The Real Reason Joe Perry Quit Aerosmith In 1979

No one is going to oppose you if you claim that Steven Tyler is the most prominent member of the rock and roll phenom that is Aerosmith. He's been on television for years now and has been the face of the half-century Aerosmith legacy since it began. But, bands need more than one person, one creative influence, if they plan on being, well, a band, and a big part of the sound that's kept Aerosmith rocking through multiple decades is Joe Perry.

Perry is a founding member and the lead guitarist of the band, but he's so much more than that. He was also a vocalist for the band — usually backup, but he did take the lead on some of their songs, such as "Walk on Down" and "Bright Light Fright" — and wrote many of Aerosmith's songs, whether with Tyler or on his own. The guy's guitar licks were something out of this world when the band was rocking through '70s and '80s.

Well, part of the '80s, since Perry was absent from the band between 1979 and 1984. Here's how that happened.

Tensions had been rising

Perry and Tyler were once known as the "Toxic Twins," a testament to their rock and roll lifestyle and their exorbitant drug use. They put a lot of questionable substances in their bodies in their younger years of rocking around the country, and it contributed to much of the strain the bandmates were feeling by the end of the '70s. That strain ended with Joe Perry out of the lineup.

From '1974-80, the members of Aerosmith spent way too much time together. They were on a near-constant tour that kept them crammed in a bus, hopping from show to show, for over half a decade. No wonder that tensions were high on July 28, 1979, when Aerosmith played a show at Cleveland Municipal Stadium for the 1979 Rock World Series alongside a few other rock and roll legends, such as Journey and AC/DC. Aerosmith was pretty burned out and, according to Ultimate Classic Rock, "instead of taking a vacation, we let loose on each other," said Perry.

Usually, the bandmates stuck to being passive-aggressive, but on the night of July 28, they were ready to explode, and so were their wives. "Steven would do something to piss Joe off, then Joe would cold-shoulder Steven onstage — it would be very obvious," bassist Tom Hamilton says in the biography Walk This Way.

It was just a glass of milk

It all started with a little fight in which neither Perry nor Tyler were initially involved. Perry's wife, Elyssa, and bassist Tom Hamilton's wife, Terry, got into a physical altercation that led to an argument between Perry and Tyler. According to the Aerosmith biography Walk This Way, Elyssa and Terry didn't like each other much to begin with, and both of the ladies were very much "take no crap" types of people who shouldn't have been left in the band's dressing room by themselves.

Elyssa claims to have said something sarcastic to Terry. Terry responded by throwing some ice at her. Elyssa, who drank milk and only milk for some reason, threw her beverage (which was milk) on Terry. By the time the bandmates made it back to the room, the ladies were screaming and throwing stuff at each other. Then, Tyler did something that was way, way, way out of line. According to Tyler's book Does the Noise in My Head Bother You?, he said to Perry, "Man, can't you come over here and control your woman?"

Bye-bye, Joe Perry

Tyler's question didn't sit well with Aerosmith's lead guitarist. In his book, Tyler wrote, "Joe was acting like it was Elyssa's right to do what she did, and he's saying as much while Terri's still in the room. Didn't care." Which, of course, turned into a big argument between the stressed out bandmates, who had two women fighting in the room where they were supposed to be changing, with subsequent impact on their show.

The performance went on despite the trouble, and the band did their best to keep the embarrassing incident from their fans, but it was the incident that broke the lead guitarist camel's back. "It came down to I called up Tom Hamilton and said, 'It's off, I just don't think I'm going to be able to go on the road with you this time, I'm going to stick with my own solo thing and I can't put up with it anymore,'" Perry admitted years later while promoting his solo album (via Ultimate Classic Rock). "That was the last official word I said to the group."

It wasn't actually the last word, though, since Perry would rejoin the band after running into them backstage in 1984.