Geoff Edgers, the national arts reporter for the Washington Post and author of the 2019 book “Walk This Way: Run-DMC, Aerosmith, And The Song That Changed American Music Forever” appeared today on the rock podcast “Well Disguised” to discuss the song and major players involved. The conversation with host John Pritchard touched on not only the two bands but also Rick Rubin, John Kalodner, the “other” members of AEROSMITH being left out of the production, and the 1986 song’s lasting impact on American culture. Ultimately, Edgers believes that while conventional wisdom is that AEROSMITH helped RUN-DMC break through to a larger audience, AEROSMITH actually benefitted more from the collaboration.
Edgers remarked that he not only found AEROSMITH frontman Steven Tyler to be a wonderful interview, he was struck by Tyler‘s loyalty to his band. “He would say things to me that I thought were extremely abrasive or negative about other guys in the band, but if you said it to him, if you asked him a question that he thought was criticizing them, he would strike back at you or get angry or get defensive,” he said.
“People might say that he’s difficult or a dictator or whatever, but look, if you go see Steven Tyler play a solo show or you go see him with AEROSMITH, few people have actually maintained their talent and ability and voice like he has. That sense of perfectionism and professionalism just comes with all that other stuff.”
When Pritchard asked Edgers whether Rick Rubin, the famed producer of the track and founder of Def Jam Records, is overrated or underrated, Edgers said: “You hear people talk about him not doing something or him lying on the couch for a long time…the fact is, you look at the records he’s produced [and] it’s hard to deny some kind of magical quality.”
Edgers also discussed the role former AEROSMITH manager Tim Collins played in getting the band clean and how that contributed to the band later firing him. “At a certain point, the same things that made that effective, the same kinds of controls and 12-step philosophies made the guys in AEROSMITH, who were grown men, feel like they were being controlled,” he said.
The original version of “Walk This Way” was released in 1975 on AEROSMITH‘s “Toys In The Attic” album. A decade later, while recording RUN-DMC‘s “Raising Hell”, producer Rick Rubin pulled out “Toys In The Attic” (an album RUN-DMC had freestyled over) and explained who AEROSMITH were. RUN-DMC had performed with this song before, but only using first few seconds of the song on a loop, not knowing what the full song sounded like, or even hearing the lyrics. While RUN-DMC had no idea who AEROSMITH were at that time, Rubin suggested remaking the song. RUN-DMC didn’t want the record to be released as a single, even after recording with AEROSMITH, and was shocked when it was played all over the radio, on both urban and rock stations. The remake version of “Walk This Way” charted higher on the Billboard Hot 100 than the original 1975 version, peaking at No. 4.
“Well Disguised”, a podcast of rock snobbery about lowbrow music, is available on all major podcast platforms. Edgers‘s book is published by Blue Rider Press.