Dude (Looks Like A Lady)

Album: Permanent Vacation (1987)
Charted: 20 14


  • 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 D.M.C. 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 of 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 three hits from the Permanent Vacation album. It was followed by "Angel" and "Rag Doll."
  • 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 sampler also came in handy for the intro, where they used it to create the stutter effect on Joe Perry's guitar lick.
  • 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."
  • In our Joe Perry interview, the guitarist said that he was going for an AC/DC sound when he came up with the guitar riff.
  • Shakira sang this at Aerosmith's MTV Icon celebration in 2002.

Comments: 35

  • Oliver Clothesoff from HereA song like this wasn't exactly a new thing. A line from the Monkees' song "Laugh" includes a line about boys looking like girls.
  • Bridget from CoHold up, this song was about transgender people and something-I-will-not-mention-because-I-am-still-a-kid-and-would-not-mention-even-if-I-was-an-adult? I'm very shocked. But if it's significant in the gay community, that's probably a good thing because there's LGBTQ+ information I will not mention. I was very disturbed by the meaning of "Animals" by Maroon 5, but not by this, but that's probably because this song was written in the 80s, and Animals was written in 2014.
    I thought this was "Do it For the Lady." I think I know what that would've meant anyways, so I wouldn't be surprised if this had another title but the same meaning. Also, this sounds rather similar to "Livin' on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi. I love both songs!
  • Seventhmist from 7th HeavenEsskayess, the song's use in "Mrs. Doubtfire" may be the best use of an already existing song in a movie, ever. I picture the scene in that movie every time I hear it.
  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxThey had to snip it to use it in 'Doubtfire.'
  • Rosie` from Nowhere, NmI used to be the "Dude" who "looked like a Lady". Then I became the Lady who looked like a Dude.
    Now it's my theme song.
    I used to worship the vinyl that delivered Aerosmith's rockin' edge...til the Albuquerque concert Disaster in 2005 or 2006. Theu came out in regular street clothes and Tyler didn't talk to the audience period. The whole anbience seemed oddly flat. They were halfway through the first song when something blew a transformer and they just quit and left the stage. What a let down. I used to love him, but I had to kill him.
    Just Push Play My Ass.
  • Lyric Smith from Blahblah, GaThis song is not about sex, it's about a man wanting to go out with another man that looks like a woman.
  • Josh from Los Angeles,This song is basicaly me and my cousin's signature song. we've seen the youtube video for this song, and we've memorized the song by heart, and we've evewn learned the dance. steven tyler looked alittle odd in this video though, but it's aerosmith, and i don't expect any different.
  • Kateri from Albany, Nythis song is my favorite!!
  • Cyberpope from Richmond, CanadaFor years I thought the song was "Do the luck lady" & I was a wee bit disappointed/grossed out by the truth. . .
  • Chad from Los Angeles, CaHow does Steven Tyler make those shrinking noise at ht end
  • Jason from State Of Fitz, NjSteven Tyler said he had a song call "crusing for a lady", after Aerosmith met Motley Crue, he changed it to "dude looks like a lady" He said every other word out of the bands mouth was dude. As a huge Motley fan I can attest to the fact they use the word alot.
  • Sofija from Novi Sad, SerbiaSomeone said the song could be about bon jovi or guns n' roses. I don't agree. In bon jovi only jon looked a bit feminine (he doesn't any more, not without the hair), and in g n' r only axl did (he doesn;t any more, now he looks like a truck driver - I mean the kind you can see in movies fat, with a beard and half of his ass sticking out of his pants). So it couldn't be sbout the bands but their lead sigers :)
  • Nick from Mankato, MnI once heard an interview on "World Cafe." According to the interview, the song was originally supposed to be titled, "Cruisin' For The Ladies," but a songwriter friend told them it sounded cheesy. He suggested the theme behind the song we know today and it was originally turned down because Aerosmith didn't wan't to offend the 'gay community.' The songwriter who helped with the change said, "I'm gay - it doesn't offend me."
  • Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesI have seen this song used in an amateur video celebrating the artistry of Johnny Weir. It was perfect.
