“Janie’s Got A Gun” was the very first song that I heard from Aerosmith. Yet many years after that, it still remains to be my all-time favorite hit from the band. While I wasn’t that aware enough of the song when it was first released way back in 1989, it was later on somewhere between the years 1995 to 1996 that I heard it being played in the radio from an FM station called NU107. We were in the car with my family on our way home and the song immediately grabbed my attention and made me think what the song really meant.
It was the orchestral feel of the song, the predominant use of the keyboards, and the moments of pure hard rock that really got me hooked. In between verses, you can hear the anger of Steven Tyler as he lets his feelings be known against the criminality of sexual abuse. It is a touchy subject and a heavy social issue that he felt at the time he had to sing about after reading articles and watching numerous reports about it. But on the bright side, “Janie’s Got A Gun” earned the band its very first Grammy and a “Moon Man” from the MTV Video Music Awards.
It also expelled the belief that Aerosmith couldn’t sing about a taboo topic that rarely receives the light of day in the music world and which is talked about in the open—much less to even compose a song about it. While controversy does still surround the song—and especially at the time of its release—the above-mentioned awards that the song garnered added up to the bands formidable list of recognitions.
Radio stations could have chosen not to play and include it in their regular rotation of songs. Instead of radio stations getting turned off or having second thoughts about playing a song of this dark theme, it still got heavy rotation. With the exception of a few minor changes in some of the lyrics, the integrity of the song remained intact and its meaning unaltered. As far as I know, there are two versions of “Janie’s Got A Gun” when it comes to the censorship of some of the lyrics.
And it wasn’t only in the States that it got heavy airplay but here in the Philippines as well. At the time, we had a new breed of pioneering radio stations that played numerous kinds of rock music like LA 105.9 and NU107. These two FM stations really spearheaded and opened the flood gates for rock music to get into the Philippines, specifically during the 90’s. Take note, I said earlier that I heard “Janie’s Got A Gun” sometime between the years 1995 to 1996 and not when it was first released in 1989.
The best section of the song for me was the part where Steven Tyler would sing “Runaway, runaway from the pain, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah !” That line really got to me, including how his voice sounded, and how the melody was just so fluid. And when you are that young as I was then, you wouldn’t really remember all the words unless you got to listen to it non-stop or in a continuous sequence. Those words of Steven Tyler got stuck in my head for a long time. That is proof of how good Steven Tyler is as a songwriter.
Old memories can be fuzzy which can occasionally lead to difficulty recalling certain events but if it wasn’t for the love of music, I would have a hard time remembering any of these stuff. It does make me realize and accept just how powerful music is—and what more if it is from a legendary band like Aerosmith!
Just how many songs of Aerosmith have made an impact on the senses of people over the decades? When you think about it, that really is a mark of the greatness of a band—that you remember more the actual song first, and then the name of the band just afterwards. Nowadays, some artists give more thought to what their name would be than the actual lyrical integrity and sensibility of their songs. Steven Tyler and Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith are remarkable songwriters and their songs like these “Janie’s Got A Gun” will be listened to still by people like myself when everything is said and done for the band.
Now, what is your favorite song from Aerosmith?