Top 10 Best ’80s Aerosmith Songs

'80s Aerosmith Songs

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Top 10 Best ’80s Aerosmith Songs

By Andrew Daly

At the onset of the ’80s, Aerosmith was drug-filled, fractured, and feuding.

After losing both Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, the band soldiers on with Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay. And to their credit, Aerosmith held its own. But we’d be lying if we said the group reached anywhere near the levels of success it saw in the ’70s.

Things got so bad that while a spiraling Steven Tyler was laid up in the hospital, it’s been reported that Tom Hamilton and Joey Kramer even auditioned for the yet-to-be-formed Michael Schenker band. Of course, we’ll never know if that’s entirely true, but it’s fun to think about all these years later.

Rumors aside, by 1984, Steven Tyler and his band of merry men faced a decision: call Joe Perry and Brad Whitford and make amends or pack it in and go home. Thankfully, Tyler and company chose the former, launching one of the greatest comebacks in rock ‘n’ roll history.

Few bands reach the sort of heights that Aerosmith did in the ’70s. But having said that, few crashed to the earth with such explosive fury. And so, when Aerosmith hit the road in the summer of ’84 for the aptly titled Back in the Saddle Tour, few believed they had any juice left. But if history has shown us anything, sleeping on Aerosmith is a fool’s game.

With Perry and Whitford back in the fold, a still not even remotely sober Aerosmith barnstormed stages across the U.S., reclaiming its lost pot of gold. And once they grabbed the brass ring once more, they hit the studio to record Done with Mirrors (1985), which, surprisingly, didn’t sell.

But no matter; after Run-DMC remade “Walk This Way” in 1985, Aerosmith was suddenly exposed to a new audience eagerly awaiting their next move. And that next move came in the form of the sonically different Permanent Vacation (1987), followed by the world-beating Pump (1989).

In the wake of their reunion and subsequent unexpected success, by the end of the ’80s, Aerosmith was on top of the world. Swimming a sea of 20-year-olds, the Boston-bred band confidentially approached their 40s brimming with swaggering confidence brought on by the fact that not only had they equaled their ’70s success, but they’d bettered. And would continue to.

In celebration of fifty years of Aerosmith and their recently announced farewell tour, Classic Rock History is taking a trip back to dig into Aerosmith’s ten best ’80s songs.

# 10 – Angel –  from Permanent Vacation (1987)

Contemplative in the face of sobriety and lost love, Steven Tyler’s crooning opening lines, “I’m alone. Yeah, I don’t know if I can face the night. I’m in tears. And the crying’ that I do is for you,” before Aerosmith’s official foray into the world of ’80s power ballads wholly kicks in. For those yearning for the bits of sleaze that made Aerosmith kings of the ’70s, you’ll find no such touches here. But no matter, because by way of Tyler’s soaring yet screeching vocals and a heavenly bit of classic Joe Perry guitar magic, “Angel” has proven to be one of Aerosmith’s most enduring ballads.

# 9 – Ragdoll from Permanent Vacation (1987)

While 1987’s Permanent Vacation featured a new and improved post-rehab side of Aerosmith, not to worry, there’s still plenty of sleaze to go around. As “Ragdoll” opens, Aero’s mouthpiece and main man, Steven Tyler, comes out of the gate oozing sex appeal, bellowing, “Ragdoll, livin’ in a movie. Hot tramp, daddy’s little cutie. You’re so fine; they’ll never see ya leavin’ by the back door, ma’am.” Hot-to-trot wordplay aside, a semi-tribal Joey Kramer drum pattern is capably matched by a grooving bassline laid down by the perpetually quiet Tom Hamilton. In short, “Ragdoll” is catchy and commercial but still has just enough of the seedy vibes to keep the band anchored to its heyday.

# 8 –  My Fist Your Face – from Done with Mirrors (1985)

Aerosmith might have been reunited for 1985’s Done with Mirrors, but reportedly, they weren’t sober. But they were trying; a huge part of that effort was getting back into the studio for the band’s first record with the original line since 1979. To some, the result reads back as one of Aerosmith‘s most underrated albums. To others, it’s an out-of-focus disaster.

Regardless of where your allegiances lie, there are plenty of gems to feast on, with “My Fist Your Face” being a prime example. With lyrics like, “Wake up baby, what you in for. Start the day upon your knees. What you pissin’ in the wind for, you musta snorted too much bleas,” it’s clear that Tyler was either spitting some off-kilter truth or perhaps was still out of his mind from a long night prior. Regardless, it’s a tasty bit of campy absurdity that only Aerosmith could endeavor to serve up.

# 7 – Dude (Looks Like a Lady) from Permanent Vacation (1987)

Considering “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” has essentially been one of Aerosmith’s most popular tracks since its 1987 release, it’s safe to say that anyone reading this is quite familiar with its vibe. But for the still uninitiated, feast on lyrics like, “Cruised into a bar on the shore, her picture graced the grime on the door. She’s a long-lost love at first bite. Baby, maybe you’re wrong, but you know it’s all right, that’s right.”

It’s cheesy, sleazy, and perfectly balances who Aerosmith was against who they were about to become. But what’s most interesting about the track is Perry’s solo, which was reportedly laid down via an old Gretsch hollowbody in lieu of his typical Les Paul or Stratocaster. It might not be proto-typical ’80s shred, but it’s uber memorable. Does anything else really matter beyond that?

# 6 –  The Other Side – from Pump (1989)

If Done with Mirrors is the de facto pick for Aero’s least loved ’80s affair, then, to be sure, 1989’s Pump is the people’s choice for their best. And it’s with good reason, given that it’s loaded with monster tracks from top to bottom. What’s more, the production, performances, and energy are stout. One of Pump’s most popular cuts is “The Other Side,” with its funky horns, catchy chorus, and echo-laden solo. Of note here is the alternating vibe, with the track bouncing back and forth between hyper-upbeat and mid-tempo with a message.

