The following is a chapter excerpt, "1970-72: The Grind," from the Julian Gill book Aerosmith: On Tour, 1973-85
Joey Kramer: "There are bands that are really terrible that are making a million dollars. There are bands that are really good that are making no money. It's all a matter of chance. No matter how good you are, you have to be lucky to a certain extent" (Boston Herald, 9/16/1973).
Clones of the Stones or heirs apparent to Jim Morrison or a neo-Dead-End Kids? It ultimately matters not a damn; a half-century of music stands as solid testament to a Boston group that became America's band. In popular culture, the Dead-End Kids were a group of menacing New York City street kids. Punks, in other words, though that term would be appropriated for a style of music that had emerged from the garages of disaffected youths in the late '60s. Early acts wearing the label, willingly or not, included the MC5 and Iggy and The Stooges, with the latter particularly having taken inspiration from the Stones but transformed it to the point of being nearly unrecognizable (apart from a few unfortunate physical analogues). Where the nihilism of the Velvet Underground broke from direct connections with the Warholian art scene, the emerging glitter movement of the early '70s was firmly rooted in style, performance, and attitude not always translating into quality. Aerosmith's goals were simple: To get off playing music and to get people off to their playing. Though Joe Perry also wanted to play loud, pushing the levels until he could see the sonic waves, much to the chagrin of Steven Tyler. The battles were present from the beginning, and conflict and tension fueled Aerosmith to the heights of stardom and popularity while slowly poisoning the band's very soul.
At the time Aerosmith were signed to Columbia by Clive Davis in 1972, few outside of a regional diehard following would have known anything about them, or much less cared. They were barely a Boston band either. The genre of the sort of music represented was dominated by the Rolling Stones, who had then recently released Exile on Main St., the zenith of a string of highly acclaimed albums. While response was more mixed after the heights of Sticky Fingers, Let it Bleed, and Beggars Banquet, the band was firmly entrenched in mega stardom, rivaled only by the likes of The Who and Led Zeppelin. Had the members of Aerosmith paid more attention to that album, and its successors, then they might have taken warning and had a vastly different history. Regardless, the individual influences of the band members contributed to the whole, and out of that conglomeration something special was born. The New York Dolls tried to capture that trip, only to burn out young and wasted, having enjoyed more hype than substance and not translating the press into commercial success. At least they looked good while enjoying the attention and reveling in the critical acclaim from a pen, only occasionally delivering an exceptional performance. Aerosmith, though, did it the hard way...
Born in New York City in 1948, Steven Tallarico had become something of a bohemian by the time he reached his teens and was living on the attic floor of his parent's home in Yonkers during the school year while spending summers in the country. It was the best of two worlds. His father, Victor, was a professional musician formally trained at Julliard's Institute of Musical Art, teaching at the private Foxwood school and later at Cardinal Spellman High School. Due to his father's vocation and passion, music was a constant in his life, so it's hardly surprising he'd follow a similar path. Steven recalled, "I grew up under my father's piano. I'd sit under his big Steinway and play games and pretend things while listening to him practice for two hours every day. So, I was literally immersed in Debussy, Chopin, and Liszt. That's where I got this emotional thing I have with music. My father was a schooled musician who was very much into technique. He'd play a Beethoven sonata in the living room, and I'd almost stop breathing. So, I got all my emotions and feelings through music, which gives off twice the emotions and feelings of any other art form" ("Walk this Way"). Music was part of Steven's DNA; his paternal grandfather was a cellist who emigrated from the Calabrian region of Italy and worked with orchestras and ballroom bands. His grandmother had also taught piano. While his parents didn't approve of the sort of music Steven liked, his mother, the former Susan Blancha, encouraged his pursuit. It wasn't long before Steven was playing drums in his father's band at Trow-Rico. Located in Sunapee in New Hampshire, Trow-Rico started out in 1935, appropriately, as a music camp for children opened by his grandmother. By the 1940s it had become more of a summer getaway resort with bands entertaining those escaping the cities. Victor recalled a less than enthusiastic Steven playing in his band: "For him, it was ho-hum stuff. He yawned through two summers of that" (Orlando Sentinel, 6/13/1996).
A hyper-active child, Steven was involved in mischief from the time he could walk, which coupled with a direct but oft mercurial attitude, would become perfect characteristics for a rock 'n roller. In the country, during the summers, it led to a life in the woods and surroundings as a free spirit, after chores were completed. In the city, well, that proved more of a challenge. His father had already tried, unsuccessfully, to teach him piano properly, and it took the drumming records of Sandy Nelson to really capture Steven's attention. He was hooked and "Let There Be Drums" could almost be a theme for Steven's Green Mountain Boys. His first flirtations with performing came with childhood friend Raymond Tabano — he lived the next block over. Steven started out on guitar but switched to drums so that he could also play with his father's band at Trow-Rico. Raymond recalled, "When we were 13- or 14-years old Steven played the guitar, and I played the drums. My real father worked at some bar down on Morris Park Avenue so we would go down there, and we would do 'Cotton Fields (The Cotton Song),' 'Summertime,' and stuff like that." After taking lessons at Westchester Workshop Drums Unlimited in Mt. Vernon, Steven spent the summers playing in his father's band. Before long, playing waltzes and showtunes wasn't getting Steven off musically and it was kryptonite to girls his age. As he entered adolescence, he soon set his eyes on more contemporary sounds — forming a proper band with other kids his age. It wasn't long before he'd be joining a local band, the Maniacs, on stage at The Barn. During the school year in New York, Steven was playing drums in the Strangers and singing occasionally with the Dantes, which included Raymond. Steven became a full-time singer when he decided his band's vocalist wasn't singing badly, but that he could simply do it better. The song in that made Steven a singer? The Beach Boys' "In My Room." Where the Strangers were more aligned with the sound of the Beatles, the Dantes projected a tougher image akin to the Stones. Raymond differentiated the bands: "Steven's father was a classically trained musician. His whole family were classical trained musicians. So, Steven had a leg up on us. One of the guys in his band, Don Solomon, his partner, was also a gifted pianist and a great singer. They were really good and played more sophisticated music. We played Them, The Rolling Stones, and the Pretty Things, that kind of music. It wasn't too difficult to play — three or four chord songs with a lot of backbeat and a little guitar work."
While at Roosevelt, Steven had been drumming in the Strangers, but wanted to focus on singing. When he saw drummer Barry Shapiro at a talent show, he immediately recruited him for the band, playing their first show (at least with Barry) opening for the Byrds at the Westchester County Center on Mar. 26, 1966. They were planning, at the time, to record their new song, "But I Don't Care." As one review noted, "Lead singer Steve Tallarico came on like Mick Jagger of the Stones: Bottom lip hanging, tambourine slapping against thigh. This was more like it and the audience responded" (Yonkers Herald Statesman, 3/28/1966). By April, the band had a manager, Peter Agosta, who would help take them up the local and regional ladder. They opened for the Animals at the House of Liverpool in Yonkers on May 9. Thee Strangeurs, which Steven has described as a deliberately pretentious name, evolved out of the group discovering there was already an established band in the area with the same name. In June, the band became one of the first two acts signed with Richard Gottehrer's Sire Productions. They'd start recording in August, completing four songs in separate sessions over the period of several weeks. As Peter Stahl recalled, "'The Sun' took three weeks to record because Steven was a perfectionist and drove everybody crazy. He demanded his own mike, which no one had heard of before" ("Walk this Way"). The shape of things to come... In early October, the Strangeurs opened for the Lovin' Spoonful at Westchester's County Center. Interestingly, Aerosmith recorded an unused version of that band's "On the Road Again" during the sessions for their first album a few years later. In early July 1966, they beat out other groups in a battle of the bands contest to win a support slot for the Beach Boys at their Iona College performance on July 24.
RELATED CONTENT: Read an interview with original Aerosmith guitarist, Ray Tabano
The Staples High School Auditorium in Westport, Conn., became a regular haunt for the band, playing their own shows, but more importantly opening for the Yardbirds on Oct. 22, 1966. Steven was a student of the Yardbirds: "As a singer, the thing I got out of the Yardbirds was that you don't have to have a great voice. It's all about attitude. Keith Relf wasn't great, but how he sang it made him a master. He was a white boy who pushed it to the max. And he was a great harmonica player. You never heard Jagger hanging out on a single note the way Keith Relf could" (Rolling Stone, 12/3/2010). More importantly, Steven had connected with a hot young concert promoter, Henry Smith, who booked that Yardbirds show and regularly got the band other gigs. While Henry went to work with Jimmy Page on his new project in 1967, the New Yardbirds (aka Led Zeppelin), he later answered the call from Steven in 1973 to bring that skillset to Aerosmith. The Strangeurs' band name didn't stick, and they formally became Chain Reaction in late 1966 with the release of their first single on Date Records. If competing with another band named the Strangers was a problem, then perhaps it wasn't noted that there was already a Chain Reaction band recording for Dial Records, and Terry and The Chain Reaction on United Artists. The band continued to work with big name acts and supported the Beach Boys at the Westchester County Center on Apr. 25, 1967, along with The Buckinghams, Satan's Helpers, and other acts. Winning another battle of the bands, they also supported the Beach Boys at Iona College in July. Over the next year, while they performed plenty of covers, they had also started amassing a number of originals, including the songs "Tomorrow's Today" and "Ordinary Girl."
