Can you resist, what takes your breath away?
In order to write a proper “take”, ‘review”, “familiarity”, a “relation” to a classic Aerosmith song, as popular and as great a song that this once was, you have to take yourself back into the history of the band, the theme of the album, the song that you’re writing about. You have to understand the chronological history of the story.
In 45 years, a lot happens in a marriage, especially a marriage as polyamorous as this one, with all of the people involved being of the same sex, the same age, but with varied and differing personalities… But, also with so much in common, and the common goal of the band’s survival. Their survival as musicians!
The band, in 1993, were celebrating a few years of sobriety. Something still new, as far as experiences go. A newer driving force, and source of creativity. A lot comes out of insobriety, sometimes enough to be able to step up on a soapbox and tell the world that you now have a new moral fiber… I’m not sure there’s anything wrong with that, but you can rest assured someone will.
One of the coolest things about their sobriety was that it was happening at the same time their fans needed it to happen. America was sobering up from the wild decades of the 70s and 80s at the same time the band was, so the timing was perfect. America was looking for a moral compass, and the band was willing to play their part, even if it was to be short lived. But with this, you still need to know where the players of the game, that is the music business, put the band and their achievements, which were often not in line with the band’s fans.
Let’s take the “Haters”, or should I say Rolling Stone Mag’s obligatory negative review of an Aerosmith record. Keep in mind this album would go on to compete as the band’s 2nd best selling record of all time, just behind Toys, neck and neck with Pump. So take the following for what it’s worth, along with the obligatory “Stones” mention.
In 1993, Mark Coleman was given the task of tearing down another… uh, I mean “reviewing” another Aerosmith record. I’m not really sure what these guys ever really want or look for…. They slam the guys for being on drugs, and slam their moralistic message out of sobriety… Anyway…
Mark writes that; “…There aren’t enough “sweet-talking sassafrassies from Tallahassee who rear their tousled heads’ and that the “Motor-mouth verbal inventiveness is replaced by a decidedly calmer, more inspiring tone.”
“Without denying Tyler’s hard-won sobriety, the problem with Grip‘s constant moralizing is best summed up by a line from Tyler himself: “I just can’t listen to all that righteous talk,” he wails on “Amazing.” “Don’t get deep”, pleads Tyler on the pounding “Shut Up and Dance.” Not to worry; when your songwriting partners are Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw of Damn Yankees, shallow is a stretch.”
“It’s hard to know how to take something as aggressively stupid and naggingly catchy as “Shut Up and Dance.”
Okay, I will go with the man on “SU&D”, because that one won’t come near this list, but come on dude, the album sold over 7M records!
He goes on to say;
“As a spoof of early-Eighties pop-metal trailblazers like Night Ranger and Lover-boy, it’s frighteningly letter-perfect. But listen to Tyler wail away earnestly on the slow-burning torch numbers “Cryin’” and “Crazy” and you start to suspect that Aerosmith has lost touch over the last couple of years.”
Fuck you dude! These are classic hits! Maybe if you had a clue as to what the songs were really about… but while you’re talking about shallow song writing, you didn’t even go deep enough to figure it out…
And get ready! Here it comes….
“Cryin’” grinds away with enough “Stonesy” élan to make you ignore the hack formula: atrocious rhymes, simplistic melody, sentimentality measured out in buckets. This caterwauling power ballad could be a hit, but it could also nail the coffin shut on that decaying commercial genre.
I guess we won’t be needing that coffin, huh Mark?
Signs of hope do exist, however, even in Grip‘s most dragging moments. “Line Up” skates along with a zesty horn line and bop-shoo-bopping chorus, its sharp arrangement a welcome relief from the surrounding melodrama. Co-author Lenny Kravitz is hardly a verbal wizard, but his input makes an agreeable difference: “Line Up” fires off a lighthearted spark that’s largely missing from the rest of this too-serious album.
Really Mark, you’re only spotlight on the album is gonna’ be the anthem to Pet Detective??? Fuck me!
You know what I think? I think Rolling Stone Magazine should take their own advice, F’n A, loosen’ up, or “Shut ‘chor lip”!
I swear you can’t win for losin’ with these guys… I guess with the name of your rag being “Rolling Stone” everything that is not the Rolling Stones, has to be identified that way…. Whatever….
But what is the song really about? Fuck R.S.M., they wouldn’t know a masterpiece if they were staring at the Mona Lisa! Most people would say it’s about a person who finally breaks free from a relationship that is nothing but bad from the word “Go”. Whether that be from physical abuse, mental, or verbal abuse, or just a bad, bad match, those people would be absolutely right! But it’s more than that… If you know this band, it’s more than that. If you know these song writers, it’s more than that. If you know their story, it’s more than that. It’s definitely more than that, if you’d lived a similar one.
Taylor Rhodes was brought in to help on this one, along with a few other writers for the rest of the album. It’s been told that Geffen Records was extremely unhappy with almost every song the guys originally wrote. Kalodner was the “Ax Man” assigned by Geffen to say “These songs suck”, which helps you understand how Steven never really liked this guy more than what was tolerable. At the same time though, John is maybe the biggest reason for their 3rd generation of success. And that makes every member, to a man, extremely grateful. John knew it was more important to breed success, than to form friendships., Steven and Joe and Taylor put down the bones to the song, with a balance of extreme passion and pathetic whimpering. But again, it’s the passion of the song that creates the hook!
