A little more than 30 years ago, up-and-coming rap stars Run-DMC and washed-up rock stars Aerosmith went into a New York studio and recorded “Walk This Way,” a song that would change pop music forever. The Washington Post has just written an oral history of the song, and it is truly amazing. It turns out that Aerosmith’s original version of “Walk This Way” was already popular in hip-hop circles because DJs like Grandmaster Flash liked the break beat. It also turns out that the guys in Run-DMC weren’t into the idea of doing the song at all, because they thought the lyrics were “hillbilly shit,” and that the guys from Aerosmith were unbelievably high the entire time.
Here’s record exec John Kalodner talking about pitching the idea to Aerosmith:
Joe Perry, I couldn’t really tell, because he was semi-coherent. But I know Tyler wanted to do it. The others—the LI3. The Less Important Three. They’re always against everything. They were against doing “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing.”
Apparently, when they got down to it, though, Run and DMC weren’t shy about showing how little they wanted to record this song.
You know how you make a kid sit down and eat his vegetables? “Oh, hell no, you sit down and eat those greens.” And it takes the kid an hour to eat one green at a time? That’s what me and Run were doing.
According to Bill Adler, it was Jam Master Jay who made them take the recording seriously.
Here come Tyler and Joe Perry. They did the work. Jay yelled at Run and D and said, “You’re going to look like chumps if you don’t come in and recut it.” Jay got it on a musical level. He’s a DJ. A music lover… So Jay clowns Run and D back into the studio and they do a better job of cutting the vocals and, hallelujah, it’s a great thing.
The piece also has a ton of unreleased raw footage from MTV News, which shot a segment on the recording of the song.