For Aerosmith’s Joe Perry and Steven Tyler, there was one moment — one song — that forged their musical bond: The Yardbirds’ version of “Train Kept a Rollin.'”
Perry, in an interview with Redbeard’s In the Studio, said he and fellow future Aerosmith stalwart Tom Hamilton were intrigued by blues figures like Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters — but they were always moved the energy of rock.
The Yardbirds’ song met both criteria. “Train Kept A-Rollin'” was originally co-written by Tiny Bradshaw, whose 1951 jump-blues version was his best-known hit. Later, the song was remade in an early-rock style by Johnny Burnette in 1956.
The Yardbirds included their own take on 1965’s Having a Rave Up, and a live version was later included on Live Yardbirds: Featuring Jimmy Page from 1971. “Train Kept A-Rollin'” was also the very first song Led Zeppelin performed, after Page subsequently founded that band in 1968.
Fast forward a few years, and a young Perry could be found working the song into an early garage-rock band’s set list. Same with Tyler.
Once they met, something clicked. “We weren’t really like blues fanatics,” Perry tells Redbeard. “I mean we knew where it came from and we were inspired by it. But we liked the energy and the excitement of the rock. So the song that we had in common (with Tyler) was this song called ‘Train Kept A’Rollin.’ … And I don’t think we realized it, at that point, how important it was to us.”
Perry says conversations between musicians back then always started with which songs they knew. When he realized that Tyler was also doing his own tandem take on the Yardbirds’ version, the guitarist felt a connection. “For us, it was just that one song — ’cause Steven’s band was a little more vocal heavy,” Perry tells Redbeard. “Tom and I were more into the crunchy guitar stuff; to us singing was just something to take up space between guitar solos!”
Though the genesis of Aerosmith traces back to a blues song, Perry is careful to delineate the difference between what they do and Bradshaw’s age-old craft — not to mention the Yardbirds. “We’re a rock band and we have been influenced by the blues,” Perry said. “I mean all of our pop music that we listen to now comes from the blues. Everything has its roots there. So we just wanted to kind of honor that and then put our own stamp on those kind of tunes.”