By this time, Steven had been thrown out of Roosevelt High School. He was among ten students arrested on assorted warrants for marijuana offences on the evening of Mar. 15, 1967. He was charged with violation of 1751-A of the penal code for possession/use of the drug. Following his expulsion, he enrolled in Quintano's school for Young Professionals (also attended by future Dolls, Sylvain Sylvain, John Genzale, Billy Murcia; and other notable alumni such as Mary Weiss, Rick Derringer, and the Left Banke's Michael Brown) to finish school. The remaining songs recorded in August–September 1966 were released as a Verve Records single in August 1968. These are of more interest to Aerosmith fans now, than any ripples in the musical continuum their existence made contemporaneously, but for Steven they served part of his apprenticeship and provided more experience in the studio. So too did early "session work," with him ending up on backing vocals on several recordings for the final Left Banke album (including "Dark is the Bark") and on teenage, and future Aerosmith touring keyboard player, Mark Radice's "10,000-Year-Old Blues" / "Three Cheers (for the Sad Man)" single (released in 1968). As his musical career stumbled, Steven continued to find trouble with the law. He, along with Henry Smith and two others, were busted in Miami in May 1968 for possession of marijuana. Chain Reaction had come to nothing and ultimately broke up.
With Chain Reaction in the past, all that Steven was left with was having had a taste of the next level... A very light taste of success, sharing the stage with some of the real stars of the day, and a couple of 45s in the Anchorage juke box back in Sunapee. It was little more than a tantalizing tease and not enough. Steven knew where he wanted to get but had trouble for the next few years trying to find the right pieces is the cosmic musical jigsaw puzzle, and he became brutal at changing those pieces on his quest. Chain Reaction's keyboard player, and Steven's songwriting partner, Don Solomon, was the only holdover for Steven's next couple of bands. One of these, another link in the proverbial chain, was appropriately named The Chain. This band included another of Steven and Don's friends from Yonkers, Frankie Ray. The band was performing at The Barn as late as Aug. 1, 1969, before splitting up. Steven, close to giving up on his dream, made another attempt at making it on his own, poaching the exquisitely talented Eddie Kistler (piano/vocals) and Peter Bover (bass), both members of the Nickel Misery (formerly the Sprites), along with Don, for Fox Chase. Steven had been making the rounds of the regional club scene scouting talent and certainly invested time and effort in his selective musical pillaging. The result was a band of exceptional quality, though one that would last just seven months — even if they could play the hell out of "Pinball Wizard" and "I Want You (She's So Heavy)." The band members attempted to live in cabins at Trow-Rico, writing and rehearsing at the Barn during the winter of 1969/70, but frigid conditions forced them into the main house with Steven's less-than-thrilled parents. With a plan to play originals, the band performed at regional venues such as Dartmouth College, which Aerosmith also later used as a proving ground early during their career. The group ultimately disbanded due to what Peter described as unrelenting pressure from Steven robbing the music of fun" (Brattleboro Historical Society, 7/26/2019). At the time, that perfectionism was noted by Ed Malhoit, the band's agent (and many other acts) telling another of his bands, "They are so tight, and their arrangements are so cool and complicated. Look at this band that is the personification of rock & roll swagger" (Brattleboro Historical Society, 7/26/2019). The musical threat the band posed was illustrated when they opened for the Chicago Transit Authority at Endicott Junior College and were promptly banned opening further shows for them!
Finally, there was William Proud, which reunited Steven with Raymond, with the addition guitarist Dwight "Twitty" Farren. One of the regular covers in their set, "Love Me Two Times" by the Doors, was also later covered by Aerosmith. But playing clubs in South Hampton made it clear to Steven that he was on a downward trajectory and that William Proud was going nowhere. After he attempted to strangle Twitty for daring to yawn during a rehearsal, he hitchhiked back to Sunapee and saw Joe playing at The Barn... But he didn't quite yet know that he needed a true partner in crime.
In 1970, Steven heard from Henry Smith that Jeff Beck was re-forming his band and looking for a new vocalist. If he couldn't create a successful group of his own, he might as well audition for someone else's. Steven recruited several local musicians to help him cut a rough demo of the Beatles' "I'm Down" to submit for consideration. Those musicians were Tom Hamilton, David "Pudge" Scott, and Joe Perry. Joe recalled, "He [Steven] asked me and Tom to play on 'I'm Down' for a demo, so he could send a vocal to Jeff. We were in a club and they ran a little Wollensak tape recorder" (Guitar World, 4/1997). Afterward, Steven hopped behind the drum kit and jammed with Tom and Joe for the first real time. However, working together in a band at that time had still not progressed past the casual polite suggestion stage, and Steven returned to mowing the lawns at Trow-Rico...
What's a boy from a small town like Hopedale, Mass., 25 miles southwest of Boston, supposed to do? While Anthony Joseph Perry's parents may have had other aspirations for their son, the son wasn't reading from the same book. Early on, Joe Perry idolized Jacques Cousteau, and he wanted to become a marine biologist. It was hardly surprising, with his mother a swimming instructor, who also taught gym class at public schools. Activities outdoors, whether in the waters of Lake Sunapee or exploring the curiosities in the woods around his home were adventures. His father was of Portuguese descent, a university educated accountant who had served time in the military. They were disciplined, but loving and nurturing parents. They valued education and knew firsthand the doors it could open. And while Joe initially had lofty aspirations, he simply lacked the academic ability to translate those dreams into reality. Plagued by a learning disability (ADHD), it didn't matter how much ambition Joe had at a time when such afflictions weren't diagnosed or understood.
Joe's introduction to the guitar was casual. He recalled, "My uncle had a guitar he built to play folk songs on, and I thought that was cool, so I picked up on it" (Kerrang #160). It would only be in his early teens that he started to take it more seriously. Joe's first guitar was purportedly a $14 Sears Silvertone that he recalled was "so cheap that's what your mother would buy you when she really wanted you to be a doctor" (Circus Raves, 7/1975). Essentially, self-taught, he recalled taking a single lesson: "I took one lesson from a guy, and then a week later when I was driving to school, I saw a hearse in front of his house. He had died — so, that was the last lesson I took... I just took it as an omen" (Guitar Player, March 1979). Initially, Joe wasn't a good enough guitarist, so he ended up as the vocalist in his first band, the Chimes of Freedom, with Dave Meade, Bill Wright, and John Alden. Keyboard player Tony Niro joined later, and Bill was later a member of another band that opened for Aerosmith... Joe kept on practicing the guitar, slowly improving, "I listened to Roy Orbison and played along, and then came the Beatles, and I saw how many girls they got, so I carried on" (Kerrang #160). Dave Meade recalled Joe's dedication, "He'd just sit in his room and play guitar all the time. I mean really extensively, and when he wasn't doing that, he'd be out looking at other bands" (Milford Daily News, 1/23/2005). Apart from being a friend, Dave also influenced Joe in other ways. His older brother, whose bass he often borrowed, had a music collection that they both explored, moving on from the Beatles and Stones into discovering John Mayall, Eric Clapton, the Kinks, and John Lee Hooker. All contributed to Joe's musical foundations, and Dave also taught Joe some things on the guitar. With the cavalcade of British Invasion bands of the time, Joe was soon introduced to the Dave Clark Five and his musical vocabulary continued to grow. But he was also inspired and influenced closer to home. Joe also received some lessons from Steve Rose, the guitarist in the local professional band, the Wildcats, whom he had befriended. Joe recalled, "He just impressed on me that, the music on TV and on the radio, it was not untouchable. It's like being a baseball fan at age seven and watching a major league game on TV. It's a pretty long jump to make it there. But Steve made it seem attainable. And he helped teach me to play" (Noisecreep.com, 10/9/2012).
