This song describes a cowboy going to a bar, picking up a girl and spending the night with her. There is lots of sexual innuendo in the lyrics among the Old West images ("I'm like a loaded gun," "This snake is gonna rattle).
The prostitute in the song, Sukie Jones, was a creation of Steven Tyler and not a real person. One fan of the song is original Guns N' Roses drummer Steven Adler, who in 2003 formed a band called Suki Jones, which he later renamed Adler's Appetite.
"Back In The Saddle Again
" was a song popularized by Gene Autry, who first recorded it in 1939. Autry was known as "The Singing Cowboy," and his song played up the cowboy persona he portrayed in movies and TV specials.
Steven Tyler decided to use the cowboy theme for his lyrics after talking with producer Jack Douglas about using the "back in the saddle" line as a way of declaring that the band was back with a new album and ready to rock hard. Tyler always thought "back in saddle" meant having sex with your girlfriend more than once in a night, so he wrote the lyrics about a cowboy riding into town to satisfy his sexual urges. He wrote the lyrics in the stairwell of the Record Plant recording studio, where he would often write once the track was finished.
The main riff was composed by guitarist Joe Perry on a 6-string bass guitar he had recently purchased. Perry says he was "lying on the floor, stoned on heroin" when he came up with the riff. The song wasn't recorded until almost a year later, when they used their rehearsal space - a warehouse in Waltham, Massachusetts they called "The Wherehouse" - as a recording studio by bringing in a mobile recording unit to record the Rocks album.
This was the first track on Rocks, which was Aerosmith's fourth album. After the band put the track together around Joe Perry's guitar riff, they knew it would be a great opener for the album. Producer Jack Douglas said in the Aerosmith biography Walk This Way: "We recorded 'Back In The Saddle' to have this larger-than-life vibe, to bring the band right into the middle of the kid's head when he put on his 'phones in his bedroom late at night."
For the bridge, lead singer Steven Tyler taped tambourines to his cowboy boots and stomped on a piece of plywood he laid down in the studio. For the crack of the whip, they bought a bullwhip, but nobody could use it. They ended up faking the whip sound by having Tyler swing a cord in a studio to make the whirling noise, then using a cap gun for the crack.
This is one of the first rock songs with a cowboy theme, complete with the sound of a horse. Other songs that take us back to the Old West include "Desperado
" by the Eagles and "Wanted Dead Or Alive
" by Bon Jovi.
By 1982, Aerosmith had lost Joe Perry
and Brad Whitford
, and their album recorded that year without them, Rock In A Hard Place
, didn't do very well. In 1984, Perry and Whitford rejoined the band and this song took on new meaning as they embarked on the "Back In The Saddle" tour.
Sebastian Bach recorded this with Axl Rose for Bach's 2007 album Angel Down, his first album since his 2001 release Bach 2: Basics. In an interview with the Hartford, Connecticut radio station WCCC, Bach explained that his producer Roy Z convinced him to record the song as a way to announce his return, since "Bach was Back In The Saddle."
Rose supplied backing vocals on two other songs from the album as well. In an interview with Reuters, Bach described what it was like working with the legendary vocalist: "It took him about two hours to do 'Back in the Saddle' and '(Love Is) a Bitchslap,' and then he's like, 'Right on, OK, it's like 2, 3 in the morning.' I said, 'Dude, you gotta take one whack at this song 'Stuck Inside,' and he kinda got a little sniffy. I go, 'Would ya just do the one f--king shot?' He very carefully wrote the words he was gonna sing and came in with this f--king vocal at the end when he goes to this high part of this high harmony above the ending chorus. It's astonishing."
In the same interview, Bach revealed how he got Steve Tyler's blessing to cover the song: "I got Steve Tyler's blessing on the phone 'cause Axl called him right up there in the studio and handed me the cell phone. So to get the thumbs up from Steven and Axl's a pretty f--king good omen (to) me."
In 2009, United States congressman Eric Cantor, who was the House Republican Whip, had his office create a video touting his party's opposition to President Obama's stimulus bill. The video, which was posted on YouTube, featured this song with the message that the Republican party was "back in the saddle."
Aerosmith's publishing company had the video removed, and the band sent a letter to Cantor mocking him for using a song about a cowboy picking up a hooker for political propaganda. Here's the letter:
Dear Rep. Cantor,
Thanks for promoting our song about the hooker Sukie Jones. You and Sukie are made for each other. You've moved up from being the Chief Deputy Whip to Republican Whip in the 111th Congress. And her speciality is whipping bad boys like you.
Yeah, you and your Republican friends outflanked the Democrats in the stimulus battle. You showed them what a real stimulus plan should be about, didn't you, Mr. Republican Whip? Hookers, right?
You left no doubt where your mind is when you picked our song. Maybe your constituents can't hear the words. But we know you like any song about a saddle-sore cowpoke riding into a saloon town of soakin' wet girls to get some time in the rack with his four-bit hooker. (Refers to the lyrics, "Four bits gets you time in the racks." "Four Bits" was slang for 50 cents, indicating that Sukie was a cheap whore.)
And, we bet we're not the only ones who thought it was funny when your staff sent out the old AFSCME ad with the bogus sound track full of obscenities. Pretty funny. You, the bastion of conservatism who always defends America against swear words. I bet your constituents in the Bible Belt got the joke.
Hope you don't bleep all the good parts in our song when you find out what we're singing about. But, hey, you won't. That was your point, right?
Of course, we almost forgot. Your friend, Sen. David Vitter, has probably introduced you to ol' Sukie. He knows all the hookers from New Orleans to Washington.
And just imagine what you and Vitter get into on your foreign junkets. (Junkets? Where do you guys come up with these words?) I bet the taxpayers are glad to pay for all that. You guys need a break now and then.
You're known for going on the House floor to rail against swear words and how they're destroying America. But with Sukie, you can say all the bleeped words from the ads you and your staff promote. She'll spank your skinny butt every time you yell one. She'll even dress like your mother if you like that better than her leather boots and metal-studded pants suit. Or ... is that what your mom wore, too?
So, get back in the saddle again, Mr. Whip. And beg Sukie to whip you. Harder. Make it hurt. You're a bad boy, Eric.