  • Larry from Knoxville, TnIt's about Motley Crue's Vince Neil. They went on tour with Aerosmith and dressed like women. Every other word they said was dude so Tyler wrote this song
  • Eddie from Natchez, MsThis song was also used in the movie Mrs. Doubtfire, starring Robin Williams.
  • Ally from Sydney, Australiahey i love dude looks like a lady!i really want to know what it is about so if anyone is there plz email me at spidergirl_1@hotmail.com thanks bye
  • Alex from New Orleans, LaI would assume that this song is satiring hair-metal bands like Twisted Sister with their wild hairstyles and makeup
  • N from Nyc, Nyit's was said to be about bon jovi by tyler himself
  • Tony from Boston, MaGreat song. If you've never read the lyrics, you should. I'd like to send this song out to all of those Hollywood a-holes who picked up a "shemale suprise" on the corner instead of going home to their perfectly hot girlfriends. For the love of all that is holy, if you're famous, it's easy enough to get some tail! I'm not famous and I don't need to pay for it! Anyways, Great song.
  • Gordon from Lake Havasu City, AzDude looks like a lady is one of the funnest songs I ever heard! I love it!!
  • Vicki from Miramichi, CanadaGuns N' Roses aren't really known for being a "hair band". Only in Welcome To The Jungle do we see them with makeup, and even still, it's only Axl. There was a few times when they would dress up as "glam rockers", but I would never think of them while listing hair bands. They were hard rockers. Bands like Poison,Motley Crue, and Cinderella, etc etc.
    Aerosmith are incindiary. Rock on!
  • Billy from Boston, MaDude Looks Like a lady is a cool song.In The music video there is a bearded man playing a bride. That is John Kalodner. He convinced Aerosmith to switch to Geffen in the Late Eighties after the Band broke up from drug problems at the beginning of the Eighties. He (Kalodner The A&R man) also brought Whitesanke to superstardom. David Coverdale, Whitesnake's vocalist was also In Deep Purple.
  • John from Long Island, NyI heard in Motley crue interview quite some time ago 1989 or so, that Aerosmith & Motley Crue were playing togather (do not remember if it was a tour or what), but Steve looked at Vince & said jokingly," for a dude, you sure look like a lady". In the same interview Vince also said that Steve sang background vocals in Crue's Dr. Feelgoods, "sticky sweet", which does read on the Cd's jacket.
  • Matt from Lab City, CanadaTo answer your question, Tony, Dude looks like a lady's title came from a song called "Cruisin' for a lady", and, having met Motley Crue, who started all their scentences with "Dude", the title popped into Steven Tyler's mind. He then had the lyric he needed to clinch the number 1 hit.
  • Nathan from Defiance, OhVince Neil, Bon Jovi, Axl Rose... chances are this song could have been written about just about any hair band in the late eighties!
  • Stevie from Louisville, KyThank you Anthony for catching that I was also going to say that "Love In An Elevator" was on Pump
  • Cory from Minonk, IlI heard in a radio interview of Steven Tyler, that this song is about a sexy "woman" he and some friends picked up in his car one night, and found out that she was a he.
  • Adrian from Merthyr Tydfil, Alvince neil (motley crue)was also the influence for Guns n roses 'shotgun blues' as well as being the influence for dude looks like a lady. It happened after he smacked izzy in the nose for touching up his mrs, and axl took offence to one of his band members being pushed around - rock n roll ey!
  • Ben from Aguadilla, United Statesmy favorite part of this song is when steven does that cool scream thing(i have no idea what its called)about 3:50 seconds in. of course the whole song is great.
  • John from Dallas, TxThe "horns" on this song (at least in one version) are not actually horns, but a novelty joke "fart machine" that one of the band members was fooling around with in the studio. They discovered that altering the pitch resulted in a horn-like sound.
  • Jason from Wylie, Txyeah who made the mistake of sayin love in an eleavator was on perment vacation? it was on the album pump like anthony said
  • Russ from Prince George, CanadaAerosmith filmed a video for, "Let The Music Do The Talking" in 1985. This was the first video to feature the original line-up. Not, "Walk This Way" with Run DMC, that came a year later.
  • Tony from Auckland, New ZealandI've heard that "Dude looks like a lady" was written about Vince neil from Motley Crue??
  • Anthony from Arab, Al"Love In An Elevator" appeared on Pump, not Permanent Vacation.
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