At the end of 10th grade, Joe's grades were suffering at Hopedale High School. He was shipped off to boarding school at the Vermont Academy in Saxtons River, Vermont, 100 miles to the northwest of Hopedale to repeat the grade in hopes the change of location would spur academic growth. While he continued playing guitar, getting together with friends during home visits, he also stayed physically active, earning his varsity letter on the school football team in 1967. While at the school, Joe was a member of a prep band, Just Us. The school's website suggests that he was also involved with another band, The Surfing Aarjarks. The curious youth had plenty of ambition but was unable to translate his intellectual prowess into good grades, even at Vermont Academy — to the chagrin of his ever-pragmatic parents Tony and Mary. In some ways, the school may have had an opposite effect on Joe. He recalled, "That's when I was first exposed to a lot of weirdos. What kind? Oh, you know, New York weirdos" (Circus Raves, 7/1975). He stubbornly refused to cut his hair and dropped out of school just weeks shy of graduation, but nevertheless espoused his father's strong work ethic while toiling in a Hopedale factory and working menial jobs while at the family's summer retreat in Sunapee. During the summers at Lake Sunapee, Joe worked the sorts of jobs many teens do. He met David "Pudge" Scott working in the kitchen of the Anchorage Restaurant and the two decided to get a band together. Scott already knew Tom Hamilton, who had by that time flipped to bass, and Pipe Dream was formed. While lineups of these early bands were often fluid, the band included Tom's school friend and one-time Perry girlfriend, Kathy Lowe, on vocals. A talented singer in her own right (along with her sister), her addition allowed them to add songs such as Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love" to their repertoire. The band evolved into Plastic Glass, which included "Pudge," Joe, Tom, and John McGuire on vocals and guitar. Ultimately, the core of "Pudge," Joe, and Tom became the Jam Band and the three would play together through the summer of 1970 (Kathy headed for Paris and recorded several folk albums).
During 1969, while days would be spent working, the weekends were free for music explorations. Joe's education continued, seeing the likes of the Jeff Beck Group at Symphony Hall or Fleetwood Mac at the Boston Tea Party. The performers he saw there, or elsewhere, added to his education. Joe recalled that it was seeing Jeff and Jimmy Page perform 'Stroll On' in the movie Blow Up had a definite impact on his perspective towards playing guitar as a matter of, "Bring on those pedals and turn this shit up" (Guitar Aficionado, November-December 2014)! But for all intents, at this stage in his life, Joe was simply biding his time: "I held down a day job and had a band at night with Tom Hamilton. All we wanted was for people to see us, so we'd get another gig. It was an excuse to party and have girls around" (Kerrang #160). There was no great plan in place, though Joe did at least appease his parents by obtaining his high school equivalency.
In Hopedale, Joe played in a band named Flash at various times. It included Dave Meade on bass. Dave booked shows for the band at the local venues Aerosmith later performed at, notably the Hopedale Town Hall Auditorium on June 6, 1968. Joe recalled, "I always thought it would just be a hobby. We'd play at parties when I was a kid; one guy had a garage, and we'd open up the doors so kids could come and watch. The bass player got us a gig at his brother's house, and he says: 'You'll get free beers and five dollars each,' and I said: 'what are they gonna give us money for?' It didn't occur to me that you could get paid for it" (Kerrang #160). Band members in Joe's bands varied depending on who was available at the time, and often continued when he wasn't around. Back in Sunapee, in the summer of 1969, Joe found Tom and Pudge planning to have a Jam Band utilizing a different guitarist, Guy Williams. Joe wasn't about to be excluded. Tom recalled, "One day we're down at Guy's house, practicing. Joe comes over, plugs in, and proceeds to put on the most outrageous display of guitar incredibleness that I'd ever seen in my life! He had practiced his ass off all winter and had all these moves with the whammy bar and he was playing all these outrageous sounds. The rest of us stopped playing. We just stood there watching this solo performance with our mouths open, and I understood that Joe had taken a huge leap" ("Walk this Way"). That the band recorded one of their sets live, on Aug. 30, 1969, plus part of a rehearsal, as a commemorative of the summer that Perry came of age as a guitarist. The following summer things would change, with Joe and Tom planning how they could escape their rural rut. The catalyst turned out to be Mark Lehman, who conveniently happened to have a van...
Tom Hamilton was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1951, the third of four children. His father was active in the U.S. Air Force during his early life, resulting in the family moving several times throughout his youth. Once his father left the service, the family settled in New London, New Hampshire, where he worked as what Tom described in 1973, as an "industrial tool caster." In reality, he worked for Pine Tree Castings, a subsidiary of Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc., a producer of parts for various firearms. "Small town" doesn't quite describe a town with a population of just 2,236 in 1970 (though that's certainly more folk than the number resident at Lake Sunapee during the winter). Tom started playing guitar when he was 12, picking up his older brother's Fender when he wasn't home. He'd seen his brother playing along to Elvis when they were younger but had also been given a toy organ one Christmas. Like many kids of his generation, Tom started out by teaching himself with some help from his brother and the Play Guitar with the Ventures instructional albums which included lessons to their hits including "Raunchy," "Tequila," "Pipeline," and "Walk, Don't Run." Those records also included the bass parts for players to learn. As a youth, Tom acted in a school production of The Skin of Our Teeth and played on the tennis team. School friend Kathy Lowe recalled that Tom was a kind young man who was well regarded. However, he was nearly kicked out of New London High School after an acid dropping incident that left him with a fine and curfew. He was also labeled as the town hoodlum.
Early bands Tom played with included Sam Citrus and the Merciless Tangerines, which resulted in him switching to bass. His teacher for that instrument would be Bill Wyman via Rolling Stones recordings. By his sophomore year he had met David "Pudge" Scott and was playing in Plastic Glass. Tom recalled, "Joe (Perry) and I used to get a band together every summer — I've known him since I was 14 or 15. We put a band together called The Pipe Dream when I was about 15. And then at the end of the summer I would go back to school; and he was a 'summer kid,' so he'd go back to Massachusetts and go back to school. The summer after that we put another band together, called Plastic Glass, and then the two summers after that, we had a band called The Jam Band" (Shark Magazine, 8/24/1989). Over several summers he played with David and Joe in the Jam Band, at the Lake Sunapee Yacht club, The Barn, the Lake Sunapee cruise boat, and house parties and colleges in the area. Tom recalled, "When Joe and I were teenagers, our ambition was to play The Barn. That was making it... We became the house band there, and the owner let us stay in a deserted farmhouse up the street, but we had to be the cleaner-uppers of The Barn. We were the janitors" (Las Vegas Sun, 11/8/2002). At one show he and Joe attended, Tom was inspired that he too could make it in a professional band when he watched the performance of bass player of Spirit, Mark Andes. But, as Kathy Lowe recalled, "He was the only person I ever knew in my life who knew at a very young age, exactly what he wanted to do. He wanted to play bass in a rock band, and that's what he did." As he finished up school, Tom made non-musical plans for his future. He recalled, "I was accepted into a couple of good drama schools, but three months after graduating from high school... I was living in Boston. I dropped the bomb on my parents that Joe Perry and I were going to start a rock band" (Lexington Herald-Leader, 1/13/1985). In that brief period, the pair made a full-time commitment to music in the summer of 1970. Moving to Boston to form a full-time band, Pudge wouldn't be coming — he was several years younger and intent on completing high school — but Lehman became the pair's cheerleader. Joe, borrowing money from his mother, combined with his own savings, had enough to get them started and the trio arrived in Boston in August 1970. Tom also had experience fending for himself outside the family home, following a haircut standoff with his father. The first thing the trio did was rent an apartment at 1325 Commonwealth (#22). They also quickly obtained access to the Boston University West Campus dorm basement and started rehearsing, sometimes with "Pudge" Scott behind the kit. Then they started the process of finding suitable band members...
Like Steven, Bronx born Joey Kramer had grown up in Yonkers. His father, Mickey, was a hardworking businessman while his mother, Doris, stayed home to take care of Joey and his three siblings. Both parents were first generation Americans infused by the ethos of their parent's immigrant experience. Joey explains, "This whole immigrant experience shaped my parents and how they tried to raise me. They were all about assimilation and material gain — fitting in — and image meant everything to them and was pretty typical for parents in the fifties" ("Hit Hard"). Financial security, safety, respect, were all important characteristics in the immigrant community. Both of Joey's parents had served in the war with his father being injured. Joey suggests that in a day when PTSD was not diagnosed, his father had likely been damaged by the horrors he experienced, coupled with a challenging childhood of his own. There would be many factors contributing to making Joey's upbringing anything but pleasant, a childhood filled with what Joey describes in his autobiography as emotional and physical abuse. The effects of his formative years would linger and color much of his life. Not surprisingly, Joey's education was full of challenges. He acted out in school and his education suffered accordingly. Musically, as a youngster, Joey started out trying to learn the accordion, but soon found listening to the crooners of the day, Paul Anka or Joey Dee, capturing his attention. Even with lessons, Joey just couldn't fall in love with his instrument of choice, much to his disappointment when he'd see friends passionately enraptured by their instruments and being willing to practice for hours and hours.
