Classic Albums: Aerosmith – Pump


Anybody remember a time when AEROSMITH wasn’t some hack band churning out ballad after ballad in a desperate attempt to hold on to their careers as rock stars? I do. And for me that time was September 12, 1989. That was the day they released Pump, which took the formula of 1987’s Permanent Vacation and improved on it by making it ballsier and more bombastic. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t always dislike AEROSMITH. But a litany of ridiculous albums and singles has followed since then, plus they fired shots across the bow for no reason at my beloved KISS in 2012, PLUS their only #1 hit is a song they DIDN’T WRITE!! But I digress. Oh…did I not mention? Welcome to Classic Albums.

I ‘ll never forget biking to Record Collection, picking this one up, and popping it in the CD player…and then falling off the bed and running to lower the bass booster because the goddamn room was shaking as soon as “Young Lust” kicked in!! This song should be among the top album openers of all time for the way it flips you; flips you for real (right, Fenster?) My first thought after falling off the bed was, “Fuck!! My Maxell XL-II 90 bass-laden tape I’m making of this is gonna be fucked!!” before I picked myself up and realized what a ride I was in for. The rapid-fire boom of this number still resonates with me to this day, and I am instantly 16 again in my room at 113 Berkeley Place rockin’ out before Mom (aka the DRC) came home. Steven Tyler never sounded better than he did here, and drummer Joey Kramer is in complete fucking control of this one from start to finish. The late Bruce Fairbairn struck oil production-wise in all of ten seconds. “F.I.N.E.” has the perfect amount of sass to get the ladies up and shaking their goods, while Tyler’s tongue-in-cheek delivery is perfect for the time.

But the real treat comes in first single “Love In An Elevator”, a song that still gets a ton of airplay on rock radio today, and with good reason. If I had to pick one song to define fall 1989, THIS would be it. And as my poor friend Russell can attest, I made him listen to this in his father’s station wagon over and over and over again! Even though he was driving all over Long Island I’m pretty sure he was ready to jump out the window after a while. This track showed just how incredible a band they used to be. Joe Perry absolutely burned on guitar, as did his counterpart Brad Whitford, and bassist Tom Hamilton and Mr. Kramer were locked in a pocket few can ever hope to achieve. Fuck, the memories that come back every time I hear this one always make me smile. And that end harmony? WOW! Today’s bands couldn’t do that no matter how hard they tried.

The band tackled some hard-hitting issues, rape and incest, on megahit “Janie’s Got a Gun” which shows a darker side of AEROSMITH, while keeping it somewhat upbeat if you can believe that. I remember sitting in my room, talking to my girlfriend on my frog phone (shut up! I won it!) and hearing the words and being like, “I gotta call you back, baby” because I knew instantly what we were dealing with and I needed to hear it again to be sure.  Another hit follows with “The Other Side” and then “My Girl” takes us back to older boogie-rock territory. My other favorite besides “Elevator” though will always be “Don’t Get Mad, Get Even”, a blues-soaked number that you can picture hearing in some dingy bar and screaming, “Testify!!” It’s dirty and sleazy, and it sounded awesome at Nassau Coliseum in January of 1990. “Hoodoo/Vodoo Medicine Man” has a darker and heavier sound than the rest of the record, moving into uncharted waters.

Last song “What It Takes” was/is another smash hit that let’s face it, when it comes on now, we all turn it up and sing, don’t we? This is the last good ballad AEROSMITH did, fuck that bullshit from 1993 and beyond. Bottom line is this: Pump is when AEROSMITH peaked. Everything about this record is flawless, from the performances to the boom-tastic production. I have so many great memories attached to these songs: making out with girls, air-drumming in my room, watching 41-year old Steven Tyler put younger bands to shame onstage, and the list goes on. And that’s why this is a Classic Album.     ~dc

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