Tag Archives: Draw The Line

Rocks In The Attic #512: Aerosmith – ‘Anthology’ (1988)

RITA#512Last night I finally watched Penelope Spheeris’ documentary The Decline Of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. It’s something I’ve been looking for ever since I saw the first instalment on the 1979 L.A. punk rock scene. I’d heard about Part II ever since I’ve been an Aerosmith fan, and it didn’t disappoint.

Spheeris’ second film in the trilogy charts the comings and goings of L.A.’s glam metal bands from 1986 to 1988, all vying for stardom and attempting to out-do each other in the process. At first glance it’s not immediately clear who’s male and who’s female; the make-up and hairspray is so thick. And speaking of thick, there doesn’t seem to be a smart person among them. They’re the embodiment of Spinal Tap, without a trace of irony or self-awareness.

Intercut with these interviews and live performances are context-providing talking heads with the elder statesmen of the genre: Kiss’ Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy from Motörhead, Dave Mustaine from Megadeth, and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry.

Aside from the absurdity of  the sections featuring Paul Stanley (lying in a bed with four lace-wearing groupies) and Gene Simmons (standing in a ladies’ clothes store, ogling at women), these interviews are reasonably candid and they come across much better than the young upstarts who are trying to make a name for themselves in the dingy Sunset Strip bars.

Alice Cooper particularly is as lucid as ever, and it’s refreshing to see Ozzy talk openly about the metal scene without the mumble he’s now commonly associated with. Tyler and Perry come across well, with the pair being able to talk with an air of stateliness, having recently hit the big time for a second time with 1987’s Permanent Vacation album.

Their sections are not too different from the content of the interviews in 1989’s The Making Of Pump documentary, with Tyler reeling off soundbites about his drug addictions, and Perry sounding as lugubrious as usual. It must be hard to summon the effort to talk about anything with enthusiasm when your adrenaline reserves have been destroyed through years of drug abuse.

One short shot in the film doesn’t ring quite true. After we’ve seen a domesticated Ozzy cook a fried breakfast with no issues, he goes to pour a bottle of orange juice into some glasses on the kitchen table, and Spheeris cynically inserts a shot of him spilling the orange juice as though he has the shakes. It’s obvious that it’s fake, and exists solely to make Ozzy look like he can’t handle sobriety. The end result is that you lose respect for Spheeris as a filmmaker. She might point her cameras at subjects she believes to be ridiculous, but at least they’re being honest.

Anthology is a rare West German compilation of Aerosmith’s early Columbia output, released on the UK label Castle Communications in 1988. It includes a heap of tracks that don’t feature on any other compilation, so you get, for example, the likes of Push Comes To Shove and the title track from 1982’s Rock In A Hard Place, the mis-titled Bite The Hand That Feeds and Sight For Sore Eyes from 1977’s Draw The Line, and several tracks from 1978’s Live! Bootleg – stadium performances of Walk This Way and Back In The Saddle, and the awesome 1973 Paul’s Mall performance of James Brown’s Mother Popcorn.

Hit: Sweet Emotion

Hidden Gem: Mother Popcorn (Live)

Rocks In The Attic #112: Aerosmith – ‘Live! Bootleg’ (1978)

Rocks In The Attic #112: Aerosmith - ‘Live! Bootleg’ (1978)This album is overlong. The performances are sloppy. The mix is pretty murky. But I love it.

Of all of the Aerosmith albums that I initially bought when I got turned onto them, this one represented the ‘way in’ to their back catalogue. Other than 1980’s Greatest Hits and 1991’s Pandora’s Box, there wasn’t really any other comprehensive Aerosmith compilations available in the early 90s when I started to listen to them. Now it’s gone the other way and I believe that when I last counted, their (officially released) compilations and live albums were just about to overtake their count of studio albums. That’s a pretty bad statistic, but proof that record companies will plunder and plunder an artist’s back catalogue, endlessly re-releasing the same songs over and over again, as long as there’s a willing public to buy them.

In terms of chronology, this 1978 release comes between 1977’s Draw The Line and 1979’s Night In The Ruts – in their only fallow year (up to this point they had released a studio album every year since their 1973 debut). If Draw The Line didn’t signal the end of the band due to their over-reliance on drugs, this surely did.

Aside from the hits (Walk This Way, Sweet Emotion, Dream On, Back In The Saddle), the set covers a heap of decent album tracks which wouldn’t see the light on Greatest Hits and in most cases would have to wait until Pandora’s Box to get the attention they deserved.

But the real treasures of the album are those live tracks not recorded in stadiums and arenas like the majority of the material. There’s Last Child, recorded in a Boston Club; a stunning cover of Come Together, recorded at the band’s rehearsal space; and in I Ain’t Got You and Mother Popcorn, two covers showcasing the band’s R&B influences, recorded for a radio performance in 1973 when promoting their first album. I have that 1973 Paul’s Mall performance in its entirety on CD – a fantastic set – and a true live bootleg album, unlike this one which is CBS Records’ attempt to capitalise on the trend of professional-sounding bootleg albums in the late 70s.

There’s just one more reason I love this album: the photos on the gatefold showing Joe Perry playing his red BC Rich Bich –  truly awesome, and in terms of body-shape, the best looking guitar I’ve ever seen.

Hit: Walk This Way

Hidden Gem: Mother Popcorn