Home Music Music Lists

Readers’ Poll: The 10 Best Aerosmith Songs of All Time

Your picks include ‘Mama Kin,’ ‘Sweet Emotion’ and ‘Back In the Saddle’

Aerosmith

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

It may have taken 11 years, but Aerosmith finally returned this week with their new album, Music From Another Dimension! To promote the disc, the band went on a full-scale media assault, appearing on The Today Show, NPR and every other media outlet that would have them. They also did a giant outdoor show outside their former apartment in Boston.

The band resumes its American tour later this week in Oklahoma City, so we figured this was a good time to poll our readers and figure out their top 10 Aerosmith songs. Click through to see the results. 

Play video

10. ‘What It Takes’

It's half-forgotten now but, in the early 1980s, Aerosmith were completely washed up. Joe Perry and Brad Whitford had left the band and Steven Tyler was a strung-out mess. They seemed like one of many 1970s bands sleepwalking through their old hits on the club circuit and releasing albums that were dead on arrival.

Unlike, say, Grand Funk Railroad, Aerosmith were unwilling to roll over and die. They caught a lucky break when Rick Rubin brought them into the studio with Run-DMC for a remake of "Walk This Way," and they followed it up with a series of increasingly popular albums for Geffen. Their success was partially explained by a willingness to work with outside songwriters. Desmond Child helped Bon Jovi craft "Livin' on a Prayer," and shortly after that, he co-write the ballad "What It Takes" with Joe Perry and Steven Tyler. It was the fourth single on Pump, and it shot to Number Nine on the Billboard Hot 100. Even many Aerosmith fans who hate the ballads tend to make an exception for this one. 

Play video

9. ‘Last Child’

Aerosmith were riding very high in 1976. They had finally broken through to the Top 40 the previous year with "Walk This Way" and they had graduated from clubs to arenas. Many fans feel this period peaked with the release of Rocks in May 1976. It opens with "Back in the Saddle" and doesn't let up until the finale of "Home Tonight." The second track, the über-funky "Last Child," was written by Steven Tyler and guitarist Brad Whitford. It was the first single from the LP, and it peaked at Number Nine. It remains Whitford's signature song and it's been in their setlist for decades. 

Play video

8. ‘Janie’s Got a Gun’

Aerosmith have never been a band that tackled serious issues but, in 1989, Steven Tyler read an article in Newsweek about gun violence and began writing a deceptively dark song about a girl who kills her sexually abusive father. The lyrics originally went "He raped a little bitty baby," but he ultimately changed it to "He jacked a little bitty baby" so it could get some radio play. The song still stirred up some controversy because some thought it encouraged vigilante justice. Nevertheless, the video went into heavy rotation on MTV and the song reached Number Four on the Hot 100. 

Play video

7. ‘Mama Kin’

Everything that's great about Aerosmith was apparent on their 1973 debut LP, but it took a couple of years for the world to catch on. "Dream On" was the only song from the disc to score on the charts, peaking at Number 59. (Three years later, a re-release reached Number Six.) The single "Mama Kin" didn't come close to entering the charts, even though most fans today regard it as one of their finest.

"That was a song I brought with me when I joined Aerosmith," Steven Tyler says in the band's oral history, Walk This Way. "I took the lick from an old Blodwyn Pig song…I had so much confidence in that song, I had 'Ma Kin' tattooed on my arm." Around the time the song came out, Aerosmith were dismissed as a poor man's Rolling Stones. Thirteen years later, Guns N' Roses put a cover of the song on their debut EP Live  ?!*@ Like a Suicide. Critics dismissed them as a poor man's Aerosmith. 

