Joe Perry says that Aerosmith is playing “wicked tight” after its Permanent Vacation

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JAN. 15, 1988

By Steve Newton

“If you grew up in the ’70s you liked Aerosmith.” That’s what R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck wrote in the liner notes to his group’s version of Aerosmith’s “Toys in the Attic” on the Dead Letter Office album. And he knew what he was talking about. Along with other American hard rock acts such as Montrose, Blue Oyster Cult, Kiss, and Alice Cooper, Aersosmith won over a whole generation of raunch-hungry young whippersnappers who’d grown tired of listening to their older siblings’ Cream, Black Sabbath, and Led Zep albums.

Aerosmith was a band that ’70s teens could call their own, and they did–in droves. Between 1973 and 1979, the band released seven albums–Aerosmith, Get Your Wings, Toys in the Attic, Rocks, Draw the Line, Live! Bootleg, and Night in the Ruts–and each one has sold more than a million copies.

Not too bad for a garage band from Boston.

Aerosmith’s mass popularity took a bit of a nosedive in the early ’80s after one of its chief songwriters, Joe Perry, left to follow a solo career. Second guitarist Brad Whitford also quite for a few years, but after an Aerosmith show in Boston on Valentine’s Day in ’84, both he and Perry reunited with their old bandmates. In June of that year, the original lineup was back on the road. The band’s re-entry into the swing of things was given a boost when it joined with Run-D.M.C. for a popular rap version of Aerosmith’s 1975 hit single, “Walk This Way”.

But the bands biggest push for glory the second time around came when it linked up with producer-on-a-roll Bruce Fairbairn and headed into Vancouver’s Little Mountain Sound studio last spring. The resultant LP, Permanent Vacation, is one powerful piece of vinyl, and with the help of the single/video “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)”, Aerosmith is once more making its presence known on record charts everywhere. It looks like Fairbairn’s platinum touch is as potent as ever.

“Every producer plays a different role,” says Joe Perry, who called the Georgia Straight from his snow-bound home in Boston last week. “But with Bruce it’s more like he just brings out the best in the band. If you listen to some of Bon Jovi’s early stuff and then the stuff that [Fairbairn] did on Slippery When Wet, you can see that it’s still Bon Jovi–you just hear what’s been brought out. And you can tell if you listen to Done WIth Mirrors [Aerosmith’s 1985 LP], and then Permanent Vacation. It’s us, and it’s our chord changes and our sound, but Bruce is like a lens. He makes it clearer.”

According to Perry, Fairbairn is not your typical taskmaster producer–although he does get the job done. “He’s kinda quiet,” says Joe, “but he really cracks a loud whip. He just came in and took us for what we are, and not what we should be because we’re ‘the platinum punks from 1976’ or ‘the godfathers of heavy metal’. He was aware of our so-called legend and our following, and what people expected from us, but that was on the back-burner. He just took us for what we were doin’ that day in the studio, and that was really refreshing.”

And does Aerosmith plan to use Fairbairn as producer on its next LP?

“Well, he’s gonna be readin’ this, so I’m not… Of course he’s gonna do it! We want to use him, and the only way I could see it not happening is if our schedules don’t gel. But I think that we’ll plan so that they do ’cause we really had a good time with him. Sometimes you use a producer and you go, ‘Well, that was good, but now we’re gonna go on to someone else.’ With Bruce it was ‘Well, let’s save this idea for the next album, and save that idea for the next album.’ It was one of those relationships.”

Aerosmith spent about six weeks in Vancouver making Permanent Vacation and, like Jon Bon Jovi and Whitesnake’s David Coverdale, Perry has only words of praise for the city.

“We loved it,” he says, “and we took a lot of good memories with us. We really didn’t get a chance to do too much–I think one of us drove up to Whistler–but we did go motorboating around the harbour and all that stuff. And it was great because the people up there are really friendly.

“But what impressed me the most was the amount of [musical] talent in that area–Bob Rock from Rock and Hyde, and all the other people that have come out of there. You don’t hear much about it at this end of the continent, but there’s a really happening music scene in Vancouver.”

Some of the local talent that helped out on Permanent Vacation included Jim Vallance (who co-wrote five songs, and played organ on two), Drew Arnott of Strange Advance (he played mellotron on two tracks), and the Margarita Horns, which were led by Skywalk’s Tom Keenlyside. The horn section is prominent on the tunes “Rag Doll”, “Girl Keeps Coming Apart” and “Dude (Looks LIke a Lady)”, but then horns featured strongly on earlier Aerosmith tunes such as “Mama Kin”, “Same Old Song and Dance”, and “Big Ten Inch Record”.

“We’ve always used horns,” says Perry, “and we’ve always used keyboards; we used mellotron on “Dream On”. I think the misconception about Aerosmith is that we’re just a heavy-metal guitar band. When I think of heavy metal, I think of Judas Priest and Ozzy Osbourne. We’re a rock ‘n’ roll band. And I’ll tell ya, since this record’s come out, no one’s called us a heavy metal band.”

As well as being proud of Aerosmith’s latest vinyl, Joe Perry is very happy with the way the group has been performing live. (They play Vancouver this Wednesday, January 20, at the Pacific Coliseum).

“The band’s playing wicked tight,” says Perry. “I would not be afraid to take this band into any town hall and stand toe-to-toe with anybody–without the lights, without anything, because the band’s hot.

“And it’s really good playing with Dokken [their opening act] because they’re one of the best West Coast guitar-hero bands. So that helps to fire it up. It’s like when we used to play with AC/DC. You’d see them and you’d go, ‘Man, they are good!‘ ”

Although they’ve always come through strong on records, Aerosmith’s members had a reputation in their ’70s heyday for being heavy partiers–and often their live shows suffered for it. Perry, 37, admits to the band’s earlier excesses, but says they’ve given up that lifestyle.

“Everything you heard about us in the past–multiply it by 10 and it’s true. We could never do anything in moderation. When we’d pull into a town, it was like, ‘Aerosmith the party band is here!’ Everybody’d bring out the best drugs and the best booze. Then we’d go on to the next town and it was more of the same. Other people could sleep it off, but we’d have to go in and do another show. We did that for 15 years. But we made it–we’re still alive to tell about it.

“And now people go, ‘Oh, you gave up drugs, but you still drink don’t you?’ We can’t! The music is what counts nowadays. And it’s happenin’.”

 

To hear the full audio of my 1988 interview with Joe Perry subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on over 250 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:

Grant Walmsley of the Screaming Jets, 1991
John Popper of Blues Traveler, 1991
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 2012
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1993
Ellen McIlwaine, 2001
Derek Trucks of Tedeschi Trucks, 2012
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Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, 2001
Jeff Keith of Tesla, 1988
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Marc Bonilla, 1992
Mike Smith of Sandbox (and Trailer Park Boys), 1996
Dewey Bunnell of America, 1983
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Taj Mahal, 2001
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Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover, 1985
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Grace Potter, 2008
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Albert Lee, 1986
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Tony Carey, 1984
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Kate Bush, 1985
David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, 1984
Jeff Healey, 1988
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1996
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Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
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Bob Rock, 1992
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Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
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Robben Ford, 1993
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Joe Satriani, 1990
Vernon Reid of Living Colour, 1988
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
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John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
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Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Randy Bachman, 2001
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Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
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Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
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Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
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Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
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Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
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Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
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Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
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Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
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Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
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Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
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Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
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Rob Hirst of Midnight Oil, 2001
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Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
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Otis Rush, 1997
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….with hundreds more to come

 

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