Walk This Way
|"Walk This Way"|
|Single by Aerosmith|
|from the album Toys in the Attic|
|Studio||Record Plant, New York City|
|Aerosmith singles chronology|
|Aerosmith re-release singles chronology|
"Walk This Way" is a song by the American hard rock band Aerosmith. Written by Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, the song was originally released as the second single from the album Toys in the Attic (1975). It peaked at number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1977, part of a string of successful hit singles for the band in the 1970s. In addition to being one of the songs that helped break Aerosmith into the mainstream in the 1970s, it also helped revitalize their career in the 1980s when it was covered by hip hop group Run-D.M.C. on their 1986 album Raising Hell. This cover was a touchstone for the new musical subgenre of rap rock, or the melding of rock and hip hop. It became an international hit and won both groups a Soul Train Music Award for Best Rap Single in 1987 Soul Train Music Awards.
The song starts out with a two measure drum beat intro by Joey Kramer, followed by a guitar riff composed by Joe Perry. The song proceeds with the main riff, with Perry and Brad Whitford on guitar with Tom Hamilton on bass. The song continues with rapid fire lyrics by Steven Tyler.
In December 1974, Aerosmith opened for The Guess Who in Honolulu. During the sound check, guitarist Joe Perry was "fooling around with riffs and thinking about The Meters," a group guitarist Jeff Beck had turned him on to. Loving "their riffy New Orleans funk, especially 'Cissy Strut' and 'People Say'", he asked the drummer "to lay down something flat with a groove on the drums." The guitar riff to what would become "Walk This Way" just "came off [his] hands." Needing a bridge, he
played another riff and went there. But I didn't want the song to have a typical, boring 1, 4, 5 chord progression. After playing the first riff in the key of C, I shifted to E before returning to C for the verse and chorus. By the end of the sound check, I had the basics of a song.
When bandmate Steven Tyler heard Perry playing that riff he "ran out and sat behind the drums and [they] jammed." Tyler scatted "nonsensical words initially to feel where the lyrics should go before adding them later."
When the group was halfway through recording Toys in the Attic in early 1975 at Record Plant in New York City, they found themselves stuck for material. They had written three or four songs for the album, having "to write the rest in the studio." They decided to give the song Perry had come up with in Hawaii a try, but it did not have lyrics or a title yet. Deciding to take a break from recording, band members and producer Jack [Douglas] went down to Times Square to see Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein. Returning to the studio, they were laughing about Marty Feldman telling Gene Wilder to follow him in the film, saying "walk this way" and limping. Douglas suggested this as a title for their song. But they still needed lyrics.
At the hotel that night Tyler wrote lyrics for the song, but left them in the cab on the way to the studio next morning. He says: "I must have been stoned. All the blood drained out of my face, but no one believed me. They thought I never got around to writing them." Upset, he took a cassette tape with the instrumental track we had recorded and a portable tape player with headphones and "disappeared into the stairwell." He "grabbed a few No. 2 pencils" but forgot to take paper. He wrote the lyrics on the wall at "the Record Plant's top floor and then down a few stairs of the back stairway." After "two or three hours" he "ran downstairs for a legal pad and ran back up and copied them down."
Perry thought the "lyrics were so great," saying that Tyler, being a drummer, "likes to use words as a percussion element." He says:
The words have to tell a story, but for Steven they also have to have a bouncy feel for flow. Then he searches for words that have a double entendre, which comes out of the blues tradition.
Perry always liked to wait until Tyler recorded his vocal so he "could weave around his vocal attack," but Tyler wanted Perry to record first for the same reason. After a "tug-of-war", Tyler's vocal was recorded first with Perry's guitar track overdubbed.
The lyrics, which tell the story of a high school boy losing his virginity, are sung quite fast by Tyler, with heavy emphasis being placed on the rhyming lyrics (e.g., "so I took a big chance at the high school dance").
Between the elaborately detailed verses, the chorus primarily consists of a repetition of "Walk this way, talk this way".
Live in concert, Tyler often has the audience, combined with members of the band, sing "talk this way". There is also a lengthy guitar solo at the end of the song, and in concert, Tyler will often harmonize his voice to mimic the sounds of the guitar.
- Steven Tyler – lead and backing vocals
- Joe Perry – lead guitar, slide guitar, talk box, backing vocals
- Brad Whitford – rhythm guitar
- Tom Hamilton – bass guitar
- Joey Kramer – drums, triangle
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Silver||200,000|
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.
"Walk This Way" was one of two hit singles by the band to hit the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 in the 1970s, the other one being a re-release of "Dream On". "Walk This Way", though, helped Toys in the Attic to be the bestselling Aerosmith album, and one of the most critically acclaimed. Aerosmith's version of "Walk This Way" often competes with "Sweet Emotion" and "Dream On" for the title of Aerosmith's signature song, being one of the band's most important, influential, and recognizable songs. The band rarely omits it from their concert setlist, still performing their classic version of the song to this day. The song has also long been a staple of rock radio, garnering regular airplay on mainstream rock, classic rock, and album-oriented rock radio stations. In 2009, it was named the eighth greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1.