And while “The Other Side” is as catchy as they come, Tyler’s lyrics tell a tale of love veering uncertain, “My mama told me there’d be days like this, and man, she wasn’t foolin’. ‘Cause I just can’t believe the way you kiss. You opened up your mouth with bated breath; you said you’d never leave me.” And if that wasn’t enough, words like, “You love me, you hate me, I tried to take the loss. You’re cryin’ me a river, but I got to get across” make “The Other Side” one of Aerosmith’s most relatable tracks.

# 5 – Janie’s Got a Gun –  from Pump (1989)

When a song drives home a line like, “What did her daddy do? What did he put you through? They said when Janie was arrested, they found him underneath a train. But man, he had it coming’; now that Janie’s got a gun, she ain’t never gonna be the same,” the message is pretty damn clear. To that end, “Janie’s Got a Gun” is probably Aerosmith’s most poignant of any decade, let alone the ’80s.

The boys in Aerosmith seldom hit on social issues, but with “the one”Janie’s Got a Gun,” they spun a tale of abuse at home and a suffering child taking a stand. It’s depressing and empowering at the same time. It’s also a musical tour de force. Steven Tyler brings the rain vocally, and Brad Whitford’s meaty rhythms perfectly complement Joe Perry’s plucky solo. Oh, and the video—which was quite popular on MTV—wasn’t too shabby, either.

# 4 – Jailbait –  from Rock in a Hard Place (1982)

On the other end of the spectrum, we have the slummy “Jailbait,” which comes off 1982’s Rock in a Hard Place. A lot of fans don’t love this record as Joe Perry and Brad Whitford are nowhere to be found, being replaced by Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay, respectively. And let it be said that while Rock in a Hard Place represents a dark time for Aeromsith, Crespo, and Dufay held their own under the weight of some heavy pressure brought on by harsh circumstances.

That aside, it wasn’t all bad, as “Jailbait” is a classic, albeit a dubious one. Lyrics like “Take it, leave it, roll the dice. You’re hot as hell, I’m cold as ice, oh jailbait” tells a story of an older man gawking at a Lolita, which isn’t exactly copasetic by modern-day standards. But if we set the subject matter aside and take “Jailbait” for what it is, it’s a memorable and hard-rocking song in its own right.

# 3 – What It Takes – From Pump (1989)

If there was ever a song that perfectly demonstrated the duality-filled light and shade that encompasses Aerosmith, it’s “What It Takes.” Hailing from an album called Pump, which features two trunks humping each other on its cover, you’d never expect such a plaintive cut, but still, here we are, staring Steven Tyler in the face as his bleeding heart is ripped from his chest.

Listen to the veteran vocalist croon, “There goes my old girlfriend, there’s another diamond ring. And all those late-night promises, I guess they don’t mean a thing,” and tell us you don’t feel bad for the old boy. But the best part is how Whitford and Perry load up on soaring power chords, and Tom Hamilton and Joey Kramer bring up the rear with as tasteful a rhythm combination you’ll hear in an era where rhythm sections are all but forsaken in favor of gain-drenched guitars and gated reverb galore.

# 2 – Let the Music Do the Talking –  from Done with Mirrors (1985)

We know, we know—this is a Joe Perry cut released on his debut solo record, 1980’s The Joe Perry Project. But the truth is that Aero’s version, pulled from 1985’s Done with Mirrors, blows the doors off the Joe Perry Project version (sorry, Joe). So much so that most fans hardly recall Perry’s original version at all. What’s more, if you’ve seen Perry live lately, his arrangement is in accordance with Aerosmith’s. So, Aerosmith has officially hijacked the track, and the ’85 version should be considered definitive.

But as far as the song is concerned, “it’s”Let the Music Do the Talkin” is good time boogie, loaded with some slick slide guitar ala Perry. And Tyler makes the song his own, spitting lyrics like, “Cheesecake maybe if I take another bite, I’m a real fat city, I’m an aero delight,” with maddening vigor. Of course, it’s utter nonsense but majestically whimsical all at once. And while it fell flat in the ’80s, it’s worth noting that if “Let the Music Do the Talkin” had been released in the ’70s, we’d be looking at a chart-topper. C’est la vie.

# 1 – Love in an Elevator –  from Pump (1989)

It’s clear that by ’89, Aerosmith had entirely recovered their long-lost swagger and was fully prepared to yank the rug out from the young bucks scurrying around them. With lyrics like “Workin’ like a dog for the boss man” and “Jackey’s in the elevator, lingerie second floor,” is accompanied by a rousing gang vocal, “Whoa” at each turn, “Love in an Elevator” is a high energy affair.

But once again, Aero’s guitar heroics steal the show, with Brad Whitford laying down a buzzing solo in the track’s first half before Joe Perry brings the house down with a quintessential, blues-soaked solo to close the track out. If there’s but one track that wholly defines the glorious splendor that was the throne-reclaiming titans Aerosmith became in the ’80s, it without a shadow of a doubt has to be the blustering “Love in an Elevator.” Gooooing dowwwwwwwn.

Top 10 Best ’80s Aerosmith Songs article published on Classic© 2023 claims ownership of all its original content and Intellectual property under United States Copyright laws and those of all other foreign countries. No one person, business, or organization is allowed to re-publish any of our original content anywhere on the web or in print without our permission. All photos used are either public domain creative commons photos or licensed officially from Shutterstock under license with All photo credits have been placed at the end of the article. Album Cover Photos are affiliate links and the property of Amazon and are stored on the Amazon server. Any theft of our content will be met with swift legal action against the infringing websites. Protection Status


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