Like most serious fans of swaggering 1970s rock, I consider Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" to be one of the greatest songs ever recorded.
So when I interviewed the man behind the song's monster riff, bassist Tom Hamilton (pictured, second from left), I couldn't resist bringing it up.
Anyway, here's Hamilton talking "Sweet Emotion," which first appeared on Aerosmith's landmark 1975 album "Toys in the Attic."
Me: I gotta ask. How did you come up with the killer riff of “Sweet Emotion”? I read you were inspired by Jeff Beck’s “Rough and Ready” (album).
Hamilton: We all lived in this apartment together and we had a stereo set up and listened to music together and Jeff Beck's "Rough and Ready" was on a lot. We're all Jeff Beck fans and he was going through a new phase. We would put it on and I was just absorbing the bass playing, how funky it was and energetic and thought, that is really cool. I didn’t try and learn anything but a lot of ideas just sank in. (On "Sweet Emotion") there's the intro bass part, then verses, then the fast part, then the parts in between — those were the parts inspired by "Rough and Ready."
Me: Did you know you had come up with something special? Were you like, "Hey guys, listen to this!"
Hamilton: No, I've always been kind of shy about bringing my writing to the band. When I was first starting off with "Sweet Emotion" we were between "Get Your Wings" and "Toys in the Attic" and I played it for Steven and he was kind of encouraging and kind of like, "Next, what's going on?" So I ran back to my corner and developed more parts to my song. Then, what happened was we finished the basic tracks for "Toys" and (producer Jack Douglas) said we had a day to spare and if anyone had a spare riff, let’s hear it. So I stood up and said I have this thing. By the end of the day we had the arrangement done. But then were finished. Joey, Brad and I had to go up to Boston while Steven and Joe finished the album. Six weeks later, Steven and Joe come back all done and I heard that song and the rest of the album and it just blew my mind.
—Publicity photo of Aerosmith — from left Joe Perry (guitar), Tom Hamilton (bass), Steven Tyler (vocals), Joey Kramer (drums) and Brad Whitford (guitar) — by Ross Haflin.