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?
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