This week I pull one of my favorite Aerosmith albums out of my personal collection. Permanent Vacation came out at the right time for the band, as they looked to straighten out their career. This album spawned three massive hits for the boys from Boston – “Angel”, “Rag Doll” and “Dude (Looks Like A Lady)”. I was pretty fired up to find an original copy of this so I snagged it right away.
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Aerosmith: Top 50 Songs in Their Catalog
Aerosmith: Whether you refer to them as “The Bad Boys from Boston,” “America’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band” or both, we can all agree that the rock genre wouldn’t be the same without them.
Their catalog is loaded with hits and timeless classics and their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame career is one that bands only dream of. To celebrate the wonder that is Aerosmith, here are their top 50 greatest songs.
It’s a dirty pun, get it?! (Would it really be a proper Aerosmith ranking without kicking things off with some crude humor?) It also wouldn’t be a proper Aerosmith ranking without pointing out the dynamic guitar work of Joe Perry and Brad Whitford. “Lord of the Thighs” is the first of many examples of that on this list.
"Pink” isn’t even a dirty pun; it’s just dirty, but it’s a whole lot of fun. (Oddly enough, “Dirty, but a whole lot of fun” is a perfect, succinct way to describe the Bad Boys from Boston.) Steven Tyler’s harmonica is the bow on top of this package, which may or may not be wrapped in rubber.
There’s a lot of energetic tracks on ‘Honkin’ on Bobo,’ Aerosmith’s 2004 blues covers album, but the band’s cover of Smiley Lewis’ “Shame, Shame, Shame” is a standout. It only clocks in at 2:15, but damn, if it’s not a total party.
“Big Ten Inch Record” is so tongue-in-cheek filthy you’d assume the songwriting credit would read “Tyler/Perry.” It was actually written by Fred Weismantel and first recorded by Bull Moose Jackson in 1952.
“What you pissing in the wind for/You must have snorted too much blees” is probably one of Aerosmith’s most underrated lyrics ever. It’s fitting since “My Fist Your Face” is another underrated track in the band’s catalog.
While it was the lead single off of ‘Nine Lives,’ “Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)” could’ve easily found a home on 1993’s ‘Get A Grip’ thanks in part to the lovely use of horns. Also, only Steven Tyler could write lyrics like, “I’m jonesing on love/Yeah, I got the DT’s/You say that we will/But there ain’t no guarantees/I’m major in love/But in all minor keys.”
To be blunt, ‘Night in the Ruts’ is just not a great album. It’s one saving grace is this hard rock version of The Shangri-Las classic “Remember (Walking in the Sand).” The cover even features Shangri-Las's lead vocalist Mary Weiss as an uncredited backup vocalist.
This Peter Green-era Fleetwood Mac song has been a regular part of Aerosmith’s setlist since the early ‘90s, but it wasn’t until 2004’s ‘Honkin’ on Bobo’ that Aerosmith recorded the tune. Joe Perry is on lead vocals, and because he’s Joe f---in’ Perry, he can make a cool song sound even cooler.
Knowing Steven Tyler wrote “Seasons of Wither” inspired by a Massachusetts winter landscape, you can almost feel a chill in the air when listening to this track. Of course, if you’ve never experienced a harsh winter before and can’t relate to the bleakness that can sometimes come with it, buy a parka and go somewhere really cold for a week during the winter months. You’ll learn right quick what “Seasons of Wither” is about.
Some songs are just fun parties about being a rock star, putting on a great show and getting laid. “Lick and a Promise” is one of those songs. Joey Kramer’s drums come on strong out the gate and don’t let up for the whole track providing a no-nonsense backbone.
From the late ‘80s to the mid-’90s, Aerosmith seemingly couldn’t miss with their singles. Sometimes, they would hold onto them for years before releasing them. “Deuces Are Wild” was recorded during the studio sessions for 1989’s ‘Pump,’ but it would finally see the light of day in 1993 when it was featured on ‘The Beavis and Butt-Head Experience’ compilation album. It's pretty mind-blowing that such an obvious hit took so long to be released.
