cover image Walk This Way: Run-DMC, Aerosmith, and the Song That Changed American Music Forever

Walk This Way: Run-DMC, Aerosmith, and the Song That Changed American Music Forever

Geoff Edgers. Blue Rider, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-0-7352-1223-7

In this rollicking and occasionally rambling history, music journalist Edgers tells the story of Run-DMC’s 1986 hip-hop remake of Aerosmith’s 1975 hit “Walk This Way.” The aging, fractious, and drug-addled rockers weren’t hip to new music, and the rising rappers thought the original’s lyrics were “hillbilly gibberish.” So when the members of Aerosmith walked into a studio in 1986 to help Run-DMC cover their song, it was hardly a meeting of the minds. Aerosmith front man Steven Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry showed up strictly for the $8,000 payday, while the already-platinum Run-DMC thought the song would be a way to break hip-hop into the white mainstream. Edgers has little to say about the faded rockers beyond the battles between the “Toxic Twins”—Tyler and Perry— and about the band’s declining popularity and mounting money troubles (Perry is described as “a dope fiend on a twenty-dollar-a-day allowance”). Edgers’s take on the rise of Run-DMC, “smart-ass kids” from Queens, meanwhile, is told more passionately (“What Run-DMC wore would usher in the era of brand marketing that eventually made millionaires out of 50 Cent, Jay Z, and Dr. Dre”); Edgers also covers other rap pioneers, downtown hipsters, and music producer Rick Rubin (the white Long Islander who saw rap as “black punk rock”). Run-DMC’s version of the song helped revitalize Aerosmith’s career, and, according to Edgers, was the “starting gun for every mashup, good and bad, that came later.” Edgers, however, focuses less on the song’s broader cultural implications than the entertaining awkwardness of the recording, as when an MTV interviewer asked each group how they felt about the other’s music and received mostly blank stares. Nevertheless, this is a vivid snapshot of a unique moment in cultural history. [em](Feb.) [/em]