“He was pretty quiet. He just wanted to hang out”: Joe Perry remembers when Kurt Cobain met Aerosmith

Brad Whitford, Joey Kramer, Joe Perry, Steve Tyler and Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith and Kurt Cobain
(Image credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic/Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)

It's well-known that Kurt Cobain ushered in a new era of rock music, and also that he was famously un-shy in sharing what he thought of the rock behemoths who preceded Nirvana

That doesn’t mean he didn’t love some of them, though, and whilst some assume his titling of an early Nirvana song as Aero Zeppelin was a tongue-in-cheek swipe, it could also be construed as a heartfelt tribute. 

Cobain was certainly an Aerosmith fan, and guitarist Joe Perry told Classic Rock about the time the frontman came backstage to say hello to his heroes. “He was pretty quiet. He just wanted to hang out,” Perry told CR’s Dave Everley. “He came in the dressing room with Courtney [Love] and kind of just sat around with us. He was a normal guy. When he went off to the bathroom, Courtney – who was very verbal – said: “He loves you guys. He doesn’t like anybody, but he loves you guys.” I had nothing but respect for the guy. He was an amazing songwriter and performer, and to hear that was great.”

Perry said that the idea that one generation of musicians should hate those who came before them was something thought up by record companies rather than the bands themselves. He went on to reminisce about the time he went to see the Foo Fighters and was invited to come and sit in their warm-up room. “They have all the instruments set up so they can go in and jam,” he explained, “and they knew every Aerosmith song cold. I couldn’t believe it, I was embarrassed. They were playing songs that I hadn’t played in thirty years. There was no bullshit, they were fans, but being able to play some of those songs and know those riffs off the top of their heads, it was like: “Holy shit!”

It wouldn't be the only encounter Cobain had with Aerosmith. In 1992, upon hearing that Cobain was grappling with heroin addiction, the group's frontman Steven Tyler tried to stage an intervention, contacting Nirvana's management and requesting his personal phone number. In Everybody Loves Our Town, Gold Mountain Entertainment's Janet Billig said: "Right when It started coming out that Kurt was doing drugs, I remember Steven Tyler called and wanted to help. I told Kurt, Holy shit, Steven Tyler called my office and he wants to help you. Can I give him your number?' And he was like, 'Steven Tyler got to be a junkie for 18 fuckin' years. I've only been doing drugs for an hour'."

The pair eventually did meet to talk about addiction, rehab and a life beyond heroin, but it was too late. Interviewed on US TV show Turning Point the week after Cobain's body was found, Steven Tyler told reporters: "I'm angry about Kurt. This guy didn't have to die."

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.