There’s a hidden gem right in the middle of Toys In the Attic, one that’s completely forgotten amidst Aerosmith’s bevy of more famous songs. In the face of “Sweet Emotion,” “Love In an Elevator,” “Cryin’,” “Amazing” and “Train Kept a Rollin’,” a short cover song that was never released as a single must seem very, very small. But besides the fact that I have a slight weakness for underdogs, “Big Ten Inch Record” captures in perfectly crystallized form one of the things I love the most about Aerosmith: the astronomically witty way they talk about sex.
“Big Ten Inch Record” was written by Fred Weismantel, someone for whom a quick Google search turned up very little. As far as I can tell, he wrote many songs back in the early ‘50s, none of which made waves. “Big Ten Inch Record” was first recorded by Bull Moose Jackson in 1952, and was popular but too risqué for radio (nowadays, Radio Disney might think it was kinda tame).
Zunk Buker, Steven Tyler’s friend and drug dealer, heard the song on the Dr. Demento show and sent a copy to the band. They recorded it mostly straight up, put it on Toys In the Attic, and then kinda forgot about it. I don’t think it was played live very much after the ’75 tour.
In the ancient times of yore when music was played on something called (air quotes) VINYL – oooooooh! – records came in three varieties: 12” LPs, 10” EPs, and 7” singles. “Big Ten Inch Record” is a simple jump blues number about how the singer has a 10” record from a blues band that his girlfriend simply can’t resist. There is a double entendre here, though, and it becomes abundantly clear after the first verse-chorus cycle. You’d have to be thick as block of lead to not get what is really being said.
Got me the strangest woman / Believe me, this chick’s no cinch / But I really get her goin’ / when I get out my big ten inch / …record of a band that plays the blues/ Of a band that plays the blues/ She just loves my big ten inch / …record of her favorite blues
Y’know, I was considering explaining the double entendre in simple and clinical terms, but I think I should have a little faith in my audience’s intelligence and instead employ an old phrase about blues music: if you have to ask, you’ll never know.
Aerosmith’s version drives the point home ever-so-slightly more. It still has that little pause between every instance of “big ten inch” and “record.” It’s amazing what a pause can do (“She’s beautiful! She’s rich! She’s got huge… tracts of land!”). But Steven Tyler changes the lyrics just a tad; every time Bull Moose says “get out my/your big ten inch,” Steven says “whip out my/your big ten inch.” “Whip it out” has a slightly narrower application, and is usually used when talking about a single thing. Again, if you have to ask…
This is a great song because it has a wink. Every time the singer says “big ten inch” and pauses, you can just imagine that he’s smiling and winking at you, as if to say “yeah, you know what I’m talkin’ ‘bout!” This type of discourse about sex, naughtiness and body parts is SO much better than the obvious and crude words of modern music artists, and also comedians. Innuendo and implication make the listener work for it, and that brings them into the comedy. They’re participants in it, not just spectators.
I don’t know about you, but I far prefer Steven Tyler beckoning me into bawdiness rather than Snoop Dogg or Wiz Khalifa throwing it right in my face, trying to break my nose with it. At the very least, it makes me exercise my mind rather than just being entertained.
Next: Toys In the Attic vs. Rocks – DEATHMATCH!!!