One Christmas, one of Joey's friends received a Slingerland drum kit and invited Joey over to his house to check it out. The sparkle of the finish, the shine of the metal, and the feel of the drumstick in his hand hitting the snare was enough for Joey to finally have that longed for emotional connection with an instrument. He recalled, "It was a rush like nothing I'd ever felt before. Right there... I was thinking, 'This is good. This feels really good'... Everything I'd experienced up to that point, all the emotions I couldn't articulate or even process or understand, I could feel being channeled through those two wooden sticks and onto the heads of those drums" ("Hit Hard"). With money saved, Joey eventually managed to persuade his parents to allow him to rent a kit of his own, a three-piece set of red sparkle Kent's. It was enough for him to get down to the business of learning and at age 13, Joey discovered one thing: He enjoyed hitting hard! Once the Beatles hit the American shores and British Invasion started, Joey knew what he wanted to be. There was no doubt! He wanted that drum throne. He wanted to be the one perched behind the other performers, with the best view of the stage and the audience. He had found his muse.
Joey started to improve his rudimentary techniques, disassembling the parts that the likes of Dave Clark, Ringo, or Dino Danelli played on the records of the day. While the latter of these influences is better known for his work with the Rascals, his background was rooted in jazz. He provided a link to the great drummers of the big band era such as Gene Krupa. If Joey saw a drummer on the television, he studied their playing style and technique. It's pretty clear that Joey had a natural talent, a good eye and ear, married to a dedication to his percussive craft. Getting into bands also offered the opportunity to escape his home, it wasn't long before Joey was playing with his first groups — in 1964 the Dynamics or shortly afterward the Medallions. As the British Invasion progressed, so did Joey's education, adding the likes of Keith Moon to his list of teachers. He had also moved on to playing with a more serious group, the King Bees, which included the talented Bobby Mayo. Unfortunately, a poor report card resulted in Joey's parents confiscating his drums. With a "battle of the bands" coming up at school, Joey was in desperate straits to not lose what he loved doing. Through a band member's brother, arrangements were made for Joey to borrow another drummer's kit for the show. That drummer? One Steven Tallarico, who even at that stage had reached a level all the amateurs in the neighborhoods could only dream of. Steven even joined the King Bees during their performance to sing a couple of Stones songs. Ultimately, following a move to Eastchester and trouble in his new school, Joey was transferred to a private school, ending his participation with the King Bees. A new band soon followed, the Radicals.
A teenage Joey also encountered Raymond Tabano, and it would be at Raymond's place that Steven introduced him to the drumming of Mitch Mitchell via Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland album. Joey would play with an assortment of bands, such as Strawberry Ripple and Nino's Magic Show, where he applied his new learning to his drumming as he evolved. After graduating from Thornton Donovan High School in New Rochelle, the high point, literally and figuratively of Joey's summer was attending the Woodstock music festival during August 1969 with friends. While there he unexpectedly bumped into Steven Tallarico. The cosmos may have been dropping subtle hints. In the fall, Joey enrolled at Chamberlayne Junior College in Boston, though he really had no interest in pursuing further education but had nothing more appealing to do at the time. By the end of his first semester, he was expelled for troublemaking, but was unwelcome back at home. He stayed in Boston and got a menial job to make ends meet. It was another fortunate situation that his boss was also involved with a R&B soul band, Chubby & The Turnpikes (who later became the Tavares; the Uptown Four are also sometimes mentioned). It was during his time working with the band that Joey became more of a "feel" player, where he learned to use the drums to communicate his emotions with the other band members and audience. The music the band performed involved dance moves, so he also learned the importance of choreographed percussive enunciation — playing drum accents that complimented or enhanced the movements of the band members on stage. He recalled, "Those cats taught me a lot about playing with feeling. I remember playing in a ten-piece group that included four singers out in front. I used to go to rehearsals with just the singers, so I had to learn to accent all their choreography. That was real interesting and real helpful to me as a rock drummer later on" (Modern Drummer, March 1984).
Joey would also take inspiration from James Brown, and his all-in physical effort that became an important visual aspect of the performance, something he'd translate into his solos a few years later. Unfortunately, hard living with the soul brothers came at a steep price and Joey ended up fired from his job and hospitalized suffering from hepatitis. He was so sick, he had to return to his parents in the middle of 1970 to recuperate. By September 1970, Joey was back in Boston and had enrolled at the Berklee School of Music. He didn't last long, recalling: "Getting into that angle of drum playing was suddenly turning into a negative source as far as the direction I wanted to go in. I was playing matched grip because I was self-taught, and at the school they wanted me to play conventional grip. Also, I wanted to take lessons on the vibes because I had always wanted to play the vibes. Well, they wouldn't let me do it. Nothing really worked out for me at Berklee, so I left" (Modern Drummer, March 1984). A brief attempt to get a band together came to nothing, but Joey discovered that Raymond was living in Boston and the two soon reconnected. It would be Raymond who told Joey about Joe and Tom looking for a drummer and he soon auditioned for them. He suggested in his autobiography that even at that early stage, the two had secured the use of rehearsal space in the basement of 500 Commonwealth Avenue at Boston University. According to Joey's account, they initially passed on him, preferring to go with a singing drummer they knew.
Georges Mills, New Hampshire, it all went down at The Barn... or maybe down the road next to a freshly mowed lawn. By the time Joe and Tom returned to Sunapee for a 1970 Labor Day party, they'd already auditioned a drummer for their new band. While he'd only been back at school for two months, Joey wasn't sure he wanted to leave Berklee to get back into the band scene, even before they told him that they'd be going with their singing drummer. The pair probably should have spoken with Steven first but seemed pretty sure that he was going to join their new band in Boston, even before they headed up to Sunapee. Joe recalled speaking with Steven: "He was playing with his one partner, Don Solomon, and he wasn't getting anywhere. I know he was kind of getting disillusioned with the whole thing... he said to me he was thinking about doing something else and forgetting about the music business. He was getting sick of it and at the very least wanted to take a break from it or a while. So that's when I said, 'Look, Tom and I have moved into this apartment. We're looking for a singer and a drummer and we've got a couple more bedrooms and we're looking to fill them, what do you think?'" (Ken Sharp/Rock Cellar Magazine, 11/7/2014).
Steven was responsive to the idea, but adamant that he didn't want to drum. He wanted to focus all his energy into fronting a band. That didn't faze Joe, he knew that Joey with his R&B-tinged playing could add a unique seasoning to their sound, if he also came on board. However, the sequence of Steven finding out about Joey, and vice-versa with memories differing, doesn't much matter. Raymond recalled, "Joey came walking into the store one day... He tells me, 'I heard that you're forming a band with Steven Tyler...' He was going to Berklee music school at the time. So, he asked if I could get him an audition. I said, 'Absolutely,' and called Steven and told him what was going on, and he agreed. I told Joey what was going on the next day and he came down to Boston University. He was wearing a Captain America shield T-shirt. He walked in and sat down on the drums and Steven told him what we wanted to play, and he played it. He's the only guy that showed up. We didn't know anybody else." Either way, Steven knew Joey and vice-versa, so matters were settled. Even at that stage there was a tug of wills, a friction and pushing for advantage. But Joe was open to the idea of two guitarists in the band with other successful bands, such as the Yardbirds, Stones, and Fleetwood Mac having utilized the format. There was a short period where Steven, Joe, Tom, David Scott, and Raymond jammed together, both in Sunapee and at the BU rehearsal space.
In some ways, Raymond Tabano was the keystone to the formation of Aerosmith. Born in the Bronx, Dec. 23, 1946, he was friends with Steven Tyler and acquainted with Joey Kramer during their youth in Yonkers. Raymond's mother played a bit of mandolin during her youth while his father owned a bar in the Bronx where he and Steven would later casually perform, though initially Steven was the guitarist and Raymond the drummer. Steven and Raymond had been friends for years, following their first introduction: "When we moved to Yonkers [from the Bronx], there's a huge lake down the block. I walked down the block one day when I first got there, and I can't see the lake because there's all this forest. So, I climb up this tree and I'm looking at over the Lake, and I'm really digging what I'm seeing. All of a sudden, I heard this guy screaming, 'Hey motherfucker, what are you doing up in my tree?' I looked down and it was Steven. I said, 'What do you mean, your tree?' And he's like, 'Hey man, that's my tree!' That's how we met! He told me I was in his tree, and I think I might have tried to spit on his head or something. He walked away and I met him again about two weeks later, he was hanging around one of the streets, he had one of his friends to come over and try to start a fight with me." Once they started hanging out together, Raymond felt they were drawn closer because they liked many of the same activities, though he was a couple of years older than Steven. Raymond lived a block over from Steven at 214 Mountaindale Road. Within a couple of years, Tabano was playing in a rival band to Tyler while both attended Roosevelt High School. Where Steven's band was more Beatles-esque, Raymond's was more aligned with the Stones. Raymond recalled his joining that band: "I was playing the guitar for a while, and I really wasn't that great at it. These kids in high school approached me and asked me to join their band. I asked, 'Why you want me to join your band?' They said, 'Well because you used to be a tough guy and now, you're not. All these guys pick on us, but if you were in the band they wouldn't.' I didn't even have a guitar, so they got me Hagstrom bass. So, I got in the band, The Dantes. And that's how it all started." Essentially, the pair were running around the same scene, and like Steven, Raymond also survived a drug bust in July 1967, ending up on probation.
