Welcome. Ladies and Gentlemen. Welcome to Power Ballad Week. The (un)ultimate compilation of seven overblown overproduced overwrought love songs by bands who will alter their sound any which way their management tells them to if it stands a chance of yielding them a much needed hit… That’s one way of looking at it.
Proper Power Ballads have to come from a band who don’t usually sound like that. They have to be the songs on the album designed to appeal to Girls and Adults and Casuals who will be tricked into buying an album of heavy fast rock and roll when they thought they were getting Richard Marx or Michael Bolton or The Carpenters.
Ballads by anyone not playing this card are just Ballads by balladeers (you have no power ballad here). But I don’t put songs up on SteveForTheDeaf that I don’t genuinely love. So, Angel by Aerosmith. Let’s waffle.
The Power Ballad was not a new move for Aerosmith. They had one on their debut album before I was born. Exploiting the Power Ballad for the good of the band was Aerosmith’s first big move. Dream On was nestled right in the heart of that self titled debut back in ’73. The album was not shifting. They had something close to a ballad on their second album Get Your Wings but everything on that record was a little too tricked out to be considered a safe radio friendly hit. So their fledgling career was at risk of succumbing to the recreationals almost from the off. Someone in Management had the bright idea of re-releasing the single from the first album before the ship went down.
Dream On became a hit on it’s second go around. The Band was saved… Walk This Way was on the third album… They owed their career (or any chance of it having longevity) to a Power Ballad. Pressings of the debut Aerosmith album after 1974 had the words ‘Featuring Dream On’ right there on the front sleeve under the band name lest anyone not conflate the sweet sounding love song from the radio with the bunch of gypsy pirates on the cover.
Another lesson learned Aerosmith would not appear on their own album covers again unless they were cartoons or dressed up in costume.
So the 70’s happened. Aerosmith were there. They were massive, they don’t remember any of it and they were all but done by the early 80’s.
Then Run DMC and Rick Rubin and that most well documented of resurrections happened and Aerosmith cleaned themselves up and signed a deal with Geffen.
New label. New lease of life. New chance to be huge. And yet… Aerosmith’s plans seemed to be reliving their original launch pattern. Their comeback album (Done With Mirrors) stiffed. The follow up (Permanent Vacation) was out there but it wasn’t doing the sort of business the millions spent on the deal needed to reflect.
So we get Angel. Released as a single and then re-released. This is where I come in. Angel was released as a hit in the US. It was all sorts of 80’sness. It had a huge budget video full of excessive special effects and power chords being struck on desert roads. But in the UK nothing happened. So they powered forwards to Dude Looks Like A Lady (if ever a song was lost in evolving politics it’s this one) right through to Pump and some actual hits with Love In An Elevator, What It Takes, Janie’s Got A Gun, The Other Side, Etc Etc Etc.
My brother bought Angel on it’s initial release. On 3 inch CD. There was an idea in the 80’s that CD singles had to be smaller than CD albums. So they shrank them down to 3 inches. The sleeves were too easy to lose at that size though so they kept the plastic cases the same size as regular CD’s at first. Then the industry realised some people couldn’t play the little CD’s in some brands of CD player, so they put an adaptor ring around it to make the whole thing back up to CD size. Honestly this argument about USB’s and phone chargers has been going on forever in one format or another.
Angel and the other singles from Permanent Vacation were re-released again after Pump. By now I’ve stolen the tiny CD single from my Brother in a cultural exchange. Even Dude which had already been a hit was re-pressed (In an amazing piece of format fuckery I have a 5inch vinyl single from that re-do which was also a shaped picture disc so it was also massive, but tiny. The sound quality was horrendous) They were hits of a sort in the UK at last.
I can’t think of an Aerosmith album that didn’t have a Power Ballad on it. Often it appears they have 3 or 4 just so they can keep the video’s and hits coming while the rock songs keep the actual fans fed from the albums (I’m looking at you Get A Grip).
They’re a cynical corporation of a band these days. More a touring theme park ride than a rock and roll band kicking out the jams. I did see that they’ve opened all the shows in their most recent farewell tour with Let The Music Do The Talking though. That was the comeback single from the lost album Done With Mirrors that did no business at all.
So who knows… Maybe they’re redressing the balance.