As Aerosmith began their career, the critics never gave them a shred of credit. Coming out around the time that the 1960s counterculture began turning a corner, major outlets often lambasted ‘The Bad Boys From Boston’ for being a pale imitation of The Rolling Stones, with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry cribbing from Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Though they may have similarities, Aerosmith was willing to take their brand of boogie one step further.
On the album Toys in the Attic, the hard rock juggernaut created one of the most succinct track listings of their career, taking different pieces of their trademark sound and refining it on tracks like ‘Sweet Emotion’ and ‘Walk This Way’. While the band took to the road to promote the record, Rocks was where they started to get a little more adventurous.
Having already conquered the world, the tone of their fourth outing tended to be a lot darker, featuring different sound effects that they weren’t used to using. Outside of the massive riff behind a track like ‘Back in the Saddle’, Tyler infamously wore tambourines on his shoes and stomped around the studio to simulate the sound of boots hitting gravel on a dusty highway.
Though most songs boast a hard-edged sound, the track ‘Nobody’s Fault’ marked a turning point for the group. Of all of Aerosmith’s classic tracks, ‘Fault’ has the most in common with heavy metal, written between Tyler and guitarist Brad Whitford about someone whose life is derailed by earthquakes. As the tune fades in, Tyler suggested that the band create chord swells for an ominous opening before the song starts.
When talking about the song in the book Does The Noise in My Head Bother You, Tyler was shell shocked by his idea, recalling, “‘Nobody’s Fault’ from that album is one of the highlights of my creative career. I told Joe to turn his amp volume to 12 and the volume on his guitar off. When [Whitford and Perry] played together, rolling the volume knob up with their pinkies, the band came in on a crashing E chord like Hitler was at the door. I looked over, and [producer] Jack Douglas was internally haemorrhaging with bliss.”
Then again, Tyler does admit that there are a few mistakes found at the beginning of the recording. Just before the song starts, one of the band’s engineers opens the door in the middle of the silence as they prepare to kick into the song. Tyler recalled: “It somehow seems to get louder and louder with each play. Joe and I loved to leave in spontaneous mistakes.”
While the song would not be a major single, it remained a favourite among the band’s heavier-leaning audience. Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash always considered the song one of his favourite Aerosmith songs, and thrash metal band Testament ended up covering the tune years later on their album The New Order in 1988.
Even if the song didn’t get the airplay it deserved, it marked a turning point in Aerosmith’s career. As high as the band may have soared during the mid-1970s, the album’s excesses would catch up with them on the album Draw the Line, which led to even further debauchery until Joe Perry abruptly quit the band after a fight between Tyler and his wife. Aerosmith’s momentum may have been on a freight train towards a brick wall, but ‘Nobody’s Fault’ remains an undiscovered masterpiece from their glory years.