The “filthy” meaning of a classic Aerosmith song


Aerosmith is a popular American hard rock band with many timeless classic. From early hits like “Sweet Emotion” to later hits like “Love in an Elevator,” their body of work is full of standout pieces that demonstrate why they are so beloved.

The second single from the 1975 album Toys in the Attic, “Walk This Way,” is among their best compositions. The song was notably given a second chance in 1986. Frontman Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry of the band collaborated with hip-hop pioneers Run-DMC to cover the song.

Tyler supposedly “ran out and sat behind the drums and [they] jammed” when he heard Perry play the signature riff for the first time in Honolulu in December 1974. To feel where the lyrics should go before adding them later, the frontman described how, at the time, he scatted “nonsensical words.” However, they would need some time to complete this number.

Aerosmith took a short hiatus from Toys in the Attic recording at New York City’s Record Plant at the beginning of 1975. They had to write in the studio because they were halfway through the process and were having trouble coming up with new material for the album. Perry had composed the song in Hawaii, so the band tried it as a partial solution to their issue. It lacked a title and lyrics, though.

The band and producer Jack Douglas watched Mel Brooks’ most recent comedy, Young Frankenstein, in Times Square during their break from recording. They were giggling uncontrollably when Marty Feldman’s character, Igor, tells Gene Wilder’s Dr. Frankenstein to follow him, indicating that he must “walk this way,” while limping. Although Douglas believed that Perry’s song would make a fitting title, the quintet still lacked lyrics to complete the picture.

Steven Tyler wrote the song’s lyrics that evening. He regrettably left them in the taxi that morning on his way to the Record Plant. “I must have been stoned,” he said in a 2014 Wall Street Journal interview. Despite my face being completely bloodless, nobody took me seriously. People believed that I never got around to writing them. Angry, he grabbed a portable tape player with headphones. And the band’s recorded instrumental track on a cassette tape, then “disappeared into the stairwell.”

The singer went on, “So that I wouldn’t be disturbed. I grabbed a few No. 2 pencils and went up to the top floor of the Record Plant and then down a few stairs of the back stairway. I was scatting with the headset on because Joe’s written lick was so sick. And, I realized I had forgotten to bring paper when the words began to flow. Then I inscribed them on the wall as a result. It required two or three hours. After finishing, I hurried back upstairs to get a legal pad and then copied them down.

This is where the song starts to get interesting and becomes unique within Aerosmith’s discography. Young Frankenstein is not mentioned in the lyrics in any way. In his own words, Tyler describes himself as a “high school loser” who loses his virginity to a promiscuous cheerleader. He calls his remarks “filthy”. Perry’s use of rhyming lyrics like “chance” and “dance” really highlights his guitar.

Even though the sexual references are not particularly subtle, Tyler carefully framed them to gain attention. This turned out to be a very wise choice because it became one of their biggest hits. In 2012, the lyricist gave Songfacts an explanation of the “filthy” meaning behind “Walk This Way,” saying, “‘Walk This Way’ came out all at once.” You can hear how filthy the words are all together. You can hear that I did a pretty good job of hiding it if you listen closely.

Tyler clarified how “filthy” the song is in his 1999 autobiography, Walk This Way. He claims that the opening line, “backstroke lover,” shows the protagonist masturbating. His father discovers him in the act and promises him that when he has sex at last, everything will change in his life. Says the elderly man, “You ain’t seen nothing. ‘Till you’re down on a muffin / Then you’re sure to be a-changing’ your ways.”

The protagonist encounters the cheerleader one day, who, along with “her sister and her cousin,” gives him a memorable sex experience. This set the imaginative parameters of the song. Tyler claims that in other places, the cheerleader’s instruction to “walk this way” serves as a metaphor for directing the boy’s finger. Make-out parties, where this would frequently happen, served as inspiration for this section’s frontman. Curiously, Tyler was also quick to point out that the girl is in charge of the scenario. Even despite the lyrics’ explicit sexual content.

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