The pair eventually joined forces in William Proud, the last band in which Steven was drumming full-time. Raymond recalls, "There was some original material. Twitty Farren was a really great guitar player, an incredible mechanic. We played a lot of Hendrix stuff. We played a lot of Stones' [and] Beatles stuff. We did a few original songs here and there — dance-oriented type of stuff. We played three sets, so we had to stretch a lot of songs out. We played 'Reefer Head Women' a lot, 'Crosstown Traffic,' 'Come On,' and Texas styled blues. I think the song ['Come On'] that we ended our set with... We also did Sly and the Family Stone [hums intro figure of 'Thank You']." The band ended abruptly one night in Long Island. Raymond's recollections about the band's demise are clear: "We were doing a gig down in Long Island with the William Proud band. Steven had a huge fight with Don Solomon. He told him, 'I don't want to play the drums anymore. I want to be up in the front. I want to be the front man. I can't get the show across from behind the set of drums.' He was like an animal in a cage. He wanted to get away from it, get up in front of the stage. And Don was like, 'No, we can't do that. We can't afford another guy [to take Steven's place on drums].' So, Steven says, 'Fuck that. I don't care. Then I'm going to go start my own band.' I said, Steven, 'Listen, man, I was talking to Susan [Raymond's girlfriend], and we want to move to Boston. We're going to get a shop up there. Her father already found a location for us on this place called Newbury Street. Why don't you go get that guy, Joe? I get the shop opened up, and we'll have a base of operation. You bring them down to Boston, and we'll start the band there.' He thought it was a good idea and fucking hitchhiked that night from Long Island to freaking New Hampshire. He got up there and about two days later he hooked up with Joe Perry. And that's how the whole thing started."
In Sunapee there was a brief transitional period between the Jam Band and the formation of Aerosmith Mk.1, consisting of Joe Perry, Steven Tyler, Tom Hamilton, and Pudge Scott on drums. Raymond moved to Boston opened his leather shop, "The Yellow Cow." Joe recalled, "I didn't know Steven very well at that point: I had talked with him a few times and jammed with him a few times. He said, 'I wanna bring this guy in to play guitar.' The last three years before that I'd played with a three-piece band or a band that had five or six players. I'd tried every kind of a lineup, so I was kind of flexible there. Raymond had a really cool look. He had a leather shop. He was into the American Indian kind of look and had hair down to his butt. He wore an Indian chest plate" (Ken Sharp/Rock Cellar Magazine, 11/7/2014). Being receptive to the concept of working with another guitarist was little different from playing with John McGuire in earlier bands. Initially, Joe felt that Raymond was decent enough on rhythm to justify his involvement. He commented, "Raymond was a good rhythm guitar player in the classic sense. With the Beatles you had George Harrison who was the lead guitar player and John Lennon who played rhythm and there was a very clear distinction between what each cat played... Ray was really focused on playing rhythm and I was doing the leads. When the band got together Steven [Tyler] wanted someone he knew in the band and he knew Ray for a long time" (Rock Cellar Magazine, 11/7/2014). Even at that stage, there was a tug-of-war for control, a psychological chess game being played, with the varying personalities coming together. Raymond later recalled, "Joe is kind of demure and laid-back, where Steven is flamboyant and outrageous... You put those two things together and you're going to get friction, and when you get friction, you get sparks, and when you get sparks, you get a fire" (Boston Magazine, 5/22/2010). Raymond added a third personality type into the mix opposite to Tom's generally mellow nature. Pudge wasn't joining the new band. Raymond recalled, "his parents told him the same thing that our friends in Yonkers's parents told them, 'Hey, you ain't fucking going to Boston to start a band, you're getting a fucking job, pal!' So, he couldn't leave. Tom just up and left. Tom is the quietest guy, we used to call him 'Mr. Mayonnaise.' He just told his parents, 'I'm leaving. I'll see you later.'"
With Joe, Tom, and Mark already living at 1325 Commonwealth, Joey (and his Great Dane, Tiger) soon joined them, and when Steven arrived, the Yonkers boys initially shared a room in the back. They got menial jobs to make ends meet, with Joe working as a janitor and sweeping the floors at a local Brookline synagogue. Mark was playing taxi with his van, a useful commodity in a college town, and Steven worked in a bagel shop. Tom worked as an orderly in a nursing home, until he creatively "managed to lie and cheat my way into a training program which paid about $2 per hour" (San Pedro News-Pilot, 12/9/1973). Joey focused on getting back to 100% following his assortment of health challenges. Initially, the band had no name, other than "Joe's new band" or "Steven's new band," discarding ideas such as Hooker — with Steven alluding to the point that "playing the clubs is prostitution anyway" (Circus Raves, 4/1974) — or Spike Jones, before Joey suggested Aerosmith. It was a band name he'd had in his head since a teenager, inspired by Harry Nilsson's Aerial Ballet (1968) album title. With a name, the band's identity started to be forged in the communal apartment and seemingly endless practices in their rehearsal space at Boston University or the basement of the building. The band played hour after hour to hone their performance. The communal living bonded them and gave Steven and Joe time to become comfortable together. While Steven would remain the band's primary songwriter, the pair learned to work together and off each other's strengths to make the music stronger. Joe recalled the early practices: "We drilled a lot. We would pick the songs apart. I remember Tommy and Joey would drill, playing a part over and over. Sometimes the whole band would cook on one lick, just to get that pulse going" (Guitar for the Practicing Musician, 5/1986). Where Steven might have driven them crazy, especially Joey, with his perfectionism and demands, his knowledge and experience were something that the rest of the band knew they lacked. He was guiding them so that all five pairs of hands would massage the raw musical clay into form. While it may have felt like bootcamp to Joey at times, he learned to take direction from not only Steven, but other members of the band. Joey later recognized the benefits of the torturous process: "I have to give Steven a lot of credit because he had a lot to do with the style that I picked up when we started as a band. He turned me on to a lot of things... I never knew what it was like to fall into a pocket and make the band cook. Steven made me realize that I was the one who was responsible for making the band feel right" (Modern Drummer, March 1984). So, they argued and snorted their way to perfection and bliss.
With a few weeks of rehearsals under their belt, Aerosmith played their first paying gig at the Nipmuc Regional High School's gym in Mendon on November 6, 1970. Their set consisted mostly of covers (as detailed in "Walk this Way" — if memories are correct), though six of the songs performed that night later turned up on Aerosmith albums. Perhaps inevitably, "Rattlesnake Shake" had to be present, being the Fleetwood Mac song that had delivered to Steven a most pleasing "come" (kenjataimu) feeling from seeing the Jam Band perform it (if not the quality of the playing, the groove they had locked into momentarily). Raymond noted the importance of the song, "Steven had seen Joe play at The Barn. When he saw them do 'Rattlesnake Shake,' and jump up in the air and play the guitar, that's what sold Steven on Joe. He told me, 'You got to see this fucking guy. He jumps up and down. He fucking plays rock and roll. He's crazy, he's great.'" The first gig was a no-frills affair. Tom Hamilton recalled: "We set up on the floor of the gym for their big dance and we were there playing the songs that we had learned so far. We played gigs at high schools because we could play the songs that we wanted. We never failed to get an audience jumping. But, after a couple of years, Steven started writing with Joe, and gradually we had our own songs" (Telegram & Gazette, 7/13/2012). They earned $50, though the show nearly didn't take place due to the band drinking and Steven liberating a Nipmuc Phys. Ed. T-shirt from a student's locker (which he wore for the show, and later). Steven and Joe had a big blow-up following the show with Joe being accused of playing too loud... It wasn't the first argument on that topic, and it certainly wasn't the last. For Tom, the band wanted to start out doing things their way: "We were not at all interested in going to clubs and playing five sets. So, we picked out songs that were fun for us to play and that people could dance to. We did frat parties and gigs like that. So, you first create and realize your stylistic identity by the songs that you pick to cover" (Guitar for the Practicing Musician, 5/1986). Other shows in town hall auditoriums followed through the end of 1970.
