When Aerosmith lead singer and lyricist Steven Tyler told me that he had been working on a song for their Permanent Vacation album called “Rag Time”, the title elicited vivid sound imagery of early twentieth century American city music. Played primarily on upright tack piano and banjo with great vitality, this was the first American music form not born in the fields, forests, hills, hollers, rivers, swamps, and mountain tops of the vast continent but rather composed and played by first generation urban dwellers in bars, canteens, speakeasies, dance halls, and silent picture shows. Rag Time was the precursor to jazz, the great American contribution to the world.
Except that’s not what Steven Tyler had in mind. Not even close.
“Rag Time” originally was a subject derived from Steven’s personal “periodic table”, which has zero to do with chemistry and everything to do with female physiology. However, tasked with finishing the song with veteran Canadian singer/songwriter Holly Knight, Tyler’s respect for Ms. Knight as a peer professional as well as “a real nice lady” made him temper his initial carnal impulses and look for a clever alternative. “Rag Doll” was a compromise upon which both writers could agree, and it has remained an easy keeper in the Aerosmith live set for decades, including Halloween night in Brussels back in 1993. –Redbeard