The first half of the 1980s were not good for the “bad boys from Boston,” Aerosmith. Along with drug and alcohol addiction issues for some members, the albums ROCK IN A HARD PLACE (released August 1982) and DONE WITH MIRRORS (released October 1985) were both certified Gold, but were labeled as major disappointments for the band. I honestly thought after DONE WITH MIRRORS was released, Aerosmith was done for good. Little did I know a miracle for the band was less than a year away, and the source of the miracle was prolly a surprise for almost everyone.
When producer Rick Rubin was working on RAISING HELL, the third studio album for the Hollis, Queens, NYC Hip Hop group, Run-D.M.C., he found himself listening to the 1975 Aerosmith album, TOYS IN THE ATTIC (still the band’s best-selling studio album to date). Run-D.M.C.’s Joseph Simmons (Run) and Darryl McDaniels (D.M.C) had no idea who Aerosmith were at the time, and did not like Rick Rubin’s suggestion to cover the album’s “Walk This Way” (a No. 10 hit for Aerosmith on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in January / February 1977). Jam Master Jay, however, was open to the idea.
Well, Run-D.M.C. eventually recorded the cover of “Walk This Way,” and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler and Joe Perry were brought in to add extra vocals and guitar, and they appeared in the music video. Having Steven and Joe on the song (and video) proved to be quite the brilliant move.
Parent album RAISING HELL had been out for a month and a half when the single for “Walk This Way” was released on July 4th, 1986. With help from its wildly-popular music video, “Walk This Way” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 at No. 73 on this date in 1986. (Aerosmith hadn’t appeared on the Hot 100 since early 1980, when “Remember (Walking In The Sand),” their cover of The Shangri-Las’ 1964 hit, stopped at No. 67.)
The cover of “Walk This Way” ended up being a huge hit, spending a week at No. 4 in late September 1986 (and also reached the Top 10 on BILLBOARD’s R&B and Dance charts). It was the first proper Hip Hop song to reach the Top 5 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100, and it not only helped to break Run-D.M.C. and Hip Hop music into the music mainstream, it paved the way for other Hip Hop acts like LL Cool J, Beastie Boys and Public Enemy, while at the same time, was largely responsible for a huge comeback in the career of Aerosmith.
Around the globe, the turntable-scratching and drum machine-heavy cover of “Walk This Way” reached No. 1 in New Zealand, and the Top 10 in the U.K., Australia, Belgium, Canada, Holland, Norway and Switzerland. It was certified Gold in the U.S. and Canada, and the video for “Walk This Way” was also nominated for an MTV Video Music Award in 1987.
NERDY FUN FACT: In ROLLING STONE’s 2004 list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, the original Aerosmith version of “Walk This Way” is ranked at No. 346 on the list, while the version with Run-D.M.C. is ranked at No. 293.
These days, Joseph Simmons (Run) is a practicing minister (Reverend Run; he released an album in 2005 as Rev Run) and recently had a couple of cable series, REV RUN’S RENOVATIONS and REV RUN’S SUNDAY SUPPERS. In 2014, Darryl McDaniels (D.M.C.) started his own comic publishing imprint, DARRYL MAKES COMICS, and is still involved in the music industry. On October 30, 2002, Jam Master Jay was tragically shot and killed in a Jamaica, Queens, recording studio. Sadly, to date, no one has been prosecuted for Jay’s murder.
Rewinding back to 1987, Aerosmith released PERMANENT VACATION, their ninth studio album, and it sold over 5 million copies in both the U.S. and Canada, and gave them their first Top 20 hits since the original “Walk This Way,” including their biggest hit (to that point), the No. 3 smash ballad, “Angel.” I saw them on this tour, and they were abso-effing-lutely glad to be back.
To this day, I am more than certain the second life for Aerosmith wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for that incredible collaboration with producer Rick Rubin and the three amazingly-gifted Rap pioneers from Hollis, Queens, NYC…