Joe also recalled the band's early ethos, "We saw too many bands trapped in the $800-a-week, four-sets-a-night syndrome. So, we played at high schools, out of town mostly, on Friday and Saturday nights, and did our own show. There were two sets, about half our own material and half covers" (Boston Phoenix, 7/27/1976). Some of the other covers the band performed during their earliest shows included the Stones' "Honky Tonk Woman" and "Live with Me," "All Your Love" (John Mayall), "Cold Turkey" (John Lennon), "Peter Gunn," and "Shapes of Things." Joe recalled, "If you couldn't play a whole set of what was on the jukebox, nobody wanted you" ("Walk this Way"), but the band also failed plenty of club auditions simply due to their volume. From the beginning, Aerosmith weren't much interested in conformity. Regardless, until they had enough songs of their own, they needed a musical arsenal to draw from to sprinkle their own songs in-between. As 1971 dawned, the group broadened their horizons towards various regional venues they had played with other bands previously, often shows booked by Ed Malhoit. By April 1971, with just a handful of shows performed, the band was starting to look to recording demos to send in to record labels, but other than Steven, they were utter novices with few useful connections. With Mark hauling them around, they were very much a cottage industry — a band paying their dues slowly trying to work their way up. It's ironic to consider that a band that would become known as a Boston band had not played a single club in the city through much of their first year (other than the occasional B.U. performance). During the summer of 1971, the band started undergoing a crisis, caused by a deterioration with the band member's relationship with Raymond.
Playing with Raymond for a few months made it clear to Joe that it was not the sort of dual-guitar relationship he had been looking for. He recalled, "That's one of the reasons I was so attracted to Fleetwood Mac and especially the Yardbirds when they had Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page in the band at the same time. They were breaking tradition with two lead guitar players in the same band. It wasn't like listening to the Shadows or the Ventures where you had one guy playing lead and one guy playing chords. I didn't have that with Ray, and I wanted that element in Aerosmith" (Ken Sharp/Rock Cellar Magazine, 11/7/2014). Furthermore, Raymond was strong-willed, independent, and often combative. Not living with the rest of the band didn't make Raymond feel like outsider, but he wasn't keeping up musically. He recalled, "I'm the only one of us that really had a job. Joe Perry had a job a couple of times. He would work at a place for a week and then say, 'I can't do this.' I don't think Joey Kramer was working at the time. Steven definitely wasn't working. Tom wasn't working. I was only one had a job. We were scrounging money all the time. We'd do a gig here and there during the time. Tom's sister got us a couple of gigs up in New Hampshire and Ed Malhoit got us a couple of gigs. But the gigs were far in between. But I had money, because I had my little business and little things going on the side — it was the '70s... I really didn't feel like I was apart from it because I was always there. I was always at the apartment anyway or they were always down on my store. We were always together rehearsing. There was always something going on." But others felt he intimidated other members and was argumentative. Tom was blunt about him: "He wanted things to go his way, and his level of playing really didn't justify all the tantrums and fighting that went on as a result of his personality" (Shark Magazine, 8/24/1989). Even Steven had to look back on his friend's obvious flaws: "He was such a wise-ass and tough guy, he pissed everybody off" (VH-1 "Behind the Music," 2002).
But for Joe, the most important issue was Raymond's musical growth, or lack thereof: "If he had continued to grow with the rest of the band he may still have been in the band. But he was kind of all over the place. He'd be late for rehearsals. Not only were we learning and getting better on our own as individuals, we were learning to find a sound and starting to develop a real musical backbone by putting our own touches on the cover songs that we were doing. That led to us finding our sound. I found there was a space there and a gap; there weren't many American bands that were doing that two-guitar blues thing" (Ken Sharp/Rock Cellar Magazine, 11/7/2014). Raymond was very much aware of his musical inadequacies and external distractions but was unapologetic. When the band returned to Sunapee to play a show with Joe Jammer at The Barn in the summer of 1971, they attended a Justin Thyme show down the lake at Sunapee Harbor. From the moment Aerosmith encountered Brad Whitford, Raymond's days were numbered, even though he attempted to force the other band members to choose him or Steven. Raymond recalled his exit: "When Joe started going out with Elyssa Jerret and she met this guy, Joe Jammer, another guy that wanted to be a rock star. He had an album that never went anywhere. But he's the one that put that thought into her head that, 'You got to get somebody else, Ray's not dedicated enough.' It turns out that Twitty Farren, who used to play with me and Steven in William Proud, had a band in Salem, Mass. called Justin Thyme. It was him, Bobby Lidel, Jerry Belligue, and Brad Whitford. So, Elyssa told Joe to check out Brad, and Joe decided he liked Brad's playing better than mine and that I wasn't dedicated enough. So, Tom told me, 'We think that maybe you've got to practice more. We're going to get another guitar.' I didn't really even give a shit at that point. So, Brad basically came from his band into Aerosmith, and I wound up in Justin Thyme. We even opened for them one time, in Revere, Mass., in 1972. I can't remember the name of the place." But he didn't go meekly. Ultimately, it took Steven's direct intervention, prior to a booking at the Savage Beast in Ascutney, Vermont, to make it clear to Raymond that he was out of the band.
Looking back, Raymond is pragmatic about what went down: "That's another thing I noticed when Steven and Joe got together. That was what Steven was looking for. I couldn't give it to him. I was floating around — I had a store, I had a motorcycle, I was making some money on the side. I was carrying on all the time partying. Joe was more focused, and he wanted it to happen. So, the two of them together. I could tell right from the beginning; something is going to happen with these two guys. I knew something was going to happen. I just knew it. I guess that's what Aerosmith is... Everything happens the way it's supposed to happen. If I was supposed to be in the band, I'd be in the band." Following his departure, Raymond played with Justin Thyme for a while and then sold his shop and headed for a commune in Maine. Tyler eventually urged him to return to Boston, with him initially going out on the road as a friend and then as part of the crew. He recalled, "My first job with the band was I hung out with them. That was my job. I traveled with them on the plane." That caused problems according to David Krebs, "In many ways, having Ray Tabano on the road would have been like the Beatles having Pete Best out with them — it was an impossible situation. As the band grew big the jealously became really extreme." Raymond asserts that the jealousy came from the road crew and that he soon took on various roles as part of the crew. Eventually, he was relieved from the road, and became the band's marketing director and managed the Wherehouse. He redesigned Aerosmith's winged logo and made other valuable contributions to the organization, staying with the organization for the rest of the decade.
Boston born Brad Whitford started out on the piano and trumpet, neither of which lasted long. When his father bought a cheap acoustic guitar, Brad co-opted it, finding it more appealing. By his early teens, Brad was informally attached to his guitar, preferring to learn material himself, after taking some basic lessons locally. Sharing a room with his older brother, he was introduced to the songs of the day — and those songs were naturally the ones he'd learn to play along with. His brother would also take him to concerts, and it was after seeing a Dave Clark Five show at Boston Garden on June 26, 1965, that Brad decided to form his own band, Symbols of Resistance. They soon started to play local hotspots — school cafeterias and clubs. During high school, other bands followed — Spring Rain and Teapot Dome — and he'd later enjoy a tenure with The Morlocks. By the time he graduated in 1970, he was playing with Earth Incorporated. Musically, however, it had been Led Zeppelin's appearance at Framingham's Carousel Theater on August 21, 1969, that completely changed Brad's musical outlook towards the guitar. He recalled, "As far as a guitar player who projects himself on stage, Page is amazing. When I saw him for the first time it was on Led Zeppelin's second tour of the States and the band was just starting to make waves. He hit me as one of the most incredible showmen I had ever seen... It was just something about the combination of his body movements that struck me as being almost unbelievable. I couldn't take my eyes off him" (Circus Raves, 11/1975). He bought a Gibson Les Paul the following day. The other band that inspired him was Humble Pie, with its two-guitar format backing an incredible singer, Steve Marriott.
