There aren’t many songs strongly associated with more than one band, but Train kept A-Rollin’ is a.
Originally written and published by bandleader Tiny Bradshaw in 1951, Train kept A-Rollin’ entered the mainstream after Court birds covered it in 1965, with Jeff Beck on guitar. The following year they re-recorded it after the future Led Zeppelin founder Jimmy Page joined the band, and Zeppelin themselves would go on to use the song as their set opener on their early tours.
For Aerosmithwho were inspired by The Yardbirds – and who would record their own version of the song in 1974 – it was an essential part of their DNA.
“Guarded train A-Rollin‘was the only song we had in common when we first met,’ said Joe Perry guitar world. “Steven’s band had played Form and Tom and I played it in our band…I always thought if I could just play one song it would be because of what it does to me.”
Eventually the story came and Aerosmith met Jimmy Page at the annual conference Rock Monsters Festival in August 1990 to perform the song together.
“I traveled with Aerosmith on their tour bus to and from the show,” Page revealed in social media post (opens in a new tab). “All the time on the bus was spent chatting and swapping stories and at one point Steven Tyler played me the current Hot red peppers album and there was a lot of excitement and discussion about the music during this trip.”
By the time the musicians arrive backstage, that enthusiasm is there. Footage on YouTube shows Perry and Tyler shirtless discussing the setlist, and the conversation veers off into various tangents, many of them spinal valve-shaped.
“We should do Mama Kin‘, says Joe Perry, clearly wired for action. ‘We’re going to beat ’em up.’
“Pummel,” Tyler adds.
Jimmy Page arrives on stage, and the three musicians try to understand where he will add his solo in Guarded train A-Rollin. It’s a circular discussion that begins with Perry telling him to take the third solo, continues as Tyler asks him to start after a particular lyric, and ends as an animated page finally reduces the risk of further confusion by asking a visual cue.
Then there is this exchange.
Tour manager: “Steven, we’re using your piano.”
Steven Tyler: “Good.”
TM: “Your little one.”
TM: “I couldn’t find anything [else] it would go there.”
ST: “I wonder if I could reverse it?”
TM: “Well, if you want, but it seems a bit expensive…”
Page would join Aerosmith on stage for their encore, Train kept A-Rollin’ And Take this way. And two nights later he appeared on stage with them again, swapping the 80,000 fans at Donington Park for the 650-seat marquee on London’s Charing Cross Road, as Aerosmith wrapped up his short UK tour with a secret show.
“This was the third location for this famous blues and rock club; now in Charing Cross Road,” Page said. “The previous location was in Wardour Street, where I played with The Yardbirds and Led Zeppelin, and the original location was in Oxford Street, where I had played in the Thursday Night Blues interval band.
“So actually I was lucky enough to play all the Marquee locations, but the interior of the Charing Cross Road location seemed to be a faithful reproduction of the Wardour Street site with the carpets stained with cigarettes and beer and people passed out on the floor! ”
Joining Aerosmith towards the end of the set, Page guided the band through another version of Train kept A-Rollin’, and two other Yardbirds favorites in I didn’t get you And Think about it. They also performed by Jimi Hendrix Red House, and Led Zeppelin The Immigrant Song. But the real treat was reserved for anyone lucky enough to be in the room before show time.
“Our soundcheck lasted about five hours,” Perry told Bob Schallau in 2015. “We played all the Led Zeppelin and Yardbirds tracks we knew with Jimmy. It was just amazing. It was definitely the highlight. After we got Donington and that sound check under our belt when Jimmy came playing Marquee was just a ball of fire.
“We had these songs and we were able to give the fans a real taste of our dream; coming from that generation influenced by Led Zeppelin and The Yardbirds. That era was just amazing.”