Tag Archives: Just Push Play

Rocks In The Attic #575: The Rolling Stones – ‘Blue & Lonesome’ (2016)

RITA#575I’ve been burnt before by a blues cover album. In 2004, Aerosmith released Honkin’ On Bobo, a record collecting eleven blues covers and one original song. After 2001’s simply awful Just Push Play, the back-to-basics blues album was supposed to be their redemption. I nearly lost my shit when I first heard about it, especially as the advance word was that it was going to be produced by their old ‘70s partner in crime, Jack Douglas. How could this go wrong?

So I approached Blue & Lonesome with a degree of caution. I’d heard a couple of pre-release teasers (Hate To See You Go and Ride ‘Em On Down) and they sounded pretty good. When I finally picked up the album, I was overjoyed with it. It succeeded, where Honkin’ On Bobo failed, in the sheer sonic quality of the record. If Aerosmith’s album sounded too clean and polished, the Stones’ effort sounded ballsy and authentic.

I don’t buy many new releases. If I buy any at all, I might pick up one or two a year. So if I buy a new record and I don’t take it off my turntable for a while, it’s quite a big thing for me. I must have played Blue & Lonesome five or six times before I gave something else a chance.

The record might not be everybody’s cup of tea. It probably won’t be a big seller – compared to how Stones albums usually sell – simply because it’s not an original studio record. Not only is the choice of material restricted to one dusty, old genre, but the selections are quite obscure songs as well. These are the kind of songs that Keith Richards can be heard playing behind the scenes in a recent documentary, on a little record player in his dressing room.  In fact I had only recognised one of the album’s twelve songs (and that song, Willie Dixon’s I Can’t Quit You Baby, is only well-known from having been covered by Led Zeppelin and Jeff Beck’s band in the late ‘60s).

The album was put together in a prompt three days of recording – incredible really, when you consider how long they could take. Eric Clapton appears on a couple of songs, having been drafted in from the studio next door to where the Stones were recording, but I don’t think his appearance really adds anything special.

My one criticism is that it would have been nice of the Stones to have paid a little tribute to Brian Jones, their blues-obsessed former leader. I’m not sure how they could have done this, but a great idea I heard was naming the record something like Brian Was A Blues Guy.

Be sure to check out the recent episode of Sit And Spin With Joe, where my good friend Joe Royland discusses his take on Blue & Lonesome.

Hit: Ride ‘Em On Down

Hidden Gem: All Of Your Love

Write Moo A Letter (My Top-10 Aerosmith Songs)

A few weeks ago my good friend Moo emailed me out of the blue and asked me to list my top ten Aerosmith songs. I nearly spat out my tea. You see, Moo doesn’t like Aerosmith. In fact, that’s the understatement of the twenty first century. Out of all the bands in the world that Moo likes to pour scorn on, it’s Aerosmith. He doesn’t like to just pour scorn on them though, opting instead to apply the scorn with a high-pressure hose.

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There are plenty of reasons for his disapproval of course. Aerosmith are now a terrible band (Moo would say they always have been), they’ve pissed all over their legacy (he’d ask ‘what legacy?’) and in Steven Tyler the band are fronted by one of the most annoying men in the history of music (no argument there). The main reason he targets them though is that they’re my favourite band. A healthy friendship is all about holding your friend’s loves up to the light. Checks and balances and all that. It provides good banter too.

Of course, when it comes to criticism of Aerosmith, I have a hide as tough as a rhinoceros. I’ve written  about my love for them before, and there’s no stopping that now. I’m too old to change my ways – and anyway, for me the good easily outweighs the bad, even if the ‘bad’ gets progressively more challenging every year. Only the other day I heard that Tyler and co hinted at a farewell tour in 2017. Was I sad to hear the news? No, just like finding out your abusive parent was hit by a bus, it’ll be nice for them to go away to a place where they can’t do any more harm. And anyway, the news of Steven Tyler’s forthcoming country album was the thing that really filled me with dread.

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Moo looks for Aerosmith news in the French newspapers

So Moo was curious I guess, maybe wanting to know what makes me tick, and a woeful list in the Guardian prompted him to ask me for mine. He promised to make a Spotify playlist of the offending tracks, give it a fair listen and report back accordingly.

