Monday, September 15, 2014
Rocks: My Life in and out of Aerosmith by Joe Perry with David Ritz
I've not seen Aerosmith live but they're on the bucket list. As it happens, Aerosmith seems to be cursed where my town is concerned. At least three shows that I can recall had been postponed and/or canceled - one because of 9/11, one because of illness, and one because of a hurricane. I don't shake my head at juju, either. I genuinely fear for these guys if they ever do show up at the beach, like somebody will have a bad crabcake and pay dearly for it onstage.
Since I haven't followed their career, I see what I see, and most of the time it's Steven Tyler (I didn't even know the drummer's name until the Flaming Moe ep on The Simpsons). The flash, the scarves, the lips...a neophyte would think him the heart of the band. At the very least, a lung. I looked forward to Perry's memoir, Rocks (AMZ), because I'd get to read about a band on my rotation that I don't know very well. I enjoy reading these stories more to compare how these musicians rose from youth to legend. While Perry seemed to have come from familial stability, he didn't embrace his parents' zeal for academia but benefited from their support for his career choice. Deeper into the book you find Aerosmith's story doesn't really differ from other bands - dodgy management, waffling support from labels, and tension among band members. Every time I think I've read the epitome of the dysfunctional "brotherhood" (the Van Halens, Gene and Paul, Paul and John) somebody comes along to top it. Perry's frank description of Tyler's shenanigans make for the book's more interesting anecdotes, and I have to wonder how Perry made it this far putting up with him.
Rocks reads more eloquently than similar memoirs. I can't say if that's the influence of Perry's co-writer, but as I'm not familiar with Perry I don't his know voice beyond Aerosmith's music. One might seem put off in that it doesn't match the band's persona, but it didn't distract me from Perry's story. I got the impression Perry wants to reassure us that despite the history of drugs he is a "good guy." There's emphasis on his disdain for groupie collecting, for one.
Rocks will best serve the die-hards who love Aerosmith, and those who consider Perry an influence. There are pockets of good gossip here and there, but the narrative holds it back enough so it doesn't read as sleaze. An extended acknowledgements section about Perry's and Aerosmith's equipment reads like guitar pr0n for the musicians, emphasizing this book as one for those into the music.
ARC received via Netgalley from publisher.
Kathryn Lively is a mystery author and book blogger.