Before Aerosmith made it big, the band opted for some interesting techniques in the recording studio. While it’s common for musicians to use non-traditional instruments on a track, Aerosmith’s creative recording of “Sweet Emotion” takes the cake. Even the band’s biggest fans could have never guessed the inventive way Steven Tyler utilized a sugar packet in the classic rock hit.
Steven Tyler picked up a sugar packet when he couldn’t find maracas
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Tyler’s 2013 appearance on The Howard Stern Show resurfaced on TikTok recently, offering some fascinating insight into how Aerosmith recorded what would become their breakout hit. While listening to “Sweet Emotion,” Tyler asked Howard Stern to listen carefully.
“Listen to the front of the song. You hear that?” Tyler asked, mimicking the maracas. “We get there with a SIR drum kit. No maracas. We’re doing f****** this song, no maracas.”
Instead of delaying their recording session, Tyler got innovative.
“I looked in the bottom, and it was a sugar packet. And I went, I said, ‘Jack, turn the mic up.’” Tyler then mimicked the maracas again, implying the sounds we all thought were a precision instrument actually came from garbage found on the floor.
Other musicians have used non-traditional instruments in their songs
Tyler is hardly the first musician to pick up something nearby to get the right sound for a song. Soundgarden famously featured Seattle street performer “Artis The Spoonman” playing spoons on their song, suitably titled “Spoonman.” According to Kerrang, the song that launched the band into mainstream music also features the sounds of clashing pots and pans, performed by the band’s drummer, Matt Cameron.
Music Times reported other bands implementing non-traditional instruments, including a crowbar hitting the ground featured in Martha & The Vandellas’ “Dancing in The Street.” Other instances like this include Kurt Cobain using a rubber duck on Nirvana‘s track “Drain You,” a pepper shaker in “Oceans” by Pearl Jam, and Eddie Van Halen’s handmade car horn device powered by a car battery used in “Runnin’ With The Devil.”
‘Sweet Emotion’ led to Aerosmith’s big break
Aerosmith perform on the Midnight Special TV Show in Los Angeles, 1978. Photo by Michael Ochs. pic.twitter.com/nD5krb1AW9
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It turns out Tyler’s impromptu sugar packet as maracas was exactly what the band needed to achieve stardom. Released in 1975, “Sweet Emotion” climbed Billboard’s Hot 100 list, giving Aerosmith access to bigger shows. According to MTV, the song’s success prompted the re-release of “Dream On,” which earned a spot in the Top Ten.
Despite finally achieving success, drug addiction tormented the band and created tension between Tyler and lead guitarist Joe Perry. Perry’s wife, Elyssa Perry, also caused friction between bandmates and their wives. According to Far Out Magazine, Tyler’s frustrations helped him develop some of the lyrics for “Sweet Emotion.”
The singer confessed he wrote the song’s opening lines about Elyssa. “Talk about things that nobody cares, wearing out things that nobody wears,” was written out of anger after drug addiction amplified their feud. In an episode of VH1’s Behind The Music, Tyler admitted his rivalry with Perry began when his bandmate refused to share his drugs.
While the tension ultimately led to Perry leaving Aerosmith, it inspired one of the band’s greatest hits.