So the challenge: boil down my love of Aerosmith into just ten songs, and put together a list of tracks that Moo won’t turn up his nose to; an impossible feat. Aerosmith’s songs are in my DNA, my favourites change on a weekly basis, and they’d change drastically depending on who was asking.

I decided from the start to avoid the ‘big three’ – Dream On, Walk This Way and Sweet Emotion. I didn’t want to waste my precious ten choices on songs that everybody knows (even though Moo claimed to have never heard Dream On before). The other important thing for me was to draw heavily from the pre-Geffen years. I can find things I like about the Geffen years and beyond, but I think most true Aerosmith fans know that those years pale in comparison to the magic that was put down to tape in the 1970s.

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First of all, my ten and my reasons behind my choices:

1. Rattlesnake Shake (Live) (Pandora’s Box, 1991 – recording from 1971)

I chose this as it’s a great example of where the band came from. Early Fleetwood Mac extended into a Yardbirds-style jam. The guitar work-out that takes up the second portion of the song is awesome.

2. Lord Of The Thighs (Get Your Wings, 1974)

After the under-produced and somewhat workaday feel of their first album, this is possibly the first real example of the band showing their cards. Of course it helps to have a decent producer on board in the form of ‘sixth-Aero’ Jack Douglas.

3. Seasons Of Wither (Get Your Wings, 1974)

Just bloody lovely. I refuse to classify this as a power ballad – there’s more to it than that – and I would offer that this is the band’s first successful attempt at creating an otherness that is usually absent from their straight-ahead rockers and slower ballads.

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How Joe Perry could see anything at all in the mid-’70s is a complete mystery

4. Adam’s Apple (Toys In The Attic, 1975)

A sick guitar riff. By this time, it feels like Joe Perry could come up with a riff – no matter how backwards it sounds – and the band would just effortlessly bring it to life. The dictionary definition of a deep cut, the song did eventually enjoy a brief moment in the spotlight on 1988’s Gems compilation and an even sicker live version on 1991’s Pandora’s Box.

5. No More No More(Toys In The Attic, 1975)

A sunny tale of life on the road in a rock and roll band, you can almost smell the dusty tour-bus and imagine the crumbling walls of the cheap motels. The band would have been travelling more comfortably and staying at a better class of accommodation after their stratospheric rise in the wake of this album. No matter where I am, no matter what time of day it is, the sun always shines in my mind when I play this song.

6. Last Child (Rocks, 1976)

A great example of the band’s funk-inspired beginnings (drummer Joey Kramer’s gig prior to joining the band was in a Meters-style funk outfit). It definitely sounds like white man’s funk though. You could dance to it, but it might give you a headache if you over-think it.

7. Sick As A Dog (Rocks, 1976)

From the same album, Sick As A Dog is the jewel in the crown on Rocks. This rocker features an instrumental break half way through, giving the band the chance to switch instruments. The song starts off with Joe Perry on bass and Tom Hamilton on rhythm guitar. Then in the break, Steven Tyler takes over on bass while Perry resumes guitar duties for the end solo. Awesome.

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Breaking down walls with Run DMC

8. Krawhitham(Pandora’s Box, 1991 – recording from 1977)

This one’s an unreleased instrumental track written and played by the ‘other three’ – Joey Kramer, Brad Whitfordand Tom Hamilton – while they were waiting, bored, for Tyler and Perry to turn up to the studio. It’s my jam, to use the common parlance of the time.

9. Chiquita (Night In The Ruts, 1979)

This was being recorded just as Joe Perry walked out of the band in 1979. In his absence, Tyler took what Perry had intended to be a guitar line and turned it into a great horn part, reminiscent of the Who’s 5.15, or the Beatles’ Savoy Truffle.

10. Monkey On My Back (Pump, 1989)

This is the only post-sobriety one I’ve bothered to include. There are good songs from this period, but they’re definitely fewer and farther between. And it doesn’t make sense to include more at the expense of a song from their golden period. The Geffen years weirdly correlate with the advent of compact discs and as a result everything sounds a little too cold and clinical from here on in.

