“Eddie turned guitar on its ear... I remember saying, ‘We’re not ready for the ’80s’”: Joe Perry says after hearing Van Halen’s first record he knew it was time to take a break from Aerosmith

Eddie Van Halen and Joe Perry in 1979 and 1978, respectively
(Image credit: Koh Hasebe / Shinko Music / Larry Hulst / Getty Images)

Joe Perry has said that hearing the first Van Halen record confirmed his sense that Aerosmith were “not ready for the ’80s” and thinks the feeling contributed (albeit indirectly) to his departure from the group in the late-’70s.

The Aerosmith guitar icon is interviewed in the new issue of Guitar World in an expansive feature marking the band’s 50th anniversary.

In the piece, Perry is asked about his reasons for leaving the band amid the fraught sessions for 1979 album Night in the Ruts, but notes that it was not entirely down to personal struggles.

“I just had to take care of myself,” says Perry. “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.”

Joe Perry playing with Aerosmith in 1979

(Image credit: Larry Hulst / Getty Images)

As such, Perry says the arrival of Van Halen – and the subsequent reinvention of rock music from its bluesier origins into something more virtuosic – played a key role in this thinking.

“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. 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.”

Perry eventually departed to make his solo record, as did co-guitarist Brad Whitford. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, he reckons that despite the interpersonal struggles of the band, Night in the Ruts stands up surprisingly well. 

“That record was a nightmare. But I have to say, it features some of the best playing Aerosmith has ever done in the studio,” says Perry.

“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. 

“If you look at a song like Cheesecake, 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.”

Last month, in a separate GW feature, Perry named 8 guitarists who shaped his sound and included Van Halen among that number, noting, “He's one of maybe five guys that truly changed things.”

To read our full interviews with Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, in which they discuss the guitars, arguments and playing behind 50 years of Aerosmith, pick up issue 571 of Guitar World

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month**

Join now for unlimited access

US pricing $3.99 per month or $39.00 per year

UK pricing £2.99 per month or £29.00 per year 

Europe pricing €3.49 per month or €34.00 per year

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Prices from £2.99/$3.99/€3.49

Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for GuitarWorld.com. Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.

With contributions from