It Was Written With Seven Days Time Before Mary and I Were to Embark on a Mini-Vacation,
and See This Old Band, Play Nothing More
Than a Few Old Songs.
Odd thing to even contemplate, while we were still looking for a place to live, and the seriousness of that issue at the time. Didn’t really make a lot of sense, other than what this band and these songs mean to me, along with the joy they bring. But all the while thinking; “Gotta stand up, sit down, and jump through hoops at the same time. And then we all just lie at their feet waiting for someone to say yes…” Nothing in the city, nothing in the country. Makes you wanna’ just go home… But you can’t…
I was beginning to think, it might just be time to just give the Fuck up!
Without further reprieve, let’s talk about number 8. A song that has always been in my Top 5 until just this year. What makes this year different? Maybe the realization that you can never really go home.
“Hey Brad, you got something up your sleeve?”
I don’t know why, or where, rumors get started. It seems to me though, it’s usually started from the point of envy, or even jealousy of some sort, or maybe it’s just because people have nothing better to do. There’s been a lot of stories out there that the guitar riffs in this song were written, and originally performed by an un-cited outside musician. It’s also been written that the chords and basic melody are a rip-off of David Bowie’s “Fame”. First; don’t you think somebody would have stepped forward by now, if they actually wrote that guitar riff? Well it just so happens, somebody did… many times… Brad!
Brad has come forward so many times in regards to the rumors, it’s almost disrespectful. He has been asked the same question over the years, many, many times, yet he’s always handled the questions with the utmost class. Brad tells the story of the song like this;
“After rehearsal one day, I played this riff and Steven yells; ‘I love it!’ and started playing drums; he plays very different from Joey, with a more jazzy approach, fun to work with. Joe threw in a couple of chord changes, a D chord to an A, and then spiced up the chord a little.”
A little Trivia here; The banjo on the studio version was played by Paul Prestopino, a multi talented musician who played with people such as Edgar Winter, John Denver, Johnny Cash, Rick Derringer, and many others, and even came back later in life to play with Aerosmith again on “Devil’s Got a New Disguise”.
As far Bowie goes though… Come on! Really!!??!! It doesn’t seem these guys aren’t even fans of Bowie’s stuff. I mean, I’m sure there’s a respect factor, but in order to be “influenced” by someone, doesn’t it make sense that you should at least be interested in what they say or do? Kinda’ hard to steal something you don’t even listen to. There are similarities between songs throughout history, but come on! This is NOT “Fame”!
I can’t tell you for certain what Brad and Steven we’re thinking about when they wrote the song… well some parts I actually can, but for the most part, this is my interpretation, and I would venture to say; I’m pretty damn close to the root. The song is close to my heart for many different reasons, but we’ll start with my understanding of it, and in that, you will find the reasons why it’s close to me.
Parts of the song parallel my early life. The essence of the song is a “yin and yang” of sorts. It’s “contradiction” in its purist, and most impure form, from start to finish. It’s about where you came from, and where you’re going. It’s about back and forth. It’s about home and away. What you are, and what you want to be. It’s about what you are outside of the safety of your home, and the never ending desire to get back to where you once were.
Although “Tallahassee” is a real geographical city, in the song it’s simply a description of a place the story teller has in mind. A description of a place contrary to life in the city… And… well, it rhymes with the word “Sassafrassee”. Tallahassee “IS” Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire for Steven, It’s Novato, Ca and SOCO for me, and Putah Creek for john Fogerty, and it’s your place you call home… “I’m dreaming tonight. I’m living back home…” Right! “Light in the dark…
”Sassafrassee is a character trait. It’s more than a base ingredient for Sarsaparilla, or Root Beer. It’s more than an ingredient for perfumes and soaps and such. It’s a moniker given to many a young woman back in the day, for having a sort of “Sassiness” about themselves. I can vaguely remember my own mom, and her sisters using the term to describe some of my female cousins. So this word right from the start gives the listener the storyteller’s concept of contradiction…
“Take me back to a South Tallahassee… Down cross the bridge to my “Sweet Sassafrassee…”
Tyler has used the term “Sass” loosely to describe a woman he has an idea of, in his own mind, kind of an alter ego type of girl. This goes back to “Walk” with “A Classy Kind a Sassy”, and I’m sure if I really looked, I could find a few more.
