Janie's Got a Gun

"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 released as the second single from Pump in 1989. It peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1990, and also made it to #2 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. The song also reached #1 in Australia, their first single #1 there, and one of two #1 singles for the band in that country.

Song structure

On the album, "Janie's Got a Gun" is preceded by a 10-second instrumental called "Water Song", which features the work of professional 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.

Steven Tyler came up with the main riff of "Janie's Got a Gun" using a low-tone setting on his keyboard. Co-songwriter Tom Hamilton then came up with the bassline. The guitars and drum parts were configured in later, and Steven Tyler was responsible for writing the lyrics.

Lyrical interpretation

The song is about a girl named Janie who takes out revenge on her father after being sexually abused; it is one of the few Aerosmith songs to deal with a heavy social issue. Aerosmith vocalist Steven Tyler says that 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/incest. The line "He jacked a little bitty baby" was originally "He raped a little bitty baby," but was changed for commercial purposes. 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.


The video, released in 1990, was directed by noted video director and later film director David Fincher.

The video was very groundbreaking at the time, featuring gruesome realistic scenes that would later be the basis for many videos of the 1990s. The video made even more explicit the abovementioned references to incest; early in the video, the actor playing the father is shown exiting his daughter's room, and cuts to a shot of the girl crying. The actress playing Janie is Kristin Dattilo of The Chris Isaak Show fame. Dattilo was then 19 years old. Actress Lesley Ann Warren played Janie's mother.


The song title was parodied on The Daily Show on February 13, 2006; at one point, while Jon Stewart and his "correspondents" were mocking the Dick Cheney hunting incident, a placard displayed the caption "Cheney's Got a Gun." A parody song of that same name was written by Bob Rivers and is featured on the website atomfilms.com Three other "Cheney's Got a Gun" parodies were submitted to the popular music parody website Amiright, along with the Bob Rivers version of the parody.

Another parody was "Elmo's Got a Gun" by Tommy & Rumble. It was about Sesame Street character Elmo going on a killing spree. It is often misattributed to "Weird Al" Yankovic.

In Not Another Teen Movie (2001), a scene parodies 10 Things I Hate About You, where Heath Ledger's character sings "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" to Julia Stiles' character over the PA system in an act of romance. In Not Another Teen Movie, Jake, played by Chris Evans, is told to sing a song with the girl's name in it. Unfortunately Jake sings "Janie's Got a Gun", which gets Janie arrested by campus police for suspicion of a concealed weapon.

On the Full House episode "Our Very First Telethon", Joey Gladstone sings "Janie's Got a Gun" for the telethon, "We Love Our Children Telethon '90".


Rankings on Lists

  • "Janie's Got a Gun" ranked #37 on VH1's 100 Greatest '80s Songs.
  • In 1993, "Rolling Stone: The Top 100 Music Videos" included "Janie" at #95.
  • In 1999, "MTV: 100 Greatest Videos Ever Made" included it at #48.
  • In 2001, "VH1: 100 Greatest Videos" included it at #48.


External links

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