A ranking of the band’s definitive riffs that rock all the way

Aerosmith [© Zack Whitford/Aerosmith]

Over a career spanning over five decades, rock music icons Aerosmith have compiled a discography rivaled by very few. They started out as five bad boys from Boston playing stripped down, blues-based rock ‘n’ roll. Over the next five decades, the band has expanded their sound and reinvented themselves on numerous occasions. This has resulted in GRAMMY® Award-winning songs and multi-platinum power ballads. Songs like “Cryin’,” “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” have given Aerosmith their greatest commercial successes.

If you go all the way back to their first album, it was the slow, brooding “Dream On” that put them on the map. However, let’s not forget that Aerosmith is still a certified hard rock band at its core. They have plenty of tracks that totally rip, and a few of them have been covered by the likes of Testament, Metal Church, and Babylon A.D. Keeping in mind that being “heavy” isn’t necessarily about volume, but more often attitude, here’s the definitive ranking of Aerosmith’s heaviest cuts. When their final tour kicks off in a few days, hopefully they pull a lot of tracks from this list.

20. Same Old Song and Dance (Get Your Wings, 1974)

A raw blues rocker from the band’s sophomore effort, “Same Old Song and Dance” features riffy guitar work from both Joe Perry and Brad Whitford with no filler.

19. Walk On Water (Big Ones, 1994)

One of two brand new songs that Aerosmith added to their 1994 greatest hits compilation, “Walk On Water” kicks off the album with some heaviness. Complete with frontman Steven Tyler’s demon scream and harmonica playing, the track is classic Aerosmith.

18. Attitude Adjustment (Nine Lives, 1997)

The first of three Nine Lives tracks on this countdown, “Attitude Adjustment” in a way embodies with this album was about – attitude. One of the band’s heavier records overall, the band really let it rip on this one and the result is perhaps the most underrated album in their entire catalog. Fans and critics who look down upon it should really take the advice of our No. 18 song here.

17. Walkin’ the Dog (Aerosmith, 1973)

Simple and riffy, “Walkin’ the Dog” is early Aerosmith at its finest. It’s a pure blues rocker with some extra riff. Along with “Mama Kin,” they flank the album’s main cut “Dream On” perfectly.

16. Something’s Gotta Give (Nine Lives, 1997)

Much like “Walk On Water,” “Something’s Gotta Give” features a lot of Tyler’s harmonica. There’s even a harmonica solo instead of a guitar solo. Paired with guitarist Joe Perry’s slide guitar, the country-tinged track just work. With drummer Joey Kramer’s fast pace, it grooves pretty hard.

15. Crash (Nine Lives, 1997)

Aerosmith’s punk rock moment. A furious banger, Joe Perry absolutely shreds on the solos. The song doesn’t let up until the outro, which features – yep, you guessed it – more harmonica.

14. Nine Live (Nine Lives, 1997)

The title track of the album that also kicks off, Joe Perry starts if off with one single note that fades into ear-piercing feedback while Steven Tyler begins shrieking like cat. When the rest of the band kicks in, Steven lets out a career-defining scream that reinforces why they call him the Demon of Screamin’. Multiple guitar solos serve as the cherry on top. While previous outings like Permanent Vacation and Pump featured milder guitar tones, Perry and fellow axman Brad Whitford cranked their rigs up and brought the distortion back for this record.

13. S.O.S. (Too Bad) (Get Your Wings, 1974)

On their second album, Aerosmith took tremendous strides. They avoided the sophomore slump with the help of songs like this one. Short but sweet, “S.O.S. (Too Bad)” is a pure piece of vintage rock ‘n’ roll.

12. Walk This Way (Toys In The Attic, 1975)

The legendary track “Walk This Way” is probably Aerosmith’s most recognizable riff. Made even more famous with their 1986 collaboration with rap icons Run-DMC, the original (and best) version grooves super hard with the help of Joe Perry’s jackhammer guitar riff. One of the best rock songs ever written – period.

11. Last Child (Rocks, 1976)

From their stacked 1976 album Rocks, “Last Child” boasts one of the band’s coolest riffs. Whitford’s rhythm action underneath Perry’s solo is just as captivating, concrete evidence that they are easily a Top 5 all-time guitar duo. Steven screaming the song’s title makes it an absolutely killer cut.