“I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” is Aerosmith’s biggest ballad for multiple reasons. Penned by songwriting powerhouse Diane Warren, the track was the lead single off the soundtrack from the 1998 blockbuster film ‘Armageddon,’ which starred Liv Tyler, daughter to Steven Tyler. From the beautiful string section to The Demon of Screamin’ hitting some of his boldest notes, it was simply the perfect song for an epic disaster movie. It also gave Aerosmith their lone number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in their whole career.
From the jump, Aerosmith wasn’t playing around as evident on “Make It,” the opening track from their self-titled debut album. (“When life and people bring on primal screams/You got to think of/What it’s going to take to make your dreams.”) It’s both a mission statement and a rallying cry. It might lack the bombast of other songs on this list, but it packs relatable drive and hints at the swagger fans would grow to love.
You gotta love a big, bold chorus, and they don’t get bigger or bolder than “Jaded.” It figuratively explodes with, “My, my baby blue,” and it glides on an effervescent riff. “Jaded” peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 and remains the last Aerosmith song to appear on the chart.
On the surface, “Rats in the Cellar” is just a badass tune, but there’s a far darker backstory to it. Steven Tyler wrote in his 2004 memoir ‘Does The Noise in My Head Bother You?,’ “'Rats' was more like what was actually going on. Things were coming apart, sanity was scurrying south, caution was flung to the winds, and little by little the chaos was permanently moving in.” For those not fluent in Tyler-ese, the band was going through a tough time.
“I’m Down” wasn’t the first Beatles cover from Aerosmith, but their fun take on the raucous track sure is right at home on ‘Permanent Vacation.’ And the band just sounds like they’re having a blast, too. (BTW: You’ll see their other Beatles cover later in this list.)
There probably isn’t an award for “Coolest Song About Cannibalism,” but if there was one, “Eat the Rich” would surely be named the winner. From the weird jungle vibe to the overt middle finger to the snooty folks “dancin’ in the yacht club with Muff and Uncle Biff,” Aerosmith showed with this track alone that over 20 years into their career, they didn’t lose any of their edge.
Built around a chunky riff, 'Somebody’ seems to paint a somewhat desperate picture of loneliness. Steven Tyler begins asking for “a lady, not somebody shady,” but not long after he said he wouldn’t be “choosy” and would settle for a “floozy.” Honestly, haven’t we all been there?
A precursor to “Janie’s Got a Gun," “Uncle Salty” tells the sad story of a woman who was the victim of abuse as a child and would later become a prostitute. The track’s sustained blues was written by Steven Tyler and Tom Hamilton, who also played rhythm guitar on the recording.
'Get A Grip’ was just chock-full of massive, arena-ready songs. “Shut Up and Dance” is one of those songs, and it wasn’t even released as a single in the United States. (And this album had six singles!) Many might remember it closing out ‘Wayne’s World 2’ when Aerosmith showed up at WayneStock. What people may not remember is that in addition to Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw also have songwriting credits on this jam.
“Woman of the World” is a whole damn vibe. From Joe Perry and Brad Whitford’s funky, melodic guitars in the nearly minute-long intro to the song’s titular subject itself, it just drips with cool.
A lover’s quarrel + booze + murder = Pretty much the perfect ingredients for a great blues song, which is exactly what “Hangman Jury” is. Add in Steven Tyler on harmonica and the beyond catchy hook of “Whoa, boy, dontcha line the track-a-lack-a" in the chorus, and what you had was the beginnings of Aerosmith’s second act.
Look, none of us really want to remember Aerosmith without Joe Perry, but if his absence was necessary to create “Let the Music Do the Talking,” so be it. The track, of course, was written by Perry and originally recorded and released by The Joe Perry Project in March 1980. While the actual music wasn’t altered much when Aerosmith re-recorded it for ‘Done With Mirrors,’ the lyrics were given a complete overhaul and for the better.
Since we’re already on the topic of Joe Perry, “Walk On Down” is the lone track on the packed ‘Get a Grip’ where he’s credited as the sole writer. He also sings lead and recorded backing vocals, too. No other song in the Aerosmith catalog is more Joe Perry than this one. Simply put: This song kicks ass. Any other band would’ve released “Walk On Down” as a single, but Aerosmith isn't just any other band, and ‘Get A Grip’ wasn’t just any other album. In retrospect, its tracklisting reads more like a greatest hits album than a studio album.
