REVIEW: Aerosmith – Permanent Vacation (1987)

AEROSMITH – Permanent Vacation (1987 Geffen, Japanese import)

Ahh, the much-ballyhooed Permanent Vacation! Granted, it was a step up from previous two studio albums (Done With Mirrors and Rock in a Hard Place) but it’s nothing compared to Toys or even Draw The Line. This is the birth or the new pop Aerosmith, the Aerosmith guided by David Geffen and John Kalodner. This is the new Jim Vallance and Bruce Fairbairn Aerosmith. On the whole, it’s not bad and it sure was a big hit in the late 80’s. But let’s be fair — if Aerosmith had come out with Rocks in 1987, would it have gotten airplay? Of course not – Rocks was far removed from what was happening in 1987. This was Aerosmith in survival mode, employing outside writers, the biggest producers, and going for broke. If we’d known back then that Aerosmith would never be able to return to their old school ass-kicking rock and roll (aside from the awesome Pump of course), I think we would have been a lot less excited.

“Heart’s Done Time”, the opener, ain’t bad. In fact it’s one of the best tunes, Joey’s traps reminding us that this was still Aerosmith.  The song has some rock to it, while remaining accessible. The next track, “Magic Touch” is more of the same:  strong chorus, fairly hard rocking guitars and drums. I prefer both songs to the well-known hits. Then it’s “Rag Doll”. Damn, I’m so sick of that song. I never liked it even when it was new. I think it’s filler.  I’m glad for them that it was a huge hit, but I never felt the need to put it on a mix tape.

This is followed by some filler, “Simoriah”, one of the many tunes on this album that were never played live (Joe Perry’s big beef with the album is that half of it wasn’t played live). “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” is probably the most overplayed singles of Aero-history. I know it’s a huge hit, but come on…the Aero of old never would have written this. However it’s the kind of Aerosmith song that people today know, therefore, people want to have it. Shame it’s not “Coney Island Whitefish Boy”….

“St. John” – more filler! “Hangman’s Jury” is good though, a nice bluesy swampy acoustic number.  This is the kind of thing from Aerosmith’s roots and it comes off as the most sincere.  This is followed by “Girl Keeps Coming Apart”, a song which, aside from some killer playing by the boys in the backline, is skip-worthy. The song keeps falling apart! Up next is the last of the singles, “Angel”, a song which I actually like a lot. I like the lush production; I love the choruses, the verses, and the guitar solo. I think this song is still pretty excellent.

The title track is next, a catchy number with no outside writers, and co-written by Brad Whitford. This is proof that Aerosmith are at their best when they are just five guys writing and playing together. There’s some embellishment with jungle noises and tropical sounds, but the song is a winner. Another winner is the Beatles cover “I’m Down”, but I don’t know why they needed to pad an already long album with a cover. Still, totally listenable. The final track is a lame instrumental called “The Movie”. Honestly, most Aerosmith instrumentals are boring. They’re just not that kind of band. This ends the album on a decidedly dull note.

I give the band credit for sobering up, and working hard on this album. Fairbairn (rest in peace) was known as a bit of a taskmaster, he made his bands work hard, and I’m sure Kalodner did too. I think that they were so intent on a charting hit that they lost sight of the roots of Aerosmith. Songs like “No Surprize” or “Nobody’s Fault” sound like a completely different group of guys than the band on Permanent Vacation. As a result, I rarely play this album today. After all, when I can’t turn on the radio without hearing “Dude” and “Rag Doll”, why would I want to?

3/5 stars

More AEROSMITH at mikeladano.com:

AEROSMITH – Draw The Line (1977, Columbia)
AEROSMITH – ”Dude (Looks Like A Lady)” (1987 Geffen 12″ single)
AEROSMITH – Get A Grip (1993 “cow hide” cover)
AEROSMITH – Music From Another Dimension! (Deluxe Edition)
Record Store Tales Part 95:  Aerodouche Dandy

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38 comments

  1. Couldn’t agree more, it was my first Aerosmith LP and whilst I liked a few tracks I remember thinking ‘what’s all the fuss about?’. It made much more sense when I saw them play chunks of it live, ‘Magic Touch’ in particular caught fire.

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  2. Can’t argue with you on this one! I always thought this was an average album and pretty patchy. That said, I’ve been fairly surprised recently at how much I’ve enjoyed it after a few years of ignoring it. I think I possibly prefer it to Pump now although Pump definitely has less filler…

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    1. I love Pump. It’s such a special album for me. It was one of my first CDs and one I played over and over again for lack of options! Voodoo Medicine Man, Monkey On My Back, and Other Side are all winners in my books. Their last total triumph.

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        1. I’ll tell you man, Nine Lives is real close for me. It has songs I really hate (Falling In Love Is Hard on the Knees is awful!) but also has some incredible music on there as good as Pump. Taste of India, Full Circle, the title track, etc…those are good songs. If it had been trimmed of a couple tracks (the singles probably) I would rate it 5/5 stars.

          I bought the UK version to get that bonus track, Falling Off.

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        2. Falling Off is one of the best songs as well! And I actually really like Falling In Love… too. It is slightly too long though. I agree with you there… I could probably live without ever hearing Pink again.

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  3. At the time when this came out it was a good to have Aero back. I’m one of the few that really liked DWM(except for The Hop..ie..filler) and RIAHP which I thought was a pretty solid effort from em considering the 2 guitar guys had been replaced.
    So when I picked this up back in 87(think it came out around the same time as Rushs Hold Your Fire) PV went on heavy rotation esp the title track,Hangman Jury and St John!!(sorry Mike).
    Kinda wanted to see this tour as well but I was in college at the time and they played Minnieapolis with Dokken in tow but I missed it….( made up for it twice on the PUMP tour)…
    Sure there is some filler ,for me that would be Angel(sorry Mike part deux) I just found that song at the time was just playing the game as everyone was doing the power ballad…for me the Aero ballads like You See Me Crying,Home Tonight,What It Takes,now those to me are Aero ballads.
    Your rating is pretty close to what I would give it ..perhaps a 3.5 from me….
    Good stuff!

