Thursday, April 28, 2011

Run-DMC (ft. Aerosmith) -- "Walk This Way" (1986)

So I took a big chance
At the high school dance
With a lady who was ready to play
It wasn't me she was foolin'
'Cause she knew what was she was doin'
When she told me how to walk this way
This last line reminds me of a corny comedy bit that has been used repeatedly in old TV variety shows (Red Skelton, Jackie Gleason, et al.) and movies.

One character would say "Walk this way, please" to another character, then turn and walk away in some comical fashion.  He would mean "Follow me," of course -- but the other character would interpret the line more literally and follow the first character, walking in exactly the same comical way.

In the classic 1936 comedy, After the Thin Man, a butler says "Walk this way," and Nick Charles follows him, imitating the butler's odd, stiff walk.  In the 1981 version, of Arthur, Dudley Moore does essentially the same thing.  (The sincerest form of flattery, etc.)

Mel Brooks really must have loved this gag -- he used it over and over.  In Young Frankenstein, for example, the hunchback Igor tells Dr. Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) to walk this way.  (According to Wikipedia, Aerosmith was inspired to write this song by this movie.)

In The Producers, a gay character named Carmen Giya (remember Volkswagen's cute little Karmann Ghia coupe?) asks Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom to walk this way, and walks away in a stereotypical mincing, feminine gait.

Here's how the scene played in the Broadway production -- the "Walk this way" gag is near the end of this clip:

The origin of this bit was apparently an old vaudeville routine where a very fat woman enters a drugstore and asks a very bowlegged clerk where the talcum powder is.  The clerk says "Walk this way," and the woman replies, "If I could walk that way, I wouldn't need talcum powder." 

One of the things that sets hip-hop apart from most other kinds of popular music is that is there are almost no cover versions of rap songs.  Pop and jazz singers routinely perform "standards" -- some classic songs have been recorded by dozens of performers -- and singers like Sinatra and Elvis routinely sang songs written by other people.  But rappers rarely cover another rapper's songs, and very few rappers even admit to using rhymes written by someone else.

"Toys in the Attic"
Run-DMC's 1986 cover of Aerosmith's "Walk This Way" (originally released on the band's 1975 album, Toys in the Attic) is one of the very few rap covers of a song by a white rock group.  In fact, it's the only one that I know.

Run-DMC follows the original pretty closely, although there are a number of small variations in the lyrics they sing.  They add a little scratching, but basically use the original Aerosmith music as their beats. 

This song was an early example of the collaborative efforts between two different musical performers that have become commonplace. 

Today, it seems that nearly all hip-hop songs feature more than one artist.  Usually they take turns rapping verses -- these aren't duets in the usual sense, but soloists taking turns performing.  Current rap albums often feature a different collaborator on almost every track.  (I don't understand the economics of this, but obviously it makes sense from each performer's standpoint.)  On occasion, two rappers who contribute verses to a song will tussle over who gets to release it on his or her album.  

Here's the official music video for "Walk This Way."  You gotta love the closeups of Run's and DMC's unlaced, old-school Adidas sneakers tapping in time to the beat:

Here's a link to use if you'd like to buy the song from iTunes:

Walk This Way - Raising Hell

Here's a link to use to buy it from Amazon:

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