It’s the dawn of the day and I’m crashed and I’m smashed
As it is I’m feelin’ like my chips are cashed
All of my clothes strewn all over the room (Bright Light Fright)
I drink to you, your mind, her ass
We’ll take a drink and break the glass (Critical Mass)
Blinking in the wan sunlight of another early commute I decided I needed a musical pick-me-up, something hostile, raucous and genuinely dangerous. A renowned international tastemaker such as myself could have resorted to cutting edge avant-hard Bulgarian electronica, or something unsavoury and growling from Ukraine, but mid-scroll I realised that the most defiant, totally baked-not-faked, radically punked, stoned monolithic, provocative LP in my collection is in fact Aerosmith Draw The Line. This album does not want to be your friend and if you cut yourself on it, you’d probably lose a limb.
Following on from the band’s megahit LPs Draw The Line was less-released, more walked into the room onto the bottom of someone’s shoe, in 1977. Whereas its predecessor, Rocks* was a brilliant album produced while surfing a wave of narcotic celebration, the narcotic tsunami had broken hard on the band by the following year and coupled with constant touring they were all ‘Sick as a Dog’; Joe Perry later reminisced that he could see how badly they had fragmented, because they were all using separate drug dealers. So by the time they had been sequestered away in a former convent in upstate New York, guns drugs and all, to record Draw the Line there were absolutely no fucks given … about anything.
I first bought Draw The Line back when I was 18, loved the first and last track, thought everything in the middle was a mess and sold it for cash a few years later. In recent years I couldn’t find a decent enough second-hand copy so I bought a new one I saw cheap online which turned out to be a RSD 2013 re-release of 3000 copies**. So it was interesting to slap the platter on the griddle and see what I made of it now. [SPOILER ALERT: I love it].
Checkmate honey, beat ya at your own damn game
No dice honey, I’m livin’ on the Astral Plane
The ironically titled title track kicks it all off good and proper, you want a meaty slice of decadence marinated in a sauce of salty sleaze berries, served on a bed of shredded nerves and excess? course you do. Built around Joe Perry’s 6-string bass lick it is an excessively frenzied account of frenzied excess, the medium is the message. Tyler’s screamed section after the (literal?) breakdown is one of my fave Aeronuggets. Whatever do the lyrics mean?
An Indian summer, Carrie was all over the floor
She was a wet night winner, and rarely ever left the store
She’d sing and dance all night, and wrong all the right out of me
Oh, pass me the vial and cross your fingers, it don’t take time
Nowhere to draw the line
‘I Wanna Know Why’ is a great energised Stones-y rocker, with some great parping sax and barreling piano touches, I can barely make out a word Tyler slurs here, apart from the bits he steals from ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’, but that’s not the point. It just sounds chaotic and chemically concussed; brilliantly so. The lyrics of ‘Critical Mass’ are a recounting of a dream producer Jack Douglas had – Tyler sang it because he hadn’t anything else completed and yet, somehow, magically it works, harmonica and all; probably because the groove the band locked into was so damn fine.
One of my very favourite tracks on Draw the Line is the Sex Pistols-inspired ‘Bright Light Fright’, a tune the band wouldn’t even do when Joe Perry presented it to them, so he sang it himself and the hurtling result would be worthy of any of the punk pretenders to the Aerothrone. Stan Bronstein’s aggressive sax playing is just great, adding just the right element of chaos to it all.
All the surrounding discord and jagged edges make the stately, epic ‘Kings and Queens’ stand out wonderfully well, I was never a fan of the track when I first encountered it on their Greatest Hits collection, but heard in context you penny drops and the molecules hit the bloodstream. Doubly so when the rather batty, sharp-edged rawwk of ‘The Hand That Feeds’ explodes out of the traps straight afterwards, Tyler deploying his full armoury of yelps and squawks and the extended guitar coda is a thing of joy. Again though the real stars right here are the Kramer/Hamilton rhythm section who keep it tight and right.
My very favourite track on Draw The Line is next, ladies and gentleman I give you, what I am a ‘Sight For Sore Eyes’. Joe Perry had started the track with his friend David Johansen, who gets a co-writing credit here, along with Jack Douglas; did he write the line ‘Turnin’ in style, walk a mile for your titty’ one wonders? I love every note of this beast, forget about being a rock band, Aerosmith have their shout for being one of the great 70’s funk bands right here. The fact that the track doesn’t seem to quite fit together and the production is really up in the listener’s grill, to the point of being hostile, just makes everything even better – Joey Kramer’s drumming really is astonishing on this one.
The old Kokomo Arnold (via-Elvis) track ‘Milk Cow Blues’ closes Draw The Line brilliantly. Boasting the cleanest production sound on the whole album, the band really take off for the hills here the guitar interplay of Perry and Whitfield is something to marvel at too.
So there you have it all, I just got a bit carried away. I have come to really rate Draw The Line in its own right, not just as a collection of odds and sods, or a marker of when Aerosmith started to lose the plot. It was a vast achievement for Jack Douglas to corral such a chaotic situation onto wax at all, to create something that was such a brilliant amalgam of all the band’s strengths, buttressed by a monumental fuck-you attitude knocks on the door of genius.
Draw the Line doesn’t need you to like it; listen to it or not, you choose – it’s too busy living on the Astral Plane.
*one of my very favourite albums ever – one day I’ll be good enough to write about it properly.
**which ain’t very limited really is it? I reckon every household on my street has at least one copy, Gladys and Bert at #27 have at least two.