How Chris Robinson Patched Things Up After Aerosmith Controversy
"If you're an entertainer and you take it seriously, you entertain with your natural abilities," Robinson said in early 1991, not long after the Black Crowes played a string of opening dates for Aerosmith on the Pump tour. "You go onstage and take a chance like everyone else. People say to us, 'Man, I heard some bad notes in your set tonight.' Well, fucking-A right you heard some bad notes. You saw a real band tonight, didn't you?"
Rich Robinson, Chris' younger brother and Black Crowes bandmate, came to his defense a few months later. "All Chris said is, he’s disappointed because great bands he’s loved all his life were made to resort to using tapes in concert," Rich told Rolling Stone, "and it bums him out because he feels they’re better than that. It didn't come off sounding that way, but it disappointed him and made him look at the world and think, 'Man, things are fucked up; the music industry is just for shit.'"
That appeared to be too little, too late. A not-unexpected rift with Aerosmith followed.
So, how did Robinson end up on stage jamming with Joe Perry at the Roxy in 2018? Or as a guest on "Fortunate One," a bonus track for the vinyl edition of the Aerosmith guitarist's most recent solo album, Sweetzerland Manifesto?
Answer: A shared love of music.
"I started out so cantankerous with Aerosmith," Robinson says in an exclusive new UCR interview. "We went on tour with them and I was still a kid, and I was shocked that they used tapes for [Steven Tyler's] vocals. Not the whole thing, but you know, that people back then were using [tapes]. Robert Plant was doing it. I brought it up in my first Rolling Stone interview and got nasty messages from everyone involved! [Laughs.] 'What are you doing, kid?' I was like, 'Oh, sorry!' I just was shocked that that's how this went down."
Watch Chris Robinson Join Joe Perry on Stage
Years later, however, a lingering mutual appreciation helped the Georgia native patch things up with Aerosmith.
"I remember running into Joe at the Ritz-Carlton in Boston in the elevator and he knew the title of the latest Black Crowes record – and I'm a massive Aerosmith fan," Robinson said. "I especially love Night In the Ruts and Draw the Line – all of the damaged, burned-out records – the most. [Laughs.] I think there's some really cool, unique rock music on those records."
The Black Crowes split in 2015, and their busy frontman returned to the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, a side project he formed four years earlier. They released their seventh album, Servants of the Sun, earlier this month. Robinson has also begun performing with As the Crow Flies, a Black Crowes offshoot group that also includes former bandmates Audley Freed and Adam MacDougall.
Still, he made time when Joe Perry – a player who Robinson readily praises for his intense playing style – asked him to take part in Sweetzerland Manifesto.
"I hadn't seen Joe in a while, but I got a call and he was doing these songs. He sent over this song and it only took me about 20 minutes to [complete it] – because it’s like, oh yeah, I know this! This is fun!" Robinson said. "It was fun to just rock out and do something a little more salty. He called me to do the gig and he's a super nice dude."
Turns out, the only stumbling block had nothing to do with his old comments about taped vocal performances. "I don’t understand a word [Perry]'s saying with that Boston accent," Robinson joked. "I’m just kidding. But yeah, he’s a real rock and roller and he’s a real icon. I texted him the next day, 'Thrill of a lifetime. Thanks, man. Super cool.'
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