By Adam Waldman
On April 8, 1975, Aerosmith released their third studio album, Toys In The Attic. This release was the launching pad to what would become an historic career. The album peaked at #11 on the Billboard 200 chart. It also featured two of their biggest hits in “Walk This Way” and “Sweet Emotion.”
Coming off of a lengthy tour in support of their previous album (Get Your Wings), Aerosmith brought a more seasoned approach to Toys In The Attic. According to their producer (Jack Douglas), the time on the road turned the band into better players. Guitarist Joe Perry agreed that the band’s confidence was boosted by constant touring.
“Walk This Way” (one of the most popular songs on the album) features lyrics that started off as scatting. During a sound check as the opening act for The Guess Who in Hawaii, Perry was fooling around with riffs. When Tyler heard the riff, he jammed along from behind the drum kit and scatted gibberish lyrics to lock down the vocal melody. The lyrics would be changed later on, and delivered with the speed of rap. It’s not surprising that Run-D.M.C. eventually covered the song (with the help of Aerosmith).
The inspiration for “Walk This Way” came from an unlikely place. Perry has stated that the vibe was inspired by James Brown. The lyrics were inspired by Young Frankenstein, a movie that the band saw together in Times Square during the recording of the album. The “walk” in “Walk This Way” came from a scene that was the opposite of the cool swagger of the song. It was inspired by Marty Feldman (as Igor) limping down the steps of a train platform. As he greeted Gene Wilder, he said “walk this way.” Wilder copied the hideous limp, which cracked the entire band up.
Everyone is familiar with that feeling of forgetting your homework, but it doesn’t usually happen with rock bands. Well, most rock bands. Tyler wrote the lyrics to “Walk This Way” in the hotel on the night that the band saw Young Frankenstein. The next day, he left them in a taxi on the way to the recording studio. He ended up recreating them on the studio walls of The Record Plant in NYC after spending several hours trying to remember them.
The story behind “Walk This Way” is not the most surprising moment of forgetfulness displayed by Tyler. Nearly a decade after Toys In The Attic was released, Tyler was suffering from memory loss due to years of drug abuse. When the band was planning their 1984 tour in support of Done With Mirrors, Tyler heard the song “You See Me Crying.” He liked it so much that he suggested that the band do a cover version of the song. He didn’t realize that it was from their 1975 release. Perry’s reply to Tyler was priceless…“It’s us fuckhead!”
In addition to “Walk This Way,” Toys In The Attic featured another big Aerosmith hit – “Sweet Emotion.” The influences for this song are a combination of Led Zeppelin and Jeff Beck. Bassist Tom Hamilton (who came up with the riff) has stated that the band “kind of bastardized the lick from Beck’s song, “Rice Pudding.” The key change is what the band called “Zeppelin-esque.”
It is believed that “Sweet Emotion” is about the tension between the band and Perry’s wife. Tyler has admitted that some of the lyrics were inspired by her. In fact, the tension grew so bad between some of the members’ wives that it lead to the breakup of the original band in the early ‘80s. In Aerosmith’s memoir (Walk This Way), it is revealed that there is a backwards message on “Sweet Emotion”…“Fuck you, Frank!” (dedicated to Frank Connelly – the band’s former manager).
Perry originally wanted to call the album Rocks, but Toys In The Attic won out. The title would be used on a later album. Tyler had a vision for the album cover of Toys In The Attic already. It was originally going to be a teddy bear sitting in the attic with its wrist cut and stuffing scattered all over. They ended up using all of the animals instead.
There are plenty of highlights on Toys In The Attic aside from the two bit hits and the title track. For diehard Aerosmith fans, this is a great album that has stood the test of time. Since everyone has heard the hits countless times, I thought that it would be interesting to share the song from the album that Tyler liked so much that he wanted to cover it a decade after its release…