my face.

I used to look forward to Sunday mornings – yes it was hard work, and the back-breaking weight of Sunday newspapers has left an indelible mark on me, in the form of my bad posture – but it gave me the opportunity to listen to Aerosmith on my walkman for a good four or five hours.

This album soundtracked a lot of moments – like the time I walked back past a house I had just delivered to, only to see the lady of the house – a hot blonde in her late 20s / early 30s – open the front door in her birthday suit to collect the newspaper off the floor of the porch.

Or the times when I’d be walking along Alpine Drive, immersed in my headphones only to be bearhugged by a massive Old English Sheepdog that lived on that street. If ever a dog looked like a medium-sized man wearing a fancy dress costume, it was that one. It made it all the more ominous that you couldn’t see his eyes because of his big, floppy fringe. After the shock of my heart stopping, it was nice to see his big, dopey smile and hug him back.

One time I delivered to a house on Holme Crescent – a cul de sac on a newer housing estate. I drove my bike up the garden path and pulled up, side-on to the front door. Still sat on my bike, I forced their immense Sunday newspaper – probably one of the broadsheets, with about three dozen sections and magazines – into their tiny letter-box. I struggled with the first couple of sections, and heard a ringing noise, far off in distance. I tried again, breaking the newspaper further and further down until it felt like I was posting a page at a time. Again, I could hear ringing and it seemed to coincide with each time I pushed something through the letter-box. Just as I neared the end of my ordeal, I realised where the ringing was coming from – the side-end of my bike’s handlebars was pressing against the doorbell of the house I was delivering to. I took off quickly, looking back to see somebody peer angrily under the net curtains of their bedroom window.

Gems is a great Aerosmith record. It might be a compilation, but it’s probably their best one – and there’s been many. It was the second compilation to be released, after 1980’s woeful Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits – and clearly released by their former label CBS to cash-in on their late-‘80s resurgence on Geffen after 1987’s Permanent Vacation.  The album title – and cover – also seems to borrow more than a little inspiration from 1976’s Rocks – but hey, who cares? Whatever sells records, right?

It might be missing their big three singles: Walk This Way, Sweet Emotion and Dream On – all of which feature strongly on Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits, but their absence is turned to the album’s advantage. Rather than focusing on the band’s biggest singles, like most compilations would do, Gems collects together twelve album tracks – deep cuts from the heavier end of their back-catalogue.

Each of the band’s Columbia studio albums are represented, with Get Your Wings (2 tracks), Toys In The Attic (2) and Rocks (3) all featuring more than one song. The real gem on the album though, and the reason the album is an essential addition to the band’s canon, is the studio version of Chip Away The Stone – the b-side to their 1978 cover of the Beatles’ Come Together.

Hit: Train Kept A-Rollin’

Hidden Gem: Chip Away The Stone

Rocks In The Attic #309: Aerosmith – ‘Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits’ (1980)

RITA#309There’s a great story in Aerosmith folklore about this album – the band’s first compilation (and to say it was the first of many would be a major understatement). A coke-addled Joe Perry was walking around a supermarket in 1980, probably shopping for vodka and aspirin. A fan approached him with a record and asked for his autograph. He had left the band the previous year after an altercation over spilt milk – no really – but obliged the fan anyway. The only trouble was, he didn’t recognise the record – the band had released it without his knowledge.

Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits is a terrible record. It’s full of great songs – the very cream of their 1970s output – and on paper it looks like a great compilation. Walk This Way, Sweet Emotion, Dream On, Draw The Line, Back In The Saddle – what could go wrong? Well, somebody at CBS decided to use heavily edited versions of most of the singles – stripping away some very important moments.

You don’t need to be a hardcore Aerosmith fan to realise that one of the best parts of Sweet Emotion is its bass guitar and guitar talkbox intro. Here, you get the single version which opens smack bang in the first chorus. Disgraceful.

Same Old Song And Dance – again represented by the single version – interestingly uses a noticeably different vocal take, complete with an alternate lyric on one of the verses. Kings And Queens is also butchered, with the intro again falling on the cutting-room floor. It’s a strange strategy – CBS weren’t restricted by time, nor were they trying to cram as much material on the album as possible. The two sides run to a total of 37 minutes, so the excised portions could have been put back in without any loss of audio clarity. It’s just odd, as though somebody at CBS thought they’d lose potential buyers if the record-buying public found out any of the songs got 30 seconds in without a lyric being heard.

The hidden gem on the album is undoubtedly their studio version of Come Together. Recorded for the ill-fated Sgt. Pepper’s movie, and produced by George Martin, a version of the song had previously appeared on 1978’s Live! Bootleg. But to hear the studio version, you either had to buy the single or risk listening to the film’s soundtrack album.

I saw the band last April (for the fifth time) and they played Come Together. After twenty years of waiting, it was fantastic to finally see them play a Beatles song.

Hit: Walk This Way

Hidden Gem: Come Together