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Janie's Got A Gun

by

Aerosmith



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This song is about a girl who shoots her father because he is sexually abusing her. Steven Tyler, who wrote the lyric, explained in the Walk This Way autobiography: "That song is about a girl getting raped and pillaged by her father. It's about incest, something that happens to a lot of kids who don't even find out about it until they find themselves trying to work through some major f--king neuroses.
Steven Tyler started writing the song in his basement, which was when he came up with the line "Janie's got a gun." He then sat on it for months, "waiting for the oracle door to open." Tyler told Rolling Stone it only became a song about child abuse after, "I looked over at a Time magazine and saw this article on 48 hours, minute by minute, of handgun deaths in the United States." He continued: "Then I got off on the child-abuse angle. I'd heard this woman speaking about how many children are attacked by their mothers and fathers. It was f---ing scary. I felt, man, I gotta sing about this. And that was it. That was my toe in the door."
The line, "He jacked a little, bitty baby" was written as "He raped a little, bitty baby," but Steven Tyler changed it at the request of John Kalodner, an executive at Aerosmith's record company who looked out for their commercial interests - he thought radio stations wouldn't play the song if it was too graphic. According to Tyler, Kalodner also asked him to change the line "put a bullet in his brain" to "stand out in the pouring rain," but he refused.
Steven Tyler admitted to Rolling Stone that he was attracted to his daughter, Liv. Said Tyler, "How can a father not be attracted to his daughter, especially when she's a cross between the girl he married and himself?" He continued: "All a man has to do is be totally honest with himself and he can see it. However, the real man knows that's just a place to never go. Instead he celebrates it by telling his daughter how beautiful she is and what a precious child of God she is. There's ways to love it without making love to it - I wrote 'Janie's Got A Gun' about fathers who don't know the difference."
The video depicted a girl killing her father, and the subsequent crime scene. One of the most cinematic videos ever to hit MTV, it was directed by David Fincher, who would later direct the movies Se7en, Alien III and Panic Room. Fincher's talent for building tension in a scene is evident in the clip, and many of the lighting and composition techniques would later show up in his feature films. The video starred Kristin Dattilo as Janie, and Lesley Ann Warren as her mother.
Steven Tyler wrote this song with Aerosmith bass player Tom Hamilton. Tyler typically writes with guitarist Joe Perry, but Hamilton has made significant songwriting contributions. Some of his other Aerosmith co-writes include "Sweet Emotion" target="_blank">Sweet Emotion" and "Kings And Queens."
Aerosmith's first two decades produced millions in album sales but zero Grammy Awards. The first time they were honored was in 1991, when this song won the Grammy for Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal. The voters in this category quickly acclimated to Aerosmith and gave them the award three more times in the '90s, for "Livin' On The Edge," "Crazy" and "Pink."
The song peaked on the US charts in February 1990, one week before the band performed it on Saturday Night Live. On the show, Aerosmith appeared in a famous Wayne's World skit where Steven Tyler and Tom Hamilton engage in a scholarly debate (Tyler: "it seems that Socialism is in repose..." Hamilton: "There's never been a blueprint for the dictatorship of the Proletariats..."), and Tom Hanks plays their roadie. The band would later appear in the movie Wayne's World 2.
The title of this song is similar to the 1939 anti-war novel Johnny Got His Gun, which the Metallica song "One" is about. (thanks, Daniel - Køge, Denmark)
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Comments (36):

On February 17th 1990, Aerosmith performed "Jamie's Got a Gun" on the NBC-TV program 'Saturday Night Live'...
Three months earlier on November 19th, 1989 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #85; and on January 4th, 1990 it peaked at #4 (for 1 weeks) and spent 17 weeks on the Top 100...
And on February 17th, 1990 it reached #1 (for 1 week) on Australian Kent Music Report chart...
It peaked at #2 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Songs chart and also the Canadian RPM Top Singles chart...
Was track five of side one on the group's tenth studio album, 'Pump', and the album peaked at #5 on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart...
Three other tracks from the album also made the Top 100; "Love In a Elevator" (#5), "What It Takes" (#9), and "The Other Side" (#22).
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
"Finally, was it your daddys cradle robbin that made you scream at night. I'm pretty sure cradle robbin refers to sexually abusing a young child." Where in the world did you get this lyric from? That is nowhere in any version I ever heard....
- Tacey, New Milford, NJ
Cool Song and Video. The lyrics are very good. Even now the song is still great!
- Pete, Gilbert, AZ
Billy,

Really? I never knew that about Kurt. In that case, that made him a walking hypocrite. That's not just my distaste for him or his band talking, either: it's just fact.

