Joe Perry’s 10 Greatest Guitar Moments

Celebrating six-and-a-half decades of Aerosmith’s axe-master.

Anthony Joseph Perry joined the band known as the human race on September 10, 1950, and the world has always rocked harder—a lot harder—ever since.

Over the course of Joe Perry’s sixty-five years now among us mere mortal, the Massachusetts native has repeatedly conquered the planet six strings at a time, primarily as the lead guitar wizard for Aerosmith, as well as by way of the Joe Perry Project and other scintillating side endeavors. And there’s no sense he’s going to stop any time soon—or ever.

Let’s honor the primarily instrumental half of Aerosmith’s Toxic Twins, then, with a countdown of Joe Perry’s top 10 most mind-melting guitar moments… so far.

  1. “Jaded” – Just Push Play (2000)

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    “Jaded” functions as both as both fin-de-siecle summation and “best of” table of contents that encapsulates Aerosmith’s mega-multiplatinum post-Permanent Vacation era. It’s slick and calculated, to be sure, but it’s also remarkably understated, due largely to Joe Perry’s hypnotic, subtly labyrinthine riffs and under-the-radar effects licks. “Jaded,” ironically, showcases Aerosmith taking ultimate opportunity to come off jaded themselves and scoring their last great hit by revealing that they’re anything but that. Joe’s guitar rings true with every note.

  2. “Chip Away the Stone” – Live! Bootleg (1978)

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    “Sassy Strut” and “Full-Force Forward Thrust” of two deepest colors on Joe Perry’s guitar palette. On “Chip Away at the Stone,” Joe delivers an abundance of both, first as Steven Tyler sings about the guarded, aloof object of his affection (“You act like a prima donna/actin’ so cool and nonchalant/draggin’ on a cigarette”). Come the chorus, Perry leads the musical charge of determination that more than matches Tyler’s proclamation: “Chip away, chip away at the stone/And I won’t stop until your love is my very own.” Perry makes it all so rockingly palpable.

  3. “Rats in the Cellar” – Rocks (1976)

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    On “Rats in the Cellar,” Joe Perry’s ferocious instrument sounds like the title creatures. It ain’t cuddly. The guitar burrows, it bites, and once it’s matched by fellow subterranean dwellers in the form of the rest of Aerosmith, that guitar rages and rampages claws its way maniacally up top to get out in the light of day. Once there, it runs wild. No wonder nobody’s been able to catch Joe Perry yet.

  4. “Eat the Rich” – Get a Grip (1993)

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    “Eat the Rich” hits like a punch to the face from five prizefighters all at once. Aerosmith’s rhythm section pounds out the percussive set up, immediately after which Perry pummels the listener with hard, fast intricate finger work that lands with such impact it comes off simple. That’s just Joe Perry knocking us all for a loop. As usual.

  5. “Draw the Line” – Draw the Line (1977)

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    Witty without joking, Joe Perry hurls “Draw the Line” into play with one strummed chord. It’s loud, it reverberates, and it hangs alone, just for a moment. Perry thereby invites his bandmates (and us) to join him in a soaring declaration of rock-and-roll authority as embodied by the rollicking, up-and-down-your-spine riff of that proves so irresistible it becomes impossible to hear it without smiling.

  6. “Let the Music Do the Talking” – The Joe Perry Project (1980)

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    The opening track of the Joe Perry’s self-titled 1980 debut is a such a power-charging Black Angus bull of blues-rock that when Aerosmith’s original lineup reunited in 1985 for Done With Mirrors (a great album), they naturally covered their once-and-future guitar ace’s solo effort. The ’Smith redo rock supremely well, but for uncut Perry bravura, allow the original to just rum rampant over all your senses.

  7. “Toys in the Attic” – Toys in the Attic (1975)

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    The brain-boggling riff that detonates “Toys in the Attic” sounds like nothing else before or since it debuted in 1975, and, every time you hear it, that guitar functions as potent a drop-kick into the band’s deepest and most dangerous depths that are somehow also invigorating and inspiring. Only Joe Perry could have whipped up this six-string whirlwind that seems to somehow emerge from inside the listener and then whip around his skull until it manipulates whatever body is attached into spastic marionette submission. “Toys in the Attic” makes us all playthings in Joe Perry’s superhumanly masterful hands.

  8. “Back in the Saddle” – Rocks (1976)

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    If a more suspenseful build-up exists in the annals of rock guitar than the way Joe Perry opens “Back in the Saddle,” who could possibly bear to hear it? Perry’s instrument snarls and kicks up dust before lunging forward, fangs-first, aiming hard for any and all available jugulars. This bestial bronco of a song bucks at every opportunity, but there’s no throwing off the guitarist who’s up top, blazing his way to blood-and-guts rock-and-roll glory.

  9. “Mama Kin” – Aerosmith (1974)

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    As pure blues rock demonstration, “Mama Kin” ranks on par with the snazziest show-off numbers by Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, and their regal ilk. What elevates “Mama Kin” to unique brilliance, though, is what Perry pumps into those riffs, licks, and delectably exploratory solos: cock-of-the-walk technical confidence intermingled with two-fisted Boston brawler instinct and soul-swinging sex swagger. “Mama Kin” where the sound of Aerosmith first truly gets laid… up, down, and every which way and loose.

  10. “Walk This Way” – Toys in the Attic (1975)

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    It’s just undeniable. Joe Perry’s incendiary, instantly indelible riff rockets “Walk This Way” to one-of-a-kind classic status from note one, and then it only gets greater from there. Perry’s staccato guitar acrobatics piled atop the raucous rhythm players and Steven Tyler’s motor-mouth rhyme-spraying is a monumental realization of unparalleled musical might. The only way “Walk This Way” can end is with a solo above and beyond what the listener can possibly imagine, and that’s exactly what Perry cascades froth from his sorcerer-like fingers and hard-working frets. Only Joe Perry could have come up with “Walk This Way;” only Joe could have pulled it off; and only Joe could hit such a dizzying high note so early on and only be fueled to keep on rocking forward from there—forever.

Mike McPadden is the author of the book "HEAVY METAL MOVIES: Guitar Barbarians, Mutant Bimbos, and Cult Zombies Amok in the 666 Most Ear- and Eye-Ripping Big Scream Films Ever!" (Bazillion Points, 2014).