The guitarist that made Joe Perry want to leave Aerosmith

Joe Perry

For the majority of the 1970s, Aerosmith was unstoppable. After spending the first few years of their careers being unfairly compared to their influences, Joe Perry and Steven Tyler’s songwriting would soundtrack the next generation of rock and roll. They created anthems like ‘Walk This Way’ and ‘Sweet Emotion’ while growing their audience with each show. While Perry was already one of the world’s biggest superstars, seeing one guitar player emerge from California instilled fear in him.

Throughout the band’s career, Perry never came off as the most flashy member. Despite his coveted rock mojo, Perry’s style prioritized riffs, often foregoing other elements in his playing. He would occasionally venture into playing great lead lines. While fellow guitarist Brad Whitford handled more complex lines beneath him.

Perry quickly became one of the world’s most sought-after guitar players. He created the central riffs for Aerosmith classics like ‘Back in the Saddle’ and ‘Walk This Way’. Despite catering to the hard rock audience that preferred Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones, the band hit a wall while working on the album Draw the Line.

Much of the album was made up of the only riff ideas the band had left, influenced by the substances everyone was taking, with Perry completely out of it for the majority of the sessions. Aside from living like a junkie, Perry was becoming increasingly intimidated by another band from California, Van Halen.

Although the band had barely made a dent in the rock world during Aerosmith’s peak, Eddie Van Halen became the world’s next guitar hero overnight after the band’s 1978 debut. For the brief moment when aspiring guitarists heard ‘Eruption’ for the first time, they knew there was another legend in town. The solo featured impressive displays with both hands on the fretboard.

Designed for prime time, the band’s look extended beyond the prowess of their guitar star. David Lee Roth was quickly becoming one of the most popular frontmen on the scene due to his signature rapport with the audience. Even though Aerosmith could still sell out arenas with their blues-infused swagger, Perry sensed trouble. He knew it when he first saw Van Halen perform.

When asked about his contemporaries, Perry revealed that Eddie was the catalyst for his departure from Aerosmith. He told Guitar World, “We were rolling into the ’80s. And I still remember hearing the first Van Halen record and fucking loving it. What a great record. Eddie’s guitar playing was simply incredible. He turned the guitar on its fucking ear and did things I had never heard before. It was time for a break because we needed fresh ideas.

Perry would not go quietly when leaving the band. It turned out in a massive fight with Tyler at the end of an arena show. This led to him leaving the band for a few years to work on his solo outfits. Aerosmith would later be reintroduced to the spotlight as pioneers of the hair metal movement. Van Halen had already established their own lane in rock and roll, determined to destroy any other rock band in their path.

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