Joe Perry – Rocks: My Life In And Out Of Aerosmith
For the first time ever, Deke and I are doing a simultaneous review! This is cool beans, big-time! You totally need to go and read Deke’s awesome review right here.
Joe Perry has led a fairly incredible life. He’s one of rock’s preeminent guitarists, always on favourites lists even when their album de jour ain’t so hot. That says something. In his book, though, he barely mentions it which, I thought, was elegant. By neither crowing about it (and thus sounding like a braggart) nor attempting to down-play it (thus seeming disingenuous), he just lets that part be what it is, while admitting the hard work and practice it took over the years, and therefore seems at ease with his abilities (which are prodigious).
The story of Aerosmith hurts my head. Even when Perry discusses the problems of their early years, if they were honest they’d see that most of it they did to themselves. And even then, there was usually someone there to help them out. So they weren’t really ever alone.
And most of those people who helped them, or were around them? Holy crap what a shit show. They’re lucky to be alive. And that Collins guy, holy shit. How he kept his job as long as he did is way beyond me. The first whiff of that bullshit he was pulling, sending them all to therapy for no real reason, I’d have been telling him off. If it persisted, out he goes. And I know, it sounds easy when it’s a story told in retrospect and I’m outside of what happened, but honestly, how the band never put it together what was going on for as long as it did boggles me. Did they not ever talk to each other? Absolutely no way that should have gone on like it did. None.
And how many times do we have to read about rock bands getting fucked up on egos, drugs and alcohol, and then making poor choices? The list of these stories is endless, and I for one am pretty bloody tired of it. It’s not cute or funny anymore. History truly is doomed to repeat itself, because all of these dummies, knowing full well what’s going to come of it all, believe it won’t happen to them. Boring.
But still there was the music. And that’s what it all boils down to, isn’t it. Yes indeed.
So, I come away from this book with three thoughts. In brief:
1) Joe Perry has put up with more shit than he should have, and done some cool things, and played his guitar very, very well.
2) Every time Aerosmith got messed up by inside or outside forces, he went and played his own music. He described playing with Aerosmith as frustrating and hellish, and his solo work in glowing terms and as fun and enjoyable, despite it being on a smaller scale. Well buddy, sometimes a spade is a spade. Call it, pack it in. I know you call them brothers and whatever, but the YEARS of shit you dealt with? For what, the money? That’s weak. Some impossible ideal about Aerosmith? Take your belief in yourself and your talents and make your solo stuff take off, you know you can. Look what happened to the rest of them when you weren’t in the band… Anyway.
3) Stephen Tyler sounds like a royal pain in the ass, an asshole, and an asshat. While he may be blessed with a great rock singing voice, I wouldn’t want him around for anything, or put up with his crap for anywhere near as long as these guys did. And the thing is, they knew what he was like going in. Ugh. He sounds repugnant. And yeah yeah, I know, lead singer syndrome blah blah blah. But this guy… You know, I had the same thought when I read that book about Mick Jagger, and sometimes he’s King of the Jerks, and I still liked him better than Tyler. How Perry thinks of him as a brother, after all he put him through, I cannot even fathom.
That Aerosmith is even still a thing today is either testimony to the doggedness of the band, their inability to see it for what it has always been, or pure fuckin’ luck. I’d say its a mix of all three, with heavy weighting towards the latter.
Not a bad book. Not a great one either, but I didn’t really expect it would be. A long while ago, I also read and reviewed Joey Kramer’s book, so I knew of the troubles in the band already. I will not ever read Tyler’s book. But Perry seems, at this stage in his life, able to look back with some sort of clarity (and a healthy dose of mythologizing to cover a lot of weirdness, injustice and assholery while still seeming to tell it with apparent honesty). Retrospect is funny like that.