Aerosmith reference lyrics from the song in "Legendary Child". The line "I took a chance at the high school dance never knowing wrong from right" references lyrics from the songs "Walk This Way" and "Adam's Apple" respectively. Both songs first appeared on the album Toys in the Attic.
|"Walk This Way"|
|Single by Run-DMC|
|from the album Raising Hell|
|B-side||"Walk This Way (instrumental)"|
|Released||July 4, 1986|
|Recorded||March 9, 1986|
|Run-DMC singles chronology|
In 1986, the hip hop group Run-DMC covered "Walk This Way", with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry on vocals and guitars, respectively. While working on Raising Hell, Rick Rubin pulled out Toys in the Attic. At shows, Run-DMC had freestyled over the first few seconds of the song on a loop, not knowing what the full song sounded like, or even hearing the lyrics. While Joseph Simmons and Darryl McDaniels had no idea who Aerosmith were at that time, Rubin suggested remaking the song. Neither Simmons nor McDaniels liked the idea, though Jam Master Jay was open to it. They didn't want the record to be released as a single even after recording with Tyler and Perry, and were shocked when it was played on both urban and rock radio stations. "I never even thought 'Walk This Way' would be a single," Rubin recalled. "Not that I didn't like it, but I didn't think in those terms." DMC called it "a beautiful thing" in a trailer for Guitar Hero (This later appeared in a scene from the 2011 film The Smurfs). This version of "Walk This Way" charted higher on the Billboard Hot 100 than the original, peaking at number 4. It was also one of the first big hip hop singles in the UK, peaking at peak number 8.
The song marked a major comeback for Aerosmith, as they had been largely out of mainstream pop culture for several years while Tyler battled addiction and Perry and Brad Whitford were out of the band. Their 1985 comeback album, Done with Mirrors, had also not met commercial expectations. Aerosmith followed "Walk This Way" with multi-platinum albums and Top 40 hits, starting with Permanent Vacation and its hit "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)" in 1987.
In 2008, "Walk This Way" was ranked number 4 on VH1's "100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop". This version of the song is currently ranked as the 148th greatest song of all time, as well as the second best song of 1986, by Acclaimed Music.
The chorus of Run-DMC's cover contains a pitch alternation that Aerosmith adopted in most future live performances. In collaborations, the other singer often says "talk this way" every alternate line of the chorus. This rap-style delivery may explain why the song worked so well as a hip hop song when it was covered eleven years later.
The 1986 video for "Walk This Way" symbolically places a rock band and Run-DMC in a musical duel in neighbouring studios before Steven Tyler literally breaks through the wall that separates them. The video segues to the bands' joint performance on stage. The highly popular result was the first hip hop hybrid video played in heavy rotation on MTV and is regarded as a classic.
The video was directed by Jon Small and filmed at the Park Theater in Union City, New Jersey. The theater has remained largely unchanged since the video was filmed. Visitors may notice two holes in the ceiling toward the front of the stage where a light fixture was meant to be installed for the shoot. Small had an office at 1775 Broadway, the same building where Run-DMC's label Profile Records were based: Profile's co-owner Steve Plotnicki approached Small about directing the video, as he had directed another video by a black act that had broken through into rotation onto the then predominantly white rock-oriented MTV, Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All". Small believed that for the video to break into heavy play on MTV, it had to feature Tyler and Perry: he developed the concept of the bands playing on either side of a wall that was subsequently breached. The video's budget was a modest $67,000.
Aside from Tyler and Perry, none of the other rock musicians in the video are the Aerosmith members; instead, they were played by Roger Lane, J. D. Malo, and Matt Stelutto—respectively rhythm guitarist, bassist, and drummer of the largely unknown hair metal outfit Smashed Gladys. According to VH1's Pop Up Video, Run-DMC could not afford to use the entire Aerosmith band, just Tyler and Perry. As only Tyler and Perry had traveled to record the cover, they were the only Aerosmith members to appear.
According to journalist Geoff Edgers, Tyler and Perry were initially ambivalent about appearing in the video: when Small phoned Tyler to discuss the video concept, Tyler told him: "Just don't make fools of us... I don't want people laughing at us". Plotnicki described the atmosphere on set as "beyond chilly", whilst Smashed Gladys lead guitarist Bart Lewis was struck by the fact that interaction between the members of Aerosmith and Run-DMC was minimal. However, according to Edgers, the frosty relations did thaw as the shoot went on.
The guitar that Perry is playing is a Guild X-100 Bladerunner. The Guild X100 Bladerunner was originally developed and patented by David Newell and Andrew Desrosiers of David Andrew Guitars. The patent was licensed to Guild Guitars for 17 years and reverted to public domain in 2006. During initial manufacture, Newell and Desrosiers worked directly with Guild craftsman to develop the final product. The guitar used in this video was one of these early issues.
Charts and certifications
At the Super Bowl XXXV halftime show in January 2001, performers *NSYNC, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, and Nelly joined Aerosmith onstage for an encore performance of "Walk This Way" with Spears and members of *NSYNC singing different parts of the second verse, Blige adding background harmony, and Nelly performing a rap towards the end of the song.