After high school, Brad studied at Berklee College of Music for a year while playing in another band, Stray Cat. He dropped out of Berklee, finding what he perceived as a snobbish attitude of the jazz crowd contrary to his rock outlook. And anyway, he wanted to focus on playing music full time. Brad recalled, "I felt that there was something telling me, 'Hey man, you should be playing, not studying...' So, I left Berklee after a year because I thought I would learn a lot more out in front of people, playing my axe every night" (Circus Raves, 11/1975). He then joined Justin Thyme, which included Dwight "Twitty" Farren on lead, a band that Farren had put together following the demise of William Proud. During the summer of 1971, they had a gig scheduled at Lake Sunapee during the summer. Members of Aerosmith turned up to check out Farren's new band, and Brad wowed them. He impressed them more the following night at The Barn when Joe Jammer jammed with Aerosmith and Perry left his guitar on stage. Brad picked it up and proceeded to rip it up with Jammer. A week after the hijinks at The Barn, Joe Perry called Brad to get a feel for his interest joining the fledgling Aerosmith. He invited Brad to see the band play at the Lakeview Park Ballroom in Mendon. Brad recalled, "They were playing Stones, Zeppelin, Lennon, all these cool covers, exactly the songs you wanted to hear but couldn't, because all the bands that played them were too big to come to your town. They had some original songs too that had a lot of promise. That's how I found the Humble Pie-type band I was looking for" ("Walk this Way"). When Brad moved into 1325, living arrangements there were still cramped, but helped by Steven and Joey having moved to another nearby apartment.
Brad started rehearsing with the band, with Raymond still part of the scene, making his debut during a Labor Day residency at the Savage Beast. He recalled, "My first gig was at a little club in Vermont. The name of the club was the Savage Beast (laughs), and we were playing a rock & roll club show, so it wasn't like a real high-pressure thing, and we'd been rehearsing like crazy. It felt good and it worked out really well. I think we knew we were on the right road" (Glide Magazine, 7/1/2014). Brad's addition had little other than an impact pm the music in the autumn of 1971, and they continued in much the same way as they had been, prior to Raymond's ejection. They played the same sorts of venues across New England, adding some of the places Brad had previously played. They received a break when a club owner saw them open for the James Montgomery Band and offered them a residency at his club, expanding their range and exposure. That club was the Shaboo in Willimantic, Conn. By that time, they had also upgraded Mark Lehman's travel-worn van to a larger Ward school bus. Perry recalled, "We spent many ice-cold nights huddled in the back of the bus on the way to and from isolated gigs in rural New England, trying to keep warm around the gas stove like the crew of some B-17 [bomber] lost over Germany" ("Walk this Way"). Even Raymond recalled, "It was a 1964 International Harvester bread truck. It was the 'hotel on wheels.' That's what we called it. Everything happened in the van."
The band's first major break came when they auditioned for George Paige, who was road managing Edgar Winter at the time. He lived in an apartment with his girlfriend and her friend, who was dating Tom. More importantly, he had a contact at a record label. After hearing them play he became a believer and agreed to help them, even though he thought the band's internal tensions might quickly result in the band's dissolution. Aerosmith recorded a demo of "One Way Street" which was duly submitted for consideration to the label, not that they had much confidence with their performance of a song that was relatively new at the time. George duly took the tape to Stephen Paley, Epic's A&R contact in New York City, and was flatly rejected. Stephen recalled, "At the time, Aerosmith did not have the song 'Dream On,' which came out ... later. Nor did I hear anything else that sounded like something that would get played on the radio. At Epic, back then, in order to break a band, a hit single was very important. My other problem was that I felt Steven Tyler's style of singing was so derivative of Mick Jagger. For me, that was the biggest problem as I was looking for originality or a hit song. Had I heard 'Dream On' at the time, I probably would have recommended that we sign them." Funny thing was George had already heard Aerosmith play "Dream On." He was warned to drop his association with the band or risk his reputation.
A second break around this time was Aerosmith's debut in New York City, though it's debatable whether it was much of a glorious homecoming for Steven. The band managed to land the opening slot at the Academy of Music on a bill headlined by Humble Pie — which would have pleased Brad — and Edgar Winter's White Trash Band. With the show not being in a school cafeteria or local club, it was, essentially, their professional industry debut. And if it went well, it might provide another step up the ladder. There may have been a bit of luck in getting the opening slot. British band Bell + Arc were listed on some early ads in the opener slot, then Black Oak Arkansas, so not unexpectedly there may have been some uncertainty in securing a third act. Whatever the case, Aerosmith was going to take that luck and ride it as far as possible. Promoter Steve Paul insisted that the band only perform three songs. That wasn't a particularly unusual request of an unknown opener, and the crowd were bored and waiting for the bands whose names they knew to come on stage. But Steven wasn't having any of that! Brazenly, or perhaps prophetically, the band opened their set with "Make It." If ever there was a song defining a band's mission, then this served emphatically as Aerosmith's declaration of intention. "One Way Street" and "Major Barbara" followed, perhaps representing the most developed original material from band's catalogue to date, while also showcasing them as broadly as possible. But after the requested three songs, the band weren't done, and throwing caution to the wind, ripped into "Train Kept A Rollin'" before concluding with "Walkin' the Dog." Steven recalled, "We had done a number with Joe playing lap steel guitar and me singing while sitting in a chair. It was a slow blues number and people applauded like they really dug us. Paul came up after the show and said, 'How dare you sit down, when the audience doesn't know who you are!' Another problem that came up that night at the Academy of Music was that Johnny and Edgar wouldn't let us use their bass amp, after Steve Paul promised we could. Steve was thinking of managing us at the time" (Boston Phoenix, 7/27/1976).
Following another taste of the big time, the band limped back to Boston and returned to the school cafeterias where they'd been performing. It was a rude awakening to the vagaries of broken equipment, but also an indication that they needed proper guidance and organization to progress. Sometimes, the Gods are fickle — what is given with one hand is taken away with the other. A series of misfortunes followed the band during the winter of 1971/2, some of which were unnecessarily self-inflicted. A steady stream of bookings at the Officer's Club at the Charlestown Navy Yard were cancelled after an incident of petty theft. Not only did the band lose a decent pay day, but the side benefit of a hearty roast dinner thrown in, would have made a nice break from the monotony of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or brown rice that formed the staple of their diets. Then came the departure of their original roadie, Mark Lehman, which should hardly have been surprising with the later admissions of how poorly they had treated him. Once his van had been superseded by the group's purchase of the school bus, his days may well have been numbered anyway. Regardless, his importance to the band from their very conception can't be minimized. He made their first 14 months of existence much easier than it might otherwise have been, performing much of the thankless heavy lifting and lugging equipment and bodies that made their gigs possible. When he left, they still had the bus, but not the road manager/roadie with the experience required, even at a basic level. Gary Cabozzi filled in for the interim, to lug the band out to a gig at Marlborough High School, halfway between Boston and Worcester. But they also lost their rehearsal space at Boston University. And, to add to their woe, the band members still living at 1325 Commonwealth received their first eviction notice. It was a bleak period where the challenges facing the young band were mounting.
Searching for a new place to rehearse, the band were advised to check out the Fenway Music Theater by a connection to the facility's assistant manager. There, at a time morale was at a low, Aerosmith were introduced to John O'Toole. After trying to get them to pay for the privilege of rehearsing there, he allowed them a few days free — in case he liked them. The Fenway had been closed for much of 1971 but had reopened for a single show during the summer (June 30, for Frank Zappa the Mothers with Gross National Productions for two sold-out shows). It then reopened on a more regular basis on December 17. In between bookings, the owners planned to showcase and audition unknown acts on Sundays. A February 1972 date had originally been booked for a T-Rex show, with that band having embarked on their first major U.S. concert tour. However, ticket sales were so poor that the show was cancelled, and the theater's manager asked Aerosmith, who'd been rehearsing there, to perform the date for what audience turned up. Tom recalled, "We'd gone for a while without playing a gig and we were on the brink of being evicted, and we were in a local music store asking around about a place to rehearse and this guy said, 'Go ask my brother; he [works] with this manager of the Fenway Theater,' John O'Toole. Then, one day some semi-famous band was supposed to play there but they canceled out. We happened to be up in the balcony waiting for them to go on, and all of a sudden, the manager came up and said, 'Hey, you guys, I need you to play.' So, we lugged all our gear up onto the stage and played, and the audience loved it" (Shark Magazine, 8/24/1989). After the positive audience response, an impromptu audition followed. Tom continues: "The next day John said, 'There's a manager here to see you.' We couldn't see him, the lone figure in this big theater, but we said to ourselves, 'OK, start playing, he's out there.' So, we played for about half an hour, the lights went off, the curtain closed, and he was gone, but he left behind a management contract. It was pretty exciting — that was really a scene out of some movie! So, he started to manage us" (Shark Magazine, 8/24/1989). The "he" was one Francis "Frank" Connelly. What have ya got to lose?
