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Like many Rock bands, Aerosmith's songs were primarily written by their lead singer (Steven Tyler) and guitarist (Joe Perry). Bands who wrote their own songs were loath to bring in outside writers, as they usually felt they could compose just fine on their own. Then Desmond Child worked with Kiss and came up with "I Was Made For Loving You
," which got him a shot with Bon Jovi, resulting in the massive hits "You Give Love A Bad Name
" and "Livin' On A Prayer
." John Kalodner, who was an A&R executive at Aerosmith's label, convinced them to write a song with Child, and this was the result.
When we spoke with Desmond Child in 2012
, he told the story: "They had never written with an outside writer, and they were not happy to see me. They were going along with it to please John Kalodner, but they were not that happy about it.
Steven (Tyler) was much more friendly, as he is, and was very generous, really, and showed me a song that they had started called 'Cruisin' for the Ladies.' I listened to that lyric, and I said, 'You know what, that's a very boring title.' And they looked at me like, 'How dare you?' And then Steven volunteered, sheepishly, and said that when he first wrote the melody he was singing 'Dude Looks like a Lady.' It was kind of a tongue twister that sounded more like scatting. He got the idea because they had gone to a bar and had seen a girl at the end of the bar with ginormous blonde rock hair, and the girl turned around and it ended up being Vince Neil from Motley Crue. So then they started making fun of him and started saying, 'That dude looks like a lady, dude looks like a lady, dude looks like a lady.' So that's how that was born. That's the true story of how that was born. So I grabbed onto that and I said, 'No, that's the title of the song.'"
This was Aerosmith's comeback single. Their last hit was a remake of "Come Together
" in 1978. After years of drug addiction and poorly selling records, they emerged clean with Permanent Vacation
and went on to enormous success in their second act.
Aerosmith's comeback started the year before, when Run DMC did a Hip-Hop cover of "Walk This Way
," which introduced the band to a new, younger audience and got them on MTV.
While Aerosmith is a very heterosexual band, they were secure enough to sing about wanting sex with the "Dude" even after they discover he is a man. They weren't concerned about their masculinity, but were worried about offending the LGBT community - they didn't want to come off as jackass rock stars making fun someone different. Desmond Child was the one who pushed it through. He told us, "Joe (Perry) stepped in and said, 'I don't want to insult the gay community.' I said, 'Okay, I'm gay, and I'm not insulted. Let's write this song.' So I talked them into the whole scenario of a guy that walks into a strip joint and falls in love with the stripper on stage, goes backstage and finds out it's a guy. But besides that, he's gonna go with it. He says, 'My funky lady, I like it, like it, like it like that.' And so he doesn't run out of there, he stays.
If you think about how far back that was, it was a very daring song to sing, and everyone went with it. It's not like the polarized society we have now, because that was before gay people really started fighting for their rights and nobody cared about it and everyone thought that they could make fun of us. So they accepted the lyric, and not only that, went for it. (Laughs) I don't know if anyone has looked deep enough into the song, but it's a very accepting song, and it has a moral that says never judge a book by its cover, or who you're going to love by your lover."
Poking fun at Vince Neil was the inspiration for this song, but Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler is a dude who has also looked like a lady. Tyler has worn feminine clothes on stage since the '70s. Many of the "Hair Bands" like Cinderella, Guns N' Roses, and Skid Row that were popular when this song was released, wore clothes and makeup similar to what Tyler had been wearing for years. According to Tyler, he first got the idea for a song about cross-dressing after hearing a comedian making fun of the actor/'80s icon Mr. T.
The video was mostly a performance piece with random shots of girls and oddities mixed in. The band got a lot of screen time, which was a good marketing move, since a lot of people had never seen them perform, which was their strong suit. The Run-D.M.C. cover of "Walk This Way" was the first video Steven Tyler and Joe Perry appeared in on MTV, and this was the second.
It was a lot like the Van Halen's video for "Jump
" in that it showed off their eccentric lead singer's stage moves while the other members looked like they were having a great time rocking out. The shots of girls added lots of appeal to the target audience, and also advanced the storyline, making us wonder about their true gender.
Blurring the line of femininity was a theme of the clip, with Tyler at one point appearing with half his body dressed like a woman, the other half dressed like a man. Also in the video (around the 1:45 mark), we see a bride and groom from behind, and when the bride turns around, it's the bearded John Kalodner, the man who put the collaboration together for this song.
When we spoke with Desmond Child, he said that he told Vince Neil the story of the song, and that Vince got a kick out of it. The Motley Crue frontman is fully aware that the song is about him.
This was used in the 1993 film Mrs. Doubtfire, in which Robin Williams plays a father who dresses up like an old English nanny in order to see his three children. Desmond Child told us, "It's funny, because they used that song in Mrs. Doubtfire, and then it was like every four or five year old child in America was able to sing that song. It was like; do you realize this is about a tranny?"
This was the first of four hits from the Permanent Vacation album. The others were "Angel," "Rag Doll," and "Love In An Elevator."
The wives of both Steven Tyler and Joe Perry appeared in the video along with playboy playmate Brandi Brandt.
Steven Tyler credits his newly acquired Korg DSS-1 sampling keyboard with helping him come up with this track. After hearing a Joe Perry guitar lick, Tyler started messing around with the presets on the instrument, and when he activated the one for Clavinet, it gave him the sound that framed the chorus. The basic track was written in an afternoon.
The video was directed by Marty Callner, whose other work included many of the videos for Laura Branigan, Twisted Sister, and Pat Benatar. He had a good track record of getting his work on MTV, and the network loved "Dude," giving it MTV Video Music Award nominations for Best Group Video and Best Stage Performance in a Video. Aerosmith, whose 1982 video for "Lightning Strikes" and 1985 clip for "Let The Music Do The Talking" were ignored by the network, suddenly became video stars in the peak years of MTV's video era. Callner directed their next three videos, which were also MTV favorites: "Angel," "Rag Doll" and "Love In An Elevator."
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