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Aerosmith reunited their classic lineup, and warmed up for a major ’80s comeback, with 1985’s Done With Mirrors, but the band didn’t really take off again until two years later with their ninth album, Permanent Vacation. As guitarist Joe Perry recalls now, that record proved a pivotal shift — not just in terms of sales and radio play, but the way Aerosmith made albums going forward.
“It was really the start of a new paradigm as far as writing and making records,” Perry tells Ultimate Classic Rock. “We went into the studio and just tried to grind it out, and it didn’t work that way anymore. Obviously we needed some new influence, and it wasn’t going to work the old way. That’s when we started writing with other people.”
Writing in-house had worked for Aerosmith pretty well up to that point — particularly in terms of the creative dynamic between Perry and singer Steven Tyler. While turning to outside songwriters for material and collaboration turned out to have a major beneficial impact for the band in commercial terms, it rubbed a number of longtime fans the wrong way. Perry is far more inclined to see the good in the situation — especially when it comes to the writing chops you can’t help but acquire when working with talented new partners.
“I think that was a big influence because you learn so much when you’re writing with other people,” he explains. “You learn more about the craft, so to speak. So that kind of bleeds over to, say, when Steven and I were working again. Just the two of us bringing a lot of those ideas, when you learn from other people. There are a million different ways to write songs, what the drive is. That kind of thing. That opened, creatively, a lot of doors.”
New doors also awaited in Vancouver, where Aerosmith set up shop with producer Bruce Fairbairn for the Permanent Vacation sessions. “I think Bon Jovi had just been up there and made the Slippery When Wet record, which was huge,” notes Perry. “So there was that whole new kind of vibe, all that energy so it was a brand new setting and a brand new town. I don’t think we’d ever even played there before.”
Vancouver proved to be a home away from home for Aerosmith over the next several years. They returned to Fairbairn’s studio to track both of the album’s follow-ups, 1989’s Pump and 1993’s Get a Grip. Perry says he still has “great memories” of their time in the city — and the way it all started with Permanent Vacation. “It was a great time,” he says. “But creatively, it was definitely a watershed record.”
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