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Vini and Moo singing along to some Aerosmith classics


I flicked off the email to Moo and waited for the criticism to come back. It didn’t take long. Over to Moo…

Rattlesnake Shake

“OK, I suppose. Like a million other early ‘70s bands. Nice Eddie Vedder-ish vocals though. I dispute the awesomeness of the jam at the end. It went on for far too long. At one point I thought it was never going to end.”

Lord Of The Thighs

“This is pretty good, the guitar riff and piano line sound quite sinister. Like something from a gritty ‘70s cop film. Although I’m impressed that they can sing the lyrics without laughing.”

Aero3Seasons Of Wither

“This isn’t too bad. Almost as good as early Boston.”

Adam’s Apple

“This is much better. Although I’d stop short of saying it’s good.”

No More No More

“At this point, I start to think that I just won’t like them. There’s nothing wrong with this exactly, it’s just dull.”

Last Child

“Is it me or does this sound like Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick? But this is the best so far; really good song.”

Sick As A Dog

“This is not very good.”

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Krawitham

“Not bad, but it feels like a song with the singing missing, which I guess is what it is.”

Chiquita

“This is pretty good. Nice horns as you say. It shows that they had listened to punk and (almost) understood it.”

Monkey On My Back

*listens to the first half then presses skip*

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With the benefit of hindsight, maybe I should have chosen different songs? I did think about including Aerosmith’s live cover of James Brown’s Mother Popcorn from 1978’s Live! Bootleg. It’s a funky gem, but the eleven-minute track includes a ‘hidden’ version of Draw The Line which might have tested his patience even further.

I also toyed with the idea of including the Live! Bootleg version of Walk This Way. Yes, everybody and their grandmother might have heard the song, but this version has Joe Perry playing the main riff through the talk-box effect (famous for its appearance on the intro to Sweet Emotion). It could have been very different if they had applied this guitar effect to all of their songs from this point onwards – Peter Frampton eat your heart out – but hearing it on this track just sounds weirdly out of place; a curio for sure.

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The band should be applauded for sticking with their blind clothes designer

Well, you can’t please all the people all the time, can you? I once gave Moo a spare copy of AC/DC’s Powerage, which turned him onto the mighty ‘DC in a way I could never have imagined. It’s a shame that a similar thing isn’t going to happen here. Perhaps Moo is hardwired to like bad Aerosmith only? I could have easily put together a Top 10 Worst Aerosmith song list, but I wouldn’t want to put him through this. Maybe I should have bought him a copy of Just Push Play and be done with it.

Ah, fuck it. For Moo it really is just a case of No More, No More.

For another ‘alternative best of Aerosmith playlist’ check out this post on the Every Record Tells A Story blog , a great site put together by fellow Aero-head Steve Carr.

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The band take a break in the breakfast nook of the Campbell household

Rocks In The Attic #286: Aerosmith – ‘Just Push Play’ (2001)

RITA#286Nothing says how truly bad this album is more than the cover. There are no redeeming qualities I can find about it. If they handed out awards for the band that chose the worst image to put on the cover of an album, Aerosmith would have swept the boards in 2001.

I can stand up for Aerosmith all day, but I have trouble sticking up for this album. Even Joe Perry agrees:

I don’t think we’ve made a decent album in years. ‘Just Push Play’ is my least favourite. When we recorded it there was never a point where all five members were in the room at the same time and Aerosmith’s major strength is playing together. It was a learning experience for me: it showed me how not to make an Aerosmith record.

The one moment where the band sound anything like the Aerosmith of old, is dealt with quickly on opener Beyond Beautiful. That’s almost a kick-ass song, but even then it really only ranks along with the more mediocre moments of Nine Lives. Sadly Just Push Play then descends into sheer awfulness.

The embarrassing rap-rock of title track Just Push Play is followed by big single Jaded – which they still play live (as I witnessed in Dunedin earlier in the year). Big ballad Fly Away From Here shows again what sort of song the band regards as their bread and butter, and then all of a sudden they’ve lost me. This is really the first Aerosmith album they should have titled ‘Crushing Disappointment’. In fact, that title probably works better with their choice of cover image.