Steven Tyler knows how to paint a word picture more succinctly and more colorfully than others as evident on “S.O.S. (Too Bad).” Just look at the second verse for proof: “Salt Lake City, salt-licking betties/Bogies turn, stinking of gin/Well my daddy was hard, his face was pretty scarred/From kicking ass and playing poker to win.” Plus, that opening riff from Brad Whitford is just killer.
Similar to “Walk on Down,” “Line Up” would’ve been a single for any other band; it’s just that good! Helping Steven Tyler and Joe Perry in writing “Line Up” was Lenny Kravitz, who also provided backing vocals on the track. “Line Up” was also famously used in ‘Ace Ventura: Pet Detective’ during a montage of Ace (Jim Carrey) trying to track down which Miami Dolphins player kidnapped Snowflake, the team’s dolphin mascot. Sure, it wasn’t a single, but “Line Up” was prominently featured in one of the biggest films of 1994. Not a half bad consolation prize.
Anyone that has battled addiction or loves someone who has can easily relate to “Amazing,” one of Aerosmith’s most personal songs. Steven Tyler penned the lyrics with help from friend/former bandmate Richard Supa, who, like Tyler, struggled with addiction. It’s a sobering reminder that life truly is one day at a time. (Side note: “Amazing” also features backing vocals from Don Henley.)
We’ve all been here, haven’t we? Someone’s absolutely broken your heart, but despite that, you just can’t kick those deep feelings about them. “What It Takes” is truly one of the best breakup songs ever, and it features one of the best examples of Steven Tyler’s trademark scream in the chorus when he stretches out the word “dice.” It might not be the most acrobatic of his screams, but it really hits just right.
Horns! A massive sing-a-long chorus! A songwriting credit to Motown’s legendary team of Holland-Dozier-Holland due to it sounding too similar to “Standing in the Shadows of Love”! “The Other Side” has IT ALL! By the time it was released as a single, Aerosmith was on an incredible chart roll. The fourth and final single from ‘Pump,’ “The Other Side” was the band’s third number one song on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Song chart from ‘Pump.’
Sure, the 1978 film ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ famously bombed, but at least its soundtrack was significantly better. Easily among the high-points of the soundtrack was Aerosmith’s cover of “Come Together,” which would peak on the Billboard Hot 100 at number 23. There are plenty of Beatles covers in the world, but this is one of the best, which is the highest of compliments given the source material.
“Train Kept A Rollin’” was first recorded and released by Tiny Bradshaw in 1951 and was later covered by The Yardbirds, but Aerosmith was the driving force in popularizing the blues tune. The track’s two halves are the perfect yin and yang experience of loose blues and aggressive hard rock. A tip of the hat to Steve Hunter in the first half and Dick Wagner in the second, who provided the lead guitars on the recording.
Out of the gate on ’Toys in the Attic,’ Aerosmith just was not messing around, as was evident on the opening title track. Joe Perry and Brad Whitford were on another synergistic level and Tom Hamilton and Joey Kramer provided a borderline anxious, but incredibly infectious, rhythm track. Whether “Toys in the Attic” has a symbolic or literal meaning is anyone’s guess, but when a chorus is that straight-forward and catchy, does it really matter?
By the time Aerosmith began recording ‘Draw the Line,’ their fifth studio album, drugs were really starting to tear the band apart. The album certainly wasn’t a cohesive work, but there’s no denying that its title track features all five members firing on all cylinders. They couldn’t get it together for an entire album, but they certainly did on ”Draw the Line,” one of the most undeniable bangers in their catalog.
“You See Me Crying” sends ‘Toys in the Attic’ off on a stunning, soaring note thanks to the beautiful use of a symphony orchestra and piano courtesy of Steven Tyler. Part of the song’s legend, of course, might come from how Tyler forgot at one point he wrote the touching ballad due to memory loss from excessive drug use. Supposedly during the recording sessions of 1985’s ‘Done with Mirrors,’ Tyler heard “You See Me Crying” on the radio and then told the band they should consider covering the tune. Joe Perry tactfully told Tyler, “It’s us, f---head.” The bummer of Tyler’s memory loss aside, Perry calling Tyler “f---head” is just plain funny.
