Rocks: My Life in and Out of Aerosmith, the name of Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry’s new book is a play on the band’s classic ‘70s album which spawned such classic tracks as Back in the Saddle, Last Child and Combination.
But it also serves to express how the musical community views this seasoned rock and roll star. Quite simply, Joe Perry epitomizes the word rocks.
Along with Steven Tyler, as one half of Aerosmith’s celebrated “toxic twins,” Perry, tracing the footprints of mighty musical brethren Keith Richards and Jimmy Page, personifies the blazin’ six-string renegade, firing off incendiary riffs heard ‘round the world while looking the part of perennial rock and roll badass.
Rocks, his new autobiography, penned with renowned author David Ritz, allows the Beantown axe meister to share his story on his own terms, pulling the curtain back to reveal the hard fought tales of Perry, rock and roll survivor, cocked and loaded.
Rock Cellar Magazine: There’s been a band bio, Walk This Way and autobiographies written by both Steven Tyler and Joey Kramer. What was the impetus behind you doing a book?
Joe Perry: Let me see…there’s a number of things. First of all, I had my own questions I wanted to answer about how we ended here. I get asked, as you can imagine, so many times, “How did you manage to keep the band together?” People also ask me a lot, “How did you manage to have a marriage that’s lasted this long in that business?” Then there’s a list of questions that people ask and then there are things that people just don’t know about like the Collins years (Tim Collins, Aerosmith’s former manager).
People see the little bits and pieces and the press kind of wants to just put the juicy stuff out there about Seven and I. Recently, somebody actually asked me if the band was still together (laughs) or how do I deal with Steven?
The perceptions about this band that are out there are so confused. A lot of stuff that was in that book, Walk this Way, was so wrong.
Our manager at the time (Tim) Collins edited the book before we saw it and we didn’t know that.
At the end of it all there were a lot of things going on when that book was going on so it wasn’t like we were completely focused on it. So with my new book, Rocks, I wanted to set the record straight from my perspective on everything that went down.
The public thinks, “Yeah, they’re a bunch of drug addicts that cleaned up and got it all back together again and it was just amazing.” There’s much more to it than that. If anybody’s interested, the story behind all that went down even fascinates me…how we managed to get 40 years under our belt and are still going strong.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Was it cathartic for you to write the book?
Joe Perry: I think it was time for me to lay it out there and just tell my side of what it looked like with my side of things. I wanted to let people know how hard it is to do what we do. For some people it’s easier than others, everybody’s different. We had some mountains to climb and we still do.
It’s a never-ending thing if you choose to do it. But I’ll tell you, getting onstage and playing is still the glue that holds us together.
Rock Cellar Magazine: What was the original Aerosmith lineup like with Ray Tabano on guitar?
Joe Perry: Raymond was a good rhythm guitar player in the classic sense. With the Beatles you had George Harrison who was the lead guitar player and John Lennon who played rhythm and there was a very clear distinction between what each cat played. That’s one of the reasons I was so attracted to Fleetwood Mac and especially the Yardbirds when they had Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page in the band at the same time.
They were breaking tradition with two lead guitar players in the same band. It wasn’t like listening to the Shadows or the Ventures where you had one guy playing lead and one guy playing chords. I didn’t have that with Ray and I wanted that element in Aerosmith. Ray was really focused on playing rhythm and I was doing the leads. When the band got together Steven (Tyler) wanted someone he knew in the band and he knew Ray for a long time.
I didn’t know Steven very well at that point: I had talked with him a few times and jammed with him a few times. He said, “I wanna bring this guy in to play guitar.” The last three years before that I’d played with a three-piece band or a band that had five or six players. I’d tried every kind of a lineup so I was kind of flexible there. Raymond had a really cool look. He had a leather shop.
He was into the American Indian kind of look and had hair down to his butt. He wore an Indian chest plate. If he had continued to grow with the rest of the band he may still have been in the band. But he was kind of all over the place. He’d be late for rehearsals. Not only were we were learning and getting better on our own as individuals, we were learning to find a sound and starting to develop a real musical backbone by putting our own touches on the cover songs that we were doing.
That led to us finding our sound. I found there was a space there and a gap; there weren’t many American bands that were doing that two-guitar blues thing.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Movin’ Out was the first song you wrote with Steven.
Joe Perry: Yeah. It did put us on the path. It was really an exercise in learning how to write together and seeing how that worked. Up until then we hasn’t written together. The original songs we had were basically songs that Steven had from his other bands before that. He had a notebook with some songs in them and some of those showed up on the first and second albums. He was a couple of years older than us and had been playing professionally for five years at that point.
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