Rocks (Aerosmith album)

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Aerosmith - Rocks.JPG
Studio album by Aerosmith
Released May 3, 1976 (1976-05-03)
Recorded February–March 1976 at Wherehouse and The Record Plant
Genre Hard rock[1]
Length 34:31
Label Columbia
Producer Aerosmith and Jack Douglas
Aerosmith chronology
Toys in the Attic
(1975)Toys in the Attic1975
Draw the Line
(1977)Draw the Line1977
Singles from Rocks
  1. "Last Child"
    Released: May 27, 1976[2]
  2. "Home Tonight"
    Released: 1976
  3. "Back in the Saddle"
    Released: March 22, 1977[2]

Rocks is the fourth studio album by American rock band Aerosmith, released May 3, 1976. AllMusic described Rocks as having "captured Aerosmith at their most raw and rocking."[3] Rocks was ranked #176 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. It has greatly influenced many hard rock and heavy metal artists, including Guns N' Roses, Metallica, and Nirvana.[4][5] The album was a commercial success, charting three singles on the Billboard Hot 100, two of which reached the Top 40 ("Back in the Saddle" and "Last Child"). The album was one of the first to ship platinum when it was released, and has since gone quadruple platinum.[6]


Previously, Aerosmith had recorded three albums: Aerosmith (1973), Get Your Wings (1974), and the breakthrough LP Toys in the Attic (1975), which produced Top Ten hit "Walk This Way" and the popular "Sweet Emotion." Although often derided by critics, the band had amassed a loyal fanbase, following from relentless touring and their ferocious live shows. They also began living the rock-and-roll lifestyle to the hilt, indulging their already considerable appetite for drugs. However, their hedonistic lifestyle did not appear to hamper them creatively; Rocks was considered by many fans, critics, and fellow musicians to be one of the highlights of their career. Guitarist Joe Perry later recalled, "There's no doubt we were doing a lot of drugs by then, but whatever we were doing, it was still working for us."[7]

Recording and composition[edit]

In the 1997 band memoir Walk This Way, guitarist Brad Whitford states that the band began work on the album by backing the Record Plant's mobile recording truck into their rehearsal space, named the Wherehouse, and "let fly...We were living the high life and not paying attention to anything except making this record. I had the beginnings of 'Last Child' and 'Nobody's Fault.' Tom [Hamilton, bassist] had 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' that became 'Sick as a Dog.' We had 'Tit for Tat'...which turned into 'Rats in the Cellar.' We cut all the basic tracks except two there."[7][full citation needed] Producer Jack Douglas later insisted:

Rocks was the album where Tom [Hamilton] and Brad had a lot more input and songs...This was a big album for Aerosmith. It had to make a big statement about how loud and hard they were, how unapologetic they felt about being who they were - this brash, rude, sexual, hard-core rock band.[7][full citation needed]

The album's opening track, "Back in the Saddle", recalls the Gene Autry song "Back in the Saddle Again" (vocalist Steven Tyler yodels on the fade) and features the sound of a whip by whirling a thirty-foot cord in the middle of six Neumann mikes and adding a cap gun for the cracking sound effect. A real bullwhip was intended to be used for the whip effects and hours were spent trying to get it to crack. The band members ended up cut up and hurt without making any progress. The song is also notable for the slow buildup of the drum beat and guitar riff in the beginning of the song, as well as the sound effects of a galloping horse.[7][full citation needed] In 1997, Perry explained to Alan di Perna of Guitar World that he was inspired by Peter Green to write the riff on a Fender Bass VI and admitted that he was "very high on heroin when I wrote 'Back in the Saddle.' That riff just floated right through me."[citation needed] Brad Whitford plays the lead guitar part. "Back in the Saddle" also features one of the heaviest and noticeable bass lines by Tom Hamilton. When the song is performed in concert, Steven Tyler often makes more noticeable lyrical and visible references to sex. Although the lyrics, composed by Tyler, were written with the simple idea of cowboys and sex, this song took on new meaning after Aerosmith reunited in 1984 and embarked on their Back in the Saddle tour. Today, the song remains a staple on classic rock radio and in concert. It is arguably one of the heaviest songs of Aerosmith's Top 40 singles, and is cited by rock musicians Slash and James Hetfield as among their favorite rock songs. Hamilton, who had written "Sweet Emotion" with Tyler, collaborated with the singer again on "Sick as a Dog." In 1997 the bassist explained to Guitar World, "I think I came up with the verse part first. And then I did the parts for the intro, the B to E part, and then came up with this little, jangling arpeggio thing...I'm such a Byrds fan; it comes from that." In the same interview Perry added:

Tom played rhythm guitar on "Sick as a Dog." I played bass for the first half of the song. Then I put the bass down and played guitar in the end, and Steven picked up the bass and played it for the rest of the song - all live in the studio! One take.[citation needed]