Play video

6. ‘Seasons of Wither’

Aerosmith first teamed up with producer Jack Douglas on their second LP, Get Your Wings, in 1974. Nearly 40 years later, Douglas is still working with the band and he's responsible for many of their greatest works. Get Your Wings didn't have a single hit on it, but nearly every track is a fan favorite. The mournful "Seasons of Wither" was written by Steven Tyler at a house he shared with Joey Kramer near an old chicken farm in Needham, Massachusetts. "I was pissed off about my taxes and getting mad helps me to write," Tyler said. "So one night I went down to the basement where we had a rug on the floor and a couple of boxes of furniture and took a few Tuinals and a few Seconals and I scooped up this guitar Joey gave me, this Dumpster guitar, and I lit some incense and wrote 'Seasons of Wither.'"

Play video

5. ‘I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing’

"I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" is the most polarizing song in the entire Aerosmith catalog. Penned by Diane Warren, the ballad spent four weeks at Number One in 1998 and it's the single biggest hit in Aerosmith's catalog. Many old-school fans saw it as a sell-out move, but it also introduced the band to an entirely new audience.

It came at a time when Aerosmith really needed a hit. It had been four long years since Get a Grip, and the follow-up disc Nine Lives was a huge disappointment. The band was also at each other's throats, when suddenly this song from the soundtrack to Armageddon absolutely exploded; it gave them yet another lease on life. In concert nowadays, it's a bathroom break for some, but others break out their iPhones and burst into tears. 

Play video

4. ‘Back in the Saddle’

Aerosmith knew they wanted to open their 1976 LP Rocks with a huge, anthemic song. "We recorded it to have this larger-than-life vibe," said producer Jack Douglas. "To bring the band right into the middle of the kid's head when he put it on his headphones late at night… At the Record Plant, we were talking about Gene Autry's 'Back in the Saddle Again' and Steven thought it was about fucking your girlfriend again, and I'm saying, 'I wish we could use this saddle image as a way of saying, 'Here's another album, folks, and we're gonna rock out and I've got my spurs on.'"

Play video

3. ‘Walk This Way’

Aerosmith were midway through their 1975 classic Toys in the Attic when they took a break to see the new Mel Brooks movie Young Frankenstein in Times Square. In the film, Igor tells Doctor Frankenstein to "walk this way." He proceeds to mimic his disfigured limp. The band nearly fell out of their seats laughing and the next day, Steven Tyler decided to write a song around the line. That night, he popped a Tuinal and wrote out the lyrics, only to lose them in a cab. On the fly, he scribbled some lines the next day in the studio about a "high school loser" getting laid for the first time.

The song became a huge hit, and years later, rappers all around New York isolated Joey Kramer's drum loop from the very beginning and built songs around it. Eventually, Run-DMC re-cut the entire song with Joe Perry and Steven Tyler and it brought Aerosmith back from obscurity. 

Play video

2. ‘Sweet Emotion’

With "Sweet Emotion," Aerosmith finally cracked the Top 40. The single let them move countless copies of Toys in the Attic and truly helped them enter a new stratosphere of fame. What few fans realized was that the song is about Joe Perry's ex-wife, Elyssa. To put it mildly, Steven Tyler didn't like her. "I couldn't get next to Joe when she was around," said Tyler, "which was all the time. She was doing all his drugs. Before she came along, I was doing all his drugs. It was a big problem." That might better help you understand lines like, "You talk about things that nobody cares/ You're wearing out things that nobody wears." Elyssa is long out of Perry's life, but "Sweet Emotion" remains one of Aerosmith's signature songs. 

Play video

1. ‘Dream On’

Steven Tyler wrote "Dream On" on a Steinway upright piano about four years before Aerosmith even formed. "It's about dreaming until your dreams come true," Tyler said. "It's about hunger and desire and ambition to be somebody that Aerosmith felt in those days. You can hear it in the grooves because it's there. It was 'Make it, don't break it' for real." The song barely cracked the Top 60 when they released it in 1973, but they knew it was a classic song, so after Toys in the Attic broke, they re-released an edited version of it that shot to the top of the charts all around the world. The band has played the song countless times, but it always gets the biggest reaction of the night. It also received almost 100 more votes than any other song in this poll. 

Show Comments