Frank was a former U.S. Marine Corps officer and Providence College graduate who had taken over managing the Carousel Theater in Framingham in 1964 (as co-owner with Gerald Roberts) — his first season opened with Janye Mansfield starring in a production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. He made a success of the venue grossing $100,000 on a week engagement featuring Tom Jones and branched out into promoting concerts for other acts across the region. He promoted the Beatles at Suffolk Downs on Aug. 18, 1966, as they played a short 11-song set for a crowd of 25,000. Another notable act he successfully promoted was the Rolling Stones for the doubleheader at Boston Garden on Nov. 29, 1969, a week prior to their Altamont disaster. He also brought Jesus Christ Superstar to Boston in early 1972. With dropping attendances at the Carousel, the property was sold for development in 1970. The following year Frank took over managing the Scarborough Fair club in Revere, while looking for new opportunities. Soon, promoter Don Law and the Boston Tea Party filled the void he had willingly left.
As Joe recalled, the timing couldn't have been more perfect: "We took the contracts back to our apartment, and we sat down at the kitchen table with the contracts in one hand and the eviction notice in the other. We just looked at each other and shook our heads in disbelief. That's how close it was" ("Walk this Way"). Frank had booked the World Festival of Magic & Occult at Fenway, March 7–19, after witnessing the large crowds at the New York run. Unfortunately, it didn't translate into sales in Boston and was cancelled at the last moment. The band doesn't appear to have been active much during March 1972, and if Joe's recollections are correct, then their first activities for Frank included providing manual labor for his production of Paul Shyre's An Unpleasant Evening with H.L. Mencken, starring David Wayne. Scheduled to run at the Fenway, April 11–23, that production was also cancelled, so Aerosmith continued their rehearsals at the defunct Charles Playhouse. Frank then installed them at engagements at various hotels to tighten up their performance through a grueling series of nightly sets. As he told Steven at the time, the multiple sets nightly weren't for his benefit, but for the benefit of the rest of band. They simply lacked the performance experience that Steven had already earned. It also reinforced that the club grind was not something they wanted to be doing. The band focused on their job — making music and writing and refining the arrangements of their original songs. Following this period of woodshedding, the band returned to New York City to perform a showcase at Max's Kansas City. There was no interest, though Aerosmith also opted not to enter the same glitter scene that New York Dolls were part of; performing at venues such as the Mercer Arts Center, Kenny's Castaways, and the Popcorn Pub (later renamed Coventry). In fact, some of those places wouldn't have booked them anyway. Popcorn Pub owner Paul Sub recalled, "It was a big club, around 5,000 square feet, and it held around 700 people. Everyone from KISS, The New York Dolls, The Ramones, Blondie, Sam & Dave, The Dictators, and Elephant's Memory played there. I'd put on 10 acts a week, both local and national. The only act we turned down, because we didn't want to spend $300, was Aerosmith (laughs). The New York Dolls were really the ones that kept Coventry going. They played once a month, and whenever they played, 700 people would show up" (Ken Sharp/Goldmine Magazine, 4/11/2008). In mid-1972, Aerosmith still weren't much welcome outside of New England, and, shockingly, they only played their first billed non-BU show in Boston on May 20 (filling in at the Fenway on Feb. 26 doesn't quite count).
Connelly, who drove the band to gigs in his car once their bus finally died, also obtained rehearsal space for the band at Boston Garden. They were using that space when the Rolling Stones returned for a pair of shows, July 18–19, 1972. He also had the band rehearse at Caesar's Monticello in Framingham. Managing a band was one thing, getting them a record deal was an entirely different proposition, and Frank knew his limitations. Part of his skill was knowing the right people, and he was already close with Steve Leber. Steve had been the head of the William Morris Agency music division but had broken off to partner with David Krebs. They formed Leber-Krebs (for management), Contemporary Communications Corporation (for record production), and Daksel/Seldak (for music publishing) in early 1972, "a firm which will do packaging, promotion and marketing of talent and units" (Variety, 1/26/1972). They immediately signed John Lennon's backing group, Elephant's Memory. Leber-Krebs were interested in Aerosmith, with them becoming their second signing (Record World, 12/13/1975). In June they added the New York Dolls to their roster and during the year they'd also sign Bulldog, a rock group that also included Gene Cornish (guitar), and Dino Danelli (drums), formerly of the Rascals. Frank had already promoted some of the Agency's acts and productions in Boston (the Stones and Jesus Christ Superstar), so it was only natural that he approached them at their new firm with a demo from the band. Being signed in May 1972 to a production and management deal with professional representation was a critical step in getting their proverbial foot in the door with record labels. It provided legitimacy and illustrated beyond doubt that the band was indeed serious and lining up appropriate support to pursue success. Perhaps more important was that Frank already had a well-established relationship with Steve, meaning that trust, respect, and enthusiasm were present immediately and didn't need to be established over time. Leber-Krebs setup a showcase for Columbia's Clive Davis and Atlantic's Ahmet Ertegun at Max's. Joe recalled, "We had gone down to Max's Kansas City in New York because Frank Connelly, our manager then, connected with some people who were going to get Clive Davis to see us. This was in early '72. Other record companies had already passed on us and there were about 25 people at Max's that night. It was what you'd call a 'paper house,' mostly record company executives. A lot of companies who had seen us before had sent other representatives this time. We played a really short set of all the tunes that came out on the first album" (Boston Phoenix, 7/27/1976). Steven added, "And we played an instrumental called, 'We Don't Wanna Fuck You, Lady, We Just Wanna Eat Your Sandwiches.' Some of that purported song was later recycled in 'Sweet Emotion'."
Ahmet wasn't impressed with Steven's very obvious parallels with Mick Jagger, and regardless, Atlantic were already the distributors for Rolling Stones Records (via Atco) and had a solid rock band roster. Most importantly, he felt that Aerosmith weren't quite ready for a record deal and needed another year of development. That was a blow to the band in one sense, Atlantic was the rock label powerhouse of the time, while Columbia was better known for softer acts such as Barbara Streisand, Simon & Garfunkel, and Chicago. Ultimately it didn't matter, Clive was more than impressed with them, as later immortalized in "No Surprize:" "I'm surely gonna make us a star / I'm gonna make you a star / Just the way you are." Clive's signing ethos was straightforward. He knew that once an act was signed, it was expensive to put together all the support that the label would be expected to facilitate, primarily publicity, promotion, advertising, and merchandising. While it was always a gamble, it was never one he took lightly, but the talent had to have prospects in becoming breakable. A band such as Aerosmith, with the backing of respected figures such as Steve Leber, David Krebs, and Frank Connelly already had a critical advantage that assuaged any immediate concerns over undue risk, a recognized professional support team. That said, Clive felt that patience was still an important part of the process: "We should take the point of view we are prepared to stay with an artist until he or she breaks" (Billboard, 7/29/1972). It was an ethos that Leber-Krebs echoed, and none of their acts prior to 1980 were pre-established successes. Time and investment were critical in the process of developing the commercial viability of an act. There were naturally various other unexpected factors that could, and would, come into play. At Columbia, Clive had signed acts through a variety of methods: Dr. Hook came to his attention though a film score they were engaged to work on for CBS. Don Ellis at A&R had brought him a tape of Kenny Loggins, who he immediately signed, but former Poco guitarist (Jim Messina) wanted to produce him, resulting in an unexpected partnership. Stephen Paley, who had rejected Aerosmith at Epic the previous year, loved Looking Glass, and had been hooked from the first time he heard "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" at the Cafe Au Go Go. Clive concurred when he and Don Ellis saw the band. Other acts, such as Santana, came via promoters, or direct though Columbia's A&R heads (Jack Gold, Kip Cohen, and Paul Baratta at the time). Clive's overriding criteria was to find an act with "not only musical talent, but with unique musical talent in order to come up with someone of long-lasting interest" (Billboard, 7/29/1972). With Aerosmith, Columbia had a hard rock act that would present new challenges.
The $125,000 deal Leber-Krebs negotiated with Columbia was also groundbreaking at the time. The artist, in this case the partnership of Aerosmith with Leber-Krebs (as 50/50 partners) would regain control of their masters after a period of 20 years. It was an arrangement, if not unheard of, then highly uncommon at a time when labels generally owned their artists and controlled much of their creative output during their contractual period. That the band's management had signed with the label, rather than the artists themselves directly, was also not particularly unusual at the time, even if it later became a problematic arrangement for both parties. It provided a buffer between artist and label, with the production company responsible for fulfilling delivery of product. Only decades later, would the true value of the contract Leber-Krebs negotiated become apparent. It would pay dividends for the band and their now former managers, providing revenue streams and control over their music that would otherwise have long been consumed by or sold on to other parties. But heading into the autumn of 1972, Aerosmith had inked a record deal before media darlings the New York Dolls and had the serious work to do of getting ready for their first proper adventure in a recording studio.
Aerosmith on Tour, 1973-85, by Julian Gill, published Dec. 3, 2021, exclusively through Amazon.
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