#752: Chip Away the Stone

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.

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10 comments

  1. Clear guitar is cool, but I’m a little more partial to the toaster guitar from Dare to be Stupid. Aesthetic and functional.

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  2. I like your choices of your two fav songs from Aero.
    Very different from each yet other yet Aero! Great read as I like this stuff on how people discover bands etc!
    You’re like me Mikey as I neve​r had that big brother who passed on his records etc. Alot of it was discovery and my post tomorrow ​ falls into this category as well…

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  3. I luckily had that big brother (several of them) so I knew Aerosmith, but my gateway into real fandom was the same song, “Let the Music Do the Talking”. Because of my brothers, I was familiar with them and when I saw the video on MTV…WOW!! It was like I discovered them for the first time. I bought that album with my own money and that was where it all began. I knew the older stuff, but didn’t appreciate it until this time. Also…none of my friends were into Aerosmith at this time either and I don’t remember the clear guitar (until now).

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  4. Aerosmith was pretty much a part of my high school life. Just about everyone seemed to be into them in the late 1970s. Therefore, I was into them. Though I didn’t pay them much attention in the early 1980s, I kept listening to the material I grew up with. I definitely celebrated when they made their triumphant return in the mid 1980s.

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  5. Great post, Mike. I remember a pal of mine getting into Aerosmith in a big way during the mid 90’s. We were in the early stages of starting a band and he was going off course with guitar solos and dressing like a cross between Gilby Clarke and Joe Perry. I think this was before Nine Lives, cause I scoffed at the video for Pink… and then I heard the album and was like “oh”.

    I was still about alternative rock, cause I could relate to that image (dudes that worse the kind of clothes I wore) and the sounds, but I did get into Aerosmith and bought Pandora’s Box cause it was cheaper than buying all the albums.

    Anyhoo, I guess I can relate. I discovered loads of music on my own, cause everyone I grew up with either liked techno or the Brit indie stuff. I discarded loads of stuff based on image, while also being drawn to stuff because of image. Cause that’s just how we rolled. Then my parents got the internet…

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    1. Pandora’s Box is the next one I’m going to listen to and hopefully review. It was my second box set and I think it’s great!

      Yeah Pink really isn’t…sigh…how do I say this… Pink sucks!

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