How A Country-Inspired Album Has Influenced Today’s Hard Rock Icons
An album that owes its origins to old time country music has often been cited as the all-time favorite of headlining hard rock bands like Guns N Roses, Metallica, and Motley Crue. For their iconic record, Rocks, Steven Tyler and Aerosmith drew inspiration from country music for what is often considered the band’s most rocking album.
The disk, which turned forty this year, is rife with images, instruments, and idioms from the heartland of country music. A look at some if its memorable songs reveals the album’s rural origins.
It opens with a tune that beckons the country-western star Gene Autrey, a song with the same title as the cowboy’s most well-known song “Back in the Saddle.” In spite of of a shared title, Steven Tyler has hinted that his band’s song may have more of a human reference rather than an equine one.
The second tune, “Last Child”, was the most successful single on the album. It, too, has country characteristics, including the use of a banjo. The five string instrument most closely associated with old country or bluegrass music is picked by Paul Prestopino, a guest of the band on the recording of Rocks. The song’s lyrics also have a country feel, mentioning “hands on the plow” and “get out in the field, put the mule in the stable.”
“Sick as a Dog”, the fifth track on Rocks, was inspired by a popular country rock band. According to bassist Tom Hamilton the song was strongly influenced by the Byrds, a group that helped merge the country genre with rock in the sixties. The adage that serves as the title is one that is mainly used in the South, making it a perfect fit for this country-influenced album.
Similar idioms that followed Scotch and Irish immigrants to the Appalachian regions are used for the titles of other songs on the album. “A Lick and a Promise” has a country connotation, as does “Get the Lead Out”
“Home Tonight” closes the record as a country ballad. It features a lap steel guitar, an instrument mostly characteristic of classic country-western music.
The album cover displays diamonds, perhaps a prescient indication of how valuable Rocks would become to new generations of electric music. Guitarist Slash of Guns N Roses, Kirt Cobain of Nirvana, James Hetfield of Metallica, and Nikki Sixx of Motley Crüe are all big fans of the fourth Aerosmith record, in spite of the fact that its origin comes from an entirely different genre.