It’s also probably the first album since Get A Grip that I didn’t actively look forward to when it came out. I wasn’t listening to a lot of Aerosmith when it came out, so it sort of passed me by. I did buy the picture disc of Jaded when I saw that on vinyl, but probably after hearing that, I ignored the rest of the album.

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In fact, that release of Jaded has a fantastic art direction – with both the front and back cover images proving once again that sex sells. It’s amazing how they managed to have such a shocker with the art direction on Just Push Play and then they go and pull this pair of images out of the bag.

Due to its very limited print on vinyl, this was the last Aersomith I got my hands on. I’m glad I have it, as it completes my collection, but it’s never going to be a regular feature on the turntable.

Hit: Jaded

Hidden Gem: Beyond Beautiful

Rocks In The Attic #225: Aerosmith – ‘Nine Lives’ (1997)

RITA#225I had started listening to Aerosmith in 1993, when Get A Grip, the album before this was released; so by the time this came out in 1997, I had consumed everything Aerosmith had produced in their 24 years of material, and was very thirsty for anything new. Most importantly, I was now very much a critic.

I still see Nine Lives as a decent album. It’s definitely not in the same ballpark as Pump, and it’s only slightly more palatable than the hard Country that infects most of Get A Grip. It’s their last stab at making a decent album – and, although a patchy affair, is much better than Honkin’ On Bobo, Just Push Play and Music From Another Dimension!

This album came out in my first winter of university, in February 1997. I remember buying the CD single of Falling In Love (Is Hard On The Knees), and listening to it on my Discman as I walked around the cold, bitter streets of Huddersfield. I wanted so much for it to be better than it actually was. I had no right to criticise any of Aerosmith’s work before this – as I wasn’t a fan when those albums were originally released – but now I was a fully fledged fan, and I felt I deserved better.

When the album was released a month later, I was similarly disappointed. I’ve come to expect that feeling with Aerosmith when they release a new album. They may not make classic albums any more, but they’re very consistent with the hype (and subsequent lack of follow-through) they foster with every new release. Purveyors of disappointment, you might say.

Still, Nine Lives has its peaks and I was still itching to see the band play live again. On the Get A Grip tour in 1993, I had only managed to see the band once, when they played in Sheffield. This time, I was going to try and see them as much as my wallet could afford. With my friends Stotty and Bez, I got tickets to see them in Manchester, and then a couple of weeks later in Birmingham.

Manchester was great – seeing your favourite band play in your home town is always nice – but Birmingham was very special. We made a day of it, travelling down the motorway in the sunshine, and hanging out around the NEC for an hour or so before the show, checking out anything female dressed in an Aerosmith t-shirt.

The title song is a classic album opener, with a wall of guitar feedback swirling around horrible cat noises. They opened their live show with the song throughout the tour, and it was eye-opening to find out the cat noises were produced by nothing other than the vocal chords of Steven Tyler. It was also nice to see Brad Whitford take centre-stage with the guitar solo on the song.

The other thing I remember from that tour (aside from the inappropriately booked support band of Shed Seven, who we had great fun booing, stood only yards away from Rick Witter) was the fact that during the Birmingham show, England were playing Poland in a World Cup qualifier. A couple of times during their set, Steven Tyler gave an update of the score – “England – two! Poland – zero!” -which was as bizarre as it sounds. The score stayed that way too.

This vinyl copy is the reissued version, with their later #1 hit single I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing tacked onto the end (I hate that song – it really signalled the end of Aerosmith’s ability to release anything of any artistic merit); and the alternative cover (after the original cover of the album offended a bunch of Hindus).

All in all, Nine Lives is a mixed affair, with some really strong highlights, all rolled up into a combination of initial disappointment, and tempered with some very happy memories.

Hit: I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing

Hidden Gem: Falling Off

Rocks In The Attic #187: Aerosmith – ‘Music From Another Dimension!’ (2012)

RITA#187Aerosmith used to be a rock band, back in the day. They were a bad-ass rock band in the ‘70s, and nearly lost it all before coming back to rule again in the late-‘80s.

The peak of that second stab at popularity was 1989’s Pump. Pump is a great album. It’s starting to sound a little dated now, but at the time it was as fresh and cutting-edge as anything recorded by bands in their 20s and 30s. But the last song on Pump can be blamed for the current state of Aerosmith.

