Why Steven Tyler and Joe Perry Fought at Aerosmith’s First Show
Like any band, Aerosmith has had its share of ups and downs, disagreements and differences. For the Boston-born rockers, that journey kicked off at their very first concert.
It took place on Nov. 6, 1970, in the Nipmuc Regional High School gymnasium, about an hour outside Boston. Guitarist Joe Perry's mother worked at another nearby school and helped book the performance. The band's set that day was filled with covers, and the audience, though not exactly rowdy, seemed relatively entertained, as Perry recalled in his 2014 book, Rocks: My Life In and Out of Aerosmith.
That's when things got a little complicated. As Perry remembered it, Steven Tyler kept screaming at him to turn down his guitar volume. "I wasn't cranking the volume to antagonize Steven. I was doing it to achieve the right rock 'n' roll balance," he explained.
"We were using the same amps that the bands we admired used in similar-sized venues. Sometimes I think Steven looked at this volume thing as an ego competition," Perry added. "My point, though, was always the same: Why be in a rock band if you don't want to play loud?"
Aerosmith Turns It Up to 11
However much Tyler screamed, Perry didn't back down. "I knew there was no way in hell to lower the volume and keep the band on the edge," he said. "Plus I had to keep my guitar loud enough to hear over the drums. I was going to keep the volume where it needed to be."
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This would not be the last time Tyler would complain about the volume level, but as Perry saw it, Tyler was wasting his breath: "If Steven cared so much about his voice – as he often claimed — why was he always abusing it by screaming after the shows?"
As the band recounted in Walk This Way: The Autobiography of Aerosmith, this sort of power dynamic was present in the band since the first day of rehearsals.
"[Tyler] had an uncanny ear and caught every one of my mistakes, and there were a lot of them," bassist Tom Hamilton recalled of Aerosmith's earliest days. "His way of criticizing you was harsh and intimidating. It was like rock 'n' roll boot camp directed by a sadistic drum major. In a matter of days, I developed a definite inferiority complex."
Aerosmith, a Band of Brothers
But that divide was also, in many ways, what brought the band together, particularly Tyler and Perry. "My whole life I'd been searching for my mutant twin — I wanted a brother," Tyler wrote in his book, Does the Noise in My Head Bother You? A Rock 'n' Roll Memoir. He found it in Perry.
"Right off, there was teeth-grinding competitive antagonism. The internal combustion engine that drives us," Tyler added. "My relationship with Joe is complex, competitive, fraught, really sort of fascinating in a hair-raising kind of way. There's always going to be an undercurrent, ongoing tension, periods of homicidal hostility, backstabbing jealousy and resentment. But, hey, that's the way the big machine works."
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