The song takes the listener on that Aerosmith roller coaster ride of “ins & outs”, and “ups & downs”, and “good & bad”. We get into more of the contrary of thoughts. The battle between what’s comfortable and safe, and what’s ugly and not safe at all. “Yes sir, No sir”, “Stand up, Sit Down”, “hate’s in the city, and my love’s in the meadow” , “Hands on the plow, and my feets in the ghetto”…
Tyler and Whitford, bring the last 5 or 6 years (at the time 1976), into a whirlwind of thoughts of home, and what’s real, and what is not real, but it is, it’s all real, then again it’s not…
They bring us the dangers of “The City”, the allure to the indiscreet, the temptation of excess. They show you how cruel it can be out there, with references to the Jean Paul Getty III’s kidnapping in ’73, and his ear that was mailed to his parents in an attempt to show that it was not a joke. The cruel part was that so many thought that it was J Paul the III’s own made up rouse to gather more attention and money from the family… The result was in the envelope.
The following verse has soooo much, meaning; “you just can’t do right by some people. Do whatever the boss says, as long as he pays you”. And the bigger the boss, the more power, the more influence, the less in touch they are with the people who make them money… How does the old saying go? “Work hard and you’ll get ahead in life”. Or is it; “Find people to work harder for you than you’re willing to, but take all the credit, and you get even further in life”… ?
We all make our choices in life, it’s just that not all of us have the same choices to make.
“Stand up sit down
Don’t do nothin’
It ain’t no good when boss man’s stuffin’ it
Down their throats
For paper notes
And their babies cry
While cities lie at their feet
When you’re rockin’ the street…”
They also try real hard to keep that sarcastic humor thing going. It’s not just about the difference between home, and away, it’s also about what you DON’T BRING HOME from the road! They get a little sophomoric in the song, as is the band’s character from day 1, and the sarcasm, is not lost on this Last Child, I love it! Still do… With their references to NOT bringing home a social disease, and abiding to the “Ten Day Rule”, as discussed in the autobiography…
“Don’t come close to my
Home sweet home
Can’t catch no dose
From a hot tail poontang sweetheart sweathog…”
Just before the band would come home, they would refrain from sex with groupies, kind of as a courtesy to their wives and girlfriends (except oral of course). But it truly does mean more than just the obvious. It means don’t bring your work home. This is home, don’t stain it.
It’s not just another Aerosmith “Bloozy” tune. This one’s got some Joe Perry “funk” that we all love so much, added into it for signature, with incredible Tyler-esque double entendres that make you rock back and forth, and up and down. You just can’t help it! I love how it starts out, almost fooling you into thinking it’s another ballad, but just as the song’s theme goes; “Oh Contrare…” it suddenly starts rockin! It’s a rockin’ blues melody where Brad stays low, while Joe goes up high. It sounds as if the two guitars are just playing with each other all the way through…
I can’t wait to see this one live! This is a showcase for Brad in concert, his talents are paramount… so much fun! And to think some people think it’s not his. WOW! And even some sem to think there are 1,000s out there better… I just have to shake my head.
This first video link is MY OWN homemade video from a blues cover by Cathy Richardson, and Wayne Baker Brooks, off the album “Blues On Fire Sweet Emotion, The Songs of Aerosmith”. This particular video of the song. Being the “Last Child” in a family of 9, one who has spent some time in the deep, this is my take. It shows pictures and artwork from Novato, Sonoma County, and of course my own familiar city, San Francisco. If you spend some time in the veins of the city, you’ll be able to see what people “up on high” would rather not see, and what many don’t see, refuse to see.
We all make our own choices in life… We are a product of the choices we make, right? What choice do I make now? What are my choices? Do I get the same choice as you? If you are the last child of nine, and Dad says he’s done, before he’s done, and says; “See ya kid, good luck on your own. You’ll be fine…” I guarantee you, if you’re just a punk in the street at 15, by “NO CHOICE OF YOUR OWN”, you will wear that your entire life. Sure you’ll make choices… they’re just a different set of choices, from a different set of options.
Some would just assume let it bleed out. The video will probably deliver my interpretation better than this whole intro did…
Then the last is my favorite live version.
If you haven’t lately people, It’s time to get back to the real nitty gritty…
This is: “Last Child”!