Aerosmith without Joe Perry: remembering Rock in a Hard Place

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      Thirty years ago tomorrow--on January 21, 1983--Aerosmith played the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver. That's no big deal in and of itself; the band has played here countless times. But back in '83 was the only time the Bad Boys of Boston played here without lead guitarist Joe Perry. Or rhythm guitarist Brad Whitford, for that matter.

      I'm sure Matt Pike could care less, but for those folks who grew up enraptured by Aerosmith in the '70s, the loss of its original guitarists was a pretty big deal. In '82 the band released Rock in a Hard Place, which featured Whitford on only one track ("Lightning Strikes"), and Perry on none at all. The official new members of the band were lead guitarist Jimmy Crespo (formerly of Flame) and rhythm guitarist Rick Dufay.

      The Perry-less album wasn't one of their best, but it did include some memorable tracks in "Lightning Strikes" and "Bitches Brew", as well as the gnarly remake of Julie London's "Cry Me a River".

      The same day as that Vancouver gig the Straight printed my interview with Aerosmith bassist Tom Hamilton, which I'll bang out for you now. The most interesting aspects of the conversation, looking back, are when Hamilton refers to the departed Perry. Whenever he says something that doesn't seem overly complimentary about Smokin' Joe--or Judas Priest, for that matter!--I'll insert this: [Snap! Oh no he di-int!]

      How has the sound of Aerosmith changed with the addition of Jimmy Crespo and Rick Dufay?

      There's a much better onstage mix, and there's much more in the way of dynamics, so the audience hears every instrument with better separation and tone. Plus we've got a guy with us on keyboards named Bob Mayo, who used to play with Foreigner and Peter Frampton, and he's also doing some backup vocals. So between him, Jimmy and Steven we've got plenty of harmony now, whereas it used to be that the only one in the band that could really sing was Steven. [Snap! Oh no he di-int!]

      How does the guitar-playing style of Jimmy Crespo differ from that of your previous lead player, Joe Perry?

      Jimmy is a little more calculated and polished, I'd say. One of the things that was great about Joe and not so good about him was that he would just go for it, for whatever came into his head. And if the idea to stop playing was in his head he would do that too. [Snap! Oh no he di-int!]. But Jimmy is real conscious of dynamics and coming down to low volume when the verses call for it.

      What about your new rhythm guitarist Rick Dufay? How does his playing compare to that of Brad Whitford?

      Well Brad was a rock, I'll say that. Brad would never make a mistake, and you'd never hear anything coming out of his amp that he hadn't meant to come out. Rick is also really solid, but sometimes he'll come out with something that you're not expecting.

      How did you find the new members?

      Well Rick did an album, produced by Jack Douglas, called Tender Loving Abuse. Jack sort of snuck him into our practice one day. Jimmy Crespo used to play in a band called Flame, and when that band folded he was doing a lot of studio work. We were introduced to him through a mutual friend, Richie Supa, the person who wrote "Lightning Strikes". Richie said, "Why don't you try this guy out?", so he was one of about six or seven guitarists that we auditioned. He was the third player we saw, and we knew that he was the right one right off. So we let the other guys have their shot, but it was pretty much Jimmy all the way.

      How did you come to record the old standard "Cry Me a River" on the new album?

      That was Steven's idea. He was in a record store down in the Village in New York, and he happened to see an old Julie London album. He picked it up and brought it up to the studio and we listened to that one song and started figuring it out--changing the horn and string parts into guitar parts. It went pretty good, so we stuck with it.

      Being a member of one of America's biggest hard rock bands, do you think there are any differences between the heavy American sound and the heavy British sound?

      Well, if you're talking about Aerosmith compared to, say, Judas Priest, I'd say that we've got an advantage over them because we know how to play different types of drum beats. [Snap! Oh no he di-int!] When people come to see us on stage, there's a little bit of humour, and sort of a party atmosphere, whereas with a lot of the heavy bands coming out of England now--and even out of the States--there seems to be a "please take us very seriously" attitude.

      I was talking to the bass player for Judas Priest a while back, and he said that he thought the British bands were more guitar-dominated than some of the American ones.

