"Dream On," The Single That Saved Aerosmith

By | August 11, 2022

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Aerosmith - "Midnight Special" June 1974 Burbank, CA. at the NBC Studios in Burbank, California. Getty

In 1973 Aerosmith’s “Dream On” debuted with middling success. But without it, the iconic rock band might have drifted into obscurity. Interestingly, frontman Steven Tyler began writing the song years before the idea of the band became a reality. As he recalled, " 'Dream On' came of me playing the piano when I was about 17 or 18, and I didn't know anything about writing a song. It was just this little thing I was playing, and I never dreamed it would end up as a real song or anything."

Not only did Tyler dream up Aerosith’s first belated hit with an inspirational anthem but he gave the band just enough runway to lift off into the stratosphere of fame and fortune. The song also gave fans a taste of Tyler’s unconventional voice. The first time Aerosmith played “Dream On'' it earned them a bottle of gin, $175, and a bad case of crabs. Obviously, they’ve come a long way thanks in large part to “Dream On.”

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Photo Joe Perry and Steven Tyler. Getty

Start Em Young

While the first inklings of “Dream On” came in his teens, Tyler’s musical foundations started much earlier. His father, who was a musician, would play the piano and he would listen for hours lying at his dad’s feet. As he said, "That's where I got that 'Dream On' chordage.”

A Suitcase Full Of Dreams

However, to get to the big time you need more than hopes and dreams. Even the greats require a splash of luck. For Aerosmith and Tyler, that luck came in the form of a suitcase full of, most likely, drug money. Reportedly, the frontman happened upon the briefcase before using it to buy an RMI keyboard. When some tough characters came around asking about a briefcase, Tyler played dumb. What became the “suitcase incident” and his inspiration for “Dream On” went hand in hand:

"It's about the hunger to be somebody: Dream until your dreams come true. This song sums up the s--t you put up with when you're in a new band. Most of the critics panned our first album and said we were ripping off the Stones. That's a good barometer of my anger at the press, which I still have.”

Tough Sledding

As Tyler mentioned, Aerosmith’s first album failed to light up the world but it was not necessarily due to their own shortcomings. Columbia Records, at the time, had its hands full with Bruce Springsteen’s first album, leaving Aerosmith as the black sheep brother without any real promotion. The studio even considered dropping the group until the band’s management team talked them into releasing “Dream On” as a single. Columbia agreed and thanks to that tiny push, “Dream On” managed to climb to #59 on Billboard’s charts giving Aerosmith new life.