10. Love In An Elevator (Pump, 1989)

Anchored by a riff that seems to never end, Aerosmith cranked out one of their biggest hits of their career just before the turn of the decade with “Love In An Elevator.” It was the lead single from the Pump, and a perfect way to introduce fans to what would quickly become another multi-platinum smash for the band. Lots of great guitar work with some down and dirty lyrics by Steven T, it’s no wonder that this juggernaut sits near the top of their catalog.

9. Eat the Rich (Get a Grip, 1993)

The second single from the band’s 1993 chart-topping LP, “Eat the Rich” features some very solid guitar work. With riffs that go on and on, the guitar tones have a good amount of distortion. Along with “Fever,” the track adds some balance to record ballad-heavy record that features some of the band’s biggest hits like “Cryin’,” and “Amazing,” as well as “Crazy” and Livin’ on the Edge” which both garnered the band a GRAMMY® Award.

8. Rats In the Cellar (Rocks, 1976) 

A highlight from Aerosmith’s hit-filled watershed album Rocks, “Rats In the Cellar” kicks maximum ass from start to finish. The song was covered by Bay Area rockers Babylon A.D. on their 1998 live album, Live In Your Face.

7. Sweet Emotion (Toys In The Attic, 1975)

After perhaps the most recognizable intro in rock history thanks to bassist Tom Hamilton, “Sweet Emotion” delivers some of the group’s most incredible guitar work. In between verses, Perry and Whitford sound like absolute jackhammers delivering a brutally heavy riff before seamlessly transitioning to the song’s smooth chorus. While it isn’t their heaviest cut, the song stands alone as the crown jewel of their entire catalog.

6. Round and Round (Toys In The Attic, 1975)

This one is self-explanatory. Just three notes of Sabbath-style riffage that can make even the most stubborn head bang. Throw your horns up and crank it.

5. Get the Lead Out (Rocks, 1976)

Another banger from arguably their best album. Drenched in bluesy goodness, “Get the Lead Out” features another one of the band’s coolest riffs – and, more harmonica, of course.

4. Bone to Bone (Coney Island White Fish Boy) (Night In the Ruts, 1979)

After releasing their two best (and heaviest) records back to back in 1975 and 1976, expectations were incredibly high for Aerosmith. After following up with Draw the Line in 1977, the band returned in 1979 with Night in the Ruts. Hindered by substance abuse and internal turmoil, Aerosmith managed to turn out a fairly decent record, even guitarist Joe Perry leaving the band during the recording process. The album’s high point is “Bone to Bone (Coney Island White Fish Boy), a ferocious rocker that sees Aerosmith put the medal to the metal for all 2 minutes and 59 seconds. With dazzling guitar work and a breakdown after the solos, it’s undoubtedly one of the band’s most underrated songs.

3. Back In the Saddle (Rocks, 1975)

When Steven Tyler screamed, “I’m Back,” at the beginning of this gem, most had never heard a voice with that kind of guttural ferocity coming through their speakers. It was a scream that would undoubtedly influence many metal singers for generations to come. The unbridled ferocity of this anthem speaks for itself.

2. “Nobody’s Fault” – Rocks [1976]

Perhaps Aerosmith’s most metal song, “Nobody’s Fault” might be the heaviest hitter on an album chock full of heavy hitters. While the band has put out plenty of bangers in conjunction with their radio-friendly pop rock, “Nobody’s Fault” is one of the best examples of Aerosmith as a pure hard rock act. The track’s potential was realized in 1988 when thrash metal titans Testament released their brutal cover of it.

1. “Toys In the Attic” – Toys In the Attic (1975)

After breaking out with their sophomore effort Get Your Wings less than a prior, Aerosmith brought it all together with their 1975 masterpiece Toys In the Attic. While Wings was very bluesy and melodic, the band set the tone right out of the gate on Toys. The sound of drummer Joey Kramer’s single cymbal softly fades in, then the rest of the band explodes through the stereo.

Just like “Nobody’s Fault,” “Toys In the Attic” got the metal treatment on Metal Church’s 1999 album Masterpeace.

The track had all of the new-found ferocity of songs from their contemporaries across the pond, like Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll,” Deep Purple’s “Highway Star,” and Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid.” Aerosmith’s “Toys In the Attic” followed suit, standing alone as the hardest-rocking song the band has ever recorded. While they had already put themselves on the map, “Toys In the Attic” was the sound of Aerosmith kicking the fuckin’ door down.