Young Lust: How Aerosmith shaped my childhood

Carl Francis M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star

(Ed’s Note: Today I yield my space to the best writer in the family.)

MANILA, Philippines - A good chunk of people from my generation (I’m 27) know Aerosmith mostly for girl’s-night-out karaoke staples like I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing and Jaded. They’re that band that sang the song from Armageddon, which to this day is still being belted out by every other show band in the country on Friday nights. My dad’s generation (he’s 60) probably knows Aerosmith as that band who kind of resembled The Rolling Stones, down to the puffy-lipped lead singer who liked rocking out in tights. They’re that band that came after Lennon, Jagger and Morrison. Anybody below the age of 20 probably only knows Steven Tyler from his short stint in American Idol. He’s that dude who seemed to love everyone (even if they were terrible) and felt really comfortable in women’s clothes.

This is a testament to just how long these Rock and Roll Hall of Famers have been making music. You can ask anyone between the ages of 20 and 60 and each person will have at least some trivial knowledge of Steven Tyler and Co. They are living rock icons in the same vein as U2, David Bowie, The Cure and The Rolling Stones. Aerosmith’s success is probably only surpassed by their longevity.

Although each generation since the ‘70s has its own story to share about Aerosmith, I’d like to think my story is a little bit different than most people who grew up in the ‘90s. I was raised at the peak of MTVs cultural relevance and at that time, the main resource for learning about new music was via Music Television. At this point, at about 10 years old, the only music I thought I enjoyed were songs like Boombastic by Shaggy, only because everyone else seemed to think it was good. I was in 4th grade. I was too young to know any better. Then one day,  this video came on MTV that, in hindsight, shaped the way I appreciated music for the rest of my life. That video was called Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees). It was off Aerosmith’s 1997 album, Nine Lives. That trademark Steven Tyler high note was now ingrained in my head. 

At this point in time, Aerosmith was already a pretty established name. Past their prime even, some would say. But for my 10-year-old self whose musical knowledge was limited to Coolio and Bone Thugs N’ Harmony, hearing Aerosmith at that point was my first true experience of rock and roll. I saw this group of long-haired men with guitars, wearing outrageous outfits and top hats singing about how falling in love hurt the knees — something that, as a 10-year-old, I barely even understood. But I fell in love with it. My knees were unscathed.

Nine Lives became the first cassette tape I ever bought, and I still remember the lyrics of Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees) and Hole in My Soul by heart to this day. This eventually led me to explore the entire discography of Aerosmith. I bought a cassette of Aerosmith’s album called Big Ones, a compilation of their greatest hits to that point. I learned the lyrics of every song from Janie’s Got a Gun to Love in an Elevator to Dude (Looks Like a Lady). I’d get giddy whenever I saw an Aerosmith video on MTV, especially those ones with Liv Tyler and Alicia Silverstone. I was coming of age, after all. Dream On was my anthem and Crazy was my dirty secret. Wayne’s World 2 was instantly my favorite movie. Aerosmith was my first favorite band and my first experience of rock and roll.

I’d like to think that getting exposed to Joe Perry’s signature guitar sound and the heavy drums of Joey Kramer helped develop the way I enjoyed music moving forward. Listening to Aerosmith eventually opened the doors for me to appreciate turn-of-the-century bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Foo Fighters. And since Aerosmith practically had an album in every decade since the ‘70s, it retroactively exposed me to other bands of those respective generations.

As I went back to research about albums that came out in the ‘70s, I stumbled upon songs by The Clash and Bob Dylan. When reading about the ‘80s, I learned about The Cure and U2. Nirvana and Pearl Jam quickly became new favorites as I discovered about the grunge era ‘90s. Today, as I listen to Arcade Fire or The National or Phoenix, bands that for all intents and purposes do not look or sound anything like Aerosmith, I still can’t help but think that I would not have discovered all this great music, in this decade or any other, if it weren’t for that music video all those years ago.

There’s nothing terribly complex or cerebral about Aerosmith’s music. It’s that type of rock and roll that relied heavily on pizzazz and solid guitar riffs more than lyrical depth and social commentary. This was rock before rock became too self-aware and decided to wear flannel shirts and talk about their parents. At that age, it was exactly the kind of thing I could get behind. The music was fun, in-your-face, catchy and chock-full of energy.

Imagine my joy when I heard the news that Aerosmith would be coming to Manila to perform (on May 8 at the Mall of Asia Arena). It will be a come-full-circle moment that I can’t let pass me by. I’ve seen a lot of concerts in my life, both here and abroad. Yet for some strange sentimental reason, this concert will probably be the most meaningful. It’s going to be sweet emotion.

Aerosmith in Manila is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a legitimate Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-inducted group with all its original members still together. Only a handful of bands that were formed in the ‘70s can say that. With a band with such an esteemed pedigree as Aerosmith does, you really just have to show up and let the music do the talking.

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