"No More No More” finds Aerosmith enjoying the highs and lows that come with being a rockstar, from never seeing daylight, seeing plenty of hotel rooms and loving and leaving women “with your sold out reviews.” There likely wasn’t any blood stains on the ivories of the piano played by Scott Cushnie on this track, but there’s no doubt “No More No More” wouldn’t be the same without it.
Fun fact: Arrests for public fornication in elevators went up a staggering 69% percent following the release of “Love in an Elevator.” Okay, that’s a lie, but what is an absolute truth is just how ridiculously fun this song is. Is it out here trying to save the world? No, but it’s peak absurd lust, and that’s always welcomed. (Whoa, yeah!)
The ‘80s birthed a lot of power ballads, and “Angel” was definitely one of the best. It was a massive love song, but there wasn‘t anything cheesy about it, unlike some power ballads. Some of that could be thanks to Desmond Child, who co-wrote the song with Steven Tyler, and was coming off massive success with Bon Jovi -- he co-wrote “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Livin’ on a Prayer.” “Angel” is the second-highest charting song in Aerosmith’s catalog on the Billboard Hot 100 chart topping out at number three.
Another power ballad that isn’t cheesy! Hooray! Desmond Child returns again co-writing the track with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. Of course, it’s hard to talk about “Crazy” without mentioning its music video starring Alicia Silverstone and Liv Tyler, which closed out the “Silverstone trilogy” of Aerosmith videos (along with “Cryin’” and “Amazing”) in epic road trip fashion. Both the song and the video still hold up today.
There’s so much to love about “Rag Doll.” Once again, all five Aerosmith member are just in their respective grooves perfectly, especially Joey Kramer on the intro. The horns in the chorus are nothing short of delightful. Massive kudos to co-writer Holly Knight who convinced Steven Tyler to change the title to “Rag Doll,” which led to some minor edits to the lyrics. Its original title was “Ragtime,” which is just not a good title at all. Can you imagine “Ragtime” being a hit? Didn’t think so!
"Cryin’” explodes on entry and basically dares the listener to not get sucked in and hooked by the first run of the chorus. It’s a magical mix of blues, country twang and hard rock all while being super accessible to lovers of all those genres. It’s a big, bold, arena-ready song that’s just impossible to ignore. “Cryin’” is also the first video in the Alicia Silverstone trilogy and helped launch the actress into the pop culture stratosphere. The video ended up being the most-requested video on MTV in 1993 undoubtedly helping propel ‘Get a Grip’ to its massive success.
Aerosmith’s resurgence in the mainstream following their first initial boom in the 1970s can be traced back to “Dude (Looks Like a Lady).” The second single off of ‘Permanent Vacation,’ the track was the first hit collaboration of Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and Desmond Child. While the song has been accused of being transphobic in recent years, Child said in an appearance on a 2019 episode of the podcast “Talk is Jericho,” “... The wonderful thing about the song is, especially the second verse which goes, 'Never judge a book by its cover, or who you're gonna love by your lover' - that's a song of acceptance.” The song was famously included during a montage in the 1993 film ‘Mrs. Doubtfire,’ and it’s hard not seeing Robin Williams playing broom guitar whenever you hear this song now.
We don’t discuss the grizzly, bizarre narrative of “Same Old Song and Dance” enough, which makes sense because its killer groove takes up most of the listener’s attention. However, there’s murder, drugs, a potential police raid and an escape to the south side of town. This song is f---ing mental! While the opening riff understandably gets the most attention, the guitar solo on “Same Old Song and Dance” was recorded by Dick Wagner. Add in some killer horns, and you have a very unique recipe for a rock and roll classic.
Inspired by the 1992 Los Angeles riots, “Livin’ on the Edge” might just be the Aerosmith song that resonates the most today. Following the 2020 summer of activism against police brutality, the opening verse just lands heavier: “There's something wrong with the world today/I don't know what it is/Something's wrong with our eyes/We're seeing things in a different way/And God knows it ain't his/It sure ain't no surprise.”
