Michael Schenker has denied attempting to “take over” Aerosmith, the iconic US rock group who play at this evening’s Calling Festival on London’s Clapham Common. The German guitarist auditioned to replace Joe Perry back in 1979, but he claims that both parties were too spaced out to make anything of the liaison.
Schenker, who months earlier had walked out on the Scorpions during a tour for their 1979 album Lovedrive, had been advised by his manager Peter Mensch to try out as a replacement for guitarist Perry who’d quit the drug-addled band following the release of their sixth album, that same year’s Night In The Ruts (though singer Steven Tyler has since claimed that he fired Perry from the band).
According to Tyler in the official Aerosmith book Walk This Way, Schenker strolled into the rehearsal room and greeted himself, guitarist Brad Whitford, bassist Tom Hamilton and drummer Joey Kramer with the immortal announcement: “Hello, I’m taking over. Before I join your band, I want it clear I’m taking over right now. Here – my jacket – take and hang up.”
“No, no, no… it wasn’t like that at all,” he protests. “I wasn’t trying to take over their band. How could I do that? This is Aerosmith. They have Walk This Way, it’s an all-time great rock song. They’re fantastic.
“What happened was that Peter [Mensch] flew me to New York. Steven wasn’t doing so good at the time, and I wasn’t in the best shape either. I ended up sat in my hotel room for five days waiting for something to happen. And when it did… it was worthless. Nobody was in a fit state to make it work.
“But later, when I started the Michael Schenker Group [in 1980], Joey Kramer and Tom Hamilton wanted to be my rhythm section,” he continues. “We did some rehearsals but then just as we were getting somewhere Steven got better, so they went back to Aerosmith.”
Schenker was talking to Classic Rock backstage at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods Awards in London, where he collected a gong for Icon from none other than Joe Perry himself.
The enigmatic 59-year-old has spent the last few years dragging himself back from the abyss of self-destruction with drugs and alcohol, following a well publicised burnout in 2007. In 2010 Schenker quipped: “I feel like I’ve finished my exams” after receiving his first major industry accolade, the Marshall ‘11’ Award at the Classic Rock Roll Of Honour, and having picked up Rock Guitar Legend from Doug Aldrich at the Vegas Rocks! Magazine Music Awards in 2012, he is coming to terms with belated recognition for a fascinating career that began way back in 1969.
“After all these years, it’s a great feeling,” says Schenker, who will tour the UK in November and is currently writing a follow-up to last year’s Bridge The Gap. “And receiving this award from Joe Perry… it’s unbelievable.”