They Told Us To “Walk This Way…”

From its conception, rock has been the bastard child of a handful of different types of music. It was the music describing a growing generation of bourgeoise children who held commercial power in a flourishing economy. Rock n’ roll grew up under the parentage of a bluesy father and a hillbilly mother, both earthy and urban at the same time. It crossed color barriers in a time when color was the biggest barrier in our nation. Fast forward 30 years and the same is true of rap music. It’s the response of the new generation to the dated riffs and beats of their parents. Rapid fire lyrics and altered electronic rhythms have eclipsed rock as the underground movement. Two seemingly separate and alternate universes couldn’t possibly collide, could they? Of course they could and undoubtedly they would. 1986 saw the atomic collision of two unstoppable forces, and rather than imploding on impact, they melded together and exploded exponentially. What Aerosmith and Run DMC did for modern American music was no less important than what Elvis and the Beatles each did 30 years prior. “Walk This Way” became the anthem for America’s newest musical voice.

Aerosmith hit their stride in 1975, with the release of Toys In The Attic. They had been struggling since 1970, playing gigs on the worn out roads of rock stardom, never quite reaching the destination. Their first couple albums when unnoticed by the industry at large, but Toys was the turning point. Some of their most legendary songs, from “Sweet Emotion” to “Walk This Way” were found between the liner notes. They struck gold with their next release, Rocks, in 1976, bringing both their debut album, Aerosmith, and Toys back into reissue. “Walk This Way” hit the charts and became a smash. This point marked their ascent and subsequent decent to rock and roll stardom.

The riff was noodled out by Joe Perry, while the band was in Hawaii. Later on, when they were recording tracks for Toys and Steven was struggling to come up with lyrics, the rest of the band went to the local movie house. Young Frankenstein had just been released, so the guys decided to blow off some steam. During the scene where Dr. Frankenstein meets Igor (the “Walk this way…” scene), the band was laughing so hard, they decided that this had to be on the album, somehow. They went back to the studio and told Steven that he had to write a song called “Walk This Way”; so he did. He went back to the hotel that night and wrote it. Later, on the cab ride back to the studio, he left the lyrics in the back seat. No one will ever know what they were originally intended to be, because in manic frustration, he went into the stairwell of the studio and wrote a whole new set as fast as his hand would allow on the wall. And the rest is history.

Fast forward 11 years: rap is a burgeoning underground movement that has yet to break into the mainstream music culture, including MTV. Aerosmith has been on the skids since 1979, when both Joe Perry and Brad Whitford left the band in pursuit of solo projects. They have just released a new album that has flopped and are preparing to enter rehab. Somewhere in NYC a young DJ named Jam Master J has acquired an unlabeled copy of samples he is using with his band, Run DMC. Rick Rubin, who is working with them on their album Raising Hell, explains to them that the album he’s using is Toys In The Attic and the song he’s sampling is “Walk This Way”. He goes on to tell them how influential Aerosmith is and how pivotal this album has been in rock history. With the help of Russel Simmons, they convince the band to recut it, adding their use of the turntable to the mix. They reluctantly agree and what results is no less than amazing. The song becomes a huge hit, both igniting the career of Run DMC and resurrecting the career of Aerosmith, sending both groups into the stratosphere.

The music video that ensued became the most rotated rap video of the day, and Aerosmith went on to record many more top-selling albums, including Permanent Vacation. Aerosmith became the first band to make an appearance on The Simpsons, singing their signature song in Moe’s Tavern. The match-up was the foundation for later pairings of Public Enemy/Anthrax and Jay-Z/Linkin Park. This was THE crossover single that changed the direction of music forever. And it happened almost by accident.

The reason it works as well as it does is because the original structure lends itself so well to the rap medium. The original recording begins with a 2 measure drum intro, followed by a biting guitar riff. The whole band joins in underneath a half-sung, half-rapped vocal line that flows jagged over the driving rhythm section. The picture painted is one of a young man’s awkward loss of virginity to the school’s experienced cheerleader. The lyrics are typical Steven Tyler “tongue firmly in cheek” style. Everything just works.

In the years following, both groups saw an increase in their fame and exposure. Run DMC and Aerosmith are known as legends in their respective genres and boundary-pushers for their work together. Walk This Way has seen life as both an influential rock song and the fire that ignited rap’s rocket into the mainstream. Two unlikely forces joined together for a brief instant, completely changing the face of popular culture as we know it today. Pretty impressive.

Now there’s a backseat lover,
That’s always undercover
And I talked till my daddy say,
Said “ya ain’t seen nothin till your down on a muffin,
And there’s sure to be a change in way”
Now there’s a cheerleader, that’s a real big pleaser
As far as I could reminice
And the best thing lovin’ was you sister and your cousin
And it started with a little kiss, like this

She start swingin’ with the boys in school
And her feet are flyin’ up in the air
Singin hey diddle diddle with the titty in the middle,
And you swingin like you just don’t care
So I took a big chance at the highschool dance
With a lady who was ready to play
It wasn’t me she was foolin’
Cause she new what she was doin
When she told me how to walk this way, she told me to

Chorus:
Walk this way, talk this way (x2)
She told me to
Walk this way, talk this way (x2)
Just give me a kiss…like this

School girl sleezy with a classy kinda sassy
Little skirt hangin way up her knee
There were three young ladies in a school gym locker
And I find there were lookin at D
I was a highschool loser never made it with a lady
Till the boys told me somethin’ i miss
Then my next door neighbor
Had a daughter, had a favour
And I gave the girl a little kiss, like this

She start swingin’ with the boys in the school,
With your feet flyin up in the air
Singin hey diddle diddle
With the kitty in the middle
I was swingin like i didn’t care
So I took a big chance at the highschool dance
With the miss who was ready to play
Wasn’t me she was foolin,
Cause she knew what she was doin
When she told me how to walk this way, she told me to

Walk this way, talk this way (x2)
She told me to
Walk this way, talk this way (x2)
Just give me some head
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