30 Years Ago: Aerosmith Goes Kinda Country on ‘Cryin”
Aerosmith recorded their gargantuan 1993 album Get a Grip in Los Angeles and Vancouver, but they let a little bit of Nashville seep into the country-tinged mega-ballad "Cryin'," released as a single on June 20, 1993.
The Boston rockers were riding high off the back-to-back multiplatinum successes of Permanent Vacation and Pump, which pulled them back from the edge of oblivion and turned them into world-dominating superstars and MTV poster boys. They kept the hot streak going with Get a Grip, which became their first No. 1 album in the United States. But the process wasn't without its hurdles.
Geffen Records A&R guru John Kalodner rejected Aerosmith's first batch of songs outright and told them, according to Steven Tyler, "Stop now and write a new album, or I'm taking my name off the record."
Aerosmith relocated from Los Angeles to Vancouver, home to producer Bruce Fairbairn's Little Mountain Sound Studios, and started working up new songs with a handful of outside songwriters. Tyler and Joe Perry teamed up with Nashville songwriter Taylor Rhodes for "Cryin'," a sweeping power ballad in the same vein as previous Top 10 hits "Angel" and "What It Takes" but with a touch more twang. "Listen to the lyrics," Tyler told Rolling Stone in 2015. "It was country — we just Aerosmith'd it."
Kalodner, as always, was especially hard on Tyler throughout the songwriting process. "John Kalodner didn't like the lyrics to 'Cryin'" and for a month the walls of my room were covered with Scotch tape and scraps of paper — covered," he recalled in his 2011 memoir Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? "I rewrote the lyrics to that song till I tore a hole in my brain — three, four times — and after the month I went, 'Fuck it! I'm singing the original lyrics.'"
Watch Aerosmith's 'Cryin'' Video
The problem, Tyler explained, was that Kalodner "was hearing [the words] literally and I was singing between the notes. He didn't understand that it doesn't matter what the fuck I sing if it ain't got that thing. I would be scatting, which sticks to your soul … but he was looking for meaning and understanding, which you ain't gonna find in that [second] verse 'cause I didn't write it that way. It just sings so good with the melody I wrote that it's irrefutable."
Boosting the song's commercial appeal was a flashy music video starring 16-year-old Alicia Silverstone, who shoves her unfaithful boyfriend out of a car and embarks on a rebellious, soul-searching road trip. Silverstone was fresh off her film debut in 1993's The Crush, which caught the attention of "Cryin'" director Marty Callner. "He liked what he saw in the movie," she told Rolling Stone in 1995. "And what he saw was a good actress, not a pretty girl. It's about what you have inside."
Viewers also liked what they saw, and "Cryin'" became another huge hit for Aerosmith, peaking at No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and winning Video of the Year at the 1994 MTV Video Music Awards. Callner cast Silverstone in the band's next two videos, "Amazing" and "Crazy," which in turn helped her secure the lead role in the iconic 1995 teen comedy Clueless. None of it came as a surprise to the budding superstar.
"Aerosmith made a hell of a lot of money off that video,” Silverstone said. "Their sales tripled or something. They would have been crazy not to ask me back."