“Now there’s not even breathing room, between pleasure and pain”
Interpreted, as I said above as some sort of song about a “Relationship Roller Coaster”, you need to ask yourself what was going on at the time, that would give these guys the source of motivation for that type of song… Sure those songs will always sell, always have, always will, and with that motivation you can come up with something that will fill album space… But in order to write a song this good, this successful about that type of relationship, it has to come from somewhere. And yet at the time, all the band-mates were skatin’ pretty good in their personal relationships with this new found sobriety. Sure Joey was having some personal issues, but even then, they hadn’t really surfaced yet.
We have to remember what the theme of this album was about. Just like Pump, it was about sobriety and a sort of reflection of their history of drug abuse. “Amazing”, along with the title track “Get A Grip” spell out that theme pretty clearly. So, who… Or should I say “What” is this song really about? For those who have never been “In The Cellar”, those who have never screamed the words “No More, No More” while alone in a room with the curtains drawn trying to turn day into night, those who have never had to “Draw the Line”, you may not get this. But for those that have had a “Monkey on their Back”, those who have been at “Critical Mass”, those that have ever felt “Sick as a Dog”, or felt like “The Living Dead”, you’ll understand just who… or should I say “What” the girl Steven is singing to in this song is.
The song in my opinion, and I’m pretty sure I’m right, is 100% about a toxic relationship, but it’s not a relationship with a girl, or a guy, but it is absolutely the “killin’ kind”.
If you change out the word “Girl” and put in the name of the drug of choice, you may just begin to understand the “Grips” of a relationship that an addict has with his or her chosen love. And as the song describes a person that has emerged, or at least is making that struggle to emerge, from the hold that the addiction had on him. She recognizes that she has to part ways, but also realizes the difficulties he will have in resisting temptation. The “kiss” is your first high, the one that you forever chase.
The love for the drug is real. The “sweetness” is the addict’s comfort zone, it’s a friend and lover who will never judge, never expect, but because of the lack of accountability it needs from the addict, because of the absolute darkness, it’s also “misery”. However, as with anyone who realizes their fate at the fork in the road of addiction, they have to proclaim their destiny. With admission, he doesn’t blame the drug, he says they’re “partners in crime”, he takes responsibility. She recognizes the drugs charm, so to speak, with “that certain something that takes her breath away”, and yet still decides to listen to what his or her friends and support group are telling him, and he’s making a break no matter what! The addict admits the sorrow of what the course of the relationship was from beginning to end, and everything in between.
The song is masterfully written for a vast audience. It captures all those who need a mantra, a torch song, to break away from ties that bind, whether it be from a significant other, a job, or drugs isn’t really the point. The point is that a masterpiece of personal, very, very personal struggles was written in a way that millions could relate too.
Although the song only got to #12 on the Hot 100, it did make it to #1 on the mainstream rock charts, and get this… Number 1 in… wait for it… wait for it…. Poland! The video went on to tremendous success for all involved though, earning MTV awards in 1994 for Music Video of the Year, Viewer’s Choice award, and Best Group Video.
The video for the song was Alicia Silverstone’s first appearance in an Aero video, and what an appearance she would make. She fit the lyrics; she brought the character of the girl that the singer is singing about alive. Full on fucked up!
Just a bit of trivia here; Alicia and the director Marty Callner are loosely credited with the responsibility of bringing naval piercings out of the alley, and into suburban American teenage girls minds…. Oh, and the church the band performs in… It’s the same church in Fall River Mass, that Lizzy Borden is famous for attending.
The song also went on to earn Grammy nominations for Taylor Rhodes 1993, who in my opinion, and it’s all assumed, may be responsible for that little bit of country twang within the structure of the song, which blends and changes courses to that high emotion “Love- Sick” Aero groove that we’ve come to not only expect, but love from this band…. Do I need to say anything at all about Steven and Joe being on the exact same page?
Interesting though, looking and listening to that influence, that Nashville influence… Take a listen to ‘Blind Man’, and “Full Circle”, also co-written by Taylor, along with the old ‘Polo’ fragrance commercial’s theme from The Jayhawks, “I’m Gonna’ Make You Love Me”, and the less than stellar, but still influenced of Nashville sound from a late Journey single, “All The Way”, just interesting. Personally I think it worked with this one though.
The lyrics along with the licks, the ups and downs, the roller coaster ride that this song is, is perfect for the message it was giving… nothing too deep, unless you swim in those waters, just beware of a love that can kill you! The up tempo, the down tempo, the wild tempo…
We all want “something we can’t resist”… the song definitely has it’s double entendres; but not in a sexual way. As much as this song is about good lovin’ gone bad, it’s about a once good love of drugs gone bad, and to try and stay away, knowing the ease of comfort with what is bad for you, is nothing more than sweet misery…
Listen to it for what you want it to be, what you need it to be. Watch the video again, but listen to the metaphors, the moral statement they make. Watch Steven’s obligatory spitting out of his mouth, a bad taste. Watch as Alicia punches out what makes her sick. Listen to Joe, wail on the guitar screaming his, it’s, desire to bleed out the pain. Listen to the passion in Steven’s voice for love and hate of toxicity. Let Joey bang out, as he does with force and munitions, the tension of the addiction to a love that’s not healthy…
Love wasn’t much of a friend a mine
The tables have turned… yeah
‘Cause me and them ways have parted
That kind a’ love was the killin’ kind
All I want is someone I can’t resist
I know all I need to know by the way
That I got kissed
Your love is sweet misery…
This is “Cryin’”