Through the late Sixties and Early Seventies, the great English bands had a virtual monopoly on blues and r&b-based hard rock.
But with the arrival of Aerosmith's self-titled debut in 1973, America finally had a rock band that could equal the Stones and Led Zeppelin.
Interpersonal difficulties and big-time drug problems brought Aerosmith down for a time, but in the mid-Eighties they made one of the most spectacular comebacks in the history of rock, a revival that has continued well into the Nineties. If they've relied a bit much on song doctors and power ballads lately, fear not.
"There's a song on the Armageddon soundtrack we're really proud of," asserts soft spoken guitarist Joe Perry, and he isn't talking about the power ballad, "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing." "It was originally cut for the last album three years ago, but for some reason it got left off. So we just re-cut it in Miami."
The song alluded to by Perry — "What Kind of love Are You On" — is easily one of the most energetic and innovative guitar-driven rockers they've ever attempted. Listen closely and you'll find traces of every influence Perry sticks on his 60 Minutes tape, from the Stones to Rage Against the Machine.
"Check it out — that's where Aerosmith is heading," Perry adds.
Looks like they really may have nine lives after all.
"I WANT TO TAKE YOU HIGHER" — SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE
Stand! (Epic, 1969)
"It's the energy. I just can't sit still when this song comes on. It takes the James Brown funk we were into but makes it more modern. Even in the studio they sounded like an incredible live band, which they were.
"That drive is what we go for when Aerosmith plays. During that era you went out on tour and basically designed stuff to hit 'em over the head — whether they'd heard of you or not. There was no MTV, where they'd seen your video 50 times. That's why there was so much live dynamics and jamming going on — you had to win them over like Sly did."
''I'M NOT TALKING" — THE YARDBIRDS
Vol. 1-Smokestack Lightning (1991)
"They were catching the tail end of the British Invasion that the Beatles had started. But they weren't just writing cute little pop songs for a bunch of screaming teenage girls. The Yardbirds used their pop context as a training ground for hot guitarists like Clapton, Page and Jeff Beck, who drops a tasty little guitar solo in this song where a verse would normally be.
"Suddenly, soloing was becoming a real part of the song's basic structure. And he was experimenting with bluesy, distorted tones. Here he starts to define how far you could really take the electric guitar as a solo instrument."
"STEPPIN' OUT" — JOHN MAYALL & THE BLUESBREAKERS
Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton (1966)
"I don't think I've ever heard such intense playing and such a great solo with so much attitude on it. And the tone was revolutionary. Everybody else played with that country twang up 'tiI then. The Beatles had some juice when it came to distortion, but Clapton was finally able to break through those early studio engineers' fear of overloading.
"He defined the sound that guitarists spend the rest of their lives trying to get. There's so much expression in his phrasing and the harmonics. That song still gives me goosebumps."
Getting Ready ... (1971)
"First time I heard this I was 19, driving to work. I had to turn around and find a record store and buy it immediately. Freddie was a little more rocked out than B.B. or Albert.
"I hate to say funkier, but there was definitely a looseness to his playing that sounded more contemporary, something I could relate to. I loved the way the bass was pumping double time. A really funky tune."
"SWEET LITTLE ROCK 'N' ROLLER" — CHUCK BERRY
His Best, Vol. 2 (1997)
"I've heard so many bad versions of Chuck Berry songs – nobody ever comes close when they play this stuff. Okay, the Stones do a pretty good job because they get the idea about the backbeat. It's how he lays it into the rhythm. I call it the push-pull, where something's holding it straight and the other half is moving, so it creates this exquisite tension.
"You'd have to say it's about sex, and played by a black man in those days it created a revolution. It was like when they first played “Bolero” — the women started to get a little wet on the top lip and it made the guys nuts."
"ONE" — U2
Achtung Baby (1991)
"I still listen to this album constantly. They take ordinary sounds and tweak them a little, so you think maybe you've heard them before, but you haven't. The Edge is incredibly innovative because he just doesn't play normal.
"And I find that so refreshing. It's not about seeing how many triplets you can play in a quarter of a second, which means nothing.
"There's a whole other level of expression here that I find so inspiring. And when he plays these fresh sounds they always support the song. And the lyrics say so much in so few words. It takes the song to another level."
"KILLING IN THE NAME" — RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE
Rage Against the Machine (1992)
"I don't go anywhere without this record because it rocks and has got so much funk on it. I've seen them play live a few times, and they really put it across — they make you believe.
"When Tom Morello picks up the guitar, I'm sure what he sees is totally different from what I do, but I love the way he plays. I've only heard him play two traditional solos with notes strung together.
"Mostly he creates these amazing sounds that totally support the music. They're nice guys, but on stage they put on a seething show. If they'd been around in 1968, they'd have caused a lot of riots."
"FIRE" — JIMI HENDRIX
Are You Experienced? (1967)
"Such an amazing songwriter, and to have the guitar vocabulary to express what he did was simply incredible. I think the biggest crime is that he's not still with us. There's such absolutely furious energy going on in this song — he just snaps out those riffs.
"And he definitely knew when to stop in the studio. There's some tremendous energy in the live versions, but he seemed to capture the essence of all the songs in the studio, which is a feat in itself.''
"HONKY TONK WOMEN" -- THE ROLLING STONES
Hot Rocks 1964-1971 (1972)
"I was working as a dishwasher when I first heard that come over the radio, and it definitely put my mind in another place. To this day, nobody's captured the essence of that whole r&b, Chuck Berry, hard rock thing so perfectly. Again, it's the guitars playing off the drums, and you feel that tension.
"You can tell they're playing it live because it starts off slow and ends up fast. There's no machinery getting in the way, no click track in there. Another simple but brilliant song that says so much."
“RATTLESNAKE SHAKE" — FLEETWOOD MAC
Then Play On (1969)
"This is from Peter Green's earliest incarnation of the band, when they had three guitar players and were a great blues band experimenting with rock. Green had a distinctive sound that was right out of the Chicago blues.
"He had a really spooky feel for phrasing, putting the blues in a rock format that a white boy like me could understand.
"And the John McVie-Mick Fleetwood rhythm section was just incredible, they were so locked together. Live they absolutely cooked, and Green would sometimes play a six-string bass. I went out and bought one, and used it to write "Back in the Saddle."
"It's funny, when people were making all that ruckus about Green Day writing about masturbation ["Longview" from 1994's Dookie], I remembered this song, which is even more obviously about the same thing."
"STRAWBERRY FIELDS FOREVER" — THE BEATLES
Magical Mystery Tour (1967)
"Musically, you just can't say enough about where they went in just five years. I don't think there's anything anybody's doing that the Beatles didn't at least try at some point.
"Lennon and McCartney were Iike the left hand and the right hand, with John's songs tending to be edgier. When he moved more to the center on something like this — a little less in primal scream mode -- l could really hear him speaking to me."
"Another Nineties band I have a lot of respect for. Having met Robert and Dean Deleo and that Jailbird singer of theirs [Scott Weiland], I like them all as people as well as admire, and this isn't meant to sound trite, their sheer musicality. Their influences are kind of Beatles-esque in a way.
"Having done some songwriting with Robert, I picture him in another life playing jazz guitar someplace in Harlem in the Forties. Musically, his head is on another planet. I love the way they sound and I hope they get back together."