Everyone has their own Aerosmith best of… filed away in the back of their mind, a highlights reel of riffs that plays over and over for days.
We could have brought you a list of guitar moments from Brad Whitford and Joe Perry, all editorialized, ranked and rated. But to celebrate the greatness of the Boston rock legends, who look committed to their final act now, we needed something bigger, and so we polled some of the biggest names in electric guitar for their favorite Aerosmith moments.
Indeed, we spoke to a cool 40 of them, and without further ado, we’ll let Queen’s Brian May kick things off…
“My favorite Aerosmith guitar moment? Probably the entire Rocks album. Joe gave me a cassette copy of it before it was released, which I still treasure. But probably the greatest of all for me is the headbanging riff in Sweet Emotion that follows the verses like a kind of chorus. Stupendous! And it’s always a crackin’ moment drenched with heavy emotion when they do it live. I love Aerosmith.”
“Last Child from Rocks comes to mind of how important the dueling guitars are to the Aerosmith sound. From the spooky minors being picked in the beginning to the simplified boogie in the verse to the multiple layers as the song heads toward the end, this is Aerosmith at its finest.”
Wolfgang Van Halen
“I’ve always liked Last Child from Rocks. That main riff is so catchy. I especially appreciate the way Brad Whitford plays the muted part live. It gives the riff a cool vibe with the way he doubles it and adds those squeals to it.”
“I may have been asked to play on Train Kept A-Rollin’, but Joe Perry and Brad Whitford are such incredible players. There are so many great riffs and solos, and it’s been said before, but the guitars on Walk This Way are just brilliant.”
“Aerosmith’s Live! Bootleg was one of my go-to jam-along albums when I was a kid. The Kings and Kings solo by Brad Whitford is one of the finest in rock history.”
“Though they’ll always be one of the greatest grooving American rock bands with incredible swagger, the ballad Dream On has always been my favorite. It exemplifies the greatness of Aerosmith.”
“Walk This Way is a wildly successful crossover hit with the sleaziest guitar solos. I’m unsure if it’s Joe or Brad, and I don’t care! [Editor’s note: Whitford confirms that it was Perry.] Every riff (as well as the awesome solos) makes this track; with its unique groove, it legitimately rocks! Slinky guitar sounds with sexy string bends make the guitar duo of Aerosmith ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!’”
“My favorite three parts are all in the same song: Walk This Way. First, the opening riff because it is so rhythmic and effective. Second, the rhythm pattern for the verse is a creative variation of the boogie-woogie type of riff. Third, the solo has lots of short melodic phrases that are very powerful.”
“Rocks is the album that gained my attention more than any other Aerosmith album. The guitar tones were heavy, and the performances were solid. It still sounds relevant and has an edge like no other. The songs were also written with a consistency that flowed perfectly. It’s my personal favorite Aerosmith guitar album.”
Richie Ranno (Starz)
“Get Your Wings is one of my all-time favorite rock albums. The solo on Lord of the Thighs from 2:24 to 2:42 is amazing. Beautifully phrased and building to a perfect crescendo!”
“Aerosmith are gods! When Megadeth toured the U.S. with Aerosmith, that was one of those ‘I can’t believe we are really doing this!’ moments. While I’m in awe of the mega-hit-making part of their career, Rocks will always be their defining work for me.
“Everything about it – the songs, the playing, the cover, the production, you name it – was just so beyond cool, especially considering how disco ruled the world at the time it came out. I even have a sweet bootleg of the album at the rough-mix stage before the vocals were recorded. They were playing like their lives depended on it!”
“Aerosmith at the Hollywood Bowl was my first big arena rock show. I giggled at Steven Tyler’s quirky ad-libs; I shed real tears during Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing, but most importantly, I was overcome with admiration watching Joe Perry and his effortless swagger. It was truly a life-changing show for a young guitar player to witness!”
“When they played the Hollywood Bowl, Steven Tyler walked down the stage toward the audience, and Joe Perry was right next to him playing guitar on Dream On. They looked and sounded like otherworldly rock stars. What a moment! I believe they received a five-minute standing ovation at the end of the performance.”
Max Cavalera (Sepultura)
“I really like the guitars on Rock in a Hard Place, especially Lightning Strikes. I remember meeting them in the airport on the way to Brazil; this was in 1994... we shot the shit a little bit and ended up on the same flight to Rio.”
“Sweet Emotion – for a few reasons: it’s not only a killer riff and a killer song, but the tone of the guitars makes me smile every time! Joe and Brad have such incredible interplay, which is not easy.”
“Walk This Way features one of the all-time greatest single-note riffs, period. I remember thinking it had a funky quality, like the more rock moments of Parliament-Funkadelic, Ohio Players, etc. So I wasn’t surprised that Walk This Way became a hit again with Run-DMC. But for me, that awesome, attitude-fueled single-note riff is the most important element.”