      I don't know, I suppose you could say that. You know, lead solos are great and everything, but they're only a little part of the song. I don't know if people are that much into extended solos and guitar acrobatics. There's a lot of great bands out that have pretty much zip for chops--like the Clash. But it's what they put across on stage that counts.

      Since Aerosmith has been off the road for almost three years now, is it safe to call this one a "comeback" tour?

      I don't like to call it a comeback--I don't feel that we've really been that far away. But I suppose that's the way we have to look at it, considering that most people figure we had faded into the distance.




      You can follow Steve Newton on Twitter at @earofnewt.




      Jan 21, 2013 at 6:14am

      One of the best albums of the 80's. Totally underrated. I don't think there is a bad track on the record. In fact, lightning strikes is probably the worst track on the album. I remember a review on this album complaining about how this album was too 70's and they were behind the times. Not.

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      Steve Newton

      Jan 21, 2013 at 9:47am

      Come on, Frankenheimer, you don't honestly believe it's better than Draw the Line do ya?

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      Jan 21, 2013 at 3:01pm

      No not better but as good. I love them both. i also love rocks toys. get your wings which is probably my personal fav, the 1st album, night in the ruts, live bootleg, permanent vacation and pump. Love some stuff on get a grip and nine lives as well, but would put the music on this album right up there with all of them. I remember when I first heard this... I thought-- Joe who. I love Draw the line but I like more tracks on this album than I did on draw the line. Still don't know why they let Joe sing lead, but whatever kept him in the band I guess. Cry me a river is, to me, one of Steven Tylers most amazing vocal performances on record. It is just absolutely amazing and inspiring. This album also boasts Steven Tylers first recorded drum performance on an aero album. It is also a tribute to Joey Kramer. Just one incredible drum part after another on here. Love this band always will. My kids ages 13 and 11 now listen to this music. I turned on a so called rock station the other day and they asked me to turn Aerosmith back on after 3 are right though--Draw the Line is also incredibly underrated no question.

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      Kevin Keating

      Mar 10, 2013 at 5:04pm

      I saw Aerosmith on The Rock in a hard place tour at the coliseum. They sucked!

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      May 22, 2013 at 12:46am

      I'll take "Rock in a Hard Place" and "Night in the Ruts" over "Draw The Line".

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      May 23, 2013 at 9:54am

      You tell 'em Cosmic!

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      Steve Newton

      May 23, 2013 at 10:12am

      don't be ridiculous, Cosmic. Draw the Line is way better than both of those.

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      May 23, 2013 at 10:33am

      Draw The Line sounded like a bunch of leftover tracks to me. Title track and I Wanna Know Why get the LP off to a good start, but the rest is rather boring and disconnected. I will never understand why Kings and Queens is considered a classic Aerosmith song. It sucks, and it drags on like a bad movie.
      If Rock In A Hard Place came out 5 years earlier, it would be regarded as highly as Toys In The Attic and Rocks.

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      Jun 3, 2013 at 11:29pm

      I agree with Blackie.
      The big problem is when you follow up a perfect record like "Rocks" with "Draw The Line" you really start to see the cracks in the facade. I'm reading Joey Kramer's bio right now and he hates the record, it cost a shitload of money and endless time to produce it.
      And what it perfectly exemplifies is the fine balance of what a band fucked up on dope and booze can get done.
      The balancing point for "Rocks" was perfect.
      They went into the studio, kicked ass, and knocked the perfect record out of the park. Don't get me wrong, there's good songs on "Draw The Line" but it comes across as a half ass pastiche when you compare it to the former record. And "Night in The Ruts" is great, "Chiquita" "Cheesecake" and even "Coney Island White Fish Boy" rocks. And the only way to follow up "DTL" was with "Live Bootleg" which pretty much blows. It's obvious Aerosmith was losing it for a minute there, but even "Rock and A Hard Place" is a killer record. Like Blackie said, it that had followed "Rocks" it would be considered a classic. Although the SONG "Rock in a Hard Place" is a dead rip of "Same Old Song and Dance" it still kicks ass with some nice ride work by Mr. Kramer. I don't know, "Draw The Line" is ok, but I'll still take "Gypsy Boots" off of "Done With Mirrors" over most of the songs on DTL.

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      Jun 4, 2013 at 5:02pm

      I agree with Cosmic's agreement with me.