What Aerosmith's Joe Perry remembers most about being a rock star in the Seventies is that it was fun. "It was just a big party," he says. "I remember a lot of the bands played together. We'd always have Ted Nugent playing with us, or this band or that band. We'd be headlining at one place, and then the next day we'd be off playing someplace else, opening up for another band.
"I remember a lot more camaraderie on the road. Maybe it's still out there, I don't know. Maybe for the younger bands it is. But I remember running into [Cheap Trick guitarist] Rick Nielsen and [Kiss bassist] Gene Simmons and heading out to this all- night sushi bar in New York City pretty regularly, you know? We'd be in the same cities at the same time a lot, so we ended up hanging out a lot more."
It wasn't just that there was more camaraderie; there was also more touring. "There wasn't any MTV," Perry explains. "You basically lived on the road, and then you took a little time off to make a record. everybody played all the time.
"Some of these young bands today put out a record, tour for six months and then don't go out again for a year. It just wasn't like that. Back then, the record was basically the soundtrack for your live show. You went out and played it."
Of course, not every band got into the spirit of things. Perry remembers British rockers as being particularly competitive and stage- offish. "English bands were notorious for treating opening acts badly," he says. "I think it was a jealousy thing, an ego thing. They were all coming over to be rock stars."
On the equipment front, Perry has some less- than- fond memories of early solid- state amps. "We still pretty much stuck with Marshalls, but people were always coming out with new stuff," he says. "I can remember trying out some Sunn amps, and putting like 10 of them in a row. I still couldn't get them to sound good. I think they were transistor and they just didn't have that thing."
The boom in solid state circuitry meant that amps got a whole lot louder, and back then, everybody thought louder was better. "It took a while for us to realize that it doesn't matter how big your amp is if the people in the 20th row aren't going to hear it," he says. "The sound is coming from the PA. The only people that are really going to hear that kind of volume are in the first five rows, and it's going to kill you onstage. Of course, when you're drinking and you're high, it feels great."
Perry also remembers playing a lot of "weird- looking guitars." But what really makes him shudder is when he remembers all the "revolutionary" replacement pickups that were around back then. "Every show you'd go to, some guy would have some new pickups," he says. "Sometimes I go through my guitars and I'll see some old relic that i haven't played in a couple of years, and I'll open up the case. Like I'll find this oldsix- string bass, SG- style, and there's a fucking Bill Lawrence pickup in it! It's a Sixties guitar, and I know I cut the pickup out and threw it over my shoulder, thinking that this thing was going to change my world. A number of guitars suffered. everybody was doing that, and I look back and wonder, 'What were we thinking?'"
But people believed a lot of silly stuff back then. Consider the way much of the media embraced disco in the late Seventies. "People kept saying 'rock and roll is dead,' Perry recalls. "Meanwhile, we were out there selling out arenas and stadiums, and playing some pretty hard rock and roll. I guess those people who came to see us just didn't read the paper."
He laughs. "In a lot of ways, we got totally bypassed by the press. Sometimes I felt like we were the biggest underground band going." - J. D. CONSIDINE.