Sunday, July 31, 2016

Review: A Rock Star's Autobiography

Over vacation, I finished Joe Perry's autobiography Rocks: My Life In and Out of Aerosmith. I remember seeing Joe Perry on a news clip a few years ago. This aging guitar god was talking about living in Vermont, and I remember being surprised at the time: he lives in Vermont?

Then a few months ago there was a lengthy and detailed article about the Run-DMC song "Walk This Way" (by Geoff Edgers for the Washington Post, May 18). In addition to the oral history recollections from people involved in that classic song, there was also video of Joe Perry playing that signature riff in a crowded studio.

In Joe Perry's book, I learned all this and more about this rock group's humble beginnings, their long road to success, their swift fall from the top, and their rebirth after getting clean. There's lots of sex, drugs, and rock n' roll in the pages of this enjoyable book (co-written with David Ritz), but there's also a lot of love, heartache and redemption as well.

Joe grew up in Massachusetts and spent summer vacations in Vermont. He was not a good student, which left him and his parents disappointed. He originally wanted to be a marine biologist, but the thought of going to college was painful to him. His remaining ambition was to learn to play the electric guitar, and in this endeavor he completely succeeded.

I enjoyed reading was how hard working Aerosmith was at the very start of their career. In the early 1970s, they played in high school and college parties, before they began playing at clubs, theaters and eventually arenas. Joe's difficult relationship with front-man Steve Tyler is captured throughout the book as well. The band's difficulty with managers is also described. Being a world-renowned rock band is not all glitz and glamor. Success is hard-won and easily lost.

I really liked this book. It would probably help to listen to some of their music before reading this book, but chances are you've heard their signature riffs (Walk This Way, Sweet Emotion, Same Old Song and Dance, Dude Looks Like a Lady). That lead guitar talking to you is Joe Perry's, and his biography is a study in being steadfast, persistent, and passionate.

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