The song's main riff was written by Joe Perry on a Fender Bass VI, which gives the song its distinctive "growl". Brad Whitford plays the lead guitar part. "Back in the Saddle" also features one of the heaviest and noticeable bass lines by Tom Hamilton. The song is also notable for the slow buildup of the drum beat and guitar riff in the beginning of the song, as well as the sound effects of a galloping horse and whips, and screams and yodeling by Steven Tyler at the end of the song. A real bullwhip was intended to be used for the whip effects and hours were spent trying to get it to crack. The band members ended up cut up and hurt without making any progress. Eventually, the band decided the whip effects would be created by whirling a 30-foot cord from the studio, then by firing a cap gun to create the crack of the whip (the sound effects are more prominent in the Quadraphonic mix of the album (Columbia CAQ 34165)). When the song is performed in concert, Steven Tyler often makes more noticeable lyrical and visible references to sex. Although the lyrics, by Steven Tyler, were written with the simple idea of cowboys and sex, this song took on new meaning after Aerosmith reunited in 1984 and embarked on their Back in the Saddle tour.
Today, the song remains a staple on classic rock radio and in concert. It is arguably one of the heaviest songs of Aerosmith's Top 40 singles, and is cited by rock musicians Slash and James Hetfield as among their favorite rock songs.
The "saddle" Tyler refers to in the song is metaphorical to several sexual positions.
Retired UFC fighter Randy Couture used the song as entrance music for his 2007 comeback fight against Tim Sylvia and again for his fight against Brock Lesnar, his first fight in the UFC after a legal dispute which kept him out of the sport for 15 months.
In February 2009, Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) used Aerosmith's "Back in the Saddle" to boast in an ad that "The House GOP is back" due to the party's unanimous opposition in the house to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. After Stage Three Music, which owns the rights to the song, asserted the use as copyright infringement, Cantor was forced to take down the ad. Aerosmith also did not approve of its use and also wanted it taken down.
Used in Red, when Bruce Willis character, Frank Moses, fights with Karl Urbans character, CIA Agent William Cooper, at the Central Intelligence Agency Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. The song was also used in the film's trailer and in TV spots.
Used in The Fighter, when Mark Wahlberg's character, Mickey Ward, starts his winning streak.
Used in the twelfth episode of Supernatural's sixth season, in the "Road So Far" montage.