Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.
MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: Steven Tyler wrote the lyrics to “Walk This Way” on a wall of a stairwell.
After initially releasing the song in 1975 as a single from their third album, Toys From the Attic, Aerosmith re-released “Walk This Way” as a single upon the release of their fourth album, Rocks, in 1976, and it became a top ten hit.
The song had a very unusual origin, at least in part based on the strange ways that the group used to work back in their early days.
In their early days, Aerosmith was a band that was fueled by drugs, alcohol and the clashing egos of lead singer Steven Tyler and lead guitarist Joe Perry. The pair’s relationship was so messed up at the time that they were dubbed the “Toxic Twins.”
The animosity between the two men (who WERE friends, they were just friends who were suddenly in a huge rock group and were high and/or drunk most of the time) played into how “Walk This Way” was written.
While performing in Hawaii, where they were opening for The Guess Who in late 1974, Joe Perry worked out the famous guitar riff for “Walk This Way.” The song did not have a title at the time, just the riff. Perry then worked out a bridge and had the basic framework of the song. Tyler came on stage and jammed with Perry, just using nonsense words to punctuate the song.
In early 1975, the group was in New York, recording Toys in the Attic and they decided to give Perry’s song a shot. There are two different versions of how they got the name “Walk This Way.” Most of the group agrees that it was from the then-recent film, Young Frankenstein, in a hilarious scene where Marty Douglas (playing Igor), tells Doctor Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) to “walk this way” and Frankstein follow him, mimicking Igor’s limp…
Tyler has said it was a reference to the Three Stooges. I think the other guys’ version sounds more believable.
In any event, Tyler was tasked with writing lyrics to the song, which now had a name. Tyler went to his hotel room to do so. When he returned to the studio, he explained to the group that he had written lyrics, but he left them in his cab on the way to the studio and now he didn’t remember them. Naturally, Perry and the rest of the group did not believe him and he knew they didn’t believe him, which irked him, so it led to an argument and he eventually grabbed a couple of pencils and stormed off to go write the lyrics. He had forgotten to take paper with him, and since he made a big deal out of storming off, he didn’t want to go back in to ask for paper. So he just wrote the lyrics on the wall of the stairwell of the studio!
When he finished, he then went to go get a legal pad to transcribe the lyrics and a hit song was born!
Amusingly enough, there was one last argument about the song. Perry wanted Tyler to record the lyrics first, so that Perry could gear his guitar playing around Tyler’s vocals and Tyler wanted Perry to record the guitar first, so that Tyler could gear his vocals around Perry’s guitar playing. Perry won the argument.
The legend is…
Thanks to Marc Meyers of the Wall Street Journal, who interviewed Perry and Tyler about the recording of the song and got from them this great story.
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