Released in 1975, “Sweet Emotion” led the Steven Tyler and Aerosmith down a road of massive success. It was the classic rock band’s first single to crack the top 40 of Billboard’s Hot 100 list, earning them bigger gigs with a larger audience. However, even Aerosmith’s biggest fans never noticed the distinct sound of one of the instruments breaking while listening to the single.
Steven Tyler admits he broke the instrument you can hear in the song
An Aerosmith fan page on TikTok recently shared a clip from an old interview where lead singer Steven Tyler points out the mishap. While appearing on The Howard Stern Show in 2013, he told the host to listen carefully as the song played in the background.
“Listen. Hear that?” Tyler asked Howard Stern during the “Sweet Emotion” intro. “It’s called a vibraslap,” he explained. “You can hear it break. Watch. Did you hear that? I broke it. We left it in.”
Stern seemed in disbelief, questioning, “What do you mean it broke?”
The Aerosmith singer reiterated what happened, casually stating, “I hit it, and it broke, and we left it in.”
The vibraslap is a percussion instrument that makes a rattling noise, similar to the sound that occurs when you flick a spring doorstop. Apparently, they’re also pretty fragile.
Steven Tyler wrote ‘Sweet Emotion’ about the tension between him and Joe Perry
Happy Birthday Tom “Mr. Sweet Emotion” Hamilton! Sound off and give him a big Blue Army happy birthday!! pic.twitter.com/lR2eC25sWH
— Aerosmith (@Aerosmith) December 31, 2022
In the ’70s, the members of Aerosmith spent most of their time partying. The band’s drummer, Joey Kramer, described those years on tour in an episode of VH1’s Behind The Music. “I was a drug addict dabbling in music, as opposed to a musician dabbling in drugs.”
Both Steven Tyler and Aerosmith’s lead guitarist Joe Perry admitted to drug addictions at this time in their careers that began affecting their performances. They were often too high or dope sick to perform, disappointing fans and causing tension between the bandmates. Tensions rose when Perry stopped sharing his stash with Tyler and instead shared it with his first wife, Elyssa Perry.
According to Far Out Magazine, Tyler wrote the opening lines of “Sweet Emotion” with Elyssa in mind. “Talk about things that nobody cares, wearing out things that nobody wears,” was written out of anger after their feud came to a head. During a desperate search for drugs, Tyler went to Perry and Elyssa’s hotel room, hoping they would share. When they refused, Tyler was outraged.
Spilled milk caused Joe Perry to quit the band
High tension and drug use didn’t end with the band members. Their wives were also big partiers, and the issues between bandmates created feuds between the women on tour. According to Ultimate Classic Rock, an altercation between the wives on July 28, 1979 kicked off a series of events that led to Perry’s exit.
Before Aerosmith took the stage, Elyssa and bassist Tom Hamilton’s wife, Terry Cohen, were arguing when Elyssa threw a glass of milk at Terry. What has since become known as the infamous “spilled milk” incident created chaos backstage and a heated argument between Perry and Tyler.
In Aerosmith’s biography Walk This Way, guitarist Brad Whitford recalled the incident. “I wouldn’t even change in the dressing room because they were screaming and throwing shit… Being in Aerosmith was like walking into a dog fight and both dogs bite you.”
At the end of the show, everyone was outraged, resulting in Perry leaving Aerosmith. Fortunately, the separation was only temporary, as Perry rejoined the band in 1984.
“Sweet Emotion” continues to be one of Aerosmith’s most successful songs. Over the years, it was covered by some of history’s most influential bands, including Nirvana, Dave Matthews Band, and the Zac Brown Band.