Joe Perry Explains How Van Halen Played Into His ’70s Exit From Aerosmith
At the height of Aerosmith's rise to fame in the '70s, guitarist Joe Perry left the band, and while inner tensions have often been mentioned as playing a role in his exit, the guitarist revealed another reason in a career-spanning chat with the latest edition of Guitar World, noting that a changing of the times was coming and he felt his band wasn't ready for it.
Perry famously exited Aerosmith during the recording of the group's 1979 album, Night in the Ruts, and he recalls that there were multiple factors in his exit.
“I just had to take care of myself,” said Perry, reflecting on that period of his life. “My personal life wasn't all that great, and I had to deal with that. I had come to terms with that and knew it was time to leave. But I also felt we needed to be more open to new ideas.”
One band in particular sparked that last particular notion - Van Halen.
“We were rolling into the ’80s, and I still remember hearing the first Van Halen record and fucking loving it. I mean... what a great fucking record,” says Perry. “Eddie's guitar playing was just so incredible; he turned guitar on its fucking ear and was doing stuff that I'd never heard before. I knew it was time for a break because new ideas were needed."
“But we also needed to re-adjust our sights and learn to get along again," adds the guitarist. "I remember saying, ‘We're not ready for the ’80s.’ I don't know why I said that; it was just a vibe or a feeling I had.”
As it turned out, Perry's intuition was right. Sales dropped off significantly for Night in the Ruts and with Brad Whitford following him out the door after that record's promotion, 1982's Rock and a Hard Place peaked at No. 32, barely hitting the gold certification mark. But by 1984, both Perry and Whitford reconnected with the band, ready to jump start their second era.
What Was Joe Perry's Reaction to Night in the Ruts?
Given that Perry left mid-creation, you might think that the guitarist had a negative opinion of the band's sixth studio record, but the guitarist has some kind things to say about the Night in the Ruts album.
Continuing his talk with Guitar World, he says, “That record was a nightmare. But I have to say, it features some of the best playing Aerosmith has ever done in the studio. I remember checking it out after I left, and I was very surprised they left me on it since I left in the middle of it."
Perry singles out the song "Cheesecake," noting, "The slow slide in the middle, we did that live in the studio, and it's so great. I think it could have been a huge record if we had the chance to tour behind it. But it was not to be.”
That second era of Aerosmith proved to be a fruitful one for the band, which saw a major comeback in the latter half of the '80s that carried over to a hugely successful run through the '90s and early 2000s. The group had been playing dates on their "Peace Out: The Farewell Tour" up until just recently when they postponed all their 2023 performances until next year, citing a Steven Tyler vocal injury that will need some ongoing care.
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Gallery Credit: Joe DiVita