In His New Autobiography, Joe Perry Lifts the Curtain on Aerosmith’s Turbulent History

October 8th, 2014

This is an excerpt from the all-new NOV/DEC 2014 issue of Guitar Aficionado magazine. For the rest of our Joe Perry cover story, plus an excerpt from Perry’s new autobiography and a profile of his Wandre/Davoli BB guitar, and features on Taylor Guitars, Johnny Winter, Jay Somers, Johnny A. and much more, check out the new issue at the Guitar Aficionado Online Store.

On the Rocks: In his long-awaited autobiography, Joe Perry lifts the curtain on Aerosmith’s turbulent history.

By Pete Makowski | Photos by Ross Halfin

Joe Perry is normally a shy, humble, laconic, but intense man, who talks only when he has something to say. But on this balmy summer evening, he is in an unusually effusive mood and wants to chat, particularly when the subject of discussion is his new autobiography, Rocks—My Life In and Out of Aerosmith.

“I’m going to interview you as much as you’re going to interview me!” Perry warns with a mischievous grin, momentarily letting down his somber, rock-star cool. “What do you think of the book? Does it make me sound like a bitter, pissed-off old man? Or does it sound like I made a good decision to become a rock star?”

Like his bandmate, Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler, Perry is a natural-born rock and roller who looks like he emerged from the womb with a long flowing mane and tattooed biceps. Although the lines on his face have gotten clearer, Perry, who is now in his early sixties, still has a remarkably trim and toned physique. Tonight, he’s shed his usual junkie-chic attire of scarves, antique jewelry, and customized leather pants for a “Keef on vacation” look, consisting of a billowing white shirt opened to the waist, and blue pajama pants.

Although Aerosmith are in the midst of a European tour, Perry seems to be on permanent vacation in the Maria Callas suite at London’s legendary Savoy Hotel, which is where GA has met up with him. A stack of weights and an exercise bike occupy one corner, and the entire suite is littered with open guitar cases where six-stringed specimens recline like seductive vixens. The most alluring of all is a blue Wandre/Davoli BB (as in “Brigitte Bardot”) [see sidebar], a gift from his friend, Johnny Depp.

“We’re cut from the same cloth,” Perry says of his compadre. “We both love the blues and guitars.”

In addition to giving Perry guitars, Depp loaned him one of his Los Angeles abodes while Perry was in town to put finishing touches on the most recent Aerosmith album, Music from Another Dimension. While Perry was living there, he started working on his autobiography. Rocks—My Life In and Out of Aerosmith is a remarkably honest story of ruin and redemption. It is also a riposte to the semi confessional Walk This Way, written in 1997 by Stephen Davis, previously known for the epic Led Zeppelin bad-behavior bio Hammer of the Gods. The perspective of Perry’s book is less self-analytical than Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer’s Hit Hard: A Story of Hitting Rock Bottom at the Top, and it’s less self-centered than Tyler’s Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?

“I thought that Walk This Way was a very bad representation of the band,” Perry says. “It was entertaining, but it in the end it became the template for VH1’s Behind the Music. Every episode was ‘shoot up, OD in the bathroom, get taken away in an ambulance, and then sober up.’ It was the same story every time. Just the name of the players were different.

“Joey’s book was basically about his interaction with Steven,” Perry continues. “It was almost a self-help book. Steven’s book was entertaining for Steven Tyler fans, but as far as being a true autobiography… Let’s just say a lot of things in the book weren’t totally accurate to what I actually saw.”

While working on his autobiography, Perry read dozens of other autobiographies and found Keith Richards’ Life and Bob Dylan’s Chronicles particularly influential. He eventually decided to work with acclaimed biographer David Ritz, best known for his collaborations with Ray Charles and Rick James as well as his best-selling Marvin Gaye biography. After completing Music from Another Dimension, Perry brought Ritz on the road with him.

“It was kind of like talking to a psychiatrist,” Perry recalls. “I don’t think that David realized how deep the book was going to be. It covers a lot of different characters and different relationships—all the things it took to keep the band together. The way that Aerosmith works is very complicated, and it can get frustrating, because you have to dig down and look at things that you don’t want to talk about. I had to take ownership on a lot of the bullshit. I couldn’t say, ‘Steven did this and Joey did that,’ and leave myself out, because I’m half of the story.”

Most great musical partnerships consist of yin-and-yang polar opposites, and Perry’s book shows that the Toxic Twins were no exception. While Tyler’s family was full of extroverts with show-business connections, Perry’s own background was far more repressed and conservative.

“My parents were brought up in a very right-wing, Republican environment,” Perry admits. “I lived in a cultural vacuum. The town I lived in was mostly blue-collar. My mother took me to art lessons every week, and the only music I listened to was whatever I could find on the radio. Then the Beatles came along. That became the soundtrack to my revolution.”

This is an excerpt from the all-new NOV/DEC 2014 issue of Guitar Aficionado magazine. For the rest of our Joe Perry cover story, plus an excerpt from Perry’s new autobiography and a profile of his Wandre/Davoli BB guitar, and features on Taylor Guitars, Johnny Winter, Jay Somers, Johnny A. and much more, check out the new issue at the Guitar Aficionado Online Store.

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Comments

  1. Posted by Craig Robins on October 9th, 2014, 20:20 [Reply]

    I think that you should allow subscribers to be able to read the entire magazine online

  2. Posted by Shove Yer Excerpts on October 23rd, 2014, 15:48 [Reply]

    Your excerpts, topics, busted-links to nowhere are such a waste of time…..

  3. Posted by Michael on October 23rd, 2014, 19:25 [Reply]

    I agree with the previous two comments. In light of all the magazines that are sold on newsstands, at least in the music category, this is the ONLY site that acts like the WSJ in only posting “excerpts”, all in an effort to drive sub sales.

    Pretty pathetic when considering such an excellent magazine in every facet and which is why I WON’T subscribe, albeit I’ve almost done so several times.

    Tilt your collective noses back down towards us little people and stop acting like you’re the “be-all/end-all” of guitar literature, because, well, you are not.

    For those of you who would like to read FULL articles and COMPLETE guitar related magazines (while some do the same as GA, 98% are total and complete magazines, cover to cover) go to http://www.issuu.com

  4. Posted by aero lover on October 24th, 2014, 01:25 [Reply]

    why such heavy duty photo shop on Joe’s face? he didn’t even look like this when he was young.

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