Eddie Martinez (ex-Run-DMC)
“There’s something really special and different about Jaded. Is it the heaviest of their amazing catalog? No, but there’s something so cool in the way Joe Perry and Brad Whitford apply major 7 chords to the main riffs, as well as in the IV chord in the verses. It’s intoxicatingly hooky and unorthodox, and it rocks.
“This is not an easy task. And let’s not forget the shimmering major add9 chords at the beginning of the verses, as well as the descending chords in the bridge, which create tension that gets released heading into the final big chorus. It’s a deftly written tune with great guitar parts that rings differently from the rest.”
Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!)
“I don’t know about the best guitar moment, but I will tell you this — the single most satisfying use of a triangle in a rock song ever (yes, a triangle) happens in the fourth verse of the song Sweet Emotion under the lyric ‘Stand in the front just a shakin’ your ass….’ It’s so subtle, and I’m guessing most people would never even have the ear to listen for it, but every time I hear it, I am filled with complete satisfaction and joy.
“It elevates the remainder of the song so fully. The part is so simple and cool, it makes me want to be the triangle player in a band. Whoever had the idea to introduce that element that late in the song deserves an award. I guess the riff in that song is cool, too.”
“When I was a kid and I heard the Dream On intro, it just really changed my life. I thought it was so beautiful, and how could someone write and play something like that? I couldn’t get over it. It sounded like the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard.”
Richard Patrick (Filter)
“Joe and Brad’s guitar playing in Back in the Saddle is so absolutely perfect. It makes me wish I had written it!”
“To call Aerosmith ‘The American Rolling Stones,’ as they often have been, never really covered it for me. Swagger-laden grooves, cool guitar work and great solos by Joe and Brad. They have the power, talent and personality to even turn not so much blues-based, poppy songs into radio-friendly tracks that still have that organic, unmistakable Aerosmith grit, swagger and attitude.
“I’ve been a fan since Dream On became a hit even in my (unfortunately) pop-oriented home country of Holland back in the day, and I still am. Big time!”
Pat Thrall (Pat Travers Band)
“One of my favorite Aerosmith albums is Nine Lives. On the song The Farm, Joe plays some super nasty riffs with an unusual chord sequence of 1 to flat 5. The solo is incredible, and it starts with a double stop that he overbends completely. Talk about a badass attitude. His tone is incredible as well!”
“Sweet Emotion. I’ve always been blown away by the way this song’s pre-chorus is just a badass guitar riff with no lyrics, climbing and building toward that big chorus of harmony vocals. When I started playing guitar, I was always drawn to learning single-string riffs like that.”
Carlos Cavazo (ex-Quiet Riot, King Kobra)
“My favorite Aerosmith guitar moment comes from Train Kept A-Rollin’. It blows me away. I’ve always loved the song; the guitar playing was beyond amazing, and everybody in the band was on fire. They’ve had a stellar career and continued reinventing themselves with every album. I’ve met the guys, and they were the coolest guys you could ever meet.”
Scotti Hill (Skid Row)
“Last Child Is a perfect example of how two guitar players can counterpoint each other in a question-and-answer fashion. Snake [Sabo] and I have used it as a reference more times than I can remember. Brad and Joe are the perfect combination of how players can complement by playing off each other.”
“Aerosmith was a huge band for me when I was a kid. I clearly remember the day I sat on the edge of my bed for hours, trying to learn how to play Dream On. The solo on that song is still one of my favorites. The interplay of the guitars on Rocks is a textbook on how to play in a two-guitar band.”
“One of my favorite Joe Perry Aerosmith guitar moments was when I first saw Walk This Way come on TV as a kid in the ’80s. That riff is so badass I wanted to learn it right away! Another moment was getting to jam out with Joe Perry, Steven Tyler and Alice Cooper at the Dark Shadows premiere!”
Vinnie Vincent (ex-Kiss)
“I met Aerosmith in the fall of 1973 in New York at the Record Plant while they were doing guitars for their first record. I recorded some demos in another room in the same studio and decided to stop by to say hello. I could tell they could really play, and someone snapped a Polaroid of us. Great memories!”
“Heart opened for Aerosmith a few times in the late ’70s, and opening for them quadrupled our coolness factor. Joe and Steven were super-sweet to us, and there was no sabotage to the opening band by the headlining band, which was often the case.
“We’d been plagued by being unplugged or PA systems running at half-volume, but Aerosmith was a class act. Steven could have been Mick Jagger’s American brother and was certainly precocious enough, to say the least.”
“The solo at the end of Three Mile Smile starts with a slide up the low E string, going into the top strings being played explosively, ‘eeyooooooooooo-WAHHH!’ It only lasts a couple of seconds, but I can listen to that over and over. Perry or Whitford? I don’t know. I love them both. [Editor’s note: Whitford confirms that it was Perry.]”
