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Flashback Video: 'Walk This Way' by Run-DMC

Ever since the dawn of MTV and Friday Night Videos, the music video has significantly impacted musical tastes and pop culture. It might not be as extreme as when the Buggles declared that "Video Killed the Radio Star", but there is no arguing that the music video certainly could make or break a song's popularity. So this regular Flashback Video feature will serve to remember some of the music videos from the great '80s decade that made an impact on me in one way or another. This issue we will cover "Walk This Way" by Run-DMC. The song was originally recorded and released by Aerosmith in 1975 and peaked for them at #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1977. They had several moderate hits in the late-70s into the early-80s, but by 1986, Aerosmith had been absent from the music scene for several years. So how did a rap group end up recording a cover of a '70s rock n roll song? First, producer Rick Rubin convinced Run-DMC to not just sample a portion of Aerosmith's original version, but actually record a cover of "Walk This Way". Next he convinced Steven Tyler and Joe Perry to perform vocals and guitar respectively on Run-DMC's track. Nobody, not even members of Run-DMC or Aerosmith, ever expected the new version of the song to amount to much, let alone have the incredible impact it would. Run-DMC included "Walk This Way" on Raising Hell and released it as the second single from that album in July of 1986. Run-DMC's cover of "Walk This Way" not only continued rap music's acceptance in the mainstream, but propelled a major comeback for Aerosmith in the years following as well. The Run-DMC version would be smash hit on the U.S. pop charts peaking at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in late September. It was also one of the first big hip hop singles in several other countries reaching the Top 10 in the UK and at least seven other countries. The timing of this collaboration was perfect and the music video provided the exposure which was a key driver in the song's success. The "Walk This Way" music video was directed by Jon Small who had notably worked on several videos for Billy Joel as well as "The Greatest Love of All" by Whitney Houston among others. He smartly pushed to get both Steven Tyler and Joe Perry to join Run, D and Jay in the video. One interesting note is that only Tyler and Perry performed on the track, not the entire Aerosmith band, reportedly because they did not want to pay the entire band. So they were also the only two that they had be part of the music video as well. You might see some other musicians in the background during the video, but those were actually just members of the Smashed Gladys (a relatively unknown hair metal band) playing those parts. Tyler and Perry agreed to be part of the music video as long as they would not be intentionally embarrassed or made fools. That was never anyone's intention, so they had the guys from Aerosmith on board. The whole video is really built around the symbolic knocking down of the walls between rock music and rap/hip hop music. Steven Tyler literally breaks a hole through the wall dividing the two early in the video. Then by the end, Tyler is shown dancing with his arms around Run-DMC and all is copacetic. It was a formula for success for the song, for the music genres and for the groups. It made both Run-DMC and Aerosmith household names. Here's the music video for "Walk This Way" by Run-DMC featuring Aerosmith...

"Walk This Way" and its music video were certainly pivotal in rap's crossover to mainstream pop music. It truly opened the door and paved the way for the all of the hip hop artists that followed while also driving Raising Hell to become the first multi-platinum hip hop album. In 2018, Raising Hell was deservingly inducted into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, and artistically significant". "Walk This Way" also certainly resurrected Aerosmith's career since huge success followed with 1987's Permanent Vacation album that included hits like "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)", "Angel" and "Rag Doll". That success continued as the decade concluded in 1989 with additional hits "Love in an Elevator", "Janie's Got a Gun" and "What It Takes" firmly placing them back on top of the rock and roll scene to stay. I believe Aerosmith really owes a huge amount of that resurgence to Run-DMC and the exposure this collaboration gave them. Run-DMC also should receive credit for pioneering hip hop's explosion into mainstream culture and a burgeoning global phenomenon. And together they created one of the iconic songs of the decade. Hope you enjoyed another trip back to the '80s thanks to Flashback Video!


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