Throughout the tumultuous career of blockbuster band Aerosmith, guitarist Joe Perry has been the second-most recognizable figure in the group, trailing only the flamboyant, outspoken, larger-than-life Steven Tyler. That said, we don't know a heck of a lot about him, and that seems to have been a purposeful move by Perry, who prefers to fly under the radar.
In Perry's new autobiography, aptly titled "Rocks" after one of Aerosmith's biggest albums, the low-key New Englander opens the curtain on a storied career that has had its fair share of drama including well-publicized battles with drug abuse and dustups between band members, with Perry going as far as quitting in 1979 and not returning until 1984. It's his perspective on lesser-known Aerosmith lore, though, that should make "Rocks" a must-read for fans of Perry and the band.
Perry is not hawking a salacious tell-all, because he feels the group's hedonism, which has been covered ad nauseam previously, is an aspect, not a cornerstone, of "Rocks." And he noted that his honest accounts might ruffle some bandmates' feathers when they've finished reading "Rocks."
"Steven's up to Chapter 4, the easy part," Perry said dryly. "We'll see if there's a tour next year."
Perry was speaking about "Rocks" Tuesday night at a book discussion and signing event at a Barnes and Noble bookstore in Manhattan hosted by Eddie Trunk, a syndicated hard rock and heavy metal radio DJ and the host of VH1 Classic's popular "That Metal Show."
During the course of Tuesday's talk, Perry painted a vivid picture of parts of his life and career, especially his youth. He recalled "doing terrible in school" and suffering from what would today be diagnosed as a learning disability but was at that time simply considered a discipline problem. He'd spend his school days "in study hall with a bunch of f--kups." He gravitated to rock 'n' roll groups like The Ventures, got thrown out of school for refusing to cut his hair and learned to play his first guitar, a $12 Silvertone.
"I knew I wasn't going to make it through high school, and definitely not college," Perry said. "I wanted to be a marine biologist, but I knew it wasn't going to happen. As those doors closed, rock 'n' roll doors opened."
Perry's candid commentary was both entertaining and revealing. He shot straight about "getting blown off the stage" by opening act Rory Gallagher at Central Park in 1974 and the famously fractious relationships within Aerosmith. He recounted closed-door, backstage shouting matches when those within earshot were certain the band would call it quits. But, Perry said, "I felt it was just the ups and downs of a brotherhood. There were moments where [I'd say], 'I'm never going to talk to this guy again,' but then two pages later in the book we're on vacation together."
He said Aerosmith "busted up a lot of furniture" during those disagreements, "but it never turned into a fistfight, because we knew we couldn't come back from that."
One nugget that might come as a surprise to some is that Perry and Tyler like to go target shooting together in the woods - a somewhat frightening or humorous image if you imganie guns around Tyler. Perry described his relationship with Tyler - whom the band considered replacing in 2010 when the singer decided to become an "American Idol" judge - as "an ebb and flow."
"As far as the music goes, he's very much into pop and getting things meticulously perfect," Perry said. "I'm into just letting things rip. That's the dynamic."