Joe Perry Shares The Movie That Inspired Steven Tyler To Write Aerosmith’s Run-DMC Single

Collaborations can be profitable for both parties, but in Aerosmith‘s case, the band’s iconic collab with Run-DMC did more than that; it saved their career. Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland’s Billy Sloan, Joe Perry looked back on the creation of ‘Walk This Way’ and revealed which movie inspired Steven Tyler to come up with the lyrics.

Before the successful release of the Run-DMC collaboration ‘Walk This Way,’ Aerosmith needed a breakthrough to help them regain their previous level of popularity. Steven Tyler’s struggle with substance addiction took its toll on the band’s career, and as Darryl McDaniels claimed, ‘Walk This Way’ saved them. After its release, the song became a massive hit and charted higher than the original.

While thinking about songs to write for ‘Toys In The Attic,’ the band needed to take a break to find some inspiration. In the interview, Joe Perry recalled that his bandmates went to see the movie ‘Young Frankenstein,’ and Marty Feldman’s telling Gene Wilder to follow him by saying ‘walk this way’ inspired them for the title. Steven Tyler then started to write the lyrics and saw that the phrase seemed fit for the song.

According to Joe Perry, the music video where Aerosmith broke down the wall between them and Run-DMC wasn’t a planned move, and they didn’t even think the song would make it to an album. Rick Rubin was the one who convinced Run-DMC to give the song a try. Although Perry argued they didn’t notice that ‘Walk This Way’ broke the wall between rock and roll and hip-hop, the positive fan feedback said it all.

Here is what Joe Perry recalled about the makings of ‘Walk This Way’:

“I think the story had been told a bunch of times — we were still wondering what to call it and what the vibe was. The other guys went out to see ‘Young Frankenstein,’ there was that famous Marx Brothers’ line ‘Walk this way.’ You know, taken out of context, there is a joke that goes with it.

I think Marty Feldman used it in his role in that movie, and there were laughing and joking about it. Someone said, maybe it was Jack [Douglas, record producer], ‘walk this way,’ and it just clicked; Steven heard that and said, ‘Give me a little bit of time; give me a couple of hours.’ He went off to his favorite stairwell to write it, he came back, and ‘Walk this way’ seemed to fit; it worked. So, that was it.”

Speaking about the music video, the guitarist continued:

“It’s not like we sat there, planned it, and said, ‘Well, we’re going to go in, we’ll cut this, it’s going to shake things up musically, and then we’ll do a video of us breaking down the wall between the rock and roll and hip hop, and it’s going to get hip hop, rap, and black artists onto MTV.’ We didn’t think about that.

I mean, it was all one step at a time. We didn’t even know if it would be on the album. When we did it, the guys in Run DMC were a little hesitant about it. But Rick [Rubin] had said earlier on in an interview, at the start of it, he said ‘Walk This Way’ was proto-rap, and I definitely could hear it.”

He concluded:

“So, when we got the phone call, Steven and the band, we were on the road, Rick said, ‘I talked the guys into giving it a try,’ so we flew into New York into the studio. Then when it was released and went over huge on MTV, the wall came down literally and figuratively.

For MTV, it changed so much. As far as our career went, we didn’t notice that much of a jump at that point. I mean, it started to have a groundswell that we started to see, but when we played Europe the next time, fans were coming and saying, ‘This record is great. Do you guys have anything else, this being your first album?’ And people didn’t know that we’ve had the ’70s behind this, that whole era.”

So, Joe Perry says that ‘Young Frankenstein’ and Marx Brothers’ line ‘Walk this way’ inspired them for the song’s title and helped Steven Tyler to write the lyrics. According to the guitarist, they weren’t aware that the song would become a huge hit, but it eventually broke the wall between rock and hip-hop. As it appears, the story of ‘Walk This Way’ is a testament to the power of collaborations and the importance of taking risks in music.