Joe Perry of Aerosmith Interview: 13 Albums That Changed My Life

Joe Perry Of Aerosmith Interview

Feature Photo courtesy of Joe Perry. Photography by Enzo Mazzeo

The last we heard from Joe Perry was on the eve of his birthday, September 9, 2023, while he was standing beside his longtime partner in crime, Steven Tyler, and his other bandmates, Brad Whitford, Tom Hamilton, and touring drummer, John Douglas in Aerosmith.

As they had for countless nights over 50 years, Aerosmith wrapped up a smoking show by cruising through an 18-song setlist of stone-cold classics. All seemed well during the third show on their Peace Out Farewell Tour, but little did the fans in attendance at Elmont’s USB Arena on Long Island, New York know that Steven Tyler had fractured his larynx, halting their farewell tour.

It was a tough pill to swallow given that Aerosmith, who even though they were wrapping up their storied career, were hardly limping to the finish sound-wise. Even Tyler, who badly injured himself early in the set, sounded like a man 50 years his junior.

To this, Aerosmith’s guitarist, Joe Perry, says, “It really broke our hearts to have Steven get hurt like that. We were really worried about it. It was one of those freak accidents, but thankfully, he’s doing well, and we’re aiming to get back out there and, basically, do the same tour only a year later.”

Now that Tyler is healing up and a plan is in place for Aerosmith to rock again, Perry and his cohorts can look at things from the bright side and consider the first three shows of the Peace Out Farewell Tour a warmup rather than a failure to launch: “We got a taste of it with those first three shows,” he says. “Before we played in Vegas, we weren’t doing much production-wise, but after Vegas, we realized how much fun we had and wanted to make the shows more of a playground, so to speak.”

He explains, “We decided to have some of those cool Vegas things on the road, and we were so excited about the tour and finally mounting it. It really felt like something we would have back in ’95, so to have it stop dead in the water… I still have PTSD over it.”

But all that is in the past now for Aerosmith, as Tyler is reportedly getting stronger each day. As for Perry and the rest of Aerosmith, which will still include co-lead guitarist Brad Whitford, bassist Tom Hamilton, and drummer John Douglas, who has been filling in for Joey Kramer since 2019, they’re ready and waiting for a second shot at the grandest of grand farewell for American’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band.

“All the gear is still in road boxes,” Perry says. “We’re ready to go. We’ll know soon when exactly that’s going to be. We have an idea of when, and even though the tour is postponed, it’ll come; we just don’t have the exact dates yet.”

For fans who grew up with Aerosmith, the opportunity to watch their heroes ride one last time is like putting a period on rock music’s most beautiful sentence. But for fans of a different, and much younger generation, who only know Aerosmith by the records rather than their iconic live performances, the Peace Out Farewell Tour has an entirely different meaning—it’s a last chance, with the duality being that’s it’s also a first glance.

Of course, Perry knows this, as does Tyler, which is probably why he gutted out that fateful show in September of 2023, even though his vocals were shredded: “That’s what stuns us,” Perry says. “If you watch the video back of the show, we know when he hurt himself, probably during “Ragdoll,” the third song in the set.”

He continues, “Steven sang the rest of the set like that right on through “Dream On,” where he hit those notes, and on to the end to “Walk This Way.” It’s no wonder why the next day, when he woke up, he could barely breathe because his throat was so fucked up. But Steven went up to see his throat guy, and Steven is doing really well under his care.”

“It’s been really hard; we wanted to make this tour the one, you know? To have it stopped like that after the third show was heartbreaking. I’m glad ’23 is over and behind us in the rearview mirror. But 2024 looks like it’s gonna be a good one.”

Aerosmith aside, Joe Perry is always busy. Between his activities on the road and in the studio with The Hollywood Vampires, a band he occupies space in alongside Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp, and Tommy Henriksen, and his solo exploits with his namesake Joe Perry Project, which released yet another stellar record in Sweetzerland Manifesto MKII in 2023.

While catching his breath, the man that Aerosmith, and bandmates affectionately refer to as Joe ‘Fucking’ Perry dialed in with ClassicRockHistory.com to run through—in no particular order—a selection of records that he deems “cornerstones of his life.” Further elaborating on his choices, Perry says, “These records mean a lot to me. I got most of these pretty much when they came out. But I discovered some because someone brought them to my attention.”

He concludes, “I was a teenager when many of these came out, so they’ve been with me a long time. Some of them might seem off-the-wall… I could go on, but this is a pretty fair list. I’ll leave it there and get started.”

Joe Perry: 13 Albums That Changed My Life

Joe Perry Of Aerosmith Interview

Feature Photo courtesy of Joe Perry. Photography: Eve ov Beer

Having a Rave Up with the Yardbirds – The Yardbirds (1965)

Having a Rave Up with the Yardbirds is a really important record to me. In a lot of ways, it’s important, but the songs they covered, and more importantly, their take on them mean the most. Many bands—especially the English bands, who were influenced by blues and rock ‘n’ roll—to hear them doing what they were doing with those genres was really fascinating.

It was incredible when you looked down at the record and saw who wrote the songs and the array of amazing musicians. There’s a version of “The Train Kept A-Rollin’” on there that ended up in the [1966 mystery/thriller] Blowup movie, and that song is like one of the cornerstones of rock ‘n’ roll in my life. When I hear that, the feedback, and the drums, it’s unreal. That’s a Yardbirds song that I have to mention; the whole Rave Up album is great.