As for this song, it's fantastic, and has such meaning and power behind it. Rock on.
- April, Birmingham, AL
I'm not quite sure, but isn't the title of this song, Janie's got a gun, a reference to the novel Johnny got his gun, which the Metallica song One is about?
- Daniel, Køge, Denmark
Firstly I'd like to give kudos to all the people who were brave enough to talk about their abuse on here - well done, you've obviously come a long way to be able to talk about it openly. As for the song meaning, I'm blown away by the fact that so many people didn't know what it was about, it's incredibly obvious in the lyric and the video. But then again I never did understand how people could sing along to a song and not even hear the words they're singing; but apparently it's extremely common.
- Deb, Melbourne, Australia
When I first heard, this, the meaning was immediatelyh obvious.
Not since "Dream On" and "Seasons of Wither" had they gone into such dark subject matter.
It would also gladden Steven's heart to see the comments from the other posters on here who found solace in a song about their own personal ordeals.
Oh, and if there ever WERE a real Janie, no jury in this land would ever find her guilty for rubbing out a worm of that sort!
- oldpink, New Castle, IN
I can imagine how this song could've been hard for Steven to write. I mean, because not only are the lyrics AMAZING...but also he has daughters, and was probably getting sick at the thought of how anyone could do that to their kid.

The song doesn't relate to me, but I still think it's a great song because for people that it does relate to, it makes them not feel very alone. And it almost puts me in Janie's place. The last chorus when it says "She said 'cause nobody believes me, the man was such a sleaze he ain't never gonna be the same." It gives me goosebumps when I hear it.

I think a lot of people underestimate Aerosmith. Sure, most of their songs may be about sex, but, this song definantly speaks to you. They totally outdid themselves. Kudos to them! :)
- Jenny, Indianapolis, IN
i talks about the stuff that you never want to hear. i think people now know what can happen>
- Tay, San Diego, CA
First of all, if anyone has seen the video of this it is NOT about a girl killing her classmates...

I'm a huge Aerosmith fan, I was practically born one, and Janie's Got A Gun is my favorite song...I almost cried when I heard it in consert =P. My mom used to have to play it for me every day when I was 3-yrs-old just to get me to go to daycare...yes I was an odd child. Although I was never abused or anything like that, as I got older the story behind it intregued me. I think it's one of the biggest reasons I started writing.
- Madison, Northford, CT
the meaning is obvious!
- Mirna, Portoviejo, Ecuador
Replying to "Tyler said this was the hardest song he had ever written." I wonder if that means the song itself, or the actual lyrics and theme...Great song and meaningful, too.
- Josh, Toronto
To A.J. the line is "when Janie was aressted, they found him underneath the TRAIN... not CHAIR"

