Classic heavy metal band makes a single that is not only a number 1 smash in the charts, but also becomes the signature tune in the highest earning movie of that year at the box office?
That’s right, it could only be Aerosmith, and their 1998 hit ‘I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing’, which was made famous (even more so) in the disaster movie Armageddon. Settle in as Classic Metal Hawk brings you the full story.
The run-up to 1998 was a turbulent time for Aerosmith. (Though arguably, most of their careers have been turbulent in one way or another. The Hawk has already blogged about the Toxic Twins (singer Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry) and about Tyler’s notorious relationship with a young girl.)
So turbulent = normal. What were the issues at that particular time? Well the lead up to their 1997 album ‘Nine Lives’ had plenty of issues. They fired long-time manager Tim Collins in 1996 after clashing with him over their recording schedule. There was a change of producer along the way, Glen Ballard making way for Kevin Shirley. When the record eventually came out, it had mixed reviews, and didn’t do great in the charts. On the subsequent tour, drummer Joey Kramer suffered serious burs when his car caught fire at a gas station.
I know, they were still major rock stars, play me the world’s smallest violin and all that.
Working With a Legend
But still, the band could have used some good news, and it was to come along from an unlikely source. Song writing guru Diane Warren wasn’t renowned for working with rock bands, though she does have a few on her CV – KISS, Bryan Adams and Meatloaf for example. But she’s definitely viewed as more of a pop writer – the list here is almost too long to count. Celine Dion, Belinda Carlisle, Ricky Martin, LeAnn Rimes, you name it.
And indeed, when she first came up with the idea for ‘I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing,’ she’s first envisaged it as a power ballad for someone like Celine Dion. But somehow or other an early demo made its way to the band, right at the time when Touchstone Pictures were looking for an A-List rock band to front the music offering for their planned summer blockbuster, Armageddon.
The band weren’t convinced it was for them at first.
I kind of knew it was going to be a hit, but I didn’t particularly like the song. I didn’t think he suited us. When I first heard it, it was just a demo with piano and vocals. It was hard to imagine how we could put our own stamp on it and make it our song. Only when we managed to do that did he become what he is now. In the end we just had to learn it and play it as a band. So once we started playing it together, it became an Aerosmith piece.Joey Kramer (Aerosmith Drummer)
The movie became somewhat of an Aerosmith vehicle – they contributed no less than 4 songs in the end, adding ‘What Kind of Love are You On?’, ‘Come together’ and ‘Sweet Emotion’, all of which appeared on the album of the movie’s soundtrack.
But it’s ‘I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing’ that seems to stick in people’s minds, as it really the emotional part of the film.
You remember the plot of Armageddon, right? Hollywood suits had decided that movies about asteroids colliding with the earth were the next big thing, with Armageddon and Deep Impact coming hot on the heels of one another in 1998. In the case of Armageddon, NASA realize that an asteroid is heading towards earth, about to create a devastating impact that will likely wipe out all of humankind.
In response, they recruit a team of crack oil and gas drillers led by Bruce Willis, who will all travel to said asteroid by space shuttle, land on its surface, use their drilling equipment to reach its core, plant a nuclear device, then take off on the shuttles before detonating the bomb remotely thereby saving the world, and returning home as heroes. Simples. And in a further plot twist, also on the team is AJ, the dude dating Willis’s on-screen daughter, played by Liv Tyler, who is Steven Tyler’s real-life daughter. With me so far? Great.
Needless to say, things don’t go entirely according to plan. During a re-fuelling stop at the international space station, a broken fuel line causes an explosion, which sees the crew narrowly escape with their lives when they’ve only just reached first base. Then, one of the two space shuttles crashes on approach to the asteroid, killing some crew members, with the survivors at least managing to salvage some of their equipment. Drilling goes slower than expected. More crew and equipment are lost.
In the end, the remote detonator for the bomb is destroyed – someone will have to stay behind and set it off manually. Bruce Willis (who else) stoically takes on this suicide mission, surreptitiously ensuring that AJ will have a chance of survival.
It all leads up to a long and tearful goodbye between Bruce and Liv, in the classic Hollywood tradition. You know the kind of thing – the bigger the tragedy, the more time has to be devoted to the tearful scene – and don’t forget that here, we are literally minutes from the total destruction of all life on earth.
But anyway, they get through it in the end and the movie ends with Liv / AJ getting married with massive portraits of our fallen heroes overlooking them. Cue end credits and the full performance of ‘I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing.’ Flash backs of daddy daughter time. Not a dry eye in the house.
Warren’s inspiration for the song was an interview she saw on TV with singer / movie star Barbara Streisand and her partner James Brolin, when Brolin said he missed Streisand when he was asleep. So it started out being about a couple, but it works just as well in the father / daughter context of the movie.
The movie was a stinker as far as the critics were concerned, but the movie-going public loved it, and flocked to the theatre in droves to see it. And that meant it provided something of a new lease on life for Aerosmith, introducing them to a whole new set of potential fans. And so it was that the song soared to #1 in the US billboard chart, where it was and remains their only ever chart topper in America. It hit number #1 in quite a few other countries as well.
The band certainly milked it for all it was worth. They filmed the video for the single at Minneapolis Armory, a historic former National Guard armory and now events centre. It features a space shuttle launch pad, NASA banners and military jets flying overhead, all intercut with those emotional movie scenes, and with a soaring orchestral backing added to the mix.
Add it all together, and it’s no wonder the song was a hit, and remains popular to this day. Country singer Mark Chesnutt made a cover of it in 1998 (though it sold badly, being hugely inferior to the Aerosmith version. Not that The Hawk is biased or anything. And no, I’m not going to put a country music video on here to pollute a Heavy Metal site. Go look it up for yourself.)
Heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury is also apparently a fan of the song. He sang it to the crowd after dethroning Wladimir Klitschko in 2015, then once again after a win over Tom Schwarz in Las Vegas, this time as a romantic serenade to his wife.
The song even picked up the prestigious (ahem) MTV Video Music Award for Best Video from a Film in 1998. It was also nominated for the Best Original Song Oscar, though was unfortunately pipped to the win by ‘When You Believe’ from A Prince of Egypt. Incidentally, according to The Hawk’s count, that’s an astonishing 14 Oscar nominations for Diane Warren penned songs, though she is yet to win one. Even ‘Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ memorably performed by Starship didn’t get over the line, coming up against Dirty Dancing’s ‘Time of My Life’ in 1987, so maybe the Gods are just against her. (Starship are, of course, allowed on here, especially with such a classic song. Here it is.)
But here, the Diane Warren magic well and truly worked again, and provided a good news story for Aerosmith that it still paying off for them to this day, where it remains a staple for an end of event dance at pretty much every wedding The Hawk has ever been to.
So let’s have another listed to this classic heavy metal power ballad in all its glory.
Let’s go with the discussion. Have you got a better classic heavy metal power ballad in mind? Or is this the best? And anyway, where does it rank in the Aerosmith discography? Tell us what you think in the comments below.