Writers: Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Jim Vallance, and Holly Knight
Producer: Bruce Fairbairn
Recorded: Spring 1987 at Little Mountain Sound Studios, Vancouver, British Columbia
Released: August 1987
Tom Kennlyside–tenor saxophone
Ian Putz–baritone saxophone
Henry Christian and Bruce Fairbairn–trumpet
|Album:||Permanent Vacation (Geffen, 1987)|
A bluesy rock vamp that quickly became a fan favorite, “Rag Doll” was the third single off Aerosmith‘s comeback album Permanent Vacation, reaching Number 17 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Co-writer Jim Vallance spent many years working with Bryan Adams and was part of producer Bruce Fairbairn‘s Vancouver-based production team.
“Rag Doll” was initially titled “Rag Time,” until the band’s advisers said that the old-time reference in such a title might work against the band. John Kalodner, the group’s A&R man at Geffen, said “What does ‘Rag Time’ mean? We gotta sell records this time. You gotta write about p***y!…Kids won’t give a f**k about ‘Rag Time.'”
It was Kalodner’s idea to bring in Holly Knight, who’d previously worked with Pat Benatar and Heart, though Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler was initially resistant. “We brainstormed for three days in Vancouver. Nothing. Finally we’re going through it again and Holly reads my lyrics–‘I’m rippin’ up a rag doll/Like throwing away an old toy’–and she says, ‘Hey! Call it ‘Rag Doll.’ Along with that, and changing a few other words, I gave her credit on the song.”
Still, then-manager Tim Collins says Tyler carried a grudge about the enforced changes. “(Tyler) would yell at me, ‘Who’s to say that it wouldn’t have been huge if it was “Rag Time?”‘ ‘We’ll never know’ was all I could tell him.”
As part of its commercial comeback, Aerosmith performed on both the fourth (1987) and fifth (1988) MTV Video Music Awards.
The Permanent Vacation album was the first recorded by the group after a stay at the Caron Foundation Treatment Center in eastern Pennsylvania.
The album was originally started in February 1987 with producer Rick Rubin, who didn’t have time to finish it. But his sessions did yield an early take of “Dude (Looks Like A Lady).”
The album’s original title was Monkey House.
Permanent Vacation launched Aerosmith’s career revival in earnest, reaching Number 11 on the Billboard 200 and selling more than five million copies.
The album also hit Number 37 on the U.K. chart, its highest showing overseas to date.