Review: ROCKS by Joe Perry (Simon & Schuster)

PerryJ-Rocks“My Life In and Out of Aerosmith” – A superb rock memoir

Before the platinum records or the Super Bowl half-time show or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Joe Perry was a boy growing up in small-town Massachusetts. He idolized Jacques Cousteau and built his own diving rig that he used to explore a local lake. He dreamed of becoming a marine biologist. But Perry’s neighbors had teenage sons, and those sons had electric guitars, and the noise he heard when they started playing would change his life.

The guitar became his passion, an object of lust, an outlet for his restlessness and his rebellious soul. That passion quickly blossomed into an obsession, and he got a band together. One night after a performance he met a brash young musician named Steven Tyler; before long, Aerosmith was born. What happened over the next forty-five years has become the stuff of legend: the knockdown, drag-out, band-splintering fights; the drugs, the booze, the rehab; the packed arenas and timeless hits; the reconciliations and the comebacks.

Rocks is an unusually searching memoir of a life that spans from the top of the world to the bottom of the barrel — several times. It is a study of endurance and brotherhood, with Perry providing remarkable candor about Tyler, as well as new insights into their powerful but troubled relationship. It is an insider’s portrait of the rock and roll family, featuring everyone from Jimmy Page to Alice Cooper, Bette Midler to Chuck Berry, John Belushi to Al Hirschfeld. It takes us behind the scenes at unbelievable moments such as Joe and Steven’s appearance in the movie of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (they act out the murders of Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees). 

This is an excellent memoir. After a somewhat shaky start in Johnny Depp’s introduction, Perry (with the help of David Ritz) gets on with telling his story. It’s quite the story, too: Perry takes us through his childhood in (upper-)middle class Massachusetts, his difficulties at school, his love for the outdoors, and eventual discovery of music and guitars. It’s a fascinating look into the life of a rock megaband, and one of the creative minds behind it. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Review: IT’S SO EASY (AND OTHER LIES) by Duff McKagan (Touchstone)

McKaganD-ItsSoEasyUSA superb memoir of Guns ‘n’ Roses and more

A founding member of Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver — and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee — shares the story of his rise to the pinnacle of fame and fortune, his struggles with alcoholism and drug addiction, his personal crash and burn, and his phoenix-like transformation.

IN 1984, AT THE AGE OF TWENTY, Duff McKagan left his native Seattle — partly to pursue music but mainly to get away from a host of heroin overdoses then decimating his closest group of friends in the local punk scene. In L.A. only a few weeks and still living in his car, he answered a want ad for a bass player placed by someone who identified himself only as “Slash.” Soon after, the most dangerous band in the world was born. Guns N’ Roses went on to sell more than 100 million albums worldwide.

In It’s So Easy, Duff recounts Guns’ unlikely trajectory to a string of multiplatinum albums, sold-out stadium concerts, and global acclaim. But that kind of glory can take its toll, and it did — ultimately — on Duff, as well as on the band itself. As Guns began to splinter, Duff felt that he himself was done, too. But his near death as a direct result of alcoholism proved to be his watershed, the turning point that sent him on a unique path to sobriety and the unexpected choices he has made for himself since.

I really enjoyed this book. Despite being a huge Guns ‘n’ Roses fan (my first CD was Use Your Illusion I), McKagan’s story was mostly unknown to me. The first music magazine I ever bought was an issue of Hit Parader which included a long interview with and feature on McKagan and his music, but beyond that I don’t believe I’ve read anything else about him. After finishing Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself, I wanted to read another music biography, and this one came highly recommended. I can certainly see why: it’s gripping, extremely well-written, sometimes amusing, and brutally honest. Continue reading