Setlist History: "Walk This Way" is Born in Aerosmith Soundcheck

The long, strange trip of "Walk This Way" officially began on a stage in Honolulu in December of '74 in front of no audience, but metaphorically its journey started further back in New Orleans.

Additionally, sometimes it feels like a song just wills itself into existence and insist that it becomes part of the culture. This is one of those magical tunes.

For a while Aerosmith sold a Walk This Way doormat.

Aerosmith had been touring heavily from 1973 through 1974 supporting their first two albums, rocking in over 200 gigs. When it was time to write and record their third LP, Toys in the Attic, they were tighter, callused, and according to guitarist Joe Perry, more professional as a unit.

Drummer Joey Kramer turned Perry on to the New Orleans funk outfit, The Meters, whose album in '74, Rejuvenation, was ranked twice by Rolling Stone as one of the best 150 records of all time.

The Meters "Cissy Strut" from their self titled debut in 1969.

So the riff-driven swamp-meets-funky vibe of the Meters got into Perry's head as the band jetted to Honolulu to open for The Guess Who. Little did the headliners know, but Aerosmith had quietly become huge in the 50th state and allegedly most of the fans were there to see the Boston phenoms.

Did Perry feel that buzz? Did the Island gods whisper into the scrawny guitarists' ear something a little funky but definitely rockin? Because during sound check Perry pulled out that opening riff of "Walk This Way," and singer Steven Tyler tried to literally get in the groove.

Tyler in 2017 on the drums.

"When I heard Joe playing that riff during the sound check, I ran out and sat behind the drums and we jammed," Tyler told The Wall Street Journal.

"I rattled off the beat and just felt the song. Joe and I did this all the time when we wrote. I was originally a drummer, so playing along with Joe's riff gave me this extra vibe when writing lyrics. I scat nonsensical words initially to feel where the lyrics should go before adding them later."

In January the band was in the studio in New York City recording Toys in the Attic when they hit a creative block, which is normal.

So they decided to take a stroll through nearby Times Square to take in the Mel Brooks comedy everyone was talking about, Young Frankenstein, which coincidentally premiered the night Perry played that riff in Honolulu.

Because the guitarist had already seen the movie, Aerosmith, and their producer Jack Douglas, went on without him and he stayed in the studio working on ideas to complete a few of the songs that weren't there yet.

One scene that really cracked up Aerosmith was when Marty Feldman as Igor asked Dr. Frankenstein to "walk this way."

When the men returned to the studio they laughed with Perry about the funny moment.

"While all this was going on, Jack stopped and said, 'Hey, "walk this way" might be a great title for the song,'" Perry said.

The raunchy tune with the irresistible lick made it into the Top 10 and became the most-performed song in the band's discography.

But that was just its first life. Some songs want more. Enter Rick Rubin.

A decade after the release of "Walk The Way," hip-hop was really starting to grow creatively. At the forefront of bridging the new American genre to popular culture was Rick Rubin who famously recorded the likes of LL Cool J, Beastie Boys and Run DMC - some of it from his NYU dorm room.

Rubin noticed Run DMC was using little bits of rock songs, but it wasn't until he brought them Toys in the Attic to show them the majesty of "Walk This Way," a tune they were only using the opening riff from, that they were made aware of who Aerosmith was.

"Oh hell no," Darryl McDaniels remembered saying when he first heard Tyler's vocals kick in."We are not! This is country bumpkin, mountain climbing, hillbilly gibberish!"

But their DJ, Jam Master Jay, and Rubin convinced them to write new lyrics and record it. Reluctantly, they did. A week later they got a phone call to get back to the studio because Rubin had brought Tyler and Perry to NY to record some vocals, a fatter bass line, and some new guitar tracks.

When the rappers got to the studio and took a look at the rockers, they said, "oh no, Rick done went and got The Rolling Stones."

After the session was over, DMC told Rubin et al that it was a fun experience but he had one demand.

"Y'all can be happy as you want, but you better not put this record out as a single," McDaniels told Loudwire.

Aerosmith and Run DMC at the 2020 Grammys

Peaking at #4, the remake of "Walk This Way" became the first hip-hop song in the Top 5, paved the way for mashups, and expanded what hip-hop could do.

Run-DMC performed it nearly 100 times. The only artists who have performed it more other than Aerosmith was The String Cheese Incident and Justin Bieber.

After a delay, the final Aerosmith tour gets back in gear a few days after Christmas through the end of February.

Get your tickets on the Aerosmith website.

Karma Police - Please Share:

Most played songs

Last updated: 27 May 2024, 06:12 Etc/UTC