“One of my all-time favorite guitar moments/riff-driven songs by Aerosmith is Last Child, written by Brad Whitford. The main guitar riff is a tremendous hook throughout the track that gets your hips movin’ and lips droolin’. You can say it’s blues rock at its finest, yes, but it is so much more than that.
“There is an intangible energy to it that is as familiar as your own heartbeat. Capturing that bones and blood primal rhythm on a guitar is a huge feat that not many guitarists have in them. Brad Whitford makes it as effortless as breathing on this track. I dare you not to boogie!”
Jeff Schroeder (ex-Smashing Pumpkins)
“Live! Bootleg was the first Aerosmith album I was exposed to as a young child, and it’s the one that to this day resonates with me the most. Perhaps a bit of a strange choice; I see it as a wonderful representation of the band’s first period. Across the 17 or 18 songs that make up the double album, we hear the culmination of an incredible live band.
“The performances are a little bit looser and rawer compared to the studio versions, and the intensity level is quite high. It’s hard not to listen without a bit of nostalgia for the days when bands were based upon the quality of their live show.
“There are no video walls or backing tracks – just good songs and great playing. Both Brad Whitford and Joe Perry are completely on fire on the album. It’s blues-based rock playing at some of its best. You can hear how this became one of the templates for the next generation of bands like Guns N’ Roses. I also love the covers of Train Kept A-Rollin’ and Come Together.”
“Aerosmith has at least 10 songs I will never tire of, with Nobody’s Fault being my absolute favorite from a guitar perspective. It’s a devastating monster. Aerosmith are great songwriters and great players, and I’ve loved their music since I was about 12. Even at 12, I clearly had good taste!”
“My favorite guitar moment from Aerosmith is the breakdown riff at 2:30 in Love in an Elevator. The rhythm section establishes a great foundation, and then that riff comes in... so good! It’s impossible not to start moving your head in time. I remember playing that song in my high school cover band, feeling like it was a high point in the set. After all these years, I still think it rules.”
“Last Child is one of the stand-out guitar moments from Aerosmith. It is just so down and dirty. It immediately gets you bobbing your head and sets an undeniable mood with that groove. I just love it.”
Satchel (Steel Panther)
“It’s hard to pick a favorite Aerosmith guitar moment because there are so damned many. But the riff from Back in the Saddle is one that I put on when it’s time to go out there and [kick ass]. I’m pretty sure they were going for that, and they nailed it.
“The great thing about this song is it sounds just as killer when you play it backward. And even better when you are wasted, and it’s backward. Or forwards, depending on what you’re on. This song has everything; the guitar riffs drive it from start to finish, and it’s classic Aerosmith.”
“While Autograph was touring with Aerosmith in 1985, I had a delightful interlude backstage with Joe Perry. As I was standing in the hallway backstage warming up before the show, Joe saw me practicing my two-handed technique. He asked me what I was playing, to which I replied, ‘some double-pentatonic using all four fingers on each hand.’
“Since he also had his guitar on, he asked me to show him a few ideas. I gladly obliged and showed him the basis of what I was playing. But when I got into the interval skips while playing the double-pentatonic, it threw him, and he said, ‘To hell with that! I have no idea what you’re doing!’ I laughed at that.
“And when I started playing some of his old solos from the ’70s that I used to play in cover bands, he said, ‘You’ve got the notes right, but that’s not at all how I played it.’ We both laughed at that; then he showed me the ‘correct’ way they were played. Thanks, Joe!”
“There are so many Aerosmith moments that I could mention, but Last Child is one of my all-time favorites. Everything about that song is killer. The main guitar riff is so badass. When I was a kid, I wished I could play it and would [play] air guitar while listening. Just love the groove of this song. The middle solo starts with two notes played in half steps and is totally catchy and memorable.
“Some cool licks follow, and then a catchy little harmony part. I think it’s great that you can hear the pick hitting the strings on many of the notes. It sounds so raw. The guitar licks during the fade-out are great as well. Love all the guitar and the whole song in general. When I hear it, I am transported right back to being a kid who was hungry to get better at guitar.”
“Joe Perry and Brad Whitford are one of the greatest guitar duos of all time for a batch of reasons – their writing, performances and production on those early Aerosmith albums alone are hall-of-fame-worthy! Although Dream On is a piano song, the guitar composition and performance are truly amazing. It never ceases to amaze me how brilliant and timeless the guitar intro (before the vocals start) is.”
Steve Brown (Trixter)
“There are way too many, but my favorite is a little bit different... it comes off Permanent Vacation after they got sober and took off again. I’ve always loved Magic Touch by Joe and Steven. This song means a lot to me because it’s when I first heard Aerosmith getting into ’80s mode. It’s got great melodies along with classic Aerosmith.
“It’s unmistakably Aerosmith, but it sounded new and fresh. Joe’s riffs are awesome; if I dare say, Joe Perry is almost shredding. It’s got scale work and phrasing that I’d never heard him do before. It’s a perfect example of them taking over the world again as arena rockers. I love it.”