To Billy, I agree that Kurt Cobain was probably influenced by this song, but I would say that Polly would be the song most directly influenced, not necessarily Come as you Are
- Chris, Madison, WI
Notice how the guitar solo is made to sound like a siren/police van at one point? awesome...
It's sad that child sexual abuse even happens..what kind of SICK people resort to it? what plays on their minds?...I'm so glad all you people here have spoken of your experiences...and I'm glad the song helps to give you closure...
- Chitra, Bangalore
you no i was sexuly tuoched by my dad when i was two have not seen him sense
- marissa, portland, OR
omg...i never knew the meaning of the song until i read what all of you wrote....holy CRAP!!!!
- Kelsi, I-town(Ionia, MI
I like this song but i really wanted to know more about it why they wrote it and the background of the song. I love the band They play the truth about live not just what they live and go through
- Bella Romero, El Paso, TX
A friend of mine is named janie, and she thinks it's her theme song. Maybe she should read this. Or not. She doesn't understand the song at all, but that may be a good thing. I love this song, however. Especially cuz it's about a girl killing. jk, but it's good nonetheless.
- Stephen, Steamboat, CO
I can't find the complete cast list for the video. Who were the actors who played the father and the homicide detective?
- Ekristheh, Halath, United States
sandpaper and silk
- Meghan, Westberry, NY
This song absolutely blew me away when I heard it, as much for the cool music as for the very unusual subject matter. It is interesting to note that the video for it features Leslie-Ann Warren, who was a pretty successful actress of the 60's - 80's. She's probably best known for playing the obnoxious girlfriend in Victor/Victoria and for the R&H musical Cinderella back in the 60's (There are two versions of that; the other one starred Julie Andrews). In the video she plays Janie's mom. It was fairly unusual for well-established actors to appear in videos, but it was also pretty rare for a hard rock band to make a video that featured anything other than fake concert footage and under-dressed supermodels. Aerosmith went up a few notches in my estimation for this song (though I always kind of liked them anyway).
- Dennis, Anchorage, AK
I'm sure you've watched your dvd for this plenty of times, but in case you never read the lyrics, let me give you some evidence that proves she never shot up the school and killed her self: First off, they found Janie's dad underneath a chair? Was he at school with her? Second, Janie was arrested, I'm sure if she killed herself, they wouldn't be able to arrest her, now would they? If this doesnt help, her daddy jacked an itty bitty baby, was it a daycare that she shot up? Another lyric, she had to take (her dad) down easy by putting a bullet in his brain. I really see how this is relating to school. Finally, was it your daddys cradle robbin that made you scream at night. I'm pretty sure cradle robbin refers to sexually abusing a young child.
- AJ, Meaford
here you go mike http://www.break.com/index/cheneygun.html
- jim, wantagh, NY
This song takes on a new meaning altogether if you change the name from Janie to Dick Cheney....

Dum, dum, dum, honey what have you done?
Dum, dum, dum it's the sound of my gun.
Dum, dum, dum, honey what have you done?
Dum, dum, dum it's the sound

Cheney's got a gun
Cheney's got a gun
His whole world's come undone
Once he sprayed Addington.
- Mike, Warwick, RI
I was sexually abused by my father when I was 3 years old and 16 years old, so I can relate to this song..."Janie's Got A Gun," By Aerosmith. It makes me feel, not alone...that there are others out there being abused as well. I feel sorry for anyone who ever has to go through that. I really wish I could get that girls phone number that stephen tyler wrote that song about so i can meet her and tell her im very sorry for what happened to her, because I know what it feels like. I really like that song as well as other songs aerosmith has written!
-sheila, glendale, AZ
- sheila, glendale, AZ
at first i thought this was about Janie from the novel "their eyes were watching God", because she shoots her husband, but after looking at this i feel stupid...haha
- David, ptown, MI
This is much more serious than Many of the songs on Pump. This my have influenced Nirvana's Come As You Are, Being that Kurt Cobain was a big Aerosmith fan. In the Diarys of Kurt Cobain He notes many Aerosmith songs as influences on his own songs.
- Billy, Boston, MA
My fav Aerosmith song, I'm not a huge fan of their work but this song is well written and almost haunting.
- Jolene, Melbourne, Australia
This song isnt about a girl who got sexually abused. Its about a girl who killed her classmates then killed herself. I am a big Aerosmith fan and I have their DVD's and it explains this song
- Katie, Melbourne, Australia
i can relate to this song as i was abused aswell. its a great song that helps me through my problems. i play it all the time aswell. steve is an excellent song writter and i beileve this is one of his best songs ever written.
- samantha, australia
This song doesn't relate to me but i feel sorry for the one's it does
- Katie, Melbourne, United States
This is a really great song. I love the lyrics and Tyler's voice matches magnificent with these lyrics.
- Stefan, Antwerp, Belgium
I was sexually abused by my step-father when I was 11-13 years old so I really relate to this song. The song came out about 5 years after my ordeal was over, but it still feels empowering every time I listen to it, like I can get back at my stepdad "through" Janie shooting her dad. That probably sounds weird but I don't know how else to explain it. It also made me feel better that I wasn't the only one going through it if there was a song about it.
- Lisa, Lafayette, CO
My brother used to say that my name was in the song, but he was wrong. But I finally found a song that does. Van Halen's "Jamie's Crying. To bad it isn't spelled the same.
- Jammie, Deckerville, MI
This was sung in "Not Another Teen Movie" after one character tries to impress a girl named Janie by playing a song with her name in it. Apparently nt the right one! :)
- Alex, New Orleans, LA
The music video was directed by David Fincher, who would later direct Seven and Panic Room.
- jonas, paris, TX
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