Aerosmith Launches Back in the Saddle Tour

When Aerosmith launched their Back in the Saddle Tour on June 22, 1984, they had to prove a lot of things to a lot of people.

They needed to show fans and critics that after five years apart, their classic lineup — Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Tom Hamilton and Joey Kramer — could still rock with the same dominating fury of their heyday as a new crop of bands vied for their crown. They also had to prove to the industry bigwigs who determined their future that they were a worthwhile investment capable of turning their career around, and not just a washed-up liability.

Most importantly, they had to prove to each other that the magic of performing together could outweigh the petty squabbles that tore them apart several years earlier — and that it would be enough to keep their personal demons at bay.

Aerosmith’s Reconciliation Begins on Valentine’s Day 1984

Aerosmith was in dire straits by 1984. Their latest album, 1982’s Rock in a Hard Place, was an overpriced critical and commercial bomb that prompted the departure of Whitford in 1981. Perry had quit the group two years earlier, and in their absence, Aerosmith soldiered on with guitarists Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay. It was a suitable facsimile of the real thing, but the band was further crippled by Tyler’s all-consuming drug addiction and their skyrocketing debts. Their shows were erratic at best, with Tyler routinely collapsing onstage and leaving his bandmates in the lurch.

Perry fared no better, releasing three post-Aerosmith albums with the Joe Perry Project to diminishing returns. But the guitarist’s new manager, Tim Collins, was hell-bent on getting the band back together — not only restoring Aerosmith to their former glory, but transcending it.

Reuniting Aerosmith depended primarily on Tyler and Perry healing old wounds. The reconciliation process began in earnest on Valentine’s Day 1984, when Perry, his girlfriend (and future wife) Billie and Whitford attended the band’s hometown show at Boston’s Orpheum Theatre. Soon after, the whole band conferred at Hamilton’s house to discuss the logistics of a reunion.

READ MORE: Aerosmith Live Albums Ranked

Perry held firm on one condition: He refused to rejoin Aerosmith unless they ditched their managers, Steve Leber and David Krebs. Easier said than done, as the band had recently renewed its management contract and its deal with Columbia Records and was on the hook for five more albums. Tyler, meanwhile, was suspicious of Collins, while the rest of the band had various doubts and financial stipulations.

Ultimately, Aerosmith voted in favor of Collins, who told them to leave the legal wranglings to him while they set about rebuilding the band and preparing to get back on the road. “We were eager to tour,” Perry said in his 2014 memoir Rocks: My Life In and Out of Aerosmith. “I’ve always thought of Aerosmith as primarily a live band who took the music to the people. The studio was often agony. Live was usually a rush. If Aerosmith was to go through a rebirth, it would be a live rebirth. The record could come later. We just had to get back out there and go to work.”

Listen to Aerosmith’s Back in the Saddle Tour Kickoff Show

The band set up shop at the Glen Ellen Country Club in Millis, Massachusetts, and began preparing for the tour. “The first rehearsal? Pretty rough,” Whitford recalled in the band’s 1997 autobiography Walk This Way. “We couldn’t remember some of the songs.” (Around this time, former DJ Mark Parenteau played the band the Toys in the Attic ballad “You See Me Crying,” which Tyler infamously forgot they had written.)

“We’re all in our thirties now,” Perry recalled in Walk This Way. “It’s one thing to say, ‘Alright, men, let’s go,’ and clink our beer bottles. It’s another to show up at rehearsal, another to go onstage and see how the egos come together. Brad had played with the Project, so that was there. But me and Steven being on the same stage felt kind of weird. I wondered, How much am I able to project myself in this? How much are these guys going to take from me? It felt weird.

“But we had to go out and play those songs again, instead of trying to make another album,” he added. “I don’t think we could have done it.”

READ MORE: Aerosmith Ballads: Their 20 Best Tearjerkers

Aerosmith’s Back in the Saddle Tour Gets off to a Rocky — but Rocking — Start

Aerosmith launched the Back in the Saddle Tour on June 22, 1984, at the Capitol Theater in Concord, New Hampshire. The 19-song set included all the requisite classics — “Back in the Saddle,” “Walk This Way, “Dream On,” “Sweet Emotion” — along with deeper cuts like Night in the Ruts‘ “Three Mile Smile” and Rocks‘ “Get the Lead Out.” And in classic Aerosmith fashion, the trek was turbulent from the get-go.

“Steven calls that afternoon [of the first show] and does a number on me,” Collins said in Walk This Way. “‘I’m not going onstage until you, personally, Tim Collins, and nobody else, get me two grams of blow.'” A later show in Springfield, Illinois, was cut short after an intoxicated Tyler fell into the audience, leading to a band scuffle onstage.

For the most part, though, Aerosmith behaved within reason and kept the train on the tracks for 70 shows. The tour grossed $5 million by Collins’ estimation, and a New Year’s Eve performance at Boston’s Orpheum Theatre made up the bulk of the Classics Live II album. “We started doing press again, answering all the predictable questions,” Tyler said. “We tried to be honest. ‘Yes, I’d hated Joe’s guts, but time heals all wounds. Joe is nothing without me, and I’m nothing without him.'”

Aerosmith still had a long way to go before they cemented their comeback, and 1985’s underperforming Done With Mirrors proved they needed to get sober and shake up their album-making process. But it was a reassuring first step for a band that many had long considered trashed and left for dead.

“As far as I’m concerned, we’re back for another 10 years,” Perry told Rolling Stone in September 1984. “As long as we don’t kill each other, we’ll be fine.”

Watch an Aerosmith Back in the Saddle Tour Compilation Video

Aerosmith, 6/22/1984, Capitol Theater, Concord, NH Set List

1. “Back in the Saddle”
2. “Mama Kin”
3. “Bone to Bone (Coney Island White Fish Boy)
4. “Big Ten Inch Record”
5. “Three Mile Smile”
6. “Reefer Head Woman”
7. “Lord of the Thighs”
8. “No More No More”
9. “Last Child”
10. “Get the Lead Out”
11. “Red House”
12. “Lightning Strikes”
13. “Same Old Song and Dance”
14. “Dream On”
15. “Sweet Emotion”
16. “Walk This Way”
17. “Milk Cow Blues”
18. “Toys in the Attic”
19. “Train Kept a Rollin'”

Aerosmith Albums Ranked

Any worst-to-best ranking of Aerosmith must deal with two distinct eras: their sleazy ’70s work and the slicker, more successful ’80s comeback. But which one was better?

Gallery Credit: Ultimate Classic Rock Staff

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