GETTING MORE TALE #752: Chip Away the Stone
I didn’t have any childhood friends who were into Aerosmith. I had to get into them on my own.
Well, that might not be entirely true. Next door neighbour George may have been into them, but the rest of us ignored Aerosmith because they were “the band with the singer with the weird lips”. They weren’t “metal” enough to be in my wheelhouse at that young age. There wasn’t much Aerosmith being played on MuchMusic in the early 80s. Maybe “Lightning Strikes”, but that was about it. The music video with the greasers didn’t appeal to us metal kids. The Joe Perry Project didn’t do it for us either. The video with the pink saxophone? (“Black Velvet Pants”.) Not metal enough! We were strict metal heads as kids, and pink saxophones were not metal.
What was it that finally caught my Aero-attention? Joe Perry’s plexiglas guitar.
This all seems silly from an adult perspective, but we were just kids. We loved metal, not just for the music but also that all-important image. Videos were so important to us. A band not only had to sound cool, but they had to look it. Aerosmith didn’t look cool to us, with the tights and the lips. That changed in early ’86.
Ironically enough the video was called “Let the Music Do the Talking”. It was and is a killer song. I didn’t know, or care about its history as a song by the Joe Perry Project. What caught my eye was that guitar. A transparent guitar? I’d never seen anything like that before. My best friend Bob and I were obsessed with unusual guitars.
“I have to tape this and show it to Bob,” I said.
The video itself was pretty cool. A group of bootleggers snuck a camera into a concert to make their own video. It was a glimpse at an adult activity we’d yet to experience: the live concert. “Let the Music Do the Talking” made concerts look just as cool as we imagined they would be. There was even a twist ending. And like that, Aerosmith began to chip away the walls around me. Once they got me to pay attention, I was loving the song! Sure it wasn’t “metal”, but it was fast and rocked hard. The singer may have looked kind of weird, but the guitar player was cool as hell! I’d never seen anyone use a slide before. Watching Joe Perry hammering away at that clear guitar gave me a million new air guitar moves.
What came next was “Walk This Way” with Run DMC, Permanent Vacation and mainstream recognition. Before long everybody was into Aerosmith (again). “Angel” came out when I was really into ballads, and it was a fantastic ballad. On a kid’s allowance, I wasn’t able to get the album for many years, but Aerosmith were still on my radar.
Only a year after Permanent Vacation came the song that I grew to love the most. What came out a year after Permanent Vacation, you may be asking?
Many people didn’t catch the 1988 release of Gems. It was on their former record label Columbia and didn’t get a lot of notice. What Gems had wasn’t a new song, just an obscure one dusted off: “Chip Away the Stone”.
Written by Richie Supa, “Chip Away the Stone” is one of a few hit songs the guitarist gave to Aerosmith. Others like “Amazing” might be more well-know, but “Chip Away” is special. When the music video hit in late ’88, Supa was featured in it via archival footage (look for the guy with the moustache). If anyone knew “Chip Away” in ’88 prior to Gems, it would have been through their album Live! Bootleg. The studio version was only available on a rare single! If you were a kid living in Kitchener in the late 80s, good luck finding it, or even knowing it existed. For us, and the majority of fans, “Chip Away the Stone” was a brand new song.
I was getting into piano in rock songs around this time too. “Chip Away the Stone” had just a hint of boogie-woogie and it hit the right chords for me. Even though I was expanding my musical horizons slowly but surely, the music video still had a huge impact. Considering it was made up of old live footage, it was surprisingly well edited, fresh and cutting-edge. The shots of the piano were spliced to look like somebody was playing on one super-long piano keyboard. I assumed it was Richie Supa playing piano: the credits are unclear. Either way, that video got me deeper into Aerosmith. Way deeper.
Today my two favourite songs are “Chip Away the Stone” and “Let the Music Do the Talking”. I have plenty of others — “Seasons of Whither”, “F.I.N.E.”, “Draw the Line” — but those first two just stick with me. Part of that is nostalgia, but the other is that they are just great fucking songs.