In his memoir, Tyler stated that he wrote "Rats in the Cellar" as a "tip of the hat, or an answer to 'Toys in the Attic'...Meanwhile, in real life, '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." Although it was never a popular Aerosmith number, "Nobody's Fault" remains a favorite of the band's, with Tyler calling it "one of the highlights of my creative career"[8][full citation needed] and Kramer insisting "it's some of the best drumming I did."[7][full citation needed] Tyler claims the lyrics have to do with the band's fear of earthquakes and flying, while "Lick and a Promise" is about the band's determination to deliver a rocking live show.[7][full citation needed] "Combination" features Perry sharing lead vocal duties with Tyler for the first time, and the guitarist admitted in 1997 that the song was "about heroin, cocaine, and me" (in his memoir, Tyler calls the line "Walkin' on Gucci wearing Yves St. Laurent/Barely stay on 'cause I'm so goddamn gaunt" the best lyric Perry ever wrote: "It was the truth, it was clever, and it described us to a tee"). Regarding his vocal on the song, Perry later commented, "This was touchy because singing was Steven's jealously guarded territory...Beyond that, anytime the spotlight shone on me I detected a bit of jealousy from the other guys. After a while, though, the band came around and supported me, as long as I sang the song as a semi-duet with Steven."[9] "Home Tonight" features Perry on a lap steel guitar as a lead guitar and his Les Paul for the rhythm guitar, and has drummer Joey Kramer, Tom Hamilton, and producer/arranger Jack Douglas performing backing vocals.[2] Of the song Perry recalled, "Steven could always be counted on to come up with some little piano riff that would be our ballad for the record. And that was it."[7][full citation needed]

Reception and legacy[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic5/5 stars[3]
Blender5/5 stars[10]
Rolling Stone(mixed)[11]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide4.5/5 stars[1]
The Village VoiceA−[12]

Greg Prato of AllMusic said that the best songs on Rocks were "Back in the Saddle" and "Last Child", and compared the Joe Perry composition, "Combination", to a Rolling Stones song. He also said the album was more "raw" than Toys in the Attic, and thought overall Rocks was better than its predecessor.[3] Ben Mitchell of Blender magazine, said that the group members' drug-use actually helped Rocks, and he also called the album "raw."[10] In a contemporary review for The Village Voice, Robert Christgau said that with Rocks Aerosmith was doing a good job of imitating Led Zeppelin, and that after Rocks the band began to lose steam.[12]

Many musicians have cited Rocks as one of their favorite albums:

In his autobiography Rocks, Joe Perry states the driving purpose of Rocks "was to reidentify us as America's ultimate garage band, with blistering guitars, blistering vocals, balls-to-the-wall smash-your-eardrums production. When it came out in May 1976, the cover showed five diamonds, one for each of us. We saw that record as a jewel, the culmination of all our angst and anger and excitement and joy as go-for-broke rock and rollers.[16]

In popular culture[edit]

Track listing[edit]

Side one
1."Back in the Saddle"Steven Tyler, Joe Perry4:40
2."Last Child"Tyler, Brad Whitford3:26
3."Rats in the Cellar"Tyler, Perry4:05
Side two
5."Sick as a Dog"Tyler, Tom Hamilton4:16
6."Nobody's Fault"Tyler, Whitford4:21
7."Get the Lead Out"Tyler, Perry3:41
8."Lick and a Promise"Tyler, Perry3:05
9."Home Tonight"Tyler3:15


Adapted from the liner notes[17]


Additional musician

  • Paul Prestopino – banjo on "Last Child"




Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Canada (Music Canada)[22] Platinum 100,000^
United States (RIAA)[23] 4× Platinum 4,000,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone


  1. ^ a b Kot, Greg. "Aerosmith - Album Guide". Rolling Stone. United States: Jann S. Wenner. Archived from the original on June 28, 2011. Retrieved November 28, 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c Aerosmith's Greatest Hits (CD insert). Aerosmith. U.S.A.: Columbia Records. 1993 [1980]. CK 57367. 
  3. ^ a b c Greg Prato. "Rocks - Aerosmith : Overview". AllMusic. Rovi Corporation. Retrieved November 22, 2010. 
  4. ^ "The Immortals - The Greatest Artists of All Time: 57 Aerosmith". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2011-11-11. 
  5. ^ "". Archived from the original on 2011-12-10. Retrieved 2011-11-11. 
  6. ^ "Recording Industry Association of America". RIAA. Archived from the original on 2007-06-26. Retrieved 2011-11-11. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Davis 1997.
  8. ^ Tyler & Dalton 2011.
  9. ^ Perry, Joe & Ritz, David 2014, p. 164.
  10. ^ a b Mitchell, Ben (September 14, 2004). "Review : Aerosmith - Rocks". Blender. United States: Alpha Media Group. [dead link]
  11. ^ Milward, John (July 29, 1976). "Rocks". Rolling Stone. Retrieved May 14, 2012. 
  12. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (1976). "Consumer Guide". The Village Voice (October 4). New York. Retrieved September 11, 2014. 
  13. ^ "Music". Aerosmith. Archived from the original on 2009-05-23. Retrieved 2011-11-11. 
  14. ^ "Top 50 by Nirvana". Archived from the original on 18 October 2014. Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  15. ^ "500 Greatest Albums of All Time: Aerosmith, Rocks". Rolling Stone. Retrieved November 11, 2012. 
  16. ^ Perry, Joe & Ritz, David 2014, p. 165.
  17. ^ Rocks (Vinyl sleeve). Aerosmith. Columbia Records. 1976. back cover. 
  18. ^ "Top Albums". RPM. 25 (15): 37. 10 July 1976. Archived from the original on 5 January 2016. Retrieved 8 November 2015. 
  19. ^ "エアロスミスのCDアルバムランキング、エアロスミスのプロフィールならオリコン芸能人事典-ORICON STYLE". Retrieved 2013-05-02. 
  20. ^ Steffen Hung. "Aerosmith - Rocks". Retrieved 2011-11-11. 
  21. ^ Rocks at AllMusic
  22. ^ "Canadian album certifications – Aerosmith – Rocks". Music Canada. 
  23. ^ "American album certifications – Aerosmith – Rocks". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH

External links[edit]

Rocks at MusicBrainz