Toys in the Attic was Aerosmith’s third album. You may not be able to recall the 1975 cover art, but you will almost certainly feel a fiery nostalgia for some of its tracks (even if it came out decades before you were born). For the kids in the room, this was the oeuvre that gave us “Sweet Emotion” and the original version of “Walk This Way.”
I am not an Aerosmith connoisseur but have a borderline-indiscriminate affection for bands that ascended in the 1970s, the decade in which I was born. Toys in the Attic may not have gotten rave reviews when it came out (yikes!), but here we are almost 50 years later and the opening strains of “Sweet Emotion” still make me want to lower the windows and crank the volume. Or roll my hips in a certain way if no one’s watching.
Now there’s a new jewelry collection inspired by the seminal album cover (pictured below) and developed in collaboration with the band. With New York City jewelry designer Donna Distefano and Aerosmith lead guitarist Joe Perry at the helm of the project, Toys by Aerosmith x Distefano reimagines the cast of characters featured on the Toys in the Attic album cover as a group of seven mix-and-match charms available in bronze, sterling silver, 18k, or 22k gold.
Toys marks the latest installment of Distefano’s and Perry’s ongoing creative collaboration.
“I think it was about 12 or so years ago that Joe Perry randomly called me because he was interested in some of my 22k gold pieces, as he and his wife, Billie, collect high-karat gold,” says Distefano, whom I interviewed in her studio during NYC Jewelry Week. “And he really responded to the high-karat gold color and the handmade aspect of it. In getting to know him over the years, he’s become both a client and a friend.”
Distefano, a former senior goldsmith for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has a thriving eponymous line inspired by Old World–Italian craft traditions infused with a distinctive rock ’n’ roll edge—a natural fit for any and all things Aerosmith (and also Hollywood Vampires, the band Perry performs in with Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp).
Once Distefano and Perry decided to focus on a tribute to Toys in the Attic, she tapped artist Tom Zimmerman, a former Met colleague, to create renderings that imagined each of the little characters on the album cover as fully developed creatures, each with a unique persona and an inferred narrative arc. Then Distefano and her team of artisans set about bringing the renderings to life, but not before assigning them names (clockwise from bottom left on the cover): Baby Face, Goblin, Mr. Trunk, Hopscotch, Dandy Cat, Teddy Bear, and Rocking Horse.
“Tom is an Aerosmith fan too,” explains the designer. “So I think that’s a huge part of why this collaboration worked—that creative artists that are also Aerosmith fans are making this—otherwise, I don’t know what it would be if it was just some commercial house doing it.”
Toys is a special component of Aerosmith’s 50th anniversary, a multiarmed event that the Rock & Roll Hall of Famers planned to celebrate in 2020 with great fanfare and special performances. Since those plans got derailed by COVID, this year marked the formal launch of the Distefano x Aerosmith brand, with Toys as the headline act, as well as limited-edition jewels featuring the Aerosmith wings motif and new versions of Distefano’s famous mechanical poison rings that Perry has been wearing for years.
While the Toys collection was first unveiled to the press and public in November during NYC Jewelry Week, fans had a first look in Las Vegas, where Aerosmith had been performing as part of a residency at the Park MGM that wrapped this month.
Perry tells JCK that is he is partial to the Rocking Horse charm because of his great love of horses:
“I was introduced to horses through my wife, Billie, who has ridden since she was a child. I also fell in love with the sport. Being around horses, riding and caring for them helped to ground me. Both of us became involved in promoting the Friesian horse when it was on the rare-breeds list and was considered endangered. In 1990, we were one of the first people in New England who owned the baroque style of Friesian horses and owned many throughout the years. I have a Friesian horse tattoo on my arm and a tattoo of my horse, Franz, who died last year at the age of 20, on my wrist.”
Then there’s Baby Face. “No one has ever seen the baby’s face before because you only see the back of the baby on the album cover,” says Distefano. As such, Zimmerman had to imagine what the front of the baby icon would look like. Each rendering needed a front and back view in order to transform it into a three-dimensional charm that faithfully encapsulated the essence of each character.
“The fans are the ones that I work the hardest for,” says Distefano. “I don’t want to disappoint them.”
The response has already been something akin to pure joy, no doubt evinced by the nostalgia of these images as well as the humor and irreverence of them: “We had one guy come into the studio to see our main Aerosmith line and when he saw the Toy renderings on display—I didn’t have the pieces finished yet—his face changed into something like a teenager’s face.”
Who wouldn’t want to frolic in the sweet emotions of this very specific, very ’70s moment? It’s never too late to take a big chance at the high school dance. Or get the band back together, leaving the things that are real behind to play a little longer.
Top: Toys by Aerosmith x Distefano has collect-them-all appeal and is perfectly priced for holiday gifts. All seven charms are shown here in sterling silver, $150 each, on the Cammino chain bracelet, $175.
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