Live at Kelvin Hall  – The Kinks (1968) 

There’s a live album by The Kinks that came out in ’68. I’ve tried to find a copy of it, but it’s hard to find. It’s the first live album I ever heard, and it’s got The Kinks playing their hits, but there’s also some jamming there. I ripped off quite a few riffs from those jams[laughs]. But I remember the record having a great medley of “Milk Cow Blues, and the Batman TV show theme, and that version of “Milk Cow Blues” later ended up in Aerosmith’s set and on Draw the Line, and the version of “Milk Cow Blues” on there takes inspiration from the version on this Kinks record.

Kick Out the Jams – MC5 (1969)

The first MC5 record was huge for me to hear. It was all about energy. To understand what they were doing, you really need to listen to it. You can obviously see that punk came from there. That came out in the late ‘60s, and some years later, people were playing just like that, only now, they called it “punk.” MC5 might have been pissed-off, angry, and political, but I didn’t listen to it for any of that; I just listened for the music.

Nothin’ but the Blues – Johnny Winter (1977)

I have to put a Johnny Winter record on here, and I’m going with Nothin’ but the Blues. I think it’s one of the best records that Johnny ever did, but it had a lot of slide [guitar] playing, which was great. When it comes to slide, Johnny learned from the best, but it’s special because it’s Johnny doing it. I personally learned a lot from this record way back when.

Are You Experienced – Jimi Hendrix (1967)

I can’t do this list without including a Hendrix record, and I chose Are You Experienced. The first time I heard “Purple Haze” was on AM radio while I was riding in a car, and it was like nothing else that had ever existed before it. Until then, I’d never heard something like that, and in some ways, I haven’t since. I don’t know how many millions of times I’ve listened to this record, but it’s just one of those albums that I have to have on my playlist at all times.

Silvertone 45 RPM Learn to Play Record from Harmony Stella (1960s)

Another record that was hugely important was a 45 RPM instructional record that came with my first guitar, which was a Silvertone acoustic. I think the guitar cost $12, which came with this instructional record. It’s a record, so it qualifies! I still remember it said, “Put the plectrum in your right hand, and put the neck in your left hand,” which was funny because when I pulled the guitar out of the box—I don’t think it had a case—I tried to play it left-handed.

So, then I put this record on, and it said, “Put the neck in your left hand.” I didn’t even know you could play left-handed. This was before The Beatles, and Paul playing left-handed, and none I had seen played left-handed, so when the record said I could play left-handed, it was funny because I instinctively played backward from the start [laughs]. That instructional record from Silvertone was just huge for me. I’d definitely call it a cornerstone record for me.

Chuck Berry Is on Top – Chuck Berry (1959)

The next album I’m going to go with is Chuck Berry Is on Top. It was the first Chuck Berry record I got into back in the mid-60s. I heard this record and knew it was the type of music I was to play. The way guys like Chuck Berry played rock ‘n’ roll is still, to me, real rock ‘n’ roll. It’s hard to get that right, and there are very few bands that really nailed it the way Chuck did. But that’s why it’s the blueprint for rock ‘n’ roll if you ask me. That stuff is like rock ‘n’ roll 101 for a guitar player.

Electric Mud – Muddy Waters (1968)

So, with Muddy Waters, I gotta say that the first record by him that I got had a bunch of his old stuff on it, but I can’t remember what it was called. It was something from the mid-60s that came out on Chess Records. I couldn’t tell you the name of it, but one that I do remember really liking and that totally nailed it for me was Electric Mud. He wore this long black robe on the cover and had this Guild electric [guitar] back then; I just had to have one. I know a lot of purists don’t like this record, but I felt it was a trip, and I loved it.

The Velvet Underground & Nico – The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967)

Another record that really put me up against the wall was the Velvet Underground record that had the banana on it [The Velvet Underground & Nico]. I remember listening to that record, and it’s always been a huge influence on me.

Then Play On – Fleetwood Mac (1969)

All the Fleetwood Mac blues records were great. They were hard to find back then, but the one that had the biggest influence on me was Then Play On. Obviously, Aerosmith ended up playing a lot of covers of that stuff, as I always thought it was great and thought that Peter Green was the shit. That era with Peter Green had such a great sense of humor and were an incredible live band.

It’s a good example of what I kinda of wanted Aerosmith to be: something between Fleetwood and The Yardbirds. By the time Then Play On came out, Peter Green was really stretching out on guitar. I mean, some of the most beautifully written instrumentals came out of that era. I still feel that way, and I still go back and listen to that stuff often. I guess all the records I’m naming had aspects like that, except for the instructional record [laughs].

Truth & Blow by Blow – Jeff Beck (1968 & 1974)

That brings us to Jeff Beck’s Truth record. I can remember hearing this record after Jeff had defected from The Yardbirds, and I got a chance to see him play with his band, which was amazing. And then, of course, there’s Blow by Blow, another amazing record. I go back to those records all the time. Those two records are ones that I have to listen to at least once a week.

The Who Sell Out – The Who (1967)

There’s one more I’ll mention: The Who Sell Out. I remember trying to cover some of those songs in my garage band days. And I remember seeing The Who do a version of Tommy later on, like a shortened version of it, and it was cool, but I was really into The Who Sell Out. It came out in the ‘60s when there was so much music.

The ‘70s was like that, too. It’s hard to pick because even the stuff I wasn’t crazy about helped steer me into what I really did like. But I loved so much music, and all kinds of music. Looking back, like The Who, it seems to be mostly English stuff, which fed into some American stuff. Anyone could probably tell that from this list.

Joe Perry of Aerosmith Interview: 13 Albums That Changed My Life article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2024

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