What It Takes is a slow acoustic number, a broken-hearts song done in the style of a bar-room Country & Western song. In fact, it’s a pastiche of a Country & Western song. Steven Tyler even sings the lyrics in a mock-country style (think Mick Jagger’s vocals on Dead Flowers from Sticky Fingers). But despite all this, it’s still a very good song.

Prior to this, Aerosmith songs had fallen into two camps – straightforward rockers, or slower blues-based mid-tempo songs (with the odd power ballad starting to rear its ugly head from 1987’s Permanent Vacation onwards). But What It Takes changes all that. From their next album, 1993’s Get A Grip, the band thinks it’s reasonably acceptable to litter their material with country songs.

Wait a minute guys, What It Takes was a good song, but it was a pastiche, remember? You were parodying the hillbilly nature of that style of music. This wasn’t meant to be a new direction!

So Get A Grip, aside from the straightforward rockers, is jammed pack full of Country & Western tinged songs – Crazy, Cryin’ and Amazing. It’s heavy Country & Western, but Country & Western all the same. The rest of Get A Grip isn’t too bad, but these three songs, all released as singles, stink up the rest of the album.

The formula then gets repeated through 1997’s okay Nine Lives and 2001’s dreadful Just Push Play. I was momentarily excited by a back-to-basics blues album, in 2004’s Honkin’ On Bobo, but despite a nice collection of blues covers, even this album reeked of Country & Western. They may be classic blues songs, but the instrumentation and arrangement still sounds miles away from the 1970s glory years.

Then we come to Music From Another Dimension! – “the band’s first studio album of all new songs in 11 years!”. They needn’t have bothered. For about twenty years now, they’ve stopped being relevant. The whole Country & Western theme has reached its absolute nadir in the song Can’t Stop Lovin’ You – a duet with Carrie Underwood who, believe it or not, is a Country singer.

Not long ago, I watched a really bad Kevin Costner film. I know that’s quite a vague term, given the number of really bad Kevin Costner films, but this one was particularly bad. Good ol’ Kevin played a good ol’ boy in the American South, who ends up, for reasons too implausible to repeat here, having the casting vote in the American presidential election. The two nominees – played by Dennis Hopper and Kelsey Grammer – make their way to Kevin’s hometown, to woo him with his favourite things in life. In one vignette, Kevin gets to go driving with his favourite racecar driver. Kevin plays in a Country & Western band, so the other nominee invites him to a party where, guess what, his band are on stage all ready to start playing. Kevin steps up and rips into the usual 21st century Country & Western drivel – all broken-hearts and melancholic euphoria, like Coldplay covering a Willie Nelson song. It’s the worst song you’ve ever heard in your life, and more than enough to make you question whether Dance With Wolves was really any good, or just a lucky strike by an actor who has dealt in various shades of mediocrity ever since.

The song he sings really is the low point of a very poor film. If you arranged all of the songs you’ve ever heard in your life from good to bad, this one would be at the bottom end. Surely nothing could be worse than this, right? Then you listen to Aerosmith and Carrie Underwood singing Can’t Stop Lovin’ You – and suddenly, in comparison, you have fond nostalgic memories of that Kevin Costner song.

There’s not a great deal of good things to say about this album – the cover art is terrible (they’ve somehow managed to top Just Push Play in true awfulness) and there’s very little in the way of decent material. Out Go The Lights is built around a nice funky riff, in the style of Last Child, but the rest is just embarrassing.

At least contemporary Rolling Stones albums still sound like the Rolling Stones. Aerosmith sound like a completely different band. Steven Tyler falls back on that horrible scat-style of singing, which just sounds infantile. Other lyrics are just rewritten nursery rhymes, with the odd word changed to try to sound inventive. It all comes across as a band that have run out of ideas (and run out of steam).

Except Joey Kramer. His drumming on the first side of the album is spot-on, and proof that he really is an underrated rock drummer. I guess that’s what happens when you hang around with band members who now trade in Country & Western (and mediocrity).

Hit: Legendary Child

Hidden Gem: Out Go The Lights