“Janie’s Got a Gun” is a song performed by American hard rock band Aerosmith and written by Steven Tyler and Tom Hamilton. It was originally titled “Danny’s Got a Gun” after a close friend of Tyler, but was later changed. It was released as the second single from Pump in 1989. It peaked at number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1990 and also made it to number 2 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. The song also reached number one in Australia, their first number-one single there, and one of two number-one singles for the band in that country. It also reached number 2 in Canada, number 12 in Sweden, and number 13 in New Zealand.
On the album, “Janie’s Got a Gun” is preceded by a 10-second instrumental called “Water Song”, which features the work of instrumentalist Randy Raine-Reusch, who uses a glass harmonica, wind gong, and bullroarers to produce the special effects heard at the start of the song.
Tyler came up with the main riff of “Janie’s Got a Gun” using a low-tone setting on his keyboard. Hamilton then came up with the bassline. The guitars and drum parts were configured in later and Tyler wrote the lyrics. The guitar solo is played by Joe Perry and is accompanied by the main riff and rhythmic clapping.
Tyler said he came up with the title and melody before he knew what direction he wanted the song to take. It had taken nine months to finish the lyrics; after Tyler read a Newsweek article on gunshot victims, he was able to connect the song with the theme of child abuse and incest. The singer declared that “I got really angry that nobody was paying homage to those who were abused by Mom and Dad”. The line “He jacked a little bitty baby” was originally “He raped a little bitty baby,” but was changed for commercial purposes. Tyler often sings the original line when performing live. In addition, the line “…and put a bullet in his brain” was sometimes changed to “…and left him in the pouring rain” for the radio airplay version to make the song sound fewer graphics.
The song is one of few Aerosmith songs to deal with a heavy social issue. The lyrics are about a girl named Janie who takes revenge on her father after years of being sexually abused by him.
This video, released in 1989, was directed by noted video director and later film director David Fincher. The actress playing Janie is Kristin Dattilo of The Chris Isaak Show fame. Actress Lesley Ann Warren played Janie’s mother and actor Nicholas Guest played her father.
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