Mr. Brad Whitford: please take center stage. The rhythm guitarist co-wrote this classic tune with Steven Tyler, which served as the first single off of ‘Rocks.’ Whitford also is responsible for the track’s guitar solo break. The funk influence on “Last Child” makes it one of the more unique songs in Aerosmith’s catalog.
“Mama Kin” may not have been a hit out the gate, but its legacy sure has grown in the almost 50 years since its release. The song captures a certain romantism about chasing the rock and roll dream that could only really be written by someone who is young and hungry and yet to reach stardom. After listening to “Mama Kin,” you’d be hard-pressed not to get a bug up your ass and finally take a chance on something. It just has that kind of spark.
The chugging build of “Back in the Saddle” draws you in, and then Steven Tyler’s screeching “I’m baaaaaccckkkk!” practically slaps you in the face (but in a good way.) There are plenty of songs in the Aerosmith catalog full of sexual innuendo, but the overarching old west themes in the song give “Back in the Saddle” a playful setting reminiscent of ‘Gunsmoke’ and Miss Kitty. Whether that was a concept Steven Tyler kept in mind when he penned the lyrics is anyone’s guess, but “Back in the Saddle” is yet another example of the type of magic the band can produce when all five of its elements are clicking.
Graphic and heartbreaking, "Janie’s Got a Gun” was inspired by stories Steven Tyler read about gun violence in the United States and sexual abuse suffered by children by their parents. It is one of Aerosmith’s most haunting and heavy songs both lyrically and musically. The song would net Aerosmith a Grammy in 1990 for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. In 2015, Tyler would launch Janie’s Fund, a non-profit organization offering resources and shelter for girls experiencing abuse.
Like “Mama Kin,” “Dream On” could have only been written by someone who was still scratching and clawing their way to make it big, which is probably why Steven Tyler’s lyrics are so relatable. Most of us have probably had a “Dream On” moment at least once in our lives, likely after being knocked down for some reason or the other. The song may have even helped you get back up and help you “Dream until your dreams come true.” “Dream On” is rightfully beloved, and not just because Aerosmith have played it 1,630 times live in their history. It’s because it’s symbolic of the band in general. They were five kids with a wild rock and roll dream, and they fought like hell to make that dream come true. If you don’t find that inspiring, you might just have to look in the mirror yourself and do some soul searching.
Intros and builds of a song have been mentioned elsewhere on this list, but without a doubt, ”Sweet Emotion” has the best intro/build of any song in the Aerosmith catalog. Tom Hamilton’s dope-as-hell bassline, Joe Perry’s talk box and, lest we forget, Steven Tyler’s shaking of sugar packets lays down a vibe like none other. (The perfect visual of said vibe was captured in the opening scene of the Richard Linklater film ‘Dazed and Confused,’ which featured “Sweet Emotion” providing the soundtrack for the first scene.) Sure, Tyler used the song to make some jabs at Perry’s then-wife, Elyssa, but if you’re going to be immortalized in a song (especially in a negative way), it better be good. ”Sweet Emotion” is more than just good; it’s a damn classic.
Really, what other song could be number one? From its beyond iconic riff to the way it would eventually bridge the gap between rock and hip-hop a decade after its release, “Walk this Way” is in the same company as “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” It’s the kind of song every band dreams of writing, because it becomes part of the greater lexicon of pop culture; it transcends genre. Someone may not know a lot about Aerosmith’s catalog (BTW: How sad for them?), but they more than likely know or have heard of “Walk This Way.” (The fact the song’s title is a nod to a joke in ‘Young Frankenstein’ only makes its popularity sweeter.) The song also kicked off Aerosmith’s renaissance in the ‘80s thanks to Run-DMC's remake of the song with Tyler and Perry. Who knows what would’ve become of the Bad Boys from Boston had it not been for their collaboration with the “Kings of Rock”?! Only a song this good could have had multiple acts in a given career. Truthfully, music, in general, is better for the existence of “Walk This Way.”