Awards and accolades
- The song won both groups a Soul Train Music Award for Best Rap - Single in 1987.
- The song "Walk This Way" is part of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll list.
- Rolling Stone ranked the original version of "Walk This Way" at number 346 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The version by Run-D.M.C. is ranked at number 293.
- In 2000, "VH1: 100 Greatest Rock Songs" included "Walk This Way" at number 35.
- In March 2005, Q magazine placed it at number 23 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks.
- In 2008, Rolling Stone ranked the original version of "Walk This Way" at number 34 on their list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time.
- In 2009, VH1's "100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs" included "Walk This Way" at number 8.
- VH1 ranked the version by Run-D.M.C. at number 4 on VH1 100 Greatest Hip Hop Songs.
- In 1993, "Rolling Stone: The Top 100 Music Videos" included "Walk This Way" (with Run-D.M.C.) at number 11.
- In 1999, "MTV: 100 Greatest Videos Ever Made" included "Walk This Way" (with Run-D.M.C.) at number 5.
- In 2001, "VH1: 100 Greatest Videos" included "Walk This Way" (with Run-D.M.C.) at number 11.
- In 2007, "Fuse: 25 Greatest Music Videos" included "Walk This Way (with Run-D.M.C.) at number 24.
- CD Single
- Walk This Way – 4:46
- Little Hands – 8:16
- Rhythm of the Road – 6:08
- San Jose – 8:53
Sugababes vs. Girls Aloud version
|"Walk This Way"|
|Single by Sugababes vs. Girls Aloud|
|Released||March 12, 2007|
|Sugababes singles chronology|
|Girls Aloud singles chronology|
In 2007, British girl groups Girls Aloud and Sugababes recorded a cover of "Walk This Way" as the official Comic Relief charity single. Their version was produced by American producer Dallas Austin, making it Girls Aloud's first single not to be produced by Xenomania. The track charted at number one on the UK Singles Chart, giving Girls Aloud their third number 1 and Sugababes their fifth.
The music video was a comic re-enactment of the Run-D.M.C. video. "Walk This Way" was promoted through numerous live appearances and has been included on tours by both Girls Aloud and Sugababes. Contemporary music critics criticised the cover version, but supported the single due to its fundraising nature.
While the Run-D.M.C. cover is nearly identical to the original version, the Girls Aloud/Sugababes version has a few changes tweaked into the song; the additional line "Walk this way, you wanna talk this way" is added, the vocoder is added, the lyrics are moved around, and the beat is slightly sped up and realized on a drum machine to add a further dance-pop feel to the song.
Background and release
The idea of a Girls Aloud and Sugababes collaboration came from Comic Relief co-founder and trustee Richard Curtis. Several songs were possibilities, including Blur's "Girls & Boys" and Candi Staton's "You Got the Love", which was Girls Aloud member Nicola Roberts' idea and favourite choice. "Walk This Way" is notably the first Girls Aloud single to date not to feature production from Brian Higgins and Xenomania, who have also worked with Sugababes. Girls Aloud and Sugababes launched the charity appeal on January 31. Kimberley Walsh of Girls Aloud said, "It's a fantastic song and hopefully will raise tons of money for people living in really difficult situations here and in Africa."
Cheryl and Amelle performs the refrain, Kimberley and Nadine sang the first verse, Keisha and Heidi sang the second verse, and Sarah, Nicola, and Amelle rap in the middle eight.
"Walk This Way" is taken from Girls Aloud's Defenders of Anarchy re-release.
The single was released on March 12, 2007 on just one CD single format, which included a remix of the single and its music video. It was also available as a digital download.
"Walk This Way" entered the UK Singles Chart at number 1 on March 18, 2007 ― for the week ending date March 24, 2007. The following week, the single dropped to number 2; it was dethroned by another Comic Relief single, "I'm Gonna Roll (500 Miles)" by The Proclaimers with Peter Kay and Matt Lucas. In its third week on the chart, "Walk This Way" dropped twelve places out of the top ten, placing itself at number 14.
The music video premiered on The Box on February 2, 2007, and was shown on Channel 4's Popworld the following day. The video was filmed over three days in January 2007 – Sugababes on the first, Cheryl Cole, Nicola Roberts, and Kimberley Walsh on the second, and Nadine Coyle and Sarah Harding on the third and final day.
Track listing and formats
These are the formats and track listings of major single releases of "Walk This Way".
UK CD single (Polydor/Island / 1724331)
- "Walk This Way" – 2:52
- "Walk This Way" [Yoad Mix] – 3:01
- "Walk This Way" [video] – 3:07
- Behind the Scenes Footage [video] – 3:15
UK digital copy (Polydor/Island / 1724332)
- "Walk This Way" – 2:52
- "Walk This Way" [Yoad Mix] – 3:01
Credits and personnel
- Engineer: Rick Shepherd, Graham Archer (assistant recording)
- Keyboards: Brian Higgins, Tim Powell
- Mixing: Jeremy Wheatley, Richard Edgeler (assistant)
- Production: Dallas Austin
- Vocals: Girls Aloud, Sugababes
- Toys in the Attic 1993 Remastered Liner Notes
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