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


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 quit 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 band’s 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 me 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
J.D. Fortune of INXS, 2006
Fernando von Arb of Krokus, 1984
Gary Holt of Exodus, 1985
Dizzy Reed of Guns N’ Roses, 1992
Scott Ian of Anthrax, 2012
Gary Lee Conner of Screaming Trees, 1992
Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, 1985
David “Honeyboy” Edwards, 2003
Rudolf Schenker of Scorpions, 1992
Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick, 2001
Jeff Keith of Tesla, 1988
Doyle Bramhall II and Charlie Sexton of Arc Angels, 1992
Marc Bonilla, 1992
Mike Smith of Sandbox (and Trailer Park Boys), 1996
Dewey Bunnell of America, 1983
Robert Randolph of the Family Band, 2003
Keith Strickland of the B-52s, 2008
David Johansen of the New York Dolls, 2005
Nathan Followill of Kings of Leon, 2003
Todd Kerns, 2016
Bill Payne of Little Feat, 2002
Robbin Crosby of Ratt, 1989
Tommy Shannon of SRV & Double Trouble, 1998
Alejandro Escovedo, 1997
Billy Duffy of the Cult, 1989
Dave Martone, 2020
Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, 2006
Joss Stone, 2012
Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, 2005
Jack Blades of Night Ranger, 1984
Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, 1992
Colin James, 1995
Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, 1998
Tom Cochrane of Red Rider, 1983
Ed Roland of Collective Soul, 1995
Taj Mahal, 2001
Tom Wilson of Junkhouse, 1995
Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, 2003
David Lindley, 2002
Marty Friedman of Megadeth, 1991
John Hiatt, 2010
Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover, 1985
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, 1984
Jeff Healey, 1988
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1996
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Edgar Winter, 2005
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joey Belladonna of Anthrax, 1991
Joe Satriani, 1990
Vernon Reid of Living Colour, 1988
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
Zakk Wylde of Pride & Glory, 1994
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
John Doe, 1990
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
Little Steven, 1987
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
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Rob Hirst of Midnight Oil, 2001
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
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
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Steve Howe of Yes, 2017
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1985
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
J.J. Cale, 1990
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers, 1994
Derek Trucks, 1998
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001

….with hundreds more to come


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