You never forget your first love. That’s why, in spite of the deep, abiding affection I harbor for bands like Def Leppard, Pink Floyd, and the Killers, I’ll always have a special and sacred place in my heart for Aerosmith.

When they released Get A Grip in 1993, Aerosmith awakened something inside little 8-year-old me, something raw and primal that burns on to this day. Suddenly, Boyz II Men, Color Me Badd, and Peabo Bryson just weren’t doing it for me. For the first time in my Mariah Carey-coated life, I wanted to rock.

So began my lifelong Aerosmith adventure. Over the next few years, I worked my way backwards through their discography and realized that it just gets better the further back you go. In fact, I compiled this top-five of my personal favorites in reverse chronological order without even intending to, just because my favorites happen to run that way. Don’t feel bad, Aerosmith; everyone else’s best stuff was forty years ago, too.

Nevertheless, I agonized over this list. Know that part of my heart went into procuring it.

#5. “Cryin'” (Get A Grip, 1993)

Most women look back on their first period, or their first kiss, or maybe losing their virginity as the hallmark of their womanhood’s arrival. Not me, buddy. I became a woman in 1993 on the day I first heard “Cryin’,” at the very moment Steven Tyler made me wonder why anyone would cry when they’re making love.

It took me a few years, Steven, but I found out.

#4. “What It Takes” (Pump, 1989)

Even before I ever knew the pain of heartbreak, I was in love with this song. You can imagine how I feel about it now that the old ticker’s a little worse for wear. You’ve never really listened to “What It Takes” until you’ve drunkenly scrawled the lyrics in your journal through a haze of tears while it plays on repeat.

I’ve still never heard a better breakup song. Sorry, Air Supply.

#3. “Chip Away The Stone” (Live! Bootleg, 1978)

By the time I made it to Aerosmith’s ’70s stuff, I was a headstrong 18-year-old and thought I knew a thing or two about love, rock and roll, and getting down. Yep, I was hot shit, all right. Then I heard “Chip Away The Stone.”

Suddenly, I realized why I was smoking unfiltered cigarettes, drinking straight whiskey, and acting like a bitch to every man in sight — I was waiting for one of them to be Aerosmith enough to chip away the stone! It all made sense now. Somehow, Steve and Joe and company could turn something as colloquial as “wearing her down” into something extremely sexy and rock-worthy.

#2. “No More, No More” (Toys in the Attic, 1975)

As I got older, I realized that as much as I’d learned about love and desire from Aerosmith, I had that much more to learn about rocking for its own sake. There’s no better tribute to the rock and roll lifestyle than “No More No More,” a song that would be construed as a cry for help coming from any other band but Aerosmith. Blood-stained pianos! VD! Gypsies! Truly a little something for everyone in this song.

Not to mention guitar that’s enough to get you pregnant.

#1. “Seasons of Wither” (Get Your Wings, 1974)

Yes, “Seasons of Wither” is my favorite Aerosmith song. It’s kind of a snooze compared to the lust-driven fare we’ve looked at so far, but it’s one I’ve come to love above all in spite of its maturity. (Hmm, any parallels with my reluctance to accept my own maturity? Does Aerosmith really mirror my life completely? God, I hope so.)

What I really love about “Seasons of Wither” is that it showcases one of my favorite things about Aerosmith: they are so great at the build-up. They truly perfected it later in their career, but this song really foreshadows their ability to stretch and manipulate a teasing build-up into a blistering rock and roll bass-shattering crescendo. And to this day, no one does it better than Aerosmith.

This song’s only from their sophomore album, and to me, it feels like a prologue to the next forty years. It’s like a rough Michelangelo sketch of the Sistine Chapel: you just know it’s going to be great. Yes, haters, I did just compare Aerosmith to Michelangelo. Deal with it.

Aerosmith, I salute you for instilling in me the spirit that has led my continuing to rock all these years. I know there are some seemingly obvious omissions from this list. Trust me, I love those songs, too, but the songs I chose are the ones that feel like my kids.

What are your favorites? Do songs feel like kids to you, too, or is that just me? Let me know in the comments!