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    1. No problem Deke my man!

      I would take Rush’s Hold Your Fire over PV. Not to turn this into a Rush review, but I think if they shortened Hold Your Fire by about 2 songs, it would be a personal favourite of mine. It’s close.

      And both bands had bright red album covers at the same time.

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      1. Ha..your right with the red covers!
        Actually that Nine lives record I would say is there last great album…actually the tour was a good show as well……still remember when Just Push Play came out it didn’t take people long to say he man isn’t that the cover to Autographs That’s The Stuff(I think that’s what it was called?)
        JPP was a half filler record for me but man on that tour they busted out Mother Popcorn!…me and my buddy just about shit ourselves as Live Bootleg is one of our faves!

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        1. Speaking of red covers, I just popped in the new Anvil for the first time, Hope In Hell.

          Yup that cover was a total rip of Autograph’s second album. It was obvious to anyone who had seen both.

          I don’t know how that album happened, I really don’t. They must have had their heads so far up their asses…or Steven’s ass. That album seems like a Steven Tyler album to me. Jaded wasn’t bad, but it SHOULD have been the most commercial song on the album, with everything else being less pop and more classic. I was horrified when I saw that Jaded was already one of the more classic sounding songs on the album, that it only got worse from there! Samples and rapping and the drums were awful. Joey Kramer must have cried.

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        2. Yep. It’s a total rip off. And the album is horrible. Can’t find one great song on there and the production is stiff and sterile and plastic. What a useless album. Even the Autograph knocks JPP off its feet.
          I have to agree on the Nine Lives tour as well, what a great show it was even though Nine Lives wasn’t all that strong.

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    1. Exactly. I could make you an amazing Aerosmith mix CD of incredible tunes that you’ve never heard on the radio, and I could pack it with tunes from every decade. It would be a great listen start to finish…but all songs you won’t hear on the radio of a Greatest Hits.

      That’s the best and worst part about Aerosmith. They have a lot of good stuff, but it’s not usually the hits.

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  4. Nice review Mike – I know some Aerosmith purists aren’t kind to this one. Same for other bands and their ‘tipping point’ album, where they irreversibly went poppier. Good to see you always give these oft-maligned (or as you put it, much ballyhooed!) records a chance.

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  5. Damn. Can’t agree with you here. I totally love this album. It was the album that got me into Aerosmith. I never cared for them at all before that and it made me go back and check their older stuff out. I think the only song that doesn’t cut it here is the instrumental, The Movie, the rest of them are more or less all killers, in my book. Hearts Done Time and Magic Touch are my favourites, but even though I have grown a bit tired of the hits throughout the years, I still think they’re all awesome.
    To be honest, I prefer the Aerosmith after the reunion to their 70’s stuff. This album, Pump, Get A Grip… all fantastic records. They started to slip with the uneven Nine Lives, that had some great songs, but also too many fillers. And even though I really like Hole In My Soul, the ballads had started to take over here. They died completely with the Just Push Play album. What a load of crap that was.

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  6. Me, I love ths record. It’s bluesy and great. The hits are OK, overplayed yada yada. I like the deep cuts. In fact, that 1-2-3 punch of St. John, Hangman Jury and Girl Keeps Coming Apart slays me every time (which runs contrary to what Mike said above, he only liked one of the three). I dunno, I’m not an expert on these guys, I just like this record. Pump, well, I’d need to hear it again. I recall not liking it at all, at the time. Of course, I don’t have it here. Youtubes must have it. Maybe one of these days.

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  7. I’m with Heavy Metal Overload….PV just over Pump. But they were kind of 1 &1A for me. I also liked Rock in A Hard Place a lot…still do even wo the guitarists. You’re dead on with Aerosmith becoming a pop hit machine after their return….starting w run DMC. And dammit I like the Movie and JPs guitar sound on that riff…although it is a sleepy riff.

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    1. Ah… Rock And A Hard Place and Done With Mirrors are weak records, I think. But I don’t get the criticism on Draw The Line. Great album.

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    2. I’m excited to do the Pump review and get everybody comparing the two. I think Pump was where they needed to go. Also Tom wasn’t clean on PV — Pump was his first clean album. He was the last one to go clean.

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      1. Really? I didn’t know that. I heard Steven Adler say that when G N’ R were touring with Aerosmith on the PV tour, the guys were pretty anal about not letting any kind of drug or alcohol related anything come near the band.
        But maybe Tom wasn’t as far off as the other guys.

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        1. I believe this detail was not widely known at the time. I read it in the Aerosmith official book. But they had to clean up as a band — it was all of them plus the manager all in recovery.

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        2. Yeah, well I remember when they released Done With Mirrors and they said that they were all clean by then and that they wouldn’t have reunited if they were still on drugs. But they were all on the junk while recording that album, so I guess you’ll never know.
          Kinda like Mötley Crüe and the Dr Feelgood recordings.

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        3. Yeah, they were, but they fell off the wagon a couple of times. It wasn’t known back then and it was kept a secret until Nikki released The Heroin Diaries. No, sorry, it’s in The Dirt. But no binges like the old days. Just a dinner and someone in the band ordered wine and then the night ended in a strip joint doing coke.

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        4. Only Motley Crue could go from sober to wine to strippers to coke in one night.

          I need to re-read The Dirt. I knew they had fallen off the wagon by 1994 with obvious references to THC on the Corabi album.

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