Meeting Aerosmith Backstage in Sacramento
by Alex Cosper, March 11, 2017

Alex Cosper with Aerosmith on September 9, 1988

I had the pleasure of meeting the band Aerosmith on three occasions, each time backstage at Cal Expo in Sacramento. The first time (top photo) was when Guns N' Roses opened for them on September 9, 1988. I remember listening to singer Steve Tyler talk to a group of people about how "kids care more about what's not a hit today than what's a hit." He mentioned how kids share cassette tapes of up and coming bands. At the time the band was enjoying a major comeback with their Geffen album Permanent Vacation after a long hiatus.

The show was great, but unfortunately it ended in disaster for Tyler. He was hit in the eye with an object from the crowd and he announced "some stupid MF hit me in the eye with a rock and now there's blood all over the stage." He was in the middle of singing "Dream On" near the end of the show, right after singing the line "and all the things come back to you." Later reports said it was a lighter, but he still had to be taken to the hospital for stitches. Earlier in the evening Guns N' Roses singer Axel Rose was hit in the face with a flying object, in which he briefly stopped the show to advise the crowd to if they saw who did it to "kill em."

It just happened to be the week that the band's first hit single "Sweet Child O' Mine" was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in its 12th week on the chart. Aerosmith was at #55 that week with "Rag Doll," which was on the way down in its 15th week after peaking at #17 three weeks earlier. Guns N' Roses, also on Geffen, had the number one album for five weeks leading into the show, which was their debut LP Appetite For Destruction. It went on to sell 13 million albums, whereas Aerosmith's latest LP at the time, Permanent Vacation, only made #11 the previous year and sold about 5 million units.

There was a good argument that Guns N' Roses was the hotter act at the time, but Aerosmith certainly deserved the headlining slot due to longevity and a much more familiar set of songs. I had just been named Music Director around that time after four years of serving as Assistant Music Director. Aerosmith had been one of my favorite rock bands and I had liked them since the seventies. I was disappointed with whoever threw the objects on stage that night and didn't understand why those people even went to the show.

In the above photo Tyler has his arms around Pamela Roberts, who at the time was Music Director at KRXQ, known as 93 Rock at the time. We weren't exactly competitors since KWOD was a top 40 then and there really wasn't the same sense of rivalry we had with KSFM, our contemporary hits competitor. KWOD played both Guns N' Roses and Aerosmith, but not to the degree that 93 Rock did, as we focused on just hit singles, while they also played several album cuts from both bands.

Alex Cosper with Aerosmith 8/7/1993 at Cal Expo, Sacramento, CA

The next time I met Aerosmith was August 7, 1993, three days after my 31st birthday. To the far right in the above photo is KWOD Promotions Director Rob Endsley. This time the band was promoting their album Get a Grip, which had the hit "Livin' On The Edge."

Before the show I actually talked with one of the band members, which was guitarist Joe Perry. I asked him how he knew to get off the train tracks in the video of "Livin' On The Edge" right before it looked like it would run him over. He told me "the train was moving very slow, plus we had radio equipment." His explanation reminded me of what I had learned years earlier about television and video: believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see, since much of what we see on TV is just either staged or an illusion.

KWOD no longer played Aerosmith by this point since it had shifted from contemporary hits to alternative and the band were too engrained in the classic rock format to be considered alternative to the mainstream at that time. The album, just like their previous 1989 release called Pump eventually sold over 7 million units.

Alex Cosper with Aerosmith 10/7/1994 at Cal Expo, Sacramento, CA

The third time I met Aerosmith was on October 7, 1994. It was a month before their retrospective album Big Ones hit the shelves. By then KWOD was deep into the alternative format and arena rock bands were somewhat frowned upon by our audience, although I still liked the band and the rest of the music I grew up listening to. The band still came off as young and energetic, despite the fact that all of the members were in their 40s. That was refreshing to me that a rock band could prove marketers wrong about youth and age demographics.

Even though there were still older rocker bands touring, such as the Rolling Stones, it became part of growing evidence that rockers can maintain a youthful spirit at that age. By the 21st century, the band had sold over 150 million albums in the United States and was in a tie with The Eagles as the best selling American band of all time.

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