Steven Tyler wrote this about how frustrated he was with the band. They were doing a lot of drugs at the time and tensions often ran high, especially between Tyler and guitarist Joe Perry
. The song is also a statement about doing your own thing without letting others bring you down.
Tyler attributes the first lines, "Talk about things that nobody cares, wearing out things things that nobody wears," to Joe Perry's girlfriend Elissa because of the incredible amount of tension between them. A lot of this tension was caused by their drug use, and in particular one night when Tyler came to Perry's hotel room looking for heroin, and he and Elissa sent him away, refusing to share their drugs. In the Aerosmith autobiography Walk This Way, Tyler says these lines were his "angry side talking, and adds that when he wrote the lyrics, "Can't say baby where I'll be in a year," he was thinking, "but it will be at least 1000 miles away from you!"
The music was based on the bass line Tom Hamilton came up with. Tyler wrote the lyrics (Perry was known as "Mr. Sweet Emotion"), and they put the song together in a jam session.
Hamilton says it was the band's producer, Jack Douglas, who coaxed the bassline out of him. Near the end of recording for the Toys In The Attic album, Douglas asked if anyone in the band had some spare riffs lying around, and Hamilton produced this one, which went over well with his bandmates. Hamilton recalls in Walk This Way: "I smoked a bowl or two and wrote the arrangements, the guitar parts. Steven took the intro, turned it around, changed key, and we used it as the tag, the resolution of the song. Brad, Joey, and I went home. Next time we heard 'Sweet Emotion,' it had the overdubs, the vocals, and I flipped out. I loved what they did with it."
There is a hidden message buried in this track, but what that message says depends on who you ask. The band did some clapping and chanting that was played backward, creating the sucking noise in the song. What they chanted had to do with their manager, Frank Connelly, who had been diagnosed with cancer and sold rights to manage the band to the team of Steve Leber and David Krebs. According to Steven Tyler, they were chanting, "F--k you, Frank," but their producer Jack Douglas says it was "Thank you, Frank."
This was re-released in 1991 to promote their Pandora's Box compilation. A video was shot for it featuring a young man having phone sex with what he believes is a beautiful young lady. At the end of the video, we find out she is a fat chain smoker with a few kids.
Joe Perry used a talkbox to create the distorted vocal sounds at the beginning. Peter Frampton used a talkbox with spectacular success on his 1976 album, Frampton Comes Alive.
According to Rolling Stone's Top 500 Singles, "As the sessions for Toys in the Attic reached the eleventh hour at the Record Plant in New York, producer Douglas called out for ideas. Bassist Hamilton resurrected a riff that had been germinating for several years, and it was outfitted with bass marimba and Joe Perry's voice-box recitation of the song title. A few months later, Aerosmith had their first Top 40 single."
The live version of this song features an unusual instrument: Tyler shook a packet of sugar into the microphone to substitute missing maracas.
This song, as well as "Eat The Rich," "Toys In The Attic" and "Walk This Way
," was used in the arcade game Revolution X: Music Is The Weapon featuring Aerosmith
. It appears during the stage select screen at the end of a level.
In their early days, Van Halen used to cover this at some of their shows. Papa Roach also did a cover of this song.
This song is played at the end of the movie Starsky And Hutch
. It is at the very end when they are walking down the alley.
This plays in the opening of the movie Dazed and Confused
. A recurring theme in the film are the characters mentioning going to Houston to buy Aerosmith tickets as "top priority of the summer." A connection: Jason London, who played Randall "Pink" Floyd in the film, starred in Aerosmith's video for "Amazing
In the movie Be Cool starring John Travolta, Steven Tyler is asked what he was thinking when he wrote "Sweet Emotion." He first responds that it was the buzz he got from the album Toys In The Attic, but after a short speech from Travolta, Tyler agrees that it was the pure "Sweet Emotion" that he was experiencing with from his young daughters that influenced the lyrics of the song.
In a rare live version of this song, Joe Perry plays the solo from the Led Zeppelin song "Dazed And